Sespe Wilderness

Area Status: Open


The United States Congress designated the Sespe Wilderness in 1992 and it now has a total of 219,468 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Los Padres National Forest in the Ojai and Mt. Pinos Ranger Districts and is managed by the Forest Service.


Sespe Wilderness provides ample evidence of past violent geological upthrusts. The landscape is bleak and jagged, and if you climb high enough, you'll find pine trees growing at odd angles on boulder-swept hillsides. Sespe Creek, the last remaining undammed river in Southern California, runs for 31.5 Wild and Scenic miles (most of it in the Wilderness), and 10.5 miles of Upper Sespe Creek are under consideration for designation. Sandstone cliffs rise as much as 500 feet above the water in places, and fabulous sandstone formations stand in portions of the area. You may see petroglyphs and other evidence of ancient Indians. You might also spot black bears, deer, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, rattlesnakes, red-tailed hawks, and golden eagles. The 53,000-acre Sespe Condor Sanctuary is located here, but public entry is prohibited to protect California condors. The wilderness area is a part of the fourth largest roadless region left in the Lower 48, and it's the one closest to a large metropolitan area.

Numerous trails provide access, and human use is moderate. The Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail leads 18 miles through impressive white rocks to pleasant campsites nestled in conifers, a boon when much of the area lies without shade. The Sespe River Trail (17.5 miles) leads past cool swimming holes that thin down to shallows in the dry period, and on to Sespe Hot Springs and some of the hottest natural water in America.

At a Glance

Operated By: Sespe Wilderness 219,700 acres (includes Sespe Condor Sanctuary) was established 1992 by the Los Padres Condor Range and River Protection Act. The Sespe Wilderness is predominately located in the Ojai and the Mt. Pinos Ranger Districts. One popular destination is the hot springs about 16 miles from Lion Camp. The Sespe Wilderness is mainly a chaparral covered environment with rock cliffs in various sites. There is a beautiful area called Piedra Blanca, just off highway 33 along the Piedra Blanca-Gene Marshall Trail. The Sespe Condor Sanctuary is also in the wilderness. This site, closed to the public, was established to promote the propagation and growth of the California Condor.


River and Stream Fishing

Day Hiking