Posted by: James Wapotich | December 23, 2014

Trail Quest: Reyes Creek

Reyes Creek, and nearby Beartrap Creek, are just two of the many creeks one can find along the backside of Pine Mountain. In the lower elevations, along these creeks, one can find a rich mix of conifers, oaks, riparian plants and chaparral. Both creeks also support trail camps that generally have reliable water year round that can make for great backpacking, as well as day hiking destinations.

The hike through the canyons follows Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca Trail. From the trailhead near Reyes Creek Campground, it’s about 3 miles to Upper Reyes Camp, 4.5 miles to Beartrap Camp, and 8 miles to Haddock Camp.

To get to the trailhead from Ojai, take State Route 33 north. The road follows Upper Matilija Creek, before traveling along the scenic Sespe River and arriving at Pine Mountain Summit. From here, State Route 33 descends down towards the Cuyama River and arrives at the intersection with Lockwood Valley Road. Turn right on to Lockwood Valley Road, and continue about 3.5 miles to the signed turnoff, on your right, for Camp Scheideck Road. Camp Scheideck Road continues over a small rise and descends towards Reyes Creek and Reyes Creek Campground.

Beartrap Creek Canyon Campground Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca Trail Sespe Wilderness Los Padres National Forest hike

Scenery along Beartrap Creek between Beartrap Camp and Haddock

Just before Reyes Creek Campground is the small community of Camp Scheideck. The site was first homesteaded in 1888 by Eugene Scheideck. Today, one of the highlights of the community is Reyes Creek Bar & Grill, which can make for a nice break from camp food.

At Reyes Creek Campground one can find a number of car camping sites on a first come first serve basis. An Adventure Pass is required to camp there, but is not required for parking at the nearby trailhead.

Both the creek and campground, as well as Reyes Peak, take their names from the Reyes Family.

map Reyes Creek Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca trail hike bear trap canyon

Map courtesy

In 1851, Rafael Reyes established a ranch at the mouth of Reyes Creek along the Cuyama River. His family ran cattle at their ranch, Rancho Las Virgenes, near present day Agora Hills; however, a severe drought that year, led Rafael Reyes and his brothers to seek better grazing lands to the north. They drove 2,000 head of cattle and 1,000 horses over Tejon Pass and down Lockwood Valley to Reyes Creek.

In 1870, Mr. Reyes married Maria Ygnacia Ortega. Their eldest son, Jacinto Damien “J. D.” Reyes, would later serve as the area’s first forest ranger. J. D. Reyes served from 1900-1931 in what was then the Cuyama Ranger District, before retiring and moving to Ojai.

From Reyes Creek Campground, continue on the paved road that is on the west side of the camp and leads over a small rise to the beginning of Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca Trail. The close proximity of the trailhead to Reyes Creek Campground makes it easy to explore the trail as part of a day hike while camping there. At the trailhead one can also find space for horse trailers, as the trail is suitable for pack animals.

Originally called Piedra Blanca Trail, it was renamed Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca Trail in 1992, in recognition of Gene Marshall’s contributions to the Los Padres Condor Range and River Protection Act. The act, which passed that same year, established the Sespe, Matilija, Chumash, and Garcia Wilderness areas.

Reyes Creek Campground Bear Trail Sespe Wilderness Los Padres National Forest Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca

Fall colors along Reyes Creek

From the trailhead, the trail quickly crosses the unnamed creek that the trail follows for the first few miles. At times, the composition of plants can almost feel eclectic with juniper, cedar, interior live oak, willow, wild rose, and pine all growing along the canyon.

As the trail climbs out of the canyon towards a small saddle, it offers views back down the canyon towards the rolling hills of the Cuyama Badlands.

From the saddle, the trail descends a half-mile down towards Reyes Creek, and at the 3-mile mark arrives at Upper Reyes Camp. The camp has two sites, each with a grated stove. The first site is under a small stand of cedar trees; and the second, further up the trail, past the creek crossing, is under a large interior live oak. Water can be found in this section of Reyes Creek year round.

