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Judell Trail - Los Padres National Forest
Trail Distance 4.90 Miles

The Judell Trail descends from Santa Barbara Potrero into the San Rafael Wilderness to its terminus at the junction with the Sisquoc Trail.  The trail has seen quite a bit of LPFA and VWR attention after the 2007 Zaca Fire but sees little traffic.  As a result you should expect the trail to be very followable but overgrown in places.  There are a few large washouts as you get closer to the Sisquoc but they have established reroutes that you can follow to get around them.  The trail is very scenic and well designed.  If you like trail design, this has it all from switchbacks to narrow gorges, cree crossings and big views.  The upper part of the trail is regularly damaged by stock grazing and can make finding the start of the trail difficult.  From the spring trough at Oak Spring, head west to the far side of the canyon and look for the tread dropping from that side.  After a short ways you'll find the trail proper and from there you are off and running.  Cattle follow the trail for the first mile or so into the canyon but stop after that, just about where you pass the wilderness sign.  Speaking of the wilderness sign, it is a beauty.  The sign along Judell is 'bearly' readable anymore due to the bear scratches that proliferate all over the sign.  Very cool sign! 

Judell is a great canyon, a very scenic with a wild feel and best of all it takes you to the splendor that is the Upper Sisquoc.  It's a must for any Los Padres explorer.  Make it happen!

Trail Details

  • Trail #: 26W05
  • Wilderness Area: San Rafael
  • County: Santa Barbara County
  • Ranger District: Santa Lucia Ranger District
  • Trail-head Latitude: 34.77666
  • Trail-head Longitude: -119.64381
  • Water Sources: Water is usually available at Oak Spring, which is located at the top of the Judell Trail. Oak Spring can go dry during the summer or drought years. Water flows through Judell Canyon during the wet months. The Sisquoc is reliable for water.
  • Trail Condition: Bad - Trail may require some bushwhacking and/or searching for markers due to potential sub standard trail conditions
  • Topo Maps:
  • Activities & Features:
    • Backpacking
    • Creek
    • Horseback Riding
    • Hunting
    • River
    • Spring
    • Wildlife Viewing
    • Wilderness Camping



Trail Stats

  • Total Elevation Gain: + 886 feet.
  • Total Elevation Loss: - 2561 feet.
  • Overall Average Slope Gain: + 10 %.
  • Overall Average Slope Loss: - 11 %.
  • Kilometers: (km)
  • Meters: (m)
  • Miles: (mi)
  • Feet: (ft)
  • Average Slope: (%)

Trail Camps

Heath Camp, located at the junction of the Judell and Sisquoc Trails

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Survey This Trail

Survey Photos:


  • Hike Los Padres - 04-06-2015

  • Hike Los Padres - 04-06-2015

  • Hike Los Padres - 04-06-2015

  • Hike Los Padres - 04-06-2015

  • Hike Los Padres - 04-06-2015

  • LKasko - 09-05-2015

  • LKasko - 09-05-2015

  • LKasko - 09-05-2015

  • LKasko - 09-05-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 04-26-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 04-26-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 04-26-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 04-26-2015

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 04-26-2015

  • Sonia Connors - 03-28-2016

  • Sonia Connors - 03-28-2016

  • Sonia Connors - 03-28-2016

  • Sonia Connors - 03-28-2016

  • Mark LaFevers - 05-20-2016

  • Mark LaFevers - 05-20-2016

  • Mark LaFevers - 05-20-2016

  • Mark LaFevers - 05-20-2016

  • Duane Waite - 07-04-2017

Submitted Trail Reports

Judell Trail Survey - 07-04-2017 - by Duane Waite
Link: Judell Trail
Date: 07-04-2017
Surveyor Name:Duane Waite
Trail description:Ignorance is bliss.
I'm one of those people who enjoys hiking at night, so I wasn't too concerned when I headed out to SB Canyon from LA in late afternoon instead of early in the morning as I'd planned.
After a hike up Sierra Madre Road, I arrived at the trail head as the sun was setting. I had hiked the trail several years before, but with the recent storms, finding the trail through the washouts and overgrowth in increasing darkness became more and more difficult as I descended. By the time I made it to the wilderness sign, I knew there was no way I could continue, even with my bright headlamp and trail finding skills.
After 45 minutes, I I turned back at the bear clawed wilderness sign.
It took me nearly two hours to find my way back up the maze of trails, washouts and blind turns to the trail head.
At midnight, I laid out my tent right there on Sierra Madre Road and thought to myself, "a misadventure is still an adventure." About a billion coyotes howled, barked and yipped the rest of the night in response.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Hard to follow
Condition details:Aborted attempt to hike down the Judell at night. But I will be back (when the sun's out!)
Images:

Turnaround Point
Judell Trail Survey - 05-20-2016 - by Mark LaFevers
Link: Judell Trail
Date: 05-20-2016
Surveyor Name:Mark LaFevers
Trail description:Blind footing in much of the upper trail in tall grass, just turning brown. The Spring is dry, water is flowing at crossings about 3 miles down. From mile 2.5 down, half a dozen tree falls await sawyers, and a solid wall of poison oak requires dropping off trail into the creek to bypass. The rockslide and deep wash areas are passable to hikers, but the trail is hard to follow in sections for heavy ovegrowth and little apparent use. Despite the thigh high contact with brush the three of us picked up only two ticks between Santa Barbara Potrero and Heath Camp. No snakes, lots of bear scat from mile 3 down to Heath and beyond to Mansfield. Lots of poison oak on the Sisquoc Trail between the camps down stream to Skunk Camp, but passable, campsites in good condition with clearing tools in place at some. The Sisquoc is flowing and the pools at Cottonwood Camp are particularly nice. We enjoyed a 2 1/2 hour hike between S.B. Potrero and Heath, and 4 1/2 hours on the uphill leg between Cottonwood and S.B. Potrero, in mild temperatures high 70s and breezes.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Condition details:3 days 2 nights backpack
Images:

