Special Places

Ten Wilderness Areas in Los Padres National Forest

Sespe Wilderness - Fall SeasonLos Padres National Forest has 10 Congressionally designated Wildernesses comprising 875,000 acres, or approximately 48% of the 1.75 million acre National Forest. more wilderness area information.....

What is Wilderness?

According to the Wilderness Act of 1964, wilderness areas are "where earth and its community of life remain untrammeled, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." The Los Padres National Forest has ten designated wilderness areas: Ventana, Silver Peak, Santa Lucia, Garcia, Machesna, San Rafael, Dick Smith, Matilija, Sespe, Chumash. For backpacking information and other area specific information, contact the Forest Service office nearest your trailhead.

Wilderness Education Plan

Wilderness Education Plans for all ten Wilderness areas on the Los Padres have been approved and implementation has begun. The purpose of these plans is to introduce various audiences to the values and purposes of wilderness, goals of the Wilderness Act and specific methods of protecting each Wilderness. The plan is just one more step towards supporting the stewardship of the Wilderness areas of the Los Padres and providing opportunities for champions of Wilderness both within and outside the Forest Service. This plan identifies specific actions that support ‘Leave No Trace’ objectives and a better understanding of Wilderness on the Forest. Wilderness Education Plan

Wilderness Passes

You do not need a wilderness pass for any of the wildernesses in the Los Padres National Forest. You do need a campfire permit, for operating a campstove or having a campfire in the backcountry.

Highlighted Areas

Jacinto Reyes National Scenic Byway

The Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway traverses the Ojai Ranger District and part of Mt. Pinos Ranger District of the Los Padres NF and is entirely within Ventura County. The byway is bordered by 30 miles of national forest and 7 miles of private land within the forest boundary. About .75 mile of byway is outside the national forest.

The byway travels through some of the most picturesque and diverse terrain in southern California. Spectacular vistas greet you along the entire route, and yet you are also treated to "close encounters" with beautiful cliffs, rock formations, and lush riparian areas. The unique geology, geomorphology, plant, and animal life of the area captures the interest and imagination of the casual recreationist and scientist alike. The corridor provides access to four Congressional designated wildernesses.

  • Highway 33 is a state highway, maintained by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).
  • Highway 33 is both a National Forest Scenic Byway, and a State Scenic Highway. This means that it traverses a scenic corridor of outstanding aesthetic, cultural, historic, and interpretive values.

More Byway Information.........

Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center

The Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center which is located 8 miles north of Ojai on Highway 33, is the first dedicated Visitor Center in the almost 100 year history of the Los Padres National Forest. Since opening in June 2001, the center has served over 20,000 visitors.

The Visitor Center provides public information about Los Padres National Forest and also sells maps, trail guides, forest-related books, Adventure Passes and other items.

Trained staff can help guide you to the many and varied recreational and educational experiences available in the forest and can also help with extended backcountry trip planning for the local wilderness areas.

The Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center also serves as a hub for interpretive and educational activities and programs. These include presentations about the resources and issues of Los Padres National Forest. One of the more popular programs is the Introduction to Backpacking course. Programs are offered on Saturdays May through September.

The Visitor Center also has local wildlife displays and there is a classroom, library, large parking area and an outside picnic area.

For information about scheduled hours of operation and current programs please visit the Los Padres Forest Association website or call the Ojai Ranger Station at 805-448-6487.

Recreation Areas