The 18-mile Gene Marshall Trail (officially the Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail) cuts through the back country of the Los Padres National Forest, liking Lockwood Valley with the Sespe area north of Ojai. While the most popular day hike along the trail is on the southern end, to the Piedra Blanca sandstone formations, the northern end also offers an excellent hike to the first trail camp on the route, Upper Reyes. With mountain views, several impressive collections of oaks and pines, spring wildflowers and a trickling stream, this hike has a little something for everyone. The only downside of this hike are the bugs which can be particularly annoying during the spring; keep an eye out for ticks as well.
From the parking lot, follow the trail into the woods as it crosses the creek. You ascend through a woodland thick with oaks, make a switchback and then enter the open, heading generally south along the canyon’s west wall. At one mile, you cross the stream and meander in and out of more pockets of trees, beginning a pronounced ascent at 1.8 miles. The trail leaves the woods and switchbacks up to a saddle (2.3 miles, the high point on the route), taking in better and better views of Lockwood Valley as it climbs.
At the saddle, you may notice more switchbacks cut into the hillside opposite you; this is the continuation of the Gene Marshall Trail past the Upper Reyes Trail Camp. Begin the descent, passing by more gigantic oak trees and entering a marshy meadow. After passing a small campsite on the left side of the trail, you arrive at Upper Reyes Trail Camp, nestled peacefully beneath some tall pines. A few logs frame a small fire ring. Sit and enjoy the trickle of the nearby stream before retracing your steps. If you have time and energy, you can continue on to Beartrap Trail Camp, adding another 3.4 miles round trip with 900 feet of elevation gain.
Text and photography copyright 2016 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.