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    Los Padres National Forest

    Hikes in Los Padres National Forest

    The Los Padres National Forest is an amazing area of topographic diversity and beauty awaiting your exploration. The second-largest national forest in California, Los Padres, occupies the coast and Transverse Ranges, offering hundreds of amazing trails. Explore the acres and acres of untouched backcountry, rugged coastline, and pristine beaches. There is no better way to appreciate the unparalleled beauty of the Californian coast than by exploring the Los Padres National Forest.

    Stretching 354.1 km from Los Angeles County to Monterey Country, the Los Padres National Forest encompasses nearly 2,000,000 acres of land and ten wilderness areas. The forest is home to over 120 named mountains, the highest of which is Mount Pinos, which stands at 2,697 m. Enjoy the varied landscape of Los Padres characterized by soaring coastal crests, dramatic headlands, old-growth forests, dense communities of chaparral scrub, craggy canyons, rivers, hot springs, and beaches.

    Boasting an extensive network of hiking trails, the Los Padres National Forest is undoubtedly a hiker’s paradise—though outdoor opportunities are abundant. Beckoning the exploration of adventurers year-round, the summer months see trekking, biking, and climbing experiences and incredible water recreation activities, such as surfing, swimming, and rafting. The areas of higher elevation offer epic snowshoeing and cross-country skiing opportunities in the winter months. The impressive topographic diversity and comfortable climate boast the perfect hiking conditions no matter the season.

    The 12 Amazing Hiking Routes in the Los Padres National Forest

    Whether you are new to the trails or an experienced trailblazer, the Los Padres National Forest offers a wealth of routes to satisfy every type of adventurer. Tackle the technical mission of summiting Inspiration Point, or take it easy exploring the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens. No matter the trail you choose, Los Padres exhibits the beauty of the area’s landscapes and the native flora and fauna diversity. So when planning your next trip to California, a detour into the Los Padres National Forest is a must.

    As self-proclaimed adventure experts, we took it upon ourselves to curate a list of the best hikes in the Los Padres National Forest. Below you will find family-friendly nature trails, advanced missions, and everything in between. Enjoy!

    • Seven Falls Trail - The Seven Falls Trail is a demanding yet highly rewarding adventure that travels through the serrated canyon of the Mission Crags. Indulge in idyllic swimming holes and the sights of mesmerizing waterfalls.
    • Inspiration Point Hike - Admire the beauty of Santa Barbara, the Mission Crags, the Pacific, and on a clear day—the Channel Islands. The Inspiration Point Hike is an incredible adventure at the top of many adventurers hiking itineraries—make sure to add it to yours!
    • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Trail - The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Trail is a lovely, family-friendly adventure through the botanic garden abundant with the area’s native flora and several historic sites. You can easily spend the whole day exploring this incredible park.
    • Salmon Creek Falls Trail - Located just off State Route 1, this family-friendly hike attracts dozens of adventurers every day, eager to enjoy the hypnotic scene of the 37 m cascading waterfall. The Salmon Creek Falls Trail is a natural hidden oasis awaiting your exploration.
    • Mount Pinos Trail - Hike up to the highest point in the Los Padres National Forest along the Mount Pinos Trail. This excellent day hike offers an incredible overlook of Santa Barbara, the San Andreas Fault, the Caliente Range, to name a few.
    • Sand Dollar Beach Trail - Explore the pristine beach along the Sand Dollar Beach Trail. This fun family adventure exposes breathtaking vistas of the seashore bound by the crashing surf and dramatic headlands.
    • Enchanted Forest Trail - The Enchanted Forest Trail boasts a magical experience, guiding explorers through the lush woodlands bisected by a meandering stream. This route is a local favorite—so you know it's a great hike!
    • Figueroa Mountain Hike - Indulge in the scene of vibrant wildflower fields along the Figueroa Mountain Hike. This epic excursion culminates at the summit, which offers a fantastic overlook of the San Rafael Mountains and Santa Ynez Valley.
    • Hot Springs Canyon Trail - Soothe your tired muscles in the idyllic sulfur hot springs nestled amongst the Los Padres mountains along the Hot Springs Canyon Trail. Offering an unrivaled experience, this route attracts plenty of adventurers eager to soak in the natural spa.
    • Gaviota Peak Hike - Challenge yourself on the Gaviota Peak Hike. This heart-pumping adventure rewards tired trail-goers for their efforts with dumbfounding vistas of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
    • Punch Bowls Trail - Confused about the name? You won’t be once you explore the punch-bowl-shaped swimming holes in the Santa Paula Canyon. The Punch Bowls Trail is a must add to your hiking to-do list.
    • Rose Valley Falls Hike - The Rose Valley Falls Hike exhibits the area’s flora and fauna, as well as the mesmerizing scene of the seasonal cascade. This family-friendly adventure boasts an enchanting experience.

    When is the Best Time to Visit the Los Padres National Forest?

