Los Padres National Forest
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Fantastic, invigorating hiking on soft dirt trails; huge, gorgeous panoramas; seclusion (the park is huge [about twice the size of Joshua Tree] and we saw nobody else for miles); nice picnic tables and fire-pits at campsites [pretty much backcountry camping]; easy to find burnable wood; clean streams everywhere, especially near campsites (you will still need to treat the water), with which to drink, cook, and wash; BEAUTIFUL DRIVE; clean air.
Relevant Guidebooks & Maps
BUY AN ADVENTURE PASS BEFORE YOU GO! Most of California's parks now allow entry if you have a yearly adventure pass on your dashboard, so buy one beforehand or on the way (some small shops in the area sell them). If you have one, you can just drive in, park, and get hiking early. For more information,
You should buy a map of Los Padres in campground stores within the park for $4.33 before you start hiking. The maps aren't great, but they give you a general idea of routes to plan.
About 3.5 hours.
Get on the 210 West (Nearest entrance to school is up on Towne Ave [2 blocks west of Indian Hill])
Merge onto 134 West
134 West turns into 101 West
From the 101 (which is also the 1 here) exit onto 154 North after it passes through Santa Barbara
A little while after passing Lake Cachuma, turn right onto Armour Ranch Road
Soon, turn left onto Happy Canyon Road (Also called 'Forest Route')
Stay on Happy Canyon as it becomes Figueroa Mountain Road
Stay on Happy Canyon Road as it becomes Sunset Valley Road
There are two good trailheads at the end of Sunset Valley Road (one at the end of the road and one a quarter mile before that
Really great place to backpack for two or three days, but you need to plan your route and leave Claremont early (try to be on the trails by noon).
There is a relatively easy 3 day hike called 'Manzana Schoolhouse Trail' which goes along trails in the valley over many shallow streams with nice secluded campsites every night. The first day to Manzana Schoolhouse is labelled 7 miles, the second day to Coldwater is labelled 4 and the third day to leave is labelled 3. We did something different the first day, but the second day's trail seemed more like 5. Be prepared to cross streams often!
There is a 24 mile trail, 'Hurricane Deck' that brings you on top of the huge hills that overlook the valley giving some of the most gorgeous views one can get backpacking. There is no water up here, and some people do it as a super-intense day hike/run.
What we did for day 1, which was perfect, was take Hurricane Deck when we got to it, then took a fork to leave Hurricane Deck and go towards Manzana Schoolhouse, then hiked some switchbacks down into the valley to reach the schoolhouse. This gave all the glorious views and strenuousness of Hurricane Deck and then an easy 2nd and 3rd day. But be careful: the first day's route is very poorly marked, so make sure you carefully follow the trail. You may lose it at some points on top of the peaks, but if you follow the crests you'll find it. To get into the valley towards the schoolhouse at the end of the day, you will descend some unmarked and somewhat overgrown switchbacks, but if you stick to them, you'll be fine. Once you descend, you'll see some signs, cross a stream, and be at the schoolhouse campsite. This first day is labelled as about 10 miles, but may be closer to 12 or more and is strenuous. Then, the next two days are easy on the Manzana Schoolhouse route.
THE TRAILS CAN BE POORLY MARKED! Especially 'Hurricane Deck.' FOLLOW THE TRAIL! You may not see any signs for a while, but as long as you stay on what seems to be the trail, you'll eventually get to a campsite.
Bring water treatment drops, as there are tons of streams at ground level. If you're instead hiking on a higher trail that passes over the mountains' crests (those are more fun and prettier), bring lots of water! You'll see water in the valleys below, but following the trails may not bring you there until the end of the day.
There may be rattlesnakes, so watch out. There are ticks. There are supposedly mountain lions.
Bring proper footwear: you may have to walk through shallow streams often, so Tivas, Chacos, or even flip-flops are a good idea. We went barefoot mostly, but it was painful at times (especially with a backpack).
All the stream crossing is extremely fun and refreshing, but wet feet in water shoes (or bare) get blisters easily. Bring some band-aids and be careful.
Edited by (in order): Zach Siegel, Zach Siegel, Zach Siegel, Zach Siegel, Zach Siegel, Zach Siegel, Zach Siegel, Zach Siegel
Last updated: 03/19/2011