Backpacking in Los Padres National Forest

A few weeks ago I went backpacking with some friends in Los Padres National Forest. (I’m just writing about it now because I’ve been up in Washington for the past two weeks, the second of which I spent on an awesome 5-day backpacking trip in Mt. Rainier National Park. But more on that later.) We drove into Los Padres National Forest and through Reyes Creek Campground until we came to a stop in a parking area by the Reyes Creek Trailhead. After some final pack adjustments, we set off on the trial!

View from first ridgeWe ascended the trail for about 2.5 miles through brush and low trees to a ridge, stopping along the way to let a 4 foot long rattlesnake cross the trail (we gave it plenty of room), and began a small descent. Upon reaching Upper Reyes Campground, we dropped our packs and had lunch. (And a lot of water, the temperature was in the mid-90’s.) After lunch, we continued on towards Beartrap, our final destination for the day. Over the next ~1.7 miles, we got up over a ridge and then descended through shady trees towards the campground. There is a small creek at the camp (Beartrap Creek) that is there year-round. (We used a Katadyn water filtering pump here to fill up our water bottles and Beartrap Creekreservoirs.) After a dinner of quinoa and chicken, we went to bed.

The second day of our trip we broke camp relatively early in the morning to resume our backpacking. From Beartrap, the trail winded through tall, green trees and big, vibrant plants, crossing small streams intermittently. The air was very cool on this part of the trail and the scenery was beautiful. However, all to soon we were leaving this cool, shady portion of the trail and ascending a high ridge, (great views from the top, by the way) from which we began a descent towards Haddock, another camp. We stopped for a short break there before continuing on towards the next camp, Three Mile. This part was pretty easy, and would probably have been more so if the temperature wasn’t constantly hovering around 100 degrees F. Oh well. We finally arrived at Three Mile, where we broke for lunch.

After an hour or so, we moved on. (At this point I had about a half liter of water left, which certainly helped motivate me onward to a water source.) Luckily, we came across water Pine Mountain Lodge Camppretty soon, right after passing a bush that someone swore they saw a bear cub in. We refilled our water bottles with filtered water from a stagnant pond, and just for good measure, put in a couple of chlorine tablets in to make sure the water was completely safe. The next part of the trail traversed over rolling hills (which were doubly uncomfortable due to the high heat) before finally reaching our final camp for the day, Pine Mountain Lodge. After some cards and a dinner of Mountain House’s freeze dried Lasagna with Meat Sauce (which is very good by the way, probably my favorite of the freeze dried foods), we retired to our tents for the night.

Our final day on the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Rec. Trail began with a long ~3 mile descent towards Twin Forks camp, where we stopped for a short rest. Then after resuming, only 0.3 miles down the trail we passed Piedra Blanca camp. From here the trailPiedra Blanca Bluffs was relatively flat and the landscape was mostly occupied by a lot of scraggly bushes and some small trees. However, the trail had one last unpleasant surprise waiting for us. After rounding a bend in the trail, we were confronted with a giant rock formation. We ascended the last steep uphill of the trip and found ourselves on top of a huge rock formation with a huge 360 panoramic view. We rested there for an hour or so and then began our final descent. Eventually we reached the Middle Sespe Trail junction and took a right (Southeast). Soon thereafter, we reached a small dirt road and took another right (Southwest). After a few hundred feet, we came around a bend and emerged by a parking lot, bathroom, and big sign with a map of the trail. (This is the Piedra Blanca Trailhead.) The sight of the cars there to pick us up was very welcome, needless to say.

Map of the area and the TrailThe Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail was great for backpacking and I had a great time on the trip. The area was very beautiful, and the trail was nice. I would only recommend going in lower temperatures, as it would no doubt be a much more enjoyable experience. This trail would be great for a short 2 or 3 day backpacking trip, or even day hikes, if you want to go out and back. If you’re looking for a short backpacking trip in Southern California, take a look at this area!

Have fun on your next trip!


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