Ever since I checked out Prewitt Ridge a little over a year ago, I have wanted to go back to the Big Sur area in California and check out more of the off-road trails and campsites overlooking the Pacific ocean.
For memorial day weekend this year, my girlfriend and I decided to make the drive and check out Will Creek Road and Los Burros Road up in Los Padres National Forest. Los Padres National Forest is just south of Big Sur, so there are a lot of great hikes in the area too!
Will Creek Road And Los Burros Road Trail Map
There are a ton of great trails and campsites in this area, and you can check them out for planning purposes on this post here. In this particular post, I will focus on Will Creek Road and Los Burros Road because that is where we did most of our driving and where we found out amazing campsite.
Here is a quick map overview of our trip (Los Burros Road Caltopo Map link):
Quick Public Service Announcement: Please pay attention to signs for private property in the area, do not ignore them! Down below (Link here), I have some more details on private property in the area and how you can identify it on the map above.
Will Creek Road / Los Burros Road Trail Guide
Driving up from San Diego on Thursday after work we ended up stopping and spending the night in Santa Barbara on the way up, before getting to the trailhead in the early afternoon. Will Creek Road is the "trailhead" and can be found here on Google Maps.
Once you turn off the 1, onto Will Creek Road it turns into a dirt road, and at the beginning is not very technical at all. We saw a lot of cars that probably shouldn't have been on it though, but more on that later.
At the start of Will Creek Road you will also see a sign warning that the road is impassable when wet, I would also take note of this warning.
Pro Tip: Off Road Recovery Gear Recommendations
While off-roading make sure you fully prepared for self recovery. Here are two items I recommend:
- Hi-Lift Jack (Amazon Affiliate): Helps if you get a flat while off-roading and can also be used as a mechanical winch. I have also used this to get out of snow and off rocks where I was center pinned.
- Traction Mats (Amazon Affiliate): Helps in muddy or slippery terrain where your tires cant get enough traction.
- Portable Battery Jump Starter (Amazon Affiliate): If your car battery dies while off-roading there may not be anyone around to jump start your battery. Use a portable jumper to be able to jump start your battery without anyone else around.
The start of our drive up Will Creek Road was pretty uneventful and we were enjoying the sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean while my jeep easily traversed the hard packed dirt road.
As we wound our way up the mountain, the trail enters in and out of a forest and the scenery begins to really change. As we were driving up through the forest and getting closer to where Los Burros Road breaks off of Will Creek, we met a couple who was walking down the mountain and they flagged us down. When I rolled down my window we learned they brought their two-wheel drive vehicle up the mountain and ended up getting stuck.
I had some mud recovery gear in my jeep, so we had them jump in and we drove them back up to their car to try and get them un-stuck. Unfortunately, we were not able to help get them out, and we had to drive them down the mountain to the nearest gas station where they ended up having to call a tow truck from a pay phone (Not much Cell service in the area). We ended up actually running into the couple again on highway 1 the next day, and the tow truck was able to get them un-stock so at least it was a happy ending for them! Probably not cheap though....
After our little detour of helping the couple get back to civilization, we got back on Will Creek Road and headed back up the mountain. We were a little nervous at this point since it was a holiday weekend but we had a lot of planned campsites in the area on our map.
Eventually, we came to this intersection:
Los Burros Road
If you go left, you stay on Will Creek Road, straight will bring you toward Alder Creek Camp Ground, and right will bring you on Los Burros Road along a ridgeline that looks out over the Pacific Ocean. We turned Right and went out along Los Burros Road, to go find our campsite for the next couple of days.
Los Burros Road is where the trail gets a little more technical at times, but it not super rocky or anything too crazy. Going out along the ridgeline has some flats part which did have some big mud puddles though, so we got the Jeep pretty dirty but it was fun!
The trail out on Los Burros Road, although a little more technical than Will Creek Road had pretty good conditions for us. I expected the trails to be in a lot worse shape due to all the rain there was this year in California, but it was mostly just a couple big puddles. There were a couple of steeper sections that were a little washed out due to water running down them recently but nothing that a 4x4 vehicle with some good clearance couldn't get over.
At one point along Los Burros Road, there is a split, you can either go right or left. The re-join but the left route is a lot less steep than the right route.
The right route for us when we were there was a bit washed out due to the recent rains, and it made for a little white knuckle driving as we looked straight down toward the Pacific Ocean.
Los Burros Road Campsite
Eventually, toward the very end of Los Burros Road, we made it to our final destination and found an absolutely beautiful campsite which we called home for the next two days! I am shocked we were able to get a campsite like this on a holiday weekend up in Big Sur, it was stunning and the picture does not do it justice! Karma must have paid off for us stopping to help the stranded couple!
Now is a good time to pause and make a plug for the free and required California Campfire permit. In the state of California if you are going to have a campfire or even use a camping stove you must have a valid campfire permit. You just have to watch a quick video and take a short quiz and then print off your certificate. You can grab one here: http://www.preventwildfireca.org/Campfire-Permit/.
With the amazing views of the California Coast and the beautiful Pacific Ocean in the background, our campsite was also a perfect location for the real reason I was on this trip; to ask my amazingly beautiful girlfriend to continue to go on adventures with me forever!
After the engagement (She said yes!) nature treated us to clear skies and we had some amazing views of the stars while the marine layer slowly rolled in below us.
In the morning, I woke up in time to catch the sunrise and I felt like I was in heaven. The marine layer had completely come in during the night and we were surrounded by a beautiful sea of clouds.
After taking it all in, I set up my camera on my tripod and attempted to take enough pictures for a short time lapse. Its the first time I tried doing a real-time lapse with my Sony A9:
I also took a quick panning shot with my GoPro in 4K:
I just couldn't get enough of the clouds below, they were absolutely beautiful!
If you are looking for great free camping with amazing views, Los Padres National Forest never disappoints! Just remember to be prepared for your adventure and I highly recommend a 4x4 car even if the roads seem passable in something else, you never want to get stuck out in the wood away from civilization.
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