    Due to its geographic location, the Los Padres National Forest offers adventure pursuits year-round. The winter months along the coast see more rain and intense wind, and the areas of high elevation often see frigid and snowy conditions. On the other hand, if you head out in the summer, you can expect unbearably hot weather and crowded trails. We encourage visitors to explore in the spring and autumn for a more tranquil experience with comfortable weather conditions. No matter the season, the Los Padres National Forest will not disappoint.

    Other Outdoor Activities in the Los Padres National Forest

    The Los Padres National Forest is an oasis for adventure travelers, with plenty of outdoor pursuits and incredible hiking. Mountain biking and cycling are also popular sports in the forest—bike also a scenic roadway or tackling a technical mountain climb.

    Anglers, swimmers, and surfers can also enjoy water recreation in the wilderness area. Additionally, the sharp-crested coastal mountains and craggy valleys propose ideal scrambling and bouldering for intrepid adventurers to enjoy.

    In the winter months, higher elevation areas often see snow, providing opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Outdoor activities are abundant in the Los Padres National Forest, but the unrivaled beauty of the coastal environment is in and of itself a reason to visit the area.

    Frequently Asked Questions About the Los Padres National Forest

    Is the Los Padres National Forest free?

    Most facilities and trails in the Los Padres National Forest are free—though some expeditions require an Adventure Pass or Day-Use Fee.

    Can you drive through the Los Padres National Forest?

    The Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway travels through the Los Padres National Forest.

    Can you camp in the Los Padres National Forest?

    Yes, there are over 55 developed campgrounds in addition to several backcountry campsites in the Los Padres National Forest.

    Does it snow in the Los Padres National Forest?

    Yes, it often snows in the winter at the higher elevations within the Los Padres National Forest.

    Are dogs allowed in the Los Padres National Forest?

    Yes, as a rule, the Los Padres National Forest is a dog-friendly wilderness area, though there are a few restrictions, including the state park in Big Sur.

    Awesome Adventure Tours near the Los Padres National Forest

    Sadly, we have yet to curate an adventure tour in the Los Padres National Forest. Don’t fret—we are constantly adding to our ever-growing repertoire of epic tours, and who knows, a Los Padres adventure may be the next addition. Until then, check out our other California Tours to satiate your wanderlust.

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    Best Hikes in Los Padres National Forest

    Showing 21 to 40 of 57
      Open details for Montecito Peak Trail

      Montecito Peak Trail

      Hard
      12.2 km
      745 m
      4-6h

      The Montecito Peak Trail is a demanding adventure near Montecito that rewards hikers with breathtaking views of the Los Padres Mountains and the dramatic California coastline. This hike is no walk in the park, but the scenery is well worth the sweat.

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      Open details for Jesusita Trail

      Jesusita Trail

      Moderate
      10.9 km
      480 m
      3-4.5h

      The Jesusita Trail is an amazing adventure in the Los Padres National Forest that beckons the exploration of locals and visitors alike. Wander through the chaparral shrubs up to Inspiration Point, which boasts unparalleled views of Santa Barbara, the Pacific, and encompassing mountains.

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      Open details for North Fork Matilija Trail

      North Fork Matilija Trail

      Moderate
      13.5 km
      316 m
      3.5-4.5h

      The North Fork Matilija Trail is an amazing adventure through the Matilija Wilderness ideal for intermediate hikers and families with older children. This impressive adventure travels through lush woodlands, along meandering creeks adorned with cascades and dense communities of chaparral shrubs.

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      Open details for Coast Ridge Road to Terrace Creek Trail

      Coast Ridge Road to Terrace Creek Trail

      Moderate
      12.2 km
      514 m
      3.5-5h

      The Coast Ridge Road to Terrace Creek Trail is a beautiful adventure in the Los Padres National Forest that exhibits breathtaking coastal views. Wander along an old, winding fire road through redwood stands to an epic overlook of the Pacific.

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      Open details for Shelf Road Trail

      Shelf Road Trail

      Very Easy
      5.6 km
      125 m
      1.5-2h

      Those seeking a beautiful nature walk near Ojai can enjoy the Shelf Road Trail. Suitable for hikers of all ages and skill levels, this adventure boasts incredible views of the valley below and bounding verdant foothills.

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      Open details for Lizard’s Mouth Trail

      Lizard’s Mouth Trail

      Very Easy
      0.5 km
      15 m
      0.5h

      Spend the day exploring the Lizard’s Mouth in the Los Padres National Forest. This amazing nature trail can be enjoyed by hikers of all skill levels and ages. Admire the grandeur of the immense outcroppings often abundant with sunbathing lizards and the beautiful overlook of the Pacific.

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      Open details for Davy Brown Loop Trail

      Davy Brown Loop Trail

      Moderate
      11.1 km
      651 m
      4-5.5h

      The Davy Brown Loop Trail is a scenic excursion in the Los Padres National Forest ideal for intermediate hikers and families with older children. Wander through grassy meadowlands and forests abundant with Douglas Firs and chaparral scrubs to the Davy Meadow Campground situated along a soothing creek.

