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

Smokey Bear at the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center

The Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center is located 8 miles north of Ojai on Highway 33 and is open from 9:00am - 3:00pm, Saturdays and Sundays, except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The visitor center provides the public with recreation information on the Los Padres National Forest including day hiking and backpacking opportunities on the Ojai Ranger District. Maps, trail guides, forest-related books, Adventure Passes and other items are available for purchase at the center.

The Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center also serves as a hub for interpretive and educational activities and programs. Programs are offered on Saturdays May through September. For summer 2022 program information, please visit the Los Padres Forest Association website or call the visitor center on weekends at (805) 640-9060 or contact info@lpforest.org.

Available at Wheeler

  • Information about trails and trail camps on the Ojai Ranger District (Sespe and Matilija Wilderness areas)
  • Local hiking trail/wilderness maps
  • Adventure Passes
  • Books and other interpretive information
  • Snacks, drinks and other forest related memorabilia
  • Conference room/ classroom equipped with audiovisual equipment
  • Outdoor classroom under the trees
  • A large parking area and
  • Outside picnic area.

Note: Interagency passes (Annual, Senior, Access and Military) are NOT available at the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center. Contact the Forest Headquarters for Interagency Pass information at (805) 448-6487.

Recreation Areas