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Ballard Camp South Los Padres National Forest

  • Camp Type: Trail Camp
  • Topo Map Link: Zaca Lake
  • Elevation: 2080 feet
  • Wilderness Area: Non Wilderness Area
  • County: Santa Barbara County
  • Ranger District: Santa Lucia Ranger District
  • Longitude: -120.0123918615432
  • Latitude: 34.7509862874894
  • Water Sources: Birabent Creek (reliable)
  • Length of Stay: 14 Days
  • Reservations: Trail Camp

Recent Water Reports:

Date Surveyor Water Report
12-08-2017Jasonn BeckstrandFlowing
11-10-2017Anonymous SurveyorFlowing
07-14-2016J DeVineTrickle
01-24-2016James WapotichFlowing
07-26-2015Los Padres Forest AssociationFlowing


The camp is named after William N. Ballard. He was the station agent at the Ballard stage coach station which he established in the early 1860's until his death around 1870. The camp was established as a hunting camp on Birabent Creek which was named for a early homesteader in the canyon. Mr. Ballard is reported to be the first white man to see Zaca Lake. He was shown the lake by an native american.

Trail Description to Ballard Camp via La Jolla Trail

This is the fun part of the La Jolla Trail, which descends more than 800 feet in the first mile and a half. The single track starts off at 3,328 feet• 1 and races through wonderful wildflower displays, with blue lupines, chocolate lilies and golden poppies dotting the upper meadow areas in the spring.

The trail crosses an intermittent stream at .2 mile and continues carving through blooming hillsides to a gorgeous lookout over the Santa Ynez Valley at .8 mile. This is where the trail really starts to descend. From just before the 1-mile mark, to the canyon floor, the trail endures five sharp switchbacks over a half-mile stretch to Upper Ballard Camp.

The canyon floor is located at 1.5 miles. The upper camp is located just around the bend near the babbling seasonal creek. Follow the creek downstream for .2 mile to the camping site, marked by the remains of an old cabin and some usable fire pits.

There is an upper and lower camp a short distance apart.


From Santa Barbara, take the 101 to the Highway 154/Cachuma Lake exit. Head northwest on Highway 154/San Marcos Pass past the Cachuma Recreation Area. When you reach the small town of Los Olivos, make a right on Figueroa Mountain Road and follow the windy road for 12 miles to the Figueroa Ranger Station. The trailhead, easy to miss because it is marked only by a brown trail marker, is a half mile past the ranger station across from the turnoff to Tunnel Road. Park in the dirt turnout opposite Tunnel Road and avoid blocking the driveway. An Adventure Pass is required. The trailhead is indicated by the plastic Los Padres National Forrest marker.

Survey Photos:

  • J DeVine - 07-14-2016

  • J DeVine - 07-14-2016

  • J DeVine - 07-14-2016
    Second Campsite

  • Jasonn Beckstrand - 12-08-2017
    First Campsite

  • Jasonn Beckstrand - 12-08-2017
    Nice set of pools

Submitted Camp Reports

Ballard Camp Survey - 12-08-2017 - by Jasonn Beckstrand
Link: Ballard Camp
Date: 12-08-2017
Surveyor Name:Jasonn Beckstrand
Camp Description:Trail to camp needs brushing and tread work.

Water Source:Flowing
Water Source Details:good clean water at the camp. Nice pool to dunk in below the camp
Weather Conditions:Clear, but smoke is moving in. 75F

First Campsite

Nice set of pools
Ballard Camp Survey - 11-10-2017 - by Anonymous Surveyor
Link: Ballard Camp
Date: 11-10-2017
Surveyor Name:Anonymous Surveyor
Camp Description:Did a day trip to the meadow where Ballard Creek enters Birabent Canyon. Trail is pretty overgrown at places. Water is flowing nicely from Upper Ballard Camp down through the junction of the La Jolla Spring canyon. It goes underground from there down the canyon. Ladybugs everywhere at the upper camp and some banana slugs too.
Water Source:Flowing
Water Source Details:Water flowing nicely through canyon and camp
Weather Conditions:
Ballard Camp Survey - 07-14-2016 - by J DeVine
Link: Ballard Camp
Date: 07-14-2016
Surveyor Name:J DeVine
Camp Description:Overnight trip with my son.  Hot this time of year and this 1.8 miles down to the camp with a pack (and back up to the car next day) seems longer than 1.8 miles but can be easily done in an hour.  Pretty views from the trail of Birabent Canyon and the upper portion of the trail must be beautiful when the wildflowers are out. The second campsite you come to is better than the first because it has a clearing and there are a bunch of nettles just off trail and in the first campsite.  In the second campsite there is a fire ring, standing cast iron grill (how the heck did this heavy thing get down here?) and shovel, but we did not have a fire due to restrictions and just ate pack food.  We could have filtered water in the creek, but we had packed in 6 liters. We tried to go down the trail/creek to explore Original Ballard Camp but had to turn back after a couple tenths of a mile due to overgrown poison oak.  Not much to do here as you are in the middle of a narrow canyon shaded by trees. Bring bug spray. Flies/gnats during the day. Mosquitoes at night.    
Water Source:Trickle
Water Source Details:Water was flowing and pools several inches deep
Weather Conditions:Sunny 87 degrees/exposed at trailhead/shady in camp. About 60 degrees at night.



Second Campsite
Ballard Camp Survey - 01-24-2016 - by James Wapotich
Link: Ballard Camp
Date: 01-24-2016
Surveyor Name:James Wapotich
Camp Description:The location shown on the HLP map is where the original camp was located, i.e. at the confluence of Alamo Pintado Creek and the side creek fed by La Jolla Spring. The camp is now located where the trail first meets the creek when coming down from Figueroa Mountain Road. The are two sites for the camp, both along the creek. 
Water Source:Flowing
Water Source Details:
Weather Conditions:
Ballard Camp Survey - 07-26-2015 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Ballard Camp
Date: 07-26-2015
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Camp Description:Ballard Camp had great water and was nice and shady even with the temps being in the low 90's.  This is certainly an option for summertime camping since it has year round water.
Water Source:Flowing
Water Source Details:
Weather Conditions:
Ballard Camp Survey - 07-09-2015 - by Hike
Link: Ballard Camp
Date: 07-09-2015
Surveyor Name:Hike
Camp Description:
Water flowing nicely through Ballard camp.

As discovered in an online post from Santa Barbara EdHat:
Water Source:Flowing
Water Source Details:
Weather Conditions:

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Last Updated: Tuesday, March 1, 2016

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L.P.N.F. Contacts »

  • Forest Headquarters
    Phone: (805) 968-6640
  • Mt. Pinos District
    Phone: (661) 245-3731
  • Ojai Ranger District
    Phone: (805) 646-4348
  • Santa Barbara District
    Phone: (805) 967-3481
  • Santa Lucia District
    Phone: (805) 925-9538
  • Monterey District
    Phone: (831) 385-5434
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