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      Open details for Chorro Grande Trail

      Chorro Grande Trail

      Hard
      15.9 km
      950 m
      5.5-7.5h

      The Chorro Grande Trail is a wonderful adventure up to the Reyes Peak Campground, which boasts epic views of the Cuyama Badlands on one side and the ocean on the other—on a clear day you may even notice distant views of the Channel Islands.

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      Open details for Reyes Peak Trail

      Reyes Peak Trail

      Easy
      2.9 km
      165 m
      1-1.5h

      The Reyes Peak Trail is a fun family hike near Ojai, California that affords anyone a great time. This lovely nature trail travels to the summit of Reyes Peak, which offers incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and the Cuyama Badlands.

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      Open details for Red Rock Loop Trail

      Red Rock Loop Trail

      Easy
      10.5 km
      253 m
      2.5-3.5h

      The Red Rock Loop Trail is a wonderful trail in the Los Padres National Forest that travels through unique rock formations known as the Red Rocks to the Gibraltar Reservoir. Enjoy the scene of the dramatic Santa Ynez Mountains as you explore and indulge in the beautiful landscape.

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      Open details for Topatopa Bluff Trail

      Topatopa Bluff Trail

      Very Hard
      24.3 km
      1,435 m
      8-11.5h

      The Topatopa Bluff Trail is an epic hike in the Los Padre National Forest. Reserved for intrepid adventurers, this demanding excursion requires careful footing and endurance! Rewarding tired conquerors with epic panoramas–this route packs a punch.

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      Open details for Lion Canyon Trail

      Lion Canyon Trail

      Easy
      9.7 km
      168 m
      2-3h

      The Lion Canyon Trail is a beautiful hike in the Los Padres National Forest that hikers of all skill levels and ages can enjoy. Wander along the meandering creek through the craggy canyon and admire the scene of the encompassing Topatopa Mountains.

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      Open details for Pacific Valley Bluff Trail

      Pacific Valley Bluff Trail

      Very Easy
      2.6 km
      39 m
      0.5-1h

      The Pacific Valley Bluff Trail boasts a unique hiking experience in Los Padres National Forest. This short, but scenic nature walk guides adventurers along the grassy coastal headlands of the Pacific through cattle fields. Ocean views and cows… what more could you ask for?

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      Open details for Tunnel Trail

      Tunnel Trail

      Hard
      12.1 km
      750 m
      4-6h

      The Tunnel Trail is a demanding adventure into the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara. Wander up through the arid terrain adorned with a dense community of chaparral brush up into the Mission Crags.

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      Open details for Romero Canyon Loop

      Romero Canyon Loop

      Hard
      16.6 km
      803 m
      5-7h

      The Romero Canyon Trail is a demanding adventure reserved for experienced hikers and intrepid spirits. Immerse yourself in the mountains of Los Padres and indulge in the breathtaking scenes of the encompassing mountains, Santa Barbara, Montecito, and the Channel Islands.

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      Open details for Pratt Trail

      Pratt Trail

      Hard
      15.4 km
      918 m
      5-7.5h

      The Pratt Trail is an incredible adventure in the Los Padres National Forest that travels through incredibly scenic terrain, boasting awe-inspiring views of the Ojai Valley and encompassing Topatopa Mountains.

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      Open details for Pratt and Fox Canyon Loop

      Pratt and Fox Canyon Loop

      Easy
      5.0 km
      223 m
      1.5-2h

      Seeking an easy-going family adventure near Ojai, CA? Well, you have come to the right place! The Pratt and Fox Canyon Loop is a wonderful adventure that offers a diversity of scenery, including mountain views, beautiful streams, seasonal wildflowers, and lush vegetation.

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      Open details for Sisar Canyon Road Hike

      Sisar Canyon Road Hike

      Moderate
      17.1 km
      685 m
      5-7h

      Leading adventurers along a well-maintained fire route, the Sisar Canyon Road Hike boasts a wonderful day of hiking. Easy to navigate and incredibly scenic, this trail attracts explorers of all sorts eager to indulge in the wonderful views of the Topatopa Ridge towering above and epic valley views below.

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      Open details for Cozy Dell Trail

      Cozy Dell Trail

      Moderate
      5.8 km
      362 m
      2-3h

      The Cozy Dell Trail is a wonderful adventure that boasts technical terrain and amazing scenery. Put your stamina and navigational skills to the test as you venture this primitive route on the outskirts of Ojai, CA. Don’t forget to charge your camera—the scenery is picture perfect!

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      Open details for Arroyo Burro Trail

      Arroyo Burro Trail

      Very Hard
      17.1 km
      1,094 m
      6-8.5h

      Seeking a challenging adventure near Santa Barbara? The Arroyo Burro Trail is a high-demand, high-reward type of hike in the Los Padres National Forest that boasts unrivaled views of the Mission Crags, Santa Barbara, and the Pacific.

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