Gene Marshall Trail, Los Padres National Forest, California

The Quick and Dirty:
Location – Los Padres National Forest
Distance – 17.9 miles one way (trail head to trail head), 35.8 miles round trip
Terrain Type – Flat terrain, Canyons, Light Climbs
Difficulty – Beginner to Intermediate (varies by season)
Best Time – Fall through Early Summer
Special Conditions – Water is relatively accessible, horses, hunting


First and foremost, I apologize for the quality of the photos.  I shot most of these on my older cellphone camera.

My sisters and I always do one trip together a year and it has become a tradition to head out to the woods for one weekend together.  This year, we chose to trek the Gene Marshall – Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail in Los Padres National Forest, Mount. Pinos district.  The trail is a short and easy trail with mixed ecosystems.  It is a great introduction to backpacking for beginners, but also a good weekend get away for seasoned hikers.  We do this trip at least once a year because you can do a short weekend trip or a nice three day thru-hike.


The trail is actually two trails linked at the peak of Pine Mountain in the Sespe Wilderness.  Permits are not needed but fire permits are required.  There are several primitive campsites throughout the trail, making this a relatively easy hike for those who want to base camp at different locations.  Most camps, with the exception of the ones towards Pine Mountain, have good access to water (my favorite spot is Bear Trap).

We started the night camping at the trail head at Reyes Campground.  Reyes is a nice car camping spot.  The spots are spaced well apart with good coverage.  Reyes Campground has a back country bar right before the camp.  Grab a drink, talk to the locals, and get a good burger before heading into the trail.

We drove up the road and parked at the trail head and started our hike.  The first sections are relatively flat – nothing surprising.  There are a few creek crossings but are mostly dry throughout the year.


The trail starts off covered but opens up into the canyon where it is fairly exposed.  It is best to head out early in the morning to beat the afternoon sun.  The first camp site is Upper Reyes Campground.  A good short hike in with a good water source.  There are two campsites here, one with a fire pit and grill.


Once you pass the camp ground, you will cross a couple small creeks and head into the canyon.   The canyon is very exposed in some areas, unfortunately, you are also climbing to get above the tree canopy. As you descend, you make your way into Bear Trap.  Bear Trap has two camp grounds before the creek and approximately three on the other side.  Crossing the creek will put you in an open field with ample tree coverage.  Both have good access to water.




After Bear Trap, water becomes more scarce.  You will pass several other primitive camp sites as you climb up Pine Mountain.


I have always noticed that this trail is less used – as such, there is plenty of wildlife.  I have seen bobcats, snakes, bears, and a mountain lion.  Please be responsible and pack out.  Bear canisters are ideal, but there are plenty of trees to hang your food.



Make sure you grab a burger on the way home.



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