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The Condor Trail is an approximately 400 mile long hiking trail in Southern California. It travels the extent of the Los Padres National Forest from Lake Piru in the south to Bottchers Gap outside of Big Sur in the north. Similar to trails like the CDT and the PNWT, the trail is still a work in progress. As work continues on the trail, less and less of the trail will consist of bushwacking and roadwalking. Eventually the trail should be completely bush free single track.
It is maintained by the Condor Trial Association.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Permits and Regulations
- 3 Maps
- 4 Information Resources
- 5 Sections
- 6 Water
- 7 Weather
- 8 Resupply Locations
- 9 Administrative Territories
- 10 References
- 11 External Links
Length: 409 miles
Standard direction(s) of travel: Northbound.
Season: This trail is best hiked in the spring. Summer time brings extreme heat, fall makes finding water difficult and is dangerous due to fire season. In the winter a hiker may encounter snow at the higher elevations (particularly around Reyes Peak). The trail is typically hiked NOBO between February and May.
Permits and Regulations
Since the trail is situated inside a National Forest, no permits are needed. The trail does pass through many wilderness areas so bicycles are not allowed.If you would like to have a campfire or use a stove, you must get a California Campfire Permit.
Bryan Conant, the route creator, sells some high quality maps of the southern Los Padres areas: https://bryanconant.com/
Bryan Conant, the route creator, sells some high quality maps of the southern Los Padres areas: https://bryanconant.com/ Beware the National Geographic and other commercial maps as their accuracy is suspect. Always check conditions via recent trip reports online in addition to consulting paper maps.
http://www.condortrail.com/ Conditions are highly variable in the Los Padres National Forest due to frequent wildfires and fast encroaching brush. The best way to get up to date conditions is to read recent trail reports. These can be found at https://bigsurtrailmap.net/trailconditions.html (for Big Sur) and http://www.hikelospadres.com/
The trail is on HikerBot, which is an app for Android phones.
The trail is best subdivided into five sections based on road crossings.
Lake Piru to CA SR 33
The trail traverses the Sespe Wilderness. It begins at Lake Piru. It follows the Agua Blanca river, which is notorious for heavy bushwacking. It then follows the Sespe river and then heads up to the area around Reyes peak before dropping down to the highway
CA SR 33 to CA SR 166
This section traverses the Dick Smith and the San Rafael Wilderness Areas. It follows the Sesquoc wild and scenic river for a large portion. After the Sesquoc river, the trail goes up Horse Gulch and enters a notoriously difficult section. Less ambitous hikers can climb up the Sierra Madre Road, and follow that down to CA SR 166.
CA SR 166 to CA SR 46
This section traverses the Garcia and Santa Lucia wildernesses and then mostly follows dirt roads along the ridge above San Louis Obispo to CA SR 46.
CA SR 46 to Ragged Point
Due to the gap in the middle of Los Padres, the trail mainly follows roads on this 50 mile or so section.
Ragged Point to Botchers Gap
This section traverses the Silver Peak and Ventana Wildernesses, ending at Botchers gap, a closed campground.
Water is plentiful along the trail especially in winter and spring. The trail follows many rivers/creeks for extended periods of time, but hikers may need to carry for up to 10 miles between rivers.
Weather is typically quite good along the trail, especially in the spring. Rain is scarce and temperatures are mild, although it can get cold at higher elevations earlier in the year and can get hot during the summer/late spring. Hikers should be wary of the rare big winter storm, as it can be dangerous to hike during one.
Anthony "Mugwort" Ottati hiked the trail in 2020. He recommends the following three resupply locations: 1. Von's Ojai at mile 66 or so, via a 35 mile or so hitch down California State Route 33. 2. FoodMaxx Santa Maria at mile 180 or so, via a 25 or so mile hitch down California State 166. 3. Morro Bay at mile 260 or so. The trail passes directly through here.
The trail is mainly in Los Padres National Forest. The trail passes through 7 wilderness areas: Sespe, Dick Smith, San Rafael, Garcia, Santa Lucia, Silver Peak and Ventana.