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California's Sespe Wilderness - Backpacker

California's Sespe Wilderness

A roadless wonder in California's Los Padres Wilderness.
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Unlike most waterways in the United States, Sespe Creek still flows undammed and crystal clear through one of the nation's largest roadless areas, the 220,000-acre Sespe Wilderness in Los Padres National Forest. A vigorous grassroots campaign to "Keep the Sespe Wild" led to the creek's wild and scenic designation in 1992, and the slogan is now a victory banner on Ventura County car bumpers.

There is much worth saving in this southern California wilderness: sheer gorges, cool pools, hot springs, parched badlands, barren chaparral, chalky sandstone with bizarre outcroppings, aboriginal petroglyphs, pine-spattered peaks, and a variety of wildlife, including bears and bobcats. It all adds up to limitless possibilities for trekking in an untamed land that's just a short drive from Los Angeles.

TRAILS: There are 18 trails offering a total of 136 miles of hiking. The 11-mile Alder Creek Trail from Dough Flat to Sespe Hot Springs is exceptionally mouthwatering. A short bushwhack away from the lazy-flowing Sespe leads into Hot Springs Canyon and a sulfur-scented nirvana.

DIFFICULTY RATING: Moderate; elevation, 2,225 to 3,700 feet.

WHERE: The Alder Creek trailhead is only 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles, but allow 21/2 hours driving time for traffic and bumpy back roads. Take I-5 north to CA 126 west; turn north in Fillmore on A Street-Goodenough Road for 141/2 jolting miles (high clearance or 4WD vehicle is recommended).

MAPS:Overview of Sespe/Ojai District Trails ($1.07), USGS quadrangle Devils Heart Peak, and Los Padres National Forest Map ($4.29 each) available from Ojai Ranger District (see address at right; make check payable to "LPIA").

CONTACT: Ojai Ranger District, 1190 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA 93023; (805) 646-4348. User fee: $5 per day/per vehicle, $30 per season/per vehicle; free campfire permit required.

($4.29 each) available from Ojai Ranger District (see address at right; make check payable to "LPIA").

CONTACT: Ojai Ranger District, 1190 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA 93023; (805) 646-4348. User fee: $5 per day/per vehicle, $30 per season/per vehicle; free campfire permit required.

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