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Red Reef Trail - Los Padres National Forest
Trail Distance 13.24 Miles

Park along north side of Highway 150 adjacent to Summit School. Hike one mile up Sisar Road to locked gate. Respect private property. Hike another 2.1 miles  until the Red Reef Trail leaves the road at a switchback. (If you stay on the road, you will reach Nordhoff Ridge after 4.5 miles).

Follow the trail for one mile to White Ledge Camp which offers three streamside sites set in a thick stand of laurel trees beside a year-round stream. The trail climbs steeply another 1.7 miles to Hines Peak Road. Turn right (east) and go .6 miles to the Sespe Wilderness boundary at the steel pipe barrier. Continue east for 2.4 miles to where the old road ends beyond its junction with Last Chance Trail (21W09), northwest of Hines Peak.

Ladybug Camp is 2.3 miles northeast from the ridge and is shaded by big cone Douglas-firs. Ladybug Spring is about 600 feet south (uphill) from the camp and has year-round water. This area is a famous overwintering spot for ladybird beetles. After 5.6 miles, the trail ends at the junction with the Sespe River Trail (20W13). Continuing east (right) you’ll reach Willett Camp after 1.3 miles and Sespe Hot Springs after 6.7 miles. Hiking west (left) takes you to Piedra Blanca Trailhead after 9 miles.

Trail Details

  • Trail #: 21W08
  • Wilderness Area: Sespe
  • County: Ventura County
  • Ranger District: Ojai Ranger District
  • Trail-head Latitude: 34.479
  • Trail-head Longitude: -119.1252
  • Trail Condition: Kind of Good - Little to no bushwacking and easily followable
  • Topo Maps:
  • Activities & Features:
    • Backpacking
    • Camping
    • Day Hiking
    • Panoramic Views
    • Wildlife Viewing
    • Wilderness Camping

Trail Stats

  • Total Elevation Gain: + 3558 feet.
  • Total Elevation Loss: - 4238 feet.
  • Overall Average Slope Gain: + 11 %.
  • Overall Average Slope Loss: - 9 %.
  • Kilometers: (km)
  • Meters: (m)
  • Miles: (mi)
  • Feet: (ft)
  • Average Slope: (%)

Trail Camps

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Survey This Trail

Survey Photos:

  • Carlos Davidson - 01-08-2017

  • Carlos Davidson - 01-08-2017

  • Kevin Fox - 02-14-2017

  • Kevin Fox - 02-14-2017

  • bardley - 05-10-2017

  • bardley - 05-10-2017

  • bardley - 05-10-2017

Submitted Trail Reports

Red Reef Trail Survey - 06-09-2017 - by James Lee Rea III
Link: Red Reef Trail
Date: 06-09-2017
Surveyor Name:James Lee Rea III
Trail description:HIked from trailhead atop Topa Topa down through Ladybug and attempted to make it to Willet hotsprings.  Trail was easily seen and passable until about a mile out from Harris Tunnel.  Up to this point there was almost no poison oak except for a very different looking strain that overgrew the trail in one particular spot.  But two miles out it became extremely thick and completely unavoidable.  Can't attest to whether or not it lets up but it did get progressively worse over a quarter mile.  Ended up hiking back to Ladybug.  Luckily there was water at a creek crossing a mile back from where we turned around.   If there hadn't been we'd have been pretty dehydrated trying to make it back to Ladybug.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Red Reef Trail Survey - 05-10-2017 - by bardley
Link: Red Reef Trail
Date: 05-10-2017
Surveyor Name:bardley
Trail description:To clarify, this is the Red Reef Trail - Ojai side.  Currently there are about 10 dedicated parking spaces near the first gate ~ there are three gates total.  If using the trail on weekends get there early or park on Highway 150 and walk up.  The trail has a lot of grass covering the tread in places and overall is in need of major brushing.  There is flowing water at White Ledge Camp.  Passable to stock - must duck in places.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work

