Los Padres National Forest
One of the great treasures of the United States, the Los Padres National Forest is 1.75 million acres of diverse parkland, including many unspoiled, primitive wilderness areas. The Los Padres National Forest offers over 300 miles of rugged Big Sur hiking trails, as well as some of the best unspoiled Big Sur campsites.
Los Padres National Forest spans five counties: Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Kern. In Monterey County, Los Padres National Forest extends through Big Sur and out toward the Salinas Valley. It houses redwood groves, the California condor, and provides a refuge for 468 species of fish and wildlife, as well as endangered and sensitive plant species.
Los Padres National Forest houses 11 campgrounds holding many of Big Sur's campsites, ranging from primitive hike-in sites to fully featured modern campgrounds with showers that are capable of accommodating RVs of all sizes. Some campgrounds in Los Padres National Forest offer hunting, fishing, hiking, cycling, and horseback riding.
See the US Forest Service's Los Padres National Forest website for a list of every campsite in the Monterey District, as well as detailed information on each. Once you find one you like, visit Recreation.gov to make your Big Sur camping reservation
Hiking, Cycling and Horseback Riding
With 323 miles of hiking trails in the Monterey District of the Los Padres National Forest, even the most dedicated outdoor enthusiast could spend weeks exploring the area without walking twice in the same place. Short loops are perfect for a day hike, while the hardcore hiker or camper can spend days on these Big Sur hiking trails without ever seeing civilization.
The Los Padres National Forest is also known for providing a unique Big Sur horseback riding experience. Its rugged trails will give you the sense that you've ridden back in time.
Cyclists are not permitted in wilderness areas, but are allowed on many other hiking trails within Los Padres National Forest. Check the Los Padres National Forest website for more information.
The Los Padres National Forest maintains a list of trails available for hiking, cycling and horseback riding. In addition, the Ventana Wilderness Alliance maintains online reports of hiking trail conditions that are frequently updated.
Hunting is permitted in many areas of the Los Padres National Forest. However, lead bullets are banned. California Department of Fish and Game regulations apply. Consult the US Forest Service's Los Padres National Forest website to learn which areas are open for hunting, and the California Department of Fish and Game website for information on hunting seasons, licenses and fees.
Fishing is permitted in many lakes, rivers and ocean areas of the Los Padres National Forest. California Department of Fish and Game regulations apply. Consult the US Forest Service's Los Padres National Forest website to learn which areas are open for fishing, and the California Department of Fish and Game website for information on fishing licenses, regulations and fees.
The US Forest Service website has detailed online maps of Los Padres National Forest, including information on campgrounds, undeveloped campsites and hiking trails. Hard copies of the Los Padres National Forest map can be purchased online from the US Forest Service.