Three Los Padres National Forest hikes for outdoor social distancing

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Lupines Near Figueroa Mountain. Photo credit: Bryant Baker.

“A little dose of nature could be really good for everyone,” says Bryant Baker, a conservation director at Los Padres ForestWatch , who organizes community hikes in the Los Padres National Forest.

Although exercising in large groups is not recommended right now, here are some of Baker’s favorite spots to check out alone or with your family. Remember to continue practicing social distancing by staying at least six feet away from others -- and below are more tips for keeping others safe in nature.

Tunnel Trail from East Camino Cielo Rd.

Hairy Ceanothus Blooms. Photo credit: Bryant Baker.

“This trail goes all the way down from Camino Cielo to Tunnel Road,” he says. “This time of year, you've got the ceanothus, which is a really cool plant, and a lot of them are blooming right now. There's also at least one waterfall that you'll almost cross right over. It's a really pretty sight.”

Cozy Dell Canyon

Canyon Sunflower. Photo credit: Bryant Baker.

This trailhead is located about 3 miles north of Ojai on Highway 33.

“There [are] a lot of interesting wildflowers blooming there,” says Baker. “You'll start to see the canyon sunflowers, which will be blooming in full force there pretty soon.”

Potrero John Trail

Potrero John Trail Sign. Photo credit: Bryant Baker

Also along Highway 33 north of Ojai, this trail is tucked into the southern face of Pine Mountain.

“It's a great way to get into this Sespe Wilderness without having to go very far,” he says. “You're going to encounter a lot of nice stands of Big Cone Douglas-firs, which is a really cool tree that only grows in our region and other parts of Southern California.”

For the citizen scientist in all of us, Baker recommends downloading iNaturalist , an app that helps you log and share the unique plants and critters you find on your adventures.

Trail etiquette:

  • Stay in small family groups or alone while on the trail.
  • Keep your dogs on leash, away from other trail-users or at home.
  • Do not use the trails if you have any COVID-19 symptoms or if you are feeling sick.
  • Maintain a 6-foot distance from other people along the trail. If you see trail-users heading your way, find an area where you can safely walk off the trail and let them pass. It doesn't hurt to smile and say hello either.
  • Try to avoid hiking at busy times of the day.
  • Keep in mind that many public restrooms are closed, so take care of business before heading out.
  • Avoid touching any public drinking fountains, benches, and take the necessary precautions — both before and after — in the case that you have to use public facilities.
  • If the trailhead is packed or parking is hard to find, go somewhere else or come back later. Use this as an opportunity to discover lesser known trails.

Waterfall Along Tunnel Trail. Photo credit: Bryant Baker.

Bush Poppy Flowers Closed in the Rain. Photo credit: Bryant Baker.

View of Arlington and Cathedral Peaks from Tunnel Trail. Photo credit: Bryant Baker.

Bigcone Douglas-firs in Potrero John Canyon. Photo credit: Bryant Baker.



  • Bryant Baker - conservation director at Los Padres ForestWatch


Kathryn Barnes