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Sespe Wilderness

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A fallen tree sits in the foreground amidst Sugar Pine trees.
Library image #2035: Sugar Pine trees on Pine Mountain in Los Padres National Forest.

Introduction

The United States Congress designated the Sespe Wilderness (map) in 1992 and it now has a total of 219,209 acres. All of this wilderness is located in California and is managed by the Forest Service.

Description

Sespe Wilderness provides ample evidence of past violent geological upthrusts. The landscape is bleak and jagged, and if you climb high enough, you'll find pine trees growing at odd angles on boulder-swept hillsides. Sespe Creek, the last remaining undammed river in Southern California, runs for 31.5 Wild and Scenic miles (most of it in the Wilderness), and 10.5 miles of Upper Sespe Creek are under consideration for designation. Sandstone cliffs rise as much as 500 feet above the water in places, and fabulous sandstone formations stand in portions of the area. You may see petroglyphs and other evidence of ancient Indians. You might also spot black bears, deer, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, rattlesnakes, red-tailed hawks, and golden eagles. The 53,000-acre Sespe Condor Sanctuary is located here, but public entry is prohibited to protect California condors. The wilderness area is a part of the fourth largest roadless region left in the Lower 48, and it's the one closest to a large metropolitan area. Numerous trails provide access, and human use is moderate. The Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail leads 18 miles through impressive white rocks to pleasant campsites nestled in conifers, a boon when much of the area lies without shade. The Sespe River Trail (17.5 miles) leads past cool swimming holes that thin down to shallows in the dry period, and on to Sespe Hot Springs and some of the hottest natural water in America.

Planning to Visit the Sespe Wilderness?

Leave No Trace

How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Sespe Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.