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Los Padres National Forest

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Title: Los Padres National Forest  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Little Sur River, List of largest wilderness areas in the United States, James Horner, Ventana Wilderness, Casitas Dam
Collection: California Coast Ranges, Campgrounds in California, Los Padres National Forest, Monterey Ranger District, Los Padres National Forest, National Forests of California, Parks in Monterey County, California, Protected Areas of Kern County, California, Protected Areas of Los Angeles County, California, Protected Areas of Monterey County, California, Protected Areas of San Luis Obispo County, California, Protected Areas of Santa Barbara County, California, Protected Areas of Ventura County, California
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Los Padres National Forest

Los Padres National Forest
IUCN category VI (protected area with sustainable use of natural resources)
Jameson Reservoir is center. To the right are the Santa Ynez Mountains, to the left the Los Padres back country and Old Man Mountain. In the far distance is Reyes Peak.
Location California
Nearest city Santa Barbara, Big Sur, and San Luis Obispo [1]
Area 2,970 square miles (7,700 km2)
Established December, 1936
Governing body U.S. Forest Service
Salmon Creek Falls, near the Big Sur coast, just outside the Ventana Wilderness.
Figueroa Mountain wildflowers, 2005

Los Padres National Forest is a United States national forest in southern and central California. Administered by the United States Forest Service, Los Padres includes most of the mountainous land along the California coast from Ventura to Monterey, extending inland. Elevations range from sea level to 8,847 feet (2,697 m).[2]


  • Geography 1
    • Wilderness areas 1.1
    • Recreation areas 1.2
  • Wildlife and vegetation 2
  • Use restrictions 3
  • History 4
  • Campgrounds 5
    • China Camp 5.1
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The forest is approximately 1,950,000 acres (7,890 km2) in area, of which 1,762,400 acres (7,130 km2) or about 88% are public lands; the rest are privately owned inholdings.

The forest is divided between two noncontiguous areas. The northern division is within Monterey County and includes the beautiful Big Sur Coast and scenic interior areas. This is a very popular area for hiking, with 323 miles (520 km) of hiking trails and 11 campgrounds (ranging from very rugged to suitable for recreational vehicles).[3] This division also contains the Ventana Wilderness, home to the California condor.

The "main division" of the forest includes lands within San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Kern Counties, with a small extension into Los Angeles County in the Pyramid Lake area, between Castaic and Gorman. Mountain ranges within the Los Padres include the Santa Lucia Mountains, La Panza Range, Caliente Range (a small part), Sierra Madre Mountains, San Rafael Mountains, Santa Ynez Mountains, and Topatopa Mountains; the highest parts of the forest are not within named mountain ranges, but are adjacent to the western San Emigdio Mountains and include Mount Pinos, Cerro Noroeste, and Reyes Peak. The forest is also adjacent to the Angeles National Forest, which is in Los Angeles County in Southern California and is nearby Carrizo Plain National Monument in eastern San Luis Obispo County. Forest headquarters are located in Goleta, California. There are local ranger district offices in Frazier Park, King City, Ojai, Santa Barbara, and Santa Maria.[4]

Many rivers in Southern and Central California have their points of origin within the Los Padres National Forest, including the Carmel, Salinas, Cuyama, Sisquoc, Santa Ynez, Coyote Creek, Sespe, Ventura, and Piru.

Several wilderness areas have been set aside within the Los Padres National Forest, including the San Rafael Wilderness, the first primitive area to be included in the U.S. wilderness system after the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. Another large wilderness created in the 1970s was the Ventana Wilderness in the Santa Lucia Mountains. A total of 48% of the total area within the forest has a wilderness designation.[1]

Wilderness areas

Recreation areas

Parts of the National Forest are designated as recreation areas. There are three recreation areas,[5]

Wildlife and vegetation

Gymnogyps californianus soaring over Los Padres National Forest
Trees in the Sespe Wilderness

Many threatened and endangered species live within the forest. Probably most famous among them is the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), for whom the United States Forest Service established the Sespe Condor Sanctuary. Also present is the California mountain kingsnake, a California species of special concern. The American peregrine falcon is also entirely dependent on the forest for its survival. The mountain lion and California mule deer may be the most common large mammals. Bighorn sheep inhabit the Sespe Creek region of the forest.[6] American black bears browse on grasses, berries, and carrion. Coyotes thrive everywhere in the forest. Bobcats can occasionally be seen in the more remote mountainous areas of the forest.

