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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 41 to 57 of 57
      Open details for San Ysidro Creek and Catway Loop

      San Ysidro Creek and Catway Loop

      Moderate
      5.8 km
      335 m
      2-2.5h

      Explore the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains along the San Ysidro Creek and Catway Loop. This awesome hike near Montecito is ideal for intermediate hikers and families with older children. Enjoy the scene of the area’s native flora and fauna along this route while getting in a great workout!

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      Open details for McMenemy Trail

      McMenemy Trail

      Moderate
      6.1 km
      317 m
      2-2.5h

      The McMenemy Trail boasts a magical day of hiking in the Los Padres National Forest. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in forestlands abundant with Douglas fir, chaparral shrubs, and seasonal wildflowers.

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      Open details for Woodland Falls Trail

      Woodland Falls Trail

      Easy
      1.0 km
      91 m
      0.5h

      The Woodland Falls Trail is a wonderful adventure in the San Emigdio Mountains that offers an unparalleled experience. Explore the craggy, woodland-bound canyon to the beautiful seasonal cascade that surges over the towering cliffside.

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      Open details for Piru Creek Trail

      Piru Creek Trail

      Very Easy
      4.5 km
      47 m
      1-1.5h

      Meander through a corridor of looming canyon walls along the Piru Creek Trail. This family-friendly adventure travels along a picturesque creek that boasts beautiful scenery and soothing sounds. If you get hot, hop in and cool off in the refreshing waters!

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      Open details for Last Chance Trail

      Last Chance Trail

      Hard
      17.4 km
      603 m
      4.5-6.5h

      The Last Chance Trail is an amazing adventure through the Santa Paula Canyon amongst the Topatopa Mountains. Indulge in the beauty of the beautiful valley adorned with several punch-bowl-shaped swimming holes and mesmerizing cascades.

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      Open details for Mount Lowe Trail

      Mount Lowe Trail

      Moderate
      12.9 km
      343 m
      3-4.5h

      Immerse yourself in the San Luis Obispo Range along the Mount Lowe Trail. This wonderful adventure travels through lush woodlands and meadowlands often abundant with grazing cattle. This versatile trail attracts hikers and bikers alike eager to include in the epic scenery.

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      Open details for Aliso Canyon Trail

      Aliso Canyon Trail

      Moderate
      5.3 km
      247 m
      1.5-2.5h

      The Aliso Canyon Trail is a wonderful nature trail that offers impressive scenery. Explore the area’s variety of flora and fauna while admiring the beauty and grandeur of the Santa Ynez Mountains. This epic excursion would make an excellent addition to your hiking to-do list.

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      Open details for Gridley Trail

      Gridley Trail

      Hard
      19.8 km
      814 m
      5.5-8h

      The Gridley Trail is an amazing nature trail in the Los Padres National Forest reserved for experienced hikers and intrepid spirits. Explore dense communities of chaparral shrubs and cacti in the Topatopa Mountains. We love this scenic adventure, and so will you.

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      Open details for Potrero John Creek Trail

      Potrero John Creek Trail

      Moderate
      8.2 km
      298 m
      2.5-3h

      The Potrero John Creek Trail is a wonderful adventure through the desert-like terrain into the Coastal Range. Exhibiting the diversity of the area’s flora and fauna, this stimulating trek will not disappoint. We love this scenic excursion, and we know you will too.

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      Open details for Condor Summit and Vincent Tumamait Trail

      Condor Summit and Vincent Tumamait Trail

      Moderate
      15.1 km
      584 m
      4.5-6h

      The Condor Summit and Vincent Tumamait Trail is an awesome adventure through the San Emigdio Mountains that offers breathtaking views of the mountainous landscape and the area’s diversity of flora and fauna. Though challenging, the vistas prove well worth the effort.

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      Open details for Piedra Blanca Camp Trail

      Piedra Blanca Camp Trail

      Easy
      9.8 km
      266 m
      2.5-3.5h

      The Piedra Blanca Camp Trail is an awesome adventure in the Los Padres National Forest that the whole family can enjoy. Explore the unique sandstone rock formations at your leisure and revel in the beauty of the Topatopa Mountains.

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      Open details for Soda Springs Creek Hike

      Soda Springs Creek Hike

      Moderate
      9.3 km
      511 m
      3-4.5h

      The Soda Springs Creek Hike is a wonderful adventure along the California coast that boasts unrivaled scenery. This wonderful adventure exhibits the area’s topographic variety as well as the diversity of flora and fauna—this trek can’t be topped.

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      Open details for Spyglass Ridge Road Hike

      Spyglass Ridge Road Hike

      Moderate
      9.0 km
      416 m
      2.5-4h

      The Spyglass Ridge Road Hike would make a wonderful addition to an experienced hiker’s adventure itinerary. Demanding the navigation of technical terrain, this amazing route rewards its conquerors with dumbfounding vistas of the Santa Ynez Mountains and Santa Barbara below.

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      Open details for Tequepis Trail

      Tequepis Trail

      Moderate
      12.6 km
      743 m
      4.5-6h

      Challenge yourself along the Tequepis Trail. This demanding adventure in the Los Padres National Forest rewards hikers for their efforts with dumbfounding vistas of the Santa Ynez Valley and the San Rafael Mountains.

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      Open details for Brazil Ranch Trail

      Brazil Ranch Trail

      Moderate
      8.0 km
      381 m
      2.5-3.5h

      The Brazil Ranch Trail is an amazing adventure in the Los Padres National Forest that is sure to impress. Walk amongst grazing cattle atop the coastal headlands and marvel in the uninterrupted panoramic views of the Pacific.

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      Open details for Grass Mountain Trail

      Grass Mountain Trail

      Hard
      8.4 km
      735 m
      3.5-5h

      The Grass Mountain Trail is an amazing adventure in the Los Padres National Forest that boasts commanding vistas of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the San Rafael Mountains. This impressively scenic trek is no walk in the park, so expect to get your heart rate up!

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      Open details for Romero Canyon Trail

      Romero Canyon Trail

      Moderate
      9.7 km
      457 m
      3-4h

      The Romero Canyon Trail is an exciting nature trail that exhibits the diversity and beauty of the area’s topographies, flora, and fauna. Explore the forested canyon bound by the verdant foothills of Los Padres National Forest and get your fix of fresh air.

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