Gene Marshall/Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail
(Paraphrased from “Day Hikes Around Santa Barbara” by Robert Stone 2010 Day Hike Books Inc)
Distance: 6.4 Miles round trip
Time: 3.5 Hours
Elevation Gain: 600 ft.
Best Map to Use: USGS and USFS Map: Sespe Wilderness
Hiking Directions: From the signed path past the Kiosk and restrooms, walk toward the river gorge. Descend the slope through chaparral to an open flat. Cross the flat boulder lined path to Lion Canyon creek, Rock hop over the creek to Sespe Creek at 0.3 miles. Wade across the river or use rocks as stepping stones to a T-junction. The Sespe River Trail goesto the right. Bear left on the Gene Marshall/Piedra Blanca/Condor Trail, and head downstream a short distance. Curve right, and climb the slope to great views of the Piedra Blanca Rock formations. Pass through the formations and chaparral to a posted trail junction. The middle Sespe Trail heads left and another 3.5 miles to the abandoned Beaver campground (past the proposed remaining Sespe Wild & Scenic River designations). Stay to the right, following the Gene Marshall/Piedra Blanca Trail.
Enter the Sespe Wilderness (you’ll see a sign), and continue on to the Piedra Blanca formations at 1.25 miles (this a great location to veer off and explore the formations, boulder, or just enjoy the views). To extend the hike, continue up the Gene Marshall/Piedra Blanca Trail, and drop down the backside of the formations into a deep stream-fed ravine. Cross a tributary to Piedra Blanca Creek, and enter the Piedra Blanca Canyon.
Head North along western side of the creek. Traverse the lower slope, overlooking a few pools and waterfalls. Loop around a side canyon, and drop into a circular flat with Oaks and Boulders on the banks of the creek at 2.9 miles. Continue up the Canyon to a small waterfall. Cross the creek on large boulders, and continue on to a signed junction. This is the turnaround point, unless you’d like to extend the hike 3.3 more miles, and hike to Pine Mountain Lodge (a campground-no longer a lodge) nestled in the pines.
Driving Directions (From Ojai): From Ojai, Drive 14.6 Miles north on Highway 33 to the Rose Valley turnoff, and turn right. Continue 4.8 to a road split. Take the left fork 0.9 miles down to the trailhead parking lot at the end of the road.
Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.
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- Central Coast Hikes