Sespe River Trail

Area Status: Open
Sepse wilderness sign

Sespe River Trail (20W13)



Length: 17. 5 miles to Shady Camp

Difficulty: moderate

From Highway 33, travel east on Rose Valley Road to Piedra Blanca Trailhead.  After crossing Lion Creek and Sespe Creek, turn right at the junction and head downstream. Bear Creek Camp, 4.3 miles from trailhead, is a wonderful camp located on a large sandbar with a swimming hole and shade from cottonwood trees. Kerr Springs, first year-round water source, is located .8 miles further, on the south side of the river.  Continuing towards Hot Springs Canyon, there are several more camps: Oak Flat (7.4 miles from trailhead), Willett (9.8 miles), Hartman (10.9 miles), Coltrell (14 miles) and Shady (17.5 miles). Sespe Hot Springs is located on the Trail #21 and 2 miles north of Coltrell. The entire length of the trail has ten crossings of the Sespe River.  Use caution when travelling during the wet season due to the potential of flash flooding.  Since this trail is in the wilderness, only hikers and equestrians are permitted.

At a Glance

Reservations: Trail use and trail camps are on a first-come, first-served basis. No reservations.
Area Amenities: Picnic tables,Toilets,Parking
Fees: An Adventure Pass is required to park at the Piedra Blanca Trailhead or you can display an America the Beautiful Interagency Senior, Access or Annual Pass in lieu of an Adventure Pass. The Wheeler Gorge, Rose Valley, Middle Lion, Pine Mountain and Reyes Peak campgrounds are manged by the Parks Management Company(PMC) and the fee is $20/night. Wheeler Gorge is $25/night. Advance reservations are strongly recommended and can be made at Each campground has several first-come, first-served sites.
Permit Info: Los Padres National Forest does not issue backcountry/wilderness permits. A permit is needed for campfires and stoves. The fire permit is free. Please contact the Ojai Ranger Station at (805) 448-4710 for current fire restrictions or please visit the Los Padres National Forest website. Fire restrictions usually go into place in May and extend through December. During fire restriction periods, campfires are not allowed in the backcountry. Small camp stoves are allowed with the California Campfire Permit.
  1. Clear flammable material away from the fire a minimum of five feet in all directions
  2. Have a shovel available for preparing and extinguishing campfires
  3. Have a responsible person observing the fire at all times
  4. Extinguish campfire with water, using the drown, stir, and feel method
Print this permit, fill it out, and bring it with you on your hike.
Usage: Heavy
Best Season: winter and spring
Busiest Season: spring
Restrictions: There is no disperse car camping in the Ojai Ranger District. Overnight camping is only allowed at developed car campgrounds.
Closest Towns: Ojai (15 miles)
Restroom: Vault toilet at the trailhead
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Call (661) 805-1057 or (805) 448-6487 or (805) 865-0416 for more information. The Ranger Station in Ojai is currently closed to walk-in visitation, but phone calls are answered Mon-Fri from 8:00am-4:30pm.

General Information


From Ojai, CA, follow Hwy 33 north for approximately 15 miles. Make a right at the signed junction for Rose Valley (and Piedra Blanca). From here, it’s another 5 miles to the trailhead. Follow signs for either Piedra Blanca or Sespe River Trail. It’s a paved road all the way to the parking lot.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Day Hiking



Picnic tables: Yes
Parking: Yes - requires the Adventure Pass
Toilets: Yes - vault toilets

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Area/Length : 
16.8 miles

  Latitude : 

  Longitude :