Los Padres National Forest

Highlights
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Painted Rock and Pine Corral Potrero
This site is located on Sierra Madre Ridge between Pine Corral and Montgomery Potrero. It has not only scenic value but archeological and historical significance as well. The area has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Painted Rock and Pine Corral Potrero, once inhabited by Chumash Indians, contain pictographs, grinding holes and other remnants of their civilization. In addition, you will see some unique rock formations sculpted by wind and water erosion.

Big Cone Douglas Fir
This tree was nominated for the Big Tree Contest sponsored by the American Forest Association. It measures 24 feet in circumference and is located in Pleito Canyon, near Antimony Peak in Kern County.

San Andreas Fault
California's major earthquake-producing fault traverses a large part of the Mt. Pinos District. It is visible from many sections of the Mt. Pinos Forest Highway.

Pfeiffer Beach/Sand Dollar Beach
Sand Dollar is a day-use picnic area and is the largest public beach on the Southern Big Sur Coast. It is accessible by a trail running down the cliff. Swimming here is not advisable because of unpredictable riptide currents and very cold water. Sightseeing, beach combing, sunbathing and surf fishing are popular activities.

Two and a half miles south of Big Sur off Highway 1 is a very scenic and popular day-use area called Pfeiffer Beach. It's a little difficult to find the turn off, but well worth the search.

Cone Peak/Santa Lucia Fir
Cone Peak is the steepest pitch of country along the Pacific Coast—rising from sea level to 5,155 feet in about 3.5 miles. Cone Peak is historically and botanically a very important area. Here, botanists Thomas Coulter and David Douglas discovered the Santa Lucia Fir, considered to be the most unique fir tree in the world. It is found only in parts of the Santa Lucia Mountains from San Luis Obispo county through Monterey County. It occurs commonly within the mixed evergreen forest above the redwood forest. This fir tends to be concentrated in steep, rocky, fire-resistant spots at elevations from 2,000 to 5,000 feet.

Big Sur
There are many different definitions of Big Sur—from a stretch of untamed coastline 75 miles long, to a community along a four-mile stretch of highway. However you define it, most people agree that this area contains some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. The unique weather of Bug Sur adds to its mystique. Foggy periods are the norm during most of the summer season. It is best to visit the area in late summer or fall, but the occasional clear days between winter and spring storms are fantastic.

Scenic Highway 1
Originally known as the Cabrillo or Roosevelt Highway, Highway 1 traverses a large portion of the west boundary of the Monterey Ranger District. This road is a designated state scenic highway. It parallels some of the most spectacular coastline California has to offer. The road is not an easy drive and requires careful attention to your driving skills. Watch out for hikers and cyclists.

Redwood Trees
The Monterey Ranger District contains the southernmost stands of the Coast Redwood. Most of these are confined to canyon bottoms and shaded northern sloes. The fog line sets the elevation for these trees, generally below 2,000 feet. The dense fog typical of this area provides moisture during the long dry summers. Most of the redwoods along the Monterey coast show evidence of having been through many fires. They have the remarkable ability to sprout again after a fire.

Jade Cove
Jade Cove is one of the best known "rockhound" beaches on the Pacific. The stone is found on the cliff face and in pebble form on the shore. In its purest form it is white, but impurities give jade almost every color imaginable. Pastel colors are the most common. Reds, blues, pinks and emerald green are the rarest hues. Emerald green is the most valuable for gem stones, but the "Monterey Jade" found here is mostly gray-green and of only mediocre quality.

Limekilns
A privately owned and operated campground offers trails to waterfalls, redwood groves and historic limekiln processing sites. For a nominal fee, visitors can park and take a short trail to the site of the big limekilns. In 1880, the Rockland Lime and Lumber Company erected four limekilns. Limestone was cooked in large kilns to make slack lime, which was then hauled by wagons or packed out to landings where it was transported by boat to San Francisco and other points. Considering the wet climate and the years of neglect, the limekilns are in remarkably good condition, but of course are no longer usable.

Mt. Pinos
The summit of Mt. Pinos rises 8,831 feet above sea level and is the highest point within Los Padres National Forest. A narrow stand of Limber Pines separates the barren summit from the Jeffrey Pine and White Fir forests of the lower slopes. On a clear day, visitors are rewarded with extensive views of the San Joaquin Valley, Sierra Nevada and numerous lesser peaks and valleys.

Mission Cross
Located on Mt. Abel, this historic cross is blazed on the base of large Jeffrey Pine. In the mid 1800s the Spanish sheepherders grazed their livestock from Ventura to the San Joaquin Valley and back, using the high mountains in between as their summer range. The trail led across San Emigdio Mesa, through Puerto Suela Saddle into Mill Potrero and down San Emigdio Canyon. The Spanish Padres would trek to the summit of Mt. Abel about twice a year and hold services for the sheepherders at the cross.

Reyes Adobe
This adobe house, a portion of which dates back to one of the original homesteads in the Cuyama Valley, is located off Highway 33 on the Lockwood-Ozena road. Sometime prior to 1830, during a period of dry years, the Reyes of Rancho Encino learned of the Cuyama Valley from the Indians. The Reyes frequently traded cattle and horses in Cuyama and around 1850 built a permanent headquarters there. The structure consisted of a two-room adobe house built at the mouth of "Reyes Creek." In 1854, a homestead was granted to Rafael Reyes, signed by President Pierce. Two of the rooms of the present house are the original adobe structure.