From Upper Reyes Camp, the trail climbs a series of switchbacks, and then continues towards the saddle near the top of Reyes Canyon. Along this stretch, one is treated to more great views of the canyon as well up towards Pine Mountain.

From the saddle, the trail descends down towards Beartrap Creek and crosses it, arriving at Beartrap Camp. The camp has five sites, two just downstream from the creek crossing, two in the relatively large open space under the cedars and ponderosa pines, and one more further upstream, just before another creek crossing. All five camps feature a grated stove, and although the creek flows intermittently in the fall, water can be found at or near each of the camps.

On older maps one will find the site listed as Beartrap #1. Beartrap #2 was located another mile upstream, and was washed away during flooding from heaving rains in the early 1970s.

Beartrap Creek Canyon Campground Los Padres National Forest Sespe Wilderness Hike Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca Trail

Beartrap Creek near Beartrap Camp

The camp takes its name from when grizzly bears roamed the backcountry, and was used by the Reyes Family who reportedly trapped grizzlies in the area in the late 1800s. By some estimates there were as many as 10,000 grizzly bears in California in the early 1800s, however as more people settled in the state, the number of grizzly bears was dramatically reduced through hunting and in some cases poisoning. In 1922, the last grizzly bear shot in the state was on a ranch in Tulare County in the Central Valley.

Today, the only bears in the canyon are black bears who make good use of the wild berries, and reliable water that can be found in the canyon.

Past Beartrap Camp, the trail becomes more overgrown, but is still easy to follow. During the fall the already scenic canyon becomes quite striking as the leaves on the willow and alder trees turn gold. In fact, one of the magical sections of the canyon is a long stretch that lead through almost exclusively alder trees.

Eventually the trail begins its climb out of Beartrap Canyon, and at about the 7.5-mile mark arrives at the top of the canyon.

From here, it’s roughly another half-mile down to Haddock Camp. Here, the trail follows the upper reaches of Piedra Blanca Creek, threading through mostly pines and cedar. At about the 8-mile mark, the trail arrives at Haddock Camp. The camp has three designated sites, each with a grated stove; there is also a fourth site just upstream from the camp. Water at Haddock Camp usually plays out by the summer, although one can sometimes find water a half-mile to a mile further downstream.

Haddock Camp is located at the intersection with Reyes Peak Trail. Reyes Peak Trail connects west over towards Reyes Peak and Pine Mountain Campgrounds, which can also be reached by road from State Route 33. Past Haddock Camp, Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca Trail continues more or less downstream along Piedra Blanca Creek, leaving and returning to the creek a couple times before ultimately arriving at the Piedra Blanca Trailhead in Rose Valley.

Regardless of how far you hike you’ll get to see some of the rich scenery associated with the Pine Mountain range.

This article originally appeared in section A of the December 22nd, 2014 edition of Santa Barbara News-Press.

Haddock Camp Gene Marshall Piedra Blanca Trail hike Sespe Wilderness Los Padres National Forest

Scenery at Haddock Camp



  1. May 2017, Memorial Day Weekend.
    Where does James find the energy for all the long hikes he does?
    We hiked to Upper Reyes and rested under the shade of the trees. (The camping sites were occupied by Boy Scouts.) Saw one snake, yippee! Not a rattlesnake. Yippee! The butterflies, fluttering to their own tunes, delighted us with giant colors.

    Back at the trailhead, a party of 15 people were organized to head up the trail and camp. I wonder if they were able to find tent sites.

    Gear: I like my 2.5L Osprey hydration system. It holds enough water for this hike. I brought my Sawyer Squeeze filter in case. The creek had plenty of running water. Gregory’s Zulu 30 had enough space for our stuff.

    10 essentials. The hike was dry and not too hot but we began thinking about essentials for hiking in dry/hot weather. We brought 7 things we felt to be essential:
    1. Hydration system
    2. Sawyer squeeze filter systems / cleaning tool.
    3. Hat/sun protection
    4. Map and trip report
    5. Compass
    6. Food
    7 to 10. ——-

    We are curious to know what Mr. Wapotich’s considers to be the 10 essentials for hiking in Santa Barbara County during the dry/hot time of the year.

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