Destinations Northwest

Best Rides off Interstate 5, Part 1: California

by Robert Eversole


October 2014
California has plenty of beauty to enjoy from horseback. Pictured here is the Alabama Hills BLM with Mount Whitney behind. Photo courtesy Robert Eversole

There are as many ways to tackle a wilderness trail ride as there are wilderness areas. For the next two months we’re focusing on places easily accessible from Interstate 5. We will begin in California and head north through Oregon and Washington. If you’re the adventurous type, why not plan for a massive summer riding road trip next year? If that’s too much vacation time to burn at once, the other alternative is to go state by state and summer by summer. Either way, these are rides that are guaranteed to be a memorable trail riding adventure.

As we journey from one wilderness area to another, we’ll follow “The 5” as it stretches 1,381 miles from Mexico to Canada. Interstate 5 is the main north/south route for the West Coast, passing through the length of California, Oregon, and Washington as it connects most of the major west coast cities.

California: Sespe Wilderness, Reyes Creek Campground, Los Padres National Forest
Trailhead Coordinates: 34.677644, -119.309135

First let’s explore a few of the 219,700 acres of the Sespe Wilderness in Southern California. With cliffs and fabulous sandstone formations rising hundreds of feet above the wilderness’s namesake creek, this is an impressive area to visit. Not only is the area rich in geologic history, it also offers the attentive rider an abundance of human history in the fading petroglyphs left by visitors from times long past. Riders with sharp eyes may glimpse a rare California condor soaring high overhead as it flies over and through the Sespe Condor Sanctuary that is also located within this remarkable area.

Getting into this amazing wilderness is as easy as heading west from Interstate 5 and heading up Highway 33 which passes through the middle of the Los Padres National Forest, home of the Sespe Wilderness. Less than two miles off the highway is the Reyes Creek Campground and our starting point for excursions into the boulder-swept hillsides of the Sespe. The camp, tucked under shady oaks and cottonwood trees, offers two corrals and a vault toilet. Although Reyes Creek is immediately adjacent to the camp, it’s best to bring your own water for you and your stock.

Getting from the campground to the wilderness is a quick ride; it’s just a few feet to the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail trailhead. This 18 mile trail winds its way through the wilderness and even has backcountry campsites scattered along its length for those looking to venture beyond trailhead camping.

After the ride: If you’re trailhead camping and don’t want to cook, the Camp Scheidick Bar and Grille, at campground’s entrance, is a good place for breakfast or lunch while you feed the trout—they love the toast! Learn more about Reyes Creek Campground at www.forestcamping.com/dow/pacficsw/lospcmp.htm.


Originally Published October 2014 Issue

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