Tall grass

Detour to bypass poison oak


Water at crossings in lower half

Lots of widlflowers
Judell Trail Survey - 03-28-2016 - by Sonia Connors
Link: Judell Trail
Date: 03-28-2016
Surveyor Name:Sonia Connors
Trail description:Upper half of trail was in excellent shape.  Green grasses and wildflowers abundant, as well as plenty of bear scat and a rattler.  Occasional water in creek in the lower half.  There is an established campsite about half way down (we named it Hail Flat because is was hailing while we stayed there).  Lower half has a few sections of fallen trees and overgrown poison oak.  Watch out for the alluring sandy creek bed - I sunk thigh deep in "quick sand" !!!
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Images:

Upper Judell

Rattlesnake on upper Judell


Hail Flat Campground (we named this)

Judell Trail sign from Heath Camp
Judell Trail Survey - 04-26-2015 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Judell Trail
Date: 04-26-2015
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:
April 2015

The LPFA hosted a 10-day Working Vacation to work the Judell and Upper Sisquoc Trails.  We spent 3 days on the Judell making it stock passable.  Cleared trees, removed a few slides and brushed to make it passable and to standard.  The trail is in great shape, especially after having stock traveling up and down the trail at least half a dozen times over the 10 days.
Mode of transport:Array
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Images:

Top of Judell, outside the wilderness

Best San Rafael sign


Trail along a higher section above the creek

The famous Judell oak


Switchbacks into Rattlesnake Alley
Judell Trail Survey - 10-04-2015 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Judell Trail
Date: 10-04-2015
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:Trail is very passable and in good shape.  Some stagnant water in Judell Creek.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Judell Trail Survey - 09-05-2015 - by LKasko
Link: Judell Trail
Date: 09-05-2015
Surveyor Name:LKasko
Trail description:Beautiful trail! Thanks for all the maintenance. No trouble following the trail; had to look around from Oak Spring (dry) but picked out the trail easily. Good signs. Walked down the canyon on Saturday, Sept 5, and back up on Monday, Sept 7. At Heath camp found good water in a fairly deep pool (about 1 foot+ deep) about 100 yds downstream from Heath. There was also scummy water in the Judell canyon, most noticeably at the 4th trail crossing of the canyon stream north of Heath camp (photo below.)
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Images:

Judell Canyon water at 4th trail crossing north of Heath Camp. Small amount but plenty for a good filter.

Same as above: Judell Canyon water at 4th crossing north of Heath.


Judell Canyon: some water, shallow, a short distance farther north than previous photos, visible from trail.

Photo of the Judell Canyon while walking the trail.
Judell Trail Survey - 04-06-2015 - by Hike Los Padres
Link: Judell Trail
Date: 04-06-2015
Surveyor Name:Hike Los Padres
Trail description:The trail was difficult to find, but we have hiked it and rode it many times, so we knew where to go. Our first obstacle was at the junction of the Sierra Madre Road with the Judell Trailhead (Function Junction!).  There is a pretty deep gully in the jeepway that would be extremely difficult for trucks and horse trailers to get down. It goes for about 200 ft before it evens out to a drivable road.  This would be a fairly easy fix with a few volunteers and the right tools.

The trail is very overgrown and needs lots of brushing, the tread is questionable in many spots, especially along the high trails and switchbacks,and there are at least 5 bigger trees that require a cross-cut saw prior to Heath camp.










Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Hard to follow
Condition details:Judell has not been used for many months.
Images:

Tread typical of the middle oak filled section of the Judell

Some rutting that needs to be fixed, yes that is the trail


Gets brushy in sections but is followable

The large washout along the lower section. Work needed.


The boulder field section just after the trail goes high on the west side.
Judell Trail Survey - 03-09-2015 - by Nico
Link: Judell Trail
Date: 03-09-2015
Surveyor Name:Nico
Trail description:Didn't see any running water at Oak Spring, just a little bit of standing water in the trough.

Intermittent sections of flowing water along the lower half of Juddell Canyon; upper half was completely dry.

Didn't look like the trail has seen too many feet in the recent past.  Trail was a little brushy but easy enough to follow.  There are about 20 tree falls across the trail, most can be handled with a handsaw but there's two or three larger trees laying across the trail that will require a sawyer team.

All in all, it was a nice walk.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Condition details:Trail is a little brushy; some sections could use some tread work. Lots of tree falls.
Judell Trail Survey - 06-21-2014 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Judell Trail
Date: 06-21-2014
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:All the downed trees have been removed by volunteers or forest good samaritans.  Trail was in great shape.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
People Seen:0
Judell Trail Survey - 05-20-2014 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Judell Trail
Date: 05-20-2014
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:Oak Spring – steady trickle
Mode of transport:Array
Judell Trail Survey - 05-03-2014 - by Hike Los Padres
Link: Judell Trail
Date: 05-03-2014
Surveyor Name:Hike Los Padres
Trail description:All downed trees were removed from along the Judell Trail.
Mode of transport:Stock
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow


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Last Updated: Monday, February 22, 2016



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