Nancy Kelsey Grave (1823-1896)
Nancy Kelsey was the first white woman to cross the plains to California. In the spring of 1841, Mrs. Nancy Kelsey, her husband, and year-old child departed from Sapling Grove, Kansas, for California in a wagon train consisting of five women and 54 men. Enroute the party split, a portion going on to Oregon. The Kelsey family and 30 men continued on to California. The party had to abandon their wagons and complete their journey with pack animals. The grave is located on private land in Cottonwood Canyon, Cuyama Valley.

Sespe Condor Sanctuary
The Sanctuary is located on the Ojai Ranger District. It is one of the nesting areas of the California condor "Gymnogyos Californianus." Established on November 18, 1947 and enlarged to 53,000 acres in November, 1951, the sanctuary was set aside and managed for the perpetuation and protection of the condor. Public access is not permitted. As of January 1992 there are 50 California Condors in captivity and two that have been released into the wild. Sespe Creek cuts through this region of rugged cliffs and bluffs.

Big and Little Caliente Hot Springs
The springs are accessible by dirt road 25 miles north of Santa Barbara off the East Camino Cielo Road. The natural hot springs are 2.5 miles beyond Pendola Station. The temperature of the water can be extremely high.

East and West Camino Cielo Scenic Drive
Camino Cielo is located 14 miles north of Santa Barbara. Both sections of the road offer beautiful views of the ocean, with front country on one side and the back country on the other. A drive along Camino Cielo provides an excellent orientation to the Santa Barbara District.

Fremont Trail
This is the path taken by General Fremont in 1846 enroute from the north to Santa Barbara to take California for the U.S.

Cuesta Ridge Santa Lucia Ranger District

The Cuesta Ridge area is a narrow eight-mile ridgetop strip of National Forest land north of San Luis Obispo between Cuesta Pass on Highway 101 and the Cerro Alto area adjacent to Highway 41. Access is by trail from Cerro Alto Campground or vehicle from Highway 101. Cuesta Pass is 1,600 feet above sea level with most of the ridge being 2,000 feet above sea level. The dominant vegetation is coastal chaparral and the unique Sargent Cypress.

The ridgetop offers an impressive variety of spectacular views overlooking San Luis Obispo to the South, Morro Bay and Morro Rock to the west, the Atascadero hills to the north, and the Santa Lucia Wilderness to the east. A variety of unique plants make this an area of special interest to both the casual nature lover and the professional botanist.

Cuesta Peak Electronic Site
Atop 2,476-foot Cuesta Peak is a forest of electronic towers. The largest of the towers is KSBY-TV. The remaining towers serve approximately 100 users of high-power radio and microwave equipment.

Fire Fuelbreak
A fuelbreak exists along the entire ridge. It averages about 300 feet wide and has been designed to blend in visually with the naturally occurring features. The areas of the fuelbreak where dense brush has been removed are now dominated by plant communities of low growing grasses, fortes and shrubs. Some maintenance is done annually to perpetuate and enhance the fuel break. As you drive through the Botanical Area, a close inspection reveals that the trees and shrubs adjacent to the road have been pruned and thinned, creating a park-like appearance. The naturally occurring dense stands of Sargent Cypress occur beyond the edge of the maintained fuelbreak.

Cuesta Ridge Botanical Area
This area was established in 1969 and contains 1,334 acres of National Forest land. The most conspicuous plant is the Sargent Cypress, a relatively uncommon tree. This unique plant community has developed on a coastal ridge dominated by heavy marine influence resulting in frequent fog and low clouds along the ridge. The fog "drip" tends to increase the available moisture for plants.

New Developing Forest
At a point 1.5 to 1.7 miles northwest of the Botanical area entry sign, a newly developing stand of Sargent Cypress can be found. The several-acre area on both sides of the road was burned about 20 years ago by a wildfire. A few remnant snags can still be seen. Sargent Cypress is a prolific seeder after fire. Their cones remain intact protecting the seeds during a wildfire, opening up after the fire cools to scatter seeds on the newly prepared seedbed.

Valley Overlook
Several impressive views of the area from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay can be found about midway between Cuesta Peak and Tassajera Peak. Morro Rock protrudes from the ocean due west of several distinct volcano cones similar to Morro Rock to San Luis Obispo.

Tassajera Peak
The end of the all-weather paved road occurs at Tassajera Peak. This peak supports a dozen low-power towers that accommodate approximately 80 electronic users. A dirt road with a gate that is locked during wet road conditions continues northwest for another three miles before terminating one mile south of Highway 41. This dirt road is not recommended for passenger cars.

Cerro Alto Trail Connector
A short 1/2-mile connector trail ties the Cuesta Ridge road to the Cerro Alto trail. From the connector trail junction, the Cerro Alto trail allows two options. Turning right leads to the tip of Cerro Alto Peak; the lefthand route will take the hiker down to Cerro Alto Campground. The Cerro Alto trail is not long, but gains almost 2,000 feet, requiring many rests for the average hiker.

Eucalyptus Grove
A popular picnicking site is the Eucalyptus Grove, 2.5 miles from the end of the paved road at Tassajera Peak. This area is not accessible much of the year when the access gate is locked during wet weather. The seven-acre grove was planted by a Forest Service Ranger 50 years ago and remains a healthy stand.

End of the Road
The road terminates one mile from Highway 41. At one time the road continued on the Highway 41, but a difficult stream crossing and other factors, necessitated terminating the road at its present location.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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