Red Reef Trail Survey - 03-16-2017 - by Daniel J. Hall
Link: Red Reef Trail
Date: 03-16-2017
Surveyor Name:Daniel J. Hall
Trail description:We went from Sespe Creek to the top, with a night at Lady Bug (where there was water flowing).  From Sespe Creek to Lady Bug, there were 8 large blowdows across the trail, several small ones and a small rockslide.  All were passable for hikers, but some will not be for stock.  From Harris Tunnel to about a 100 yards past the crossing of Timber Creek, many brushy areas on the trail.  From Lady Bug to the top, there were 4 large blowdowns across the trail, all passable for hikers, but some not by stockTread the entire distance was surprisingly good considering the February storms.  Photos of the rockslide and significant blowdowns at http://tinyurl.com/n4af85e
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Red Reef Trail Survey - 02-14-2017 - by Kevin Fox
Link: Red Reef Trail
Date: 02-14-2017
Surveyor Name:Kevin Fox
Trail description:Trail tread is in great shape from the Sespe all the way up to the ridge.  There are a few down trees along the way.  The worst is just above the timber creek crossing and just above Lady Bug Camp.  Lots of water available along the trail right now!
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow

Above timber creek crossing
Red Reef Trail Survey - 01-08-2017 - by Carlos Davidson
Link: Red Reef Trail
Date: 01-08-2017
Surveyor Name:Carlos Davidson
Trail description:Backpacked Jan 8-11. Heavy rain on night of 8th and 10. Trail in great shape. Up Sisar canyon, went as far as junction with Santa Paula canyon trail (Last Chance Trail). Also took side spur to top of Topatopa bluff.

On backside of Topatopa bluff lots of bear scat on the trail.

Water available just below where trail first crosses upper reach of Santa Paula creek - just east of spur trail to top of Topatopa bluff.

Great views into Sepse and out to Channel Islands with constantly changing clouds.

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

View from near Topatopa summit to south

View from near Topatopa summit across Oxnard plain to ??? Island
Red Reef Trail Survey - 03-30-2016 - by Shaddus Maximus/Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Red Reef Trail
Date: 03-30-2016
Surveyor Name:Shaddus Maximus/Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:Coming up from the Sespe drainage, the first couple of miles on the Red Reef are the most challenging. The trail is choked with poison oak and ticks seem to be everywhere. ("Check yourself before you wreck yourself" folks.) There are also a number of downed trees, about 4-5 which required me to get down on hands and knees and crawl under. There is one large downed oak tree which required a tricky "climb" through its canopy, which was lying across the trail. Having said all of that, however, the tread is very easy to follow, even through this lower section that largely follows the creek bed. As you climb higher, the trail gets better and better, thanks to recent trail work. 
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Red Reef Trail Survey - 10-11-2014 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Red Reef Trail
Date: 10-11-2014
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:


by Heidi Anderson

Yesterday’s project was on the Red Reef Trail in honor of Don Borad.  The ten of us ventured up Sisar Road to access the trail to White Ledge Camp.  (That was the toughest part of the day due to the poor condition of the road!)  The group hiked to the White Ledge Camp and started the brushing project ¼ mile above the camp working our way back to the lower trailhead.  There was a noticeable climb in the temperature around noon.  Group did an great job staying focused on improving the access on the trail. Thanks to all that attended!

There is water at the camp.  Walk beyond the sites to find the stream and definitely bring a filter.

Mode of transport:Array
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Red Reef Trail Survey - 05-01-2014 - by LPFA
Link: Red Reef Trail
Date: 05-01-2014
Surveyor Name:LPFA
Trail description:Reports are that all trees have been cleared except for one large fallen pine just outside of Ladybug Camp.
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow

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Comments (2)

    Hi Yamato - Your car should be fine.  Don't leave any valuables and no Adventure Pass will be needed.  Your bigger concern will be water availability and heat.  Have fun.
    Author's website: www.LPForest.org

    Hi, I'd like to backpack this trail for 3 nights in August 2015 for my anniversary. However, I noticed it says to park next to "Summit School" with no mention of an adventure pass or how long you can park there. Will my car be alright parked there for 3 days? I really appreciate your response . Regards, Yamato mailto:Yamatoyamaseki@gmail.com">yamaseki@gmail.com 

Questions or Comments

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 23, 2016

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