The summit of Mount Pinos is the highest point in Ventura County and 11th greatest prominance in California. It lies on the edge of the Chumash Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest. Mount Pinos was created over 100 million years ago and is part of the east-west running Transverse range in an area sometimes called "The Knot". The Transvers range connects the Coast / Diablo Range to the west and the Tehachapi’s of the southern Sierra to the east and San Gabriels to the southeast. The peak is know as Iwihinmu to the indiginous Chumash people. The summit is called Liyikshup or the center of the world. The slopes are a mix of subalpine, white fir, and Jeffry Pine habitats. The world famous San Andreas Fault cuts across it’s base on the north side. The views from Mount Pinos are beautiful They include the patchwork quilt of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley to the north along with the snow capped southern Sierra Nevada Range. The Tehachapis to the east, and the Carrizo Plain and Temblor Mountains to the northwest.
It was once possible to drive to the summit and just west of the summit is an old parking area for a wildlife viewing area. Mount Pinos and the entire area was home to the California Condor. Captive breeding programs have reintroduced this magnificent bird back to it’s native territory.
To access the summit now requires a 1.5 mile hike along an old access road. Near the summit the road / trail splits. The summit and radio tower are to the right (east) and a short distance to the left (west) is the old parking area with benches and an interpretive sign for wildlife viewing. At the west side of the wildlife viewing area is the start of the Tumamait Trail which leads for 1.5 miles over to Sawmill Mountain, the highest point in Kern County*.
Mount Pinos is also a winter snow play area with cross country ski trails starting at the 8300 ft. parking area. This parking area is also popular with star gazers. On a new moon in the summer it is not unusual to see 100+ telescopes set up in the parking lot.
From either L.A. or Bakersfield, leave I-5, take the Frazier Park/Mt. Pinos exit. (If coming from L.A., you will go over Tejon Pass) Go west on the Frazier Park Road for about seven miles to a junction with the Lockhart Valley Road (on the left) which is at Lake of the Woods. At the junction, one road goes left one mile (Lockwood Valley Rd) to a ranger station which is a good place to go if you need an adventure pass or information. If not, take the right fork which is the Mt. Pinos Road (used to be called the Cuddy Valley Road) and go five miles to the Mill Portero road which should be signed for Mt. Pinos. Turn left up this road and follow it as it twists and turns its way up the mountain to a large parking area (9 miles) which serves the Mt. Pinos Nordic area (when there is sufficient snow)
Adventure parking passes are required. They can be obtained at the ranger station in Lockwood Valley or any BIG 5 Sporting Goods store; $5 for a day pass, $30 for a year pass.
For more information:
Mount Pinos Ranger District
District Ranger: Tom Kuekes
34580 Lockwood Valley Rd.
Frazier Park, CA, 93225
Phone: 661-245-3731, Fax: 661-245-1526
There is a walkin campsite (Chula Vista) at the parking area, the entrance is to the right of the nordic center building (see picture), and several other National Forest campgrounds (McGill & Mount Pinos) are operated seasonally by concessionaires along the road to the parking area. These double as snow play areas in the winter. There are bears in the area (a mother and cub were near the Chula Vista campground when I was there) so take all preventative mesaures.
McGill Campground (75 sites) is open from April 15 to November 15
Mount Pinos Campground (19 sites) is open from May 15 to November 1
There also is wilderness camping in the Chumash Wilderness, with several designated backcountry camp areas. There are no wilderness permits required except for a free campfire permit obtainable from most any Forest Service or BLM office.
Is Sawmill mountain the Kern County Highpoint? The boundary line between Ventura County and Kern County is just a couple of hundred feet north of the rocks (next to the antenna enclosure) that are the high point of Ventura county. And just a bit north of this is a pile of rocks in a small cluster of pines that many feel may actually be the highpoint of Kern county. If the true county highpoint is the objective, go tag these rocks as well as the two possible spots on Sawmill Mountain and you will have been to the highest point in Kern County.
Pinos is the spanish word for pines. It is named for the many Jeffrey and Limber pines on its slopes.
Ventura County is named for Mission San Buenaventura (named for Saint Bonaventure) and is the 9th and last mission founded by Fr. Junipero Serra and is located in the city of Ventura.