Many vegetation types are represented in the Los Padres, including chaparral, the common ground cover of most coastal ranges in California below about 5,000 feet (1500 m), and coniferous forests, which can be found in abundance in the Ventana Wilderness as well as the region around Mount Pinos in northern Ventura County.[7]

Researchers estimate the extent of old growth in the forest is 18,900 acres (76 km2). It consists largely of Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi) forests, although old-growth coast redwood (Sequoia Sempervirens), coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii), and white fir (Abies concolor) are also found there.[8] In 2008, scientist J. Michael Fay published a map of old growth redwoods in and around Big Sur as a result of his transect of the entire redwood range.[9]

Use restrictions

Los Padres exhibits an extreme risk of forest fires; in 1965, a truck driven by country singer Johnny Cash caught fire, and burned several hundred acres in Ventura county.[10] Because of this risk, there are many restrictions on building fires in Los Padres National Forest. Some portions of the forest are closed entirely to public entry during the fire season (including the entire San Rafael Wilderness). Normally the fire season extends from June 1 each year until the time of the first autumn rains, which is usually in mid-November.

A National Forest Adventure Pass is required for parking in most locations of the Los Padres National Forest, as well as other National Forests in Southern California, and may be obtained from local merchants, visitor centers, or online. It is not required in the Monterey Ranger District (Ventana Wilderness and Silver Peak Wilderness).


Pack train in the redwoods, Palo Colorado Canyon, above Little Sur River,1932

Los Padres means “the Fathers”, referring to the Catholic missionary priests of the Spanish missions who proselytized in and around the area in the 18th and 19th centuries.[11]

Los Padres was named Santa Barbara National Forest until December 3, 1936, and was assembled from a number of smaller National Forests, including:[12]

After the consolidation of the forests, the name Santa Barbara Forest was resented by residents of the other counties for being too closely identified with just the one county. Amidst public pressure, park administrators therefore changed the name to Los Padres to be more representative of the regional history.[11]


China Camp

China Camp
Location California, United States
Elevation 4,260 ft (1,300 m)
Type Drive In
Land Los Padres National Forest
Campsites 6
Facilities Vault Toilets, Picnic Tables
Water No
Fee None
Fires Yes

China Camp is a public drive-in campground on Chews Ridge in the Monterey District of the Los Padres National Forest. Located on the dirt road, Forest Route 18S02/Tassajara Road, it serves as the eastern trail head of the Pine Ridge Trail and is 10.9 miles (17.5 km) from Carmel Valley Road. The summit is 19.9 miles (32.0 km) from Carmel Valley Village. The Chews Ridge forest fire lookout, built in 1984, is nearby.[13] The road continues over the mountain 7.9 miles (12.7 km) down a very narrow and steep dirt road to Tassajara Hot Springs.

See also


  1. ^ a b Los Padres National Forest: Recreation and Visitors Maps
  2. ^ "Mount Pinos". NGS data sheet.  
  3. ^ SeeMonterey: Los Padres National Forest
  4. ^ USFS Ranger Districts by State
  5. ^ "Los Padres National Forest". Great Outdoor Recreation Pages. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Graham, Chuck (May 15, 2014) "Expanding their range: A story of survival of the desert bighorn sheep in the county's Sespe Wilderness" Ventura County Reporter
  7. ^ Carlson, Cheri (May 13, 2015). "Drought, bark beetles a deadly combination for Los Padres pines".   (subscription may be required for this article)
  8. ^ Warbington, Ralph; Beardsley, Debby (2002), 2002 Estimates of Old Growth Forests on the 18 National Forests of the Pacific Southwest Region,  
  9. ^ Fay, J. Michael (2008-09-30), Redwood Transect-Big Sur Redwoods 2.0, retrieved 2009-01-06 
  10. ^ Johnson, Brett (2007-11-18). "Johnny Cash's first wife tells of romance, heartbreak — They walked the line". Ventura County Star. Retrieved 2014-06-01. 
  11. ^ a b Brown, William S. (1945). History of Los Padres National Forest (PDF). San Francisco: Forest Service. p. 38. 
  12. ^ Davis, Richard C. (September 29, 2005), National Forests of the United States (pdf), The Forest History Society 
  13. ^ "California Forest Fire Lookouts". Retrieved 2009-11-20. 

External links

  • The Nature Explorers S Los Padres Expedition 1 hour 55 minute video of the S Los Padres ecosystem.
  • Los Padres National Forest: US Forest Service official site
  • Los Padres ForestWatch - a nonprofit organization working to protect and restore the natural and cultural heritage of the Los Padres National Forest
  • Ventana Wilderness Alliance- dedicated to the preservation of wilderness areas and other public lands in the Monterey Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest
  • Mountain Biking in the Los Padres National Forest- a website with maps, descriptions & links of various routes through the forest for wilderness camping on a mountain bike.
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