Sespe Trail News & Your Late “Winter” Los Padres Update

Have you seen the rain? I ain’t seen the rain! Where’s that confounded rain? photo Kail

Hello Friends,

What happened? We got off to such a nice start this season. Do you remember the bomb cyclone around Thanksgiving and all the low elevation snow storms we had for much of December? I think I remember but ever since then the water valve just shut off. We’re not supposed to be doing trail work in January and February, it’s supposed to be too wet but this year we’ve been able to work all but one day (January 16). As of right now Salinas is at 73% “normal-to-date rainfall”, Paso Robles is at 82%, Santa Maria 54%, San Marcos Pass 53%, Camarillo 72% and no substantial rain is in the forecast through at least the first week of March. I hate to say this, but the days are going by and our window is starting to close. Yikes! And we’re not even going to talk about the early wildflowers already popping up around the forest. Maybe we’re due for a late “March Miracle” or an “Astounding April” but if not we’re looking at another dry year, a potentially long wildfire season and what might be a very short backcountry season for water. That being said, lets not give up on the season, positive thoughts everyone, get your rain dance ready. The good news is that the snow pack remains from the early season storms and that’s excellent for ground water percolation and recharge. Positive thoughts. Anyway, lots of great stuff going on around the Los Padres Forest, read on for details and we hope you’re enjoying the trails and that we get to see you soon on an upcoming volunteer project. Read on…..

Sespe Trail Projects Collage, photos Marcie, Myke & Ari – special thanks to REI and Sespe Wilderness Outfitters


The trails across the Ventura Backcountry have been neglected over the past decade probably more than anywhere else across the Los Padres. Enough’s enough, it’s time for that to change….. In 2019 the LPFA applied for and was awarded a grant from REI to lead a series of volunteer projects across the Sespe Wilderness. We started in January 2020 working the Sespe River Trail from Piedra Blanca to Willett and followed that with a February 2020 project working the Red Reef Trail up from Sespe Creek. Our next scheduled project is a week-long Working Vacation in April 2020 on the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca (GMPB) Trail working up from Beartrap Camp. The work we’ve done so far has been incredible, with great volunteer turnout and everyone we’ve met along the trail has been so supportive and happy to see these trails getting worked once again. The response has been so positive that we want to keep the momentum going and continue our progress working trails in the Sespe. With that in mind, the LPFA is launching a fundraiser for the Sespe trails with the hopes of raising $15,000 to put towards future trail projects in the Sespe. We’d love to schedule one more week-long project working the GMPB in spring 2020 and host a 10-day Working Vacation in fall 2020 working the Alder Creek Trail from Cow Springs to the Sespe Creek. These are some of the most spectacular trails across the Los Padres but they are in such bad shape at the moment. We’re hoping the trail community can help by raising some funds for the Sespe trails. For more information and a short video about our proposal, check the link below – thank you:



Perfect camping morning: get your coffee, climb a rock, find that perfect view and watch the sunrise……


