Southern California National Forest and PCT Maps

Southern California is a very special place.  Within a short drive of some of the nation’s largest and most sprawling cities one can find utter solitude and isolation within the refuge of its local National Forest lands.  With perhaps the highest number of potential users per protected square mile, it can also get quite crowded.  Here, more than most places, it is important that everyone respect the rules set forth by the Forest Service in order to ensure all users a fair shake.  A National Forest is a great place to learn that you are not the most important thing in the world.

Much of Southern California’s National Forest land varies wildly with elevation.  Below 3000 ft or so, the landscape is generally dominated by chaparral, scrub and Manzanita oak.  In places, it can be barren desert.  Cover is scarce and heat can become a serious issue in the summer due to the inland nature of the parks (coastal Padre NF is the exception).

From 3000 ft to around 6000 ft, the forests transition into larger trees with little underbrush.  These elevations tend to be more temperate and can experience a freak snowstorm or two in the fall and winter months, but by and large are still dryer.

Above 6000 ft, persistent snow can exist during winter months making travel and recreation a different kind of beast.  Trees become scarcer the higher up one travels and weather can be an issue at any time.  Summer time thunderstorms winter storms keep things interesting.  Topping out at over 11,000 ft, Southern California can show a National Forest user all four seasons in one day.  Prepare.

California has so many National Forests that we had to break it up into north and south.  The general line of demarcation was drawn between Santa Cruz on the coast to Mono Lake on the far side of the Sierra. 

National Forests to the south of this line include:  Cleveland National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, Sierra National Forest, Inyo National Forest, Padre National Forest, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, San Bernardino National Forest, Angeles National Forest.