Designated as a National Recreation Trail in 1977, the Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail (22W03) is located in the Sespe Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest, the ancestral lands and traditional territories of the Chumash and Kuyam people. The trail provides scenic views, beautiful spring wildflower displays, numerous stream crossings, and a plethora of primitive camping opportunities.
View facing north toward Lockwood Valley.
If you plan to hike the entire length of the trail (which one reliable sources says is 17.8 miles, while a different reliable source says it is only 16.32 miles), you will likely either need to do a car shuttle between the southern and northern trailhead or plan it as a multi-day trip. However, an in-and-out day hike of any length can also be done. While the trail is accessible year-round, the best time to hike it is in the spring, due to many long sun-exposed segments of the trail. Snow and ice can be present during winter months, especially on north facing slopes, creating extremely dangerous conditions.
The hike is a difficult one, primary due to the elevation change – you will climb about 2,250 feet, reaching an elevation of about 6,200 feet, in the first 6 miles. The trail can also become overgrown in places and is not always well-marked.
From the trailhead, the trail ascends an unnamed drainage for 2.5 miles through chaparral and oak woodlands until reaching a saddle and then descending 0.5 miles towards Reyes Creek and Upper Reyes Camp which is next to a year-round creek.
The trail continues southeast, ascending a ridge for 1.5 miles before descending towards Beartrap Creek and Beartrap Camp in 0.3 miles. Beartrap Camp is situated amidst cedars, alders and conifers and has year-round water.
The trail continues 2.8 miles southeast, following the creek until climbing to a saddle (at approximately 6,200 feet) and then gradually descending along the headwaters of Piedra Blanca Creek to Haddock Camp in 0.7 miles. This camp, set among conifers, usually has water until early summer.
Just upstream of Haddock Camp, you will reach the intersection with Reyes Peak Trail (23W04), which heads west. Continue southeast from Haddock Camp approximately 2 miles, and then finally descend into Three Mile Camp, which usually has water until early summer. The trail leaves the main drainage in about 0.3 miles and then winds through canyons for another 1.5 miles until it reaches Pine Mountain Lodge Camp (at 6,000 feet). Pine Mountain Lodge Camp usually has water until early summer; a small upstream spring can generally be relied on year-round.
The Cedar Creek Trail (21W10) intersects with the trail and heads east from Pine Mountain Lodge Camp. From Pine Mountain Lodge Camp, the trail begins a rapid descent, leaving behind the conifers and transitioning to chaparral and oak woodlands. After 3.3 miles the trail reaches Twin Forks Camp, which is just upstream of the north and main forks of Piedra Blanca Creek. Water can typically be found at this camp. Continue downstream only 0.25 miles and you will reach Piedra Blanca Camp where water is reliably found.
From Piedra Blanca Camp, follow the trail south through the Piedra Blanca rock formation, until reaching the Middle Sespe Trail (22W04) junction. Head southeast for 0.4 miles until reaching another trail junction, then turn southwest, crossing Sespe Creek to the Piedra Blanca Trailhead in 0.4 miles. The Piedra Blanca Trailhead has a large paved parking area, picnic tables, trash receptacles, vault toilets, and a pipe corral.
You do not need an Adventure Pass to park at the Reyes Creek trailhead. However, if you choose to do a car shuttle (parking one vehicle at the Piedra Blanca trailhead, you will need an Adventure Pass to park at the Piedra Blanca trailhead. For more information on Adventure Passes (or other passes for which you may qualify): https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r5/passes-permits/recreation
Important notes: Before traveling to the trailhead, be sure to check forest closure orders, current fire restrictions (if any), as well as weather conditions. As noted in the directions to the trailhead, you will drive through Reyes Creek in order to reach the trailhead. Although the creek crossing is paved with concrete (so you will not get stuck in the mud), you will not be able to cross it if there has been significant rainfall.
Many people who hike this trail report encountering numerous ticks on the trail, so be sure to inspect yourself for ticks. You may also want to treat your clothes with Permethrin beforehand and/or bring a tick spoon to remove them from yourself and your pets.
Directions to the Reyes Creek Trailhead: From Los Angeles, take Interstate 5 north to the Frazier Mountain Park Road (Exit 205), which is located approximately halfway between Los Angeles and Bakersfield. Drive for approximately 21 miles until you arrive at the intersection with Lockwood Valley Road. Turn left on Lockwood Valley Road and drive about 9 miles until you see a sign for Forest Service Road 7N11 (Camp Scheideck Road). Turn left and travel about 2 miles until you reach Reyes Creek Campground. You will drive through Reyes Creek and a small community (Camp Scheideck) before you reach the campground. Drive through the campground until the road dead-ends at a gravel parking area. A vault toilet is located adjacent to the parking area. The trailhead is located on the southwest side of the parking area and is marked with a relatively small, somewhat faded sign, as shown in the image below. Google Maps link: Reyes Creek Trailhead, 26910, 26900 Camp Scheideck Rd, Maricopa, CA 93252
Trail Rating and Mileage: The hike is a difficult one, primary due to the elevation change – you will climb about 2,250 feet, reaching an elevation of about 6,200 feet, in the first 6 miles. The trail can also become overgrown in places and is not always well-marked.
Land Acknowledgement: This is the ancestral lands and traditional territories of the Chumash and Kuyam people.
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.