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Johnston Ridge Trail - Los Padres National Forest
Trail Distance 9.30 Miles

The trailhead is near Mutau Flat, located in the Mt. Pinos Ranger District. After a rolling three miles, the trail drops steeply into Hot Springs Canyon. There is no water and little shade along the first seven miles of the trail. After 8.5 mile from the trailhead, a side trail leads into Hot Springs Creek. At .6 miles further, there is another camp and .4 mile further is the Sespe River Trail (20W13). Prior to the June 1992 wilderness legislation, this was a popular motorcycle trail. It is now open only to horseback riders and hikers.

Trail Details

  • Trail #: 20W12
  • Wilderness Area: Sespe
  • County: Ventura County
  • Ranger District: Ojai Ranger District
  • Trail-head Latitude: 34.6414
  • Trail-head Longitude: -119.05321
  • Water Sources: Sespe River
  • Trail Condition: Kind of Good - Little to no bushwacking and easily followable
  • Topo Maps:
  • Activities & Features:
    • Backpacking
    • Day Hiking
    • Hot Springs
    • River
    • Spring
    • Wildlife Viewing
    • Wilderness Camping



Trail Stats

  • Total Elevation Gain: + 3490 feet.
  • Total Elevation Loss: - 987 feet.
  • Overall Average Slope Gain: + 10 %.
  • Overall Average Slope Loss: - 5 %.
  • Kilometers: (km)
  • Meters: (m)
  • Miles: (mi)
  • Feet: (ft)
  • Average Slope: (%)

Trail Camps

Sespe Hot Springs

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Survey This Trail

Survey Photos:


  • Mark - 09-01-2014

  • Mark - 09-01-2014

  • Oh Three - 09-17-2016

  • Mysol - 08-05-2017

  • Mysol - 08-05-2017

  • Mysol - 08-05-2017

  • Mysol - 08-05-2017

  • Mysol - 08-05-2017

Submitted Trail Reports

Johnston Ridge Trail Survey - 08-05-2017 - by Mysol
Link: Johnston Ridge Trail
Date: 08-05-2017
Surveyor Name:Mysol
Trail description:The trail is easy to follow. We left at 2am and arrived to the Palm campsite by 4:30am we didn't need breaks on the way in since its fairly easy. The weather was warm even at night with a breeze. Hot springs are flowing perfectly but the cold steam near the trail head up to Johnston ridge trail head is low and ugly so I would recommend bring plenty of water. 
Mode of transport:Array
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Images:

Hot spring near Palms camp

view down the hot spring



seen deer


enjoying paradise
Johnston Ridge Trail Survey - 06-09-2017 - by Tenderfoot
Link: Johnston Ridge Trail
Date: 06-09-2017
Surveyor Name:Tenderfoot
Trail description:The trail was easy to follow with a few branches on the way back that required noting. From the hotsprings back is a steep climb so prepare yourself. The hot spring was flowing a lot and cold water in the creek to the north. It took us 5 hours in and 6 back but I am slow. Saw a rattlesnake headng over to the palm tree campsite so pay attention.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Johnston Ridge Trail Survey - 05-17-2017 - by Anonymous Surveyor
Link: Johnston Ridge Trail
Date: 05-17-2017
Surveyor Name:Anonymous Surveyor
Trail description:As usual hot and dry, but the trail was wide enough all the way down. 
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Johnston Ridge Trail Survey - 09-17-2016 - by Oh Three
Link: Johnston Ridge Trail
Date: 09-17-2016
Surveyor Name:Oh Three
Trail description:I did Johnson Ridge, from trailhead to Hot Springs and back, Sept 17-18, 2016. It's cleared of brush and easy, well, *easy* except for two things: 

It's confusing as you cross the Stonehouse trail valley. There's too many trails, cattle tracks, roads, fences, etc. Just aim to keep the same compass direction crossing that little valley as you came into it. Yes, like Shaddus Maximus said, go left on 1st choice, but when you come up out of the creek, then you take the right path. 

The other thing that is not *that* easy, is coming back uphill out of the Hot Springs. Whoa! Most of your elevation gain is in 1st couple miles. It's a south facing ridge, and you can bake your brains out. But anyone who hikes Los Padres National Forest knows about that! I strongly suggest hitting the trail before the sun. After 2-3 miles of nonstop climbing, it's basically level back to trailhead, maybe a couple hundred up and down.

I last hiked Johnson Ridge in its last year as a motorcycle trail, 1994? God bless Bill Clinton for locking up Sespe and a lot of other land as Wilderness. Back then Johnson Ridge was an old car road, seriously rutted out by the dirt bikes. Now it's a nice trail, with just the right amount of switch backs. Little or no erosion. Excellent job NF rangers! Is there a volunteer group that puts in work? There must be. God bless them! 

Last time I hiked it, and this time, -- nobody else on the trail. That's wilderness!


Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Images:

Picture of little me as a shadow on a big uphill. Grinding!
Johnston Ridge Trail Survey - 03-29-2016 - by Shaddus Maximus/Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Johnston Ridge Trail
Date: 03-29-2016
Surveyor Name:Shaddus Maximus/Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:This trail is an excellent shape. There is one confusing moment, however: When dropping south down from the trailhead, you cross the dirt road running east/west to Mutau Flat. On the other side of the road, there appears to be two ways to go (left of right) and there is no trail sign posted. Stay to the left. The trail will quickly become apparent again as you cross the sandy wash here. 
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Johnston Ridge Trail Survey - 05-09-2015 - by Nico
Link: Johnston Ridge Trail
Date: 05-09-2015
Surveyor Name:Nico
Trail description:Hiked the trail from the Sespe River up to the Hot Springs.  Plenty of hot water pouring into the canyon from the various springs.  Poplar Creek was dry and only a tiny trickle of water was running in the unnamed canyon just west of Johnston Ridge.  I did not check Coldwater Creek.

Lots of people milling about the Hot Springs now with Grade Valley Rd open.  
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Johnston Ridge Trail Survey - 03-12-2015 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Johnston Ridge Trail
Date: 03-12-2015
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:We got a report today from a backpacker who hiked the lower Johnston Ridge Trail from Sespe up to the Hot Spring.  There is good water flowing throughout the canyon and even cold water within the two creeks that feed into the hot springs above and below the spring.  Great time to get out!  Trail was in good shape.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Johnston Ridge Trail Survey - 09-01-2014 - by Mark
Link: Johnston Ridge Trail
Date: 09-01-2014
Surveyor Name:Mark
Trail description:Started trail from Johnston Ridge Trailhead; went approx 3+ miles to Ojai Ranger District Boundary.  2 trees down, but cleared several others.  No water in Mutau Creek.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
People Seen:2
Images:




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Last Updated: Wednesday, March 2, 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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