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Middle Sespe Trail - Los Padres National Forest
Trail Distance 7.38 Miles

Drive to Middle Sespe Trailhead, 17.1 miles north of Ojai on Highway 33. The trailhead is on the right side of the highway . The trail crosses Sespe Creek and follows the old road. It then leaves the drainage and climbs over a steep bluff. Once you have reached the high point, you will drop down and cross Rock Creek. The trail parallels the Sespe until it joins the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail 22W03) . This junction is .8 miles from the Piedra Blanca trailhead.

The trail follows the north bank of Sespe Creek but climbs over a tall ridge to descend to and cross Rock Creek. It then passes on the north side of the river across from the old Herb Lathrop camp which later became the Circle B Ranch. At one time this ranch was a Boy Scout Camp but now is private property and called Rainbow Valley Ranch. Continuing down stream to a junction with the Gene Marshall National Recreation Trail then crossing the Sespe to end at Lion Camp. In the spring there is often good fishing in the Sespe between the mouth of Howard Creek and

Trail Details

  • Trail #: 22W04
  • Wilderness Area: Sespe
  • County: Ventura County
  • Ranger District: Ojai Ranger District
  • Trail-head Latitude: 34.55683
  • Trail-head Longitude: -119.24333
  • Water Sources: Sespe River
  • Trail Condition: Kind of Good - Little to no bushwacking and easily followable
  • Topo Maps:
  • Activities & Features:
    • Backpacking
    • Camping
    • Creek
    • Wildlife Viewing
    • Wilderness Camping

Trail Stats

  • Total Elevation Gain: + 1714 feet.
  • Total Elevation Loss: - 1819 feet.
  • Overall Average Slope Gain: + 8 %.
  • Overall Average Slope Loss: - 7 %.
  • Kilometers: (km)
  • Meters: (m)
  • Miles: (mi)
  • Feet: (ft)
  • Average Slope: (%)

Photo By: Craig R. Carey - Website Link

Photo By: Craig R. Carey - Website Link
Upload Images Aerial Overview Image Login to Download GPS File
Survey This Trail

Survey Photos:

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 05-13-2014

  • Jay Rock - 11-24-2016

  • Jay Rock - 11-24-2016

  • Jay Rock - 11-24-2016

  • Jay Rock - 11-24-2016

  • Valerie Norton - 10-20-2017

  • Valerie Norton - 10-20-2017

  • Valerie Norton - 10-20-2017

Submitted Trail Reports

Middle Sespe Trail Survey - 10-20-2017 - by Valerie Norton
Link: Middle Sespe Trail
Date: 10-20-2017
Surveyor Name:Valerie Norton
Trail description:

I started at Beaver and hiked to the junction near Lion. (I realize these are no longer the names, but Beaver seems to now have no name at all and Lion is named the same as everything else for a few miles. The old names are much more unique.) The trail leaves the old road into the campground fairly quickly, but could be easy to miss as there is no sign. It gets some braiding as it crosses Sespe Creek. It is brushy, but generally not hard to follow. As it climbs, there are some spots where the trail becomes a soft slide for a step worth of walking and is generally very narrow. As the slopes it is on get less steep, the tread is much better. Someone has been cutting brush up there (and leaving it along the edge), but seems to be hitting it pretty randomly. Some spots are wide open and show work while others have brush hanging over most the trail and show no work. After the top, there seems to be no work being done and brush hangs into the trail a bit. Heading down to Rock Creek, the tread needs a lot of work. It is a mildly less slanted bit of hillside. Scrub oak is taking over a short bit toward the bottom. After crossing the creek, there is overhanging brush again. At the top, it is nice and open until heading down to Rainbow Ranch where it becomes an absolute gauntlet to run with scrub oak closed in almost the entire way. Rabbit bush is trying to obscure trail along the ranch. It is back to just having overhanging brush on the way out and continues to have random instances of brush closed in for a few feet on the way to the junction. Along the way, it follows creeks for an unusually long time three times with little indication it is going to do this.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Condition details:overgrown brush and some tread going missing

Scrub oak closing in from one side near Rainbow Ranch. Around the corner, it gets to coming in from both sides and does not stop for more than 50 feet total over the next quarter mile.

Trail in the creek bed. Hard to see, but you get cool patterns in the rocks.

Trail down to Rock Creek. Got some nice rocks to show where it is. A slightly less slanted bit past that is trail. Then just look for the straighter break in the thin bushes. Easy, right?
Middle Sespe Trail Survey - 11-24-2016 - by Jay Rock
Link: Middle Sespe Trail
Date: 11-24-2016
Surveyor Name:Jay Rock
Trail description:Thanksgiving Day 2016

I stared at the interior Trail Head and walked it out and back. Having never been here before it was a bit confusing to find.  From the parking lot you'll start a trail and start down into the valley, you'll cross over the creek bed (dry as of this writing) and pick up the trail on the other side.  You'll ascend and wind around a bit but you'll come to the conjunction of the trials as marked with a wooden sign. see below.
The trail is more or less flat through the middle with good footing about 97% of the way.
50 degrees but no shade, I imagine it's a killer hot trail during the summer.
This time of the year, there is ice in the shade at the bottom of valleys and it was very chilly.
Trail varies in width from almost 6ft wide to single file. 
Low brush, some signs of deer, but mostly birds with a few scattered lizards.

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

Walk on the way from parking lot - very cold in the shade, frozen mud and ice in ditches.

Trail Head - Middle sespe seems like it's lightly used, I didn't see anybody on it, but it was only one day.

Looking back towards parking lot. you can make out the road on the top/middle right as it cut backs and descends into the trees. Parking lot would be behind trees on left.

Example of trail straight aways, note lack of shade. Straight aways are bookended by cutbacks that snake around dry feeder stream beds.
Middle Sespe Trail Survey - 05-29-2016 - by Ritz
Link: Middle Sespe Trail
Date: 05-29-2016
Surveyor Name:Ritz
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Hard to follow
Condition details:Lots of bush whacking needed. Can be very difficult to find trail.
Middle Sespe Trail Survey - 07-26-2015 - by Donna Spencer
Link: Middle Sespe Trail
Date: 07-26-2015
Surveyor Name:Donna Spencer
Trail description:     Well here we go again, off on another beautiful hike when the dreaded monster of plants take charge.  I was enjoying the expansive views when I dropped into Rainbow Valley and the sage brush plant obscured the trail.  Then when climbing through a knoll, jest before the only major climb, ran into 6' to 7' overgrowth of plants.  So I turned around and went back to the Sespe Trail Head at Rose Valley.   However I will make another trip and try this hike from Highway 33.  Overall this was a beautiful hike, I am just threating to bring a battery powered hedger and take care of business.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Condition details:Just passed Rainbow Valley 6' to 7' tall plants overgrown on the trail (at the knoll).
Middle Sespe Trail Survey - 05-13-2014 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Middle Sespe Trail
Date: 05-13-2014
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:Trail was in good shape with no issues to report.  Water was flowing nicely along the Sespe.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
People Seen:0

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Questions or Comments

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2016

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  • Forest Headquarters
    Phone: (805) 968-6640
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    Phone: (661) 245-3731
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    Phone: (805) 967-3481
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    Phone: (805) 925-9538
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    Phone: (831) 385-5434
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