Difficulty PG Distance 2.1 to 5 miles General information: Dogs allowed Rating: 7-8 Santa Barbara/Ventura Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

Piedra Blanca


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The sandstone formations of Piedra Blanca
Crossing Sespe Creek in the Los Padres National Forest

Piedra Blanca

      • Location: Los Padres National Forest north of Ojai.  From the town of Ojai, drive 15 miles north on highway 33 (a total of 28 miles from Highway 101.)  Turn right on Rose Valley Road and drive 6.5 miles to the Piedra Blanca trailhead.  Park at the campground and pick up the Sespe Creeek trail at the end of the lot. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
      • Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Ojai Ranger District
      • Distance: 2.8 miles
      • Elevation gain: 500 feet
      • Difficulty Rating: PG
      • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
      • Best season:  October – June
      • USGS topo map: Lion Canyon
      • Recommended gear: hiking poles (for stream crossings)
      • More information:  here
      • Rating: 8

If one were to mix the unusual geology of Vasquez Rocks with the wide desert and mountain views of the Desert Divide south of the San Jacintos, the result might be something like this hike in the Los Padres National Forest. While Piedra Blanca may be something of a drive for most L.A. area hikers, it’s worth a visit, especially if you have enough time to combine it with other hikes in the area.

From the end of the Lion Campground, pick up the Sespe Creek trail, which starts by the information board and the restrooms. Even from here, you can see your destination: the huge sandstone outcrops that stick out from the desert floor, a mile away as the crow flies. The trail crosses the creek three times, which can be a little tricky if the water level is high (rocks and logs are usually put together to form makeshift bridges, and hiking poles will help too.)

Shortly after the third crossing, you’ll come to a split. Head left and begin climbing, taking in nice aerial views of the creek as you ascend. Head right at the next intersection, and soon you’ll find yourself with great up-close views of the sandstone slabs.

At 1.4 miles from the campground, the trail dips downward. It continues another mile toward Piedra Blanca Camp, and then deeper into the Sespe Wilderness, options if you want to extend the trip. However, for this route, the saddle here marks the turnaround point. With care, you can scramble up one of the formations and take in nice views of the Sespe Creek area to the south and the wilderness to the north before heading back.

Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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