Middle Lion - Piedra Blanca Loop

Los Padres National Forest


Highlights: The Middle Lion - Piedra Blanca (White Rocks) Loop is a moderate backpack of 5 or 6 miles that winds through the impressive white sandstone cliffs, pinnacles, and boulders of Piedra Blanca. The rounded slopes of these incredible outcrops offer easy places to climb and many caves to explore.

Directions: The drive takes about 2 hours from Bakersfield. From Maricopa, take Highway 166 towards the coast. Before reaching Cuyama, turn left onto Highway 33 towards Ojai. About 42 miles from the junction, turn left onto paved road to the Rose Valley Falls - Piedra Blanca Recreation Area. Continue 5 miles on narrow road, passing Rose Valley Falls on the right and a gun club on the left. Park at a Y junction with an impressive view of the white rocks. The left road is the trail and leads to a locked gate. The road on the right leads downhill a mile or so to the shuttle pick up at Middle Lion Campground.


  • From the parking area, hike past the gate and follow paved road 1 miles downhill to Lion Campground. The trail continues 20 yards left of the restrooms and drops to Sespe Creek, which is dry during summer and fall, but wet during winter and spring. On the far side is a junction. Take trail 22W03 to the left towards Piedra Blanca, Twin Forks, and Pine Mountain Lodge. After a moderate climb through chaparral, now burned by the fire of 2002, there is another signed junction. The left fork heads west to Howard Creek Camp and Highway 33. Go right, entering the Sespe Wilderness. At 3 miles from the start, you are right in the middle of the white rocks. The main trail continues through these impressive outcrops another 0.2 miles before descending to a ravine and crossing a creek. Continue down Piedra Blanca Creek a mile or so to Sespe Creek, cross it, and continue another mile to Middle Lion Campground, the shuttle pick up for this loop.

Maps: The Lion Canyon 7 minute topographic quadrangle is needed.



  • The spectacular white rocks of Piedra Blanca are a view not easily forgotten, and are wonderful to explore.


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