Most of Los Padres National Forest Reopens Following Closure Due to Storm Damage
Forest Officials Warn That Upcoming Storms Could Cause Additional Closures
Los Padres National Forest issued a new forest order on Monday, March 13, that reopened most of the areas that have been closed since January 13 due to damage caused by winter storms.
The new order reopens areas that have been repaired or not extensively damaged by January’s storms and supersedes the Special Closure Order that closed four of Los Padres’ five ranger districts to allow for damage assessment and repairs.
However, forest officials say that storms forecast over the next two weeks could cause further damage that may require additional closures. They are encouraging the public to exercise maximum caution when entering areas of the forest that are now open for hiking and camping, and to closely monitor weather forecasts.
“This has been an extraordinary challenge for Forest Service employees and partner groups as well as for the public,” Los Padres Forest Supervisor Chris Stubbs said. “I ask for your patience and understanding as we continue what in all likelihood will be a long-term effort to restore and reopen as many of these areas as we responsibly can.”
All wilderness areas are again open for public use, except for the extensively damaged wilderness trails that will remain closed until repairs can be made. Seven of the nine Santa Barbara front-country trails reopened, along with popular campgrounds such as Plaskett Creek and Arroyo Seco on the Monterey Ranger District, Cerro Alto on the Santa Lucia Ranger District, and the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area up to First Crossing.
River Road from First Crossing to Red Rock Day Use Area will remain closed until road reconstruction is complete. Three Ojai Ranger District front-country trails — the Pratt Gridley and Cozy Dell — have reopened.
Specific to the Santa Barbara Ranger District, Public Affairs Officer Andrew Madsen said the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area will reopen with a kiosk at Fremont Campground on Paradise Road where visitors can interface with Forest Service employees and the Parks Management Company for information on the new closure order. The area will be closed at First Crossing to public entry.
In addition, the Los Prietos and Fremont campgrounds will remain closed for 30 days while crews remove hazard trees, and Whiterock Day Use Area will remain closed for two weeks while clean up continues to include hazard tree removal. Sage Hill Campground will stay closed due to high water and hazard trees for at least the next two weeks.
What will be open is Paradise Campground, the First Crossing Day Use Area and the Snyder Trailhead, Madsen said. When parking capacity is reached, cars will be turned around so visitors are encouraged to arrive early.
The San Ysidro and Romero front-country trails will remain closed. “Both of those trails require extensive repairs and likely will remain closed for quite some time,” Madsen said. “We are also working to reopen Paradise Road to First Crossing; however, the water in the river is still too high to allow public entry past there.”
Forest engineers, partner groups, volunteers, and contractors will continue to work on repairs in the areas that remain closed as funding becomes available, Madsen said on Monday. Road crews and resources from other national forests in California have been assisting with road clearing and maintenance projects to reopen additional areas once they have been repaired.
Forest personnel continue to coordinate with city, county, state, and federal partners to prioritize, plan, and implement the storm damage response and recovery, Madsen said. The Los Padres Forest Association and Ventana Wilderness Alliance, among others, have provided support both in assessing damaged areas and leading repair efforts.
A complete list of closed roads, trails, campgrounds, and day use sites can be found on Los Padres National Forest’s website at fs.usda.gov/lpnf.