  • The LPFA is working with the Los Padres Forest and other LP trail groups to host a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger Training on March 14 at the Los Prietos Compound off of Paradise Road.  We are finalizing the agenda and details will be shared soon.  If you are interested in learning more or would like to attend, please email us and we’ll be sure you are on the list:
  • There are A TON of volunteer trail opportunities coming up across the forest over the coming months. Check it out below and we hope to see you swinging a tool with us soon……
  • We’ve been getting a lot of questions about gate closures and why gates are closed when the roads are dry.  The answer is that most of the LP gates are closed due to predetermined seasonal road closures.  Most of the seasonal closures kick in either November 1 or when it starts to rain and are reopened May 1 or when the roads have been fixed after the rain season. This has been a weird year due to the lack of rain and depending on how the weather shapes up over the coming month, some of the gates may open early.  Our best advice if you are planning a trip through a seasonal gate closure is to contact the appropriate Ranger District and check to see if the gates are open.  And then if the gates are closed, you can always remind the FS politely that you’d appreciate the gates opening as soon as practical so that you can better access your forest.  We’re of course happy to help as well if we can:
  • Speaking of closures, the Pine Ridge Trail remains closed between Big Sur Station and Redwood Camp but lots of great work is being done by the Forest Service and Ventana Wilderness Alliance in the hopes that it will be reopened soon.  Stay tuned…….
  • Enough about closures, the Cold Spring Trail above Montecito has reopened after being closed for over two years due to the Thomas Fire.  We’re all very proud of the work that’s been accomplished along Cold Spring!  In particular the Don’s Wall.
  • Along those lines, we wanted to remind everyone about the Trail Yield Triangle and to share the trail appropriately with other users.  That’s all….
  • The Cave Fire, which burned 3,126 acres above Santa Barbara in November 2019, was officially called out on January 27, 2020.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
  • The Forest Service has extended the forest-wide target shooting restrictions through June 30, 2020.  Check this link for more details and locations you can legally discharge a firearm.
  • Lots of condors in the news of late.  Last month the Santa Barbara Zoo welcomed three new California condors to their large enclosure.  If you’ve not visited the SB Zoo, they now have 14 condors and provide a great opportunity to see these birds up close.  And in December there were three more condors released above San Simeon, joining 25 others which have been released there since 2016.
  • More condor in the news, the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (H.R. 2199) passed the House of Representatives earlier this month bringing it one step closer to providing additional protection of nearly 250,000 acres of land in and around the Los Padres Forest.  Included in the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act would be the designation of the Condor Trail as a National Scenic Trail.  Up next for the bill is a visit with the Senate and potentially a signature from the President. Side note: Skopos gives the bill a less than 20% chance of becoming law, but this is the first time in the nearly 10 year history of this bill that its passed the House and the Skopos odds have increased over 10% since November 2019.
  • The Los Padres Fire Crews are continuing a series of prescribed burns across the Los Padres with scheduled burns over the coming week in the Mt Pinos and Figueroa Mountain areas
  • Trails worked across the Los Padres over the past month or so include: Lottie Potrero Trail, Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca Trail, Red Reef Trail, Sespe River Trail, Buckhorn Trail, Camuesa Connector Trail, Matias Trail, San Ysidro Trail, Blue Canyon Trail, Romero Trail, Matilija Trail, Potrero John Trail, Santa Cruz Trail, Baron Trail, Franklin Trail, Buena Vista Trail, Cold Spring Trail, Ocean View Trail, Pine Ridge Trail, Agua Blanca Trail and probably a few others too…..

Snow Better Time to Snow Camping Than Right sNow, photo TWilder


A few upcoming dates, events, projects, presentations or things you might want to know.
If you have any forest-related events to add to this list, let us know and we’re more than happy to pass along!

February 19 – April 8: Sierra Club Wilderness Basics Class, Ventura
February 22: Winter Trails Day, Rattlesnake Canyon, Santa Barbara
February 22 – March 22: SB Botanic Garden Fire Recovery Mapping
February 22: Lower Pine Ridge Day Trip, VWA
February 22: Arroyo Burro Trash Cleanup, ForestWatch
February 29: Agua Blanca Trail Project #4, A.Coles
February 29: Pine Ridge Trail Brushing, VWA

March 7: Ojai First Saturday, Chorro Grande Trail, LPFA
March 8: Santa Paula Canyon Graffiti Removal, LPFA
March 14: Volunteer Wilderness Ranger Training, Paradise Road
March 14: Brushing Pine Ridge Trail, VWA
March 14: Hwy 33 Adopt-A-Highway, LPFA
March 20-22: American Canyon, Machesna Trail Project, LPFA & SLOPOST
March 21: Brushing Pine Ridge Trail, VWA

April TBD: Little Falls & Trout Creek Trail Sign Project, LPFA
April 3-9: Beartrap GMPB Sespe Working Vacation, LPFA
April 18: Wheeler Gorge Open House
April 18-19: Davy Brown Earthday Trail Project, LPFA

May 2-10: Puerto Suelo Trail Working Vacation, Dick Smith Wilderness, LPFA
May 23-31: Indian Creek Working Vacation, Dick Smith, LPFA

June 6: National Trails Day, Location TBD