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Condor Trail / Los Padres National Forest

Sunday, October 15, 2023 - Sunday, October 22, 2023 -- $1600 ★★★★


The California Condor is a critically endangered bird species that still lives along the somewhat newly formed in the . Although we didn’t see any on our last trip here, come join Fitpacking during October to hopefully see one. Our hike will traverse the lower Sisquoc Loop which follows Manzana Creek in order to be close to water (we hope there is water) in this desert ecosystem. Weather is fair, campsites are plentiful and views are abundant.

The Condor Trail lies only a few hours from Los Angeles in a wonderful seldom-visited area called the San Rafael Wilderness. This wilderness contains oak shaded grasslands, dry plateaus, occasional waterfalls, wind carved sandstone formations, a California condor sanctuary, black bears and an occasional reclusive mountain lions. There's also poison oak.

Our journey will begin at Nira camground. We will head up Manzana Creek before cutting across Hurricane Ridge, where no hurricane has ever touched down. From there we will descend to the Sisquoc River, following the river downstream before crossing over to the historic Manzana Schoolhouse, the lowest elevation on the trip. We'll turn back and head up the Manzana River before finally completing the entire loop at the starting point, Nira.

Topographical Map of Proposed Route

See CalTopo map


Weather is always an important concern when backpacking. Fall is one of the best times to visit since the days are cooling down and are great for hiking. Nearby, Santa Ynez Airport weather averages. show that daytime temperatures are in the 70s and nighttime temps are in the 40s.

Probable Trip Leaders

Rick Romine
Any Other Guide(s) TBD


The climate in this part of California is arid and the region has been under a several-year historical drought so it's possible that water may be scarce and we'll have to carry 2 days worth (8 liters) at times. Translation: Heavy Pack. We just don't know this far ahead, but will let you know as the trip approaches. Note: In 2019, water was plentiful and crossing the Sisquoc often required us to wade through waist-deep water.


$1600 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a hotel room with another trip participant. You will also be responsible for transportation to and from Santa Barbara (SBA) as well as personal equipment, restaurant meals and any gratuities.

Covered expenses include 1 hotel night, 6 days of trail meals, ground transportation, National Forest permits, National Forest fees, campgrounds and awesome guides.

Tipping: In order to keep our prices competitive with (and hopefully favorable to) other outfitters, we shamefully can’t pay our guides as much as we think they deserve. Like most other guiding services, we rely on the generosity of our participants to make up this shortfall by tipping the guides. While tips are not required or expected, if your guides have served you well, please consider a gratuity so they can continue living their extravagant lifestyles of eating powdered meals, sleeping in the dirt and pooping in smelly outhouses and small holes they've dug.


Please be aware that there may be active fires or trail conditions that are affected by fires that have recently been extinguished. We will make alternate plans should this happen. There may also be scarce amounts of water in certain places which would necessitate us carrying up to 8 liters of water on some days.

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Important Note
Difficulty (Please Read)


Sunday, October 15, 2023

Fly or drive into Santa Barbara, CA (SBA), try to arrive by 1PM. If you have had your online shakedown and are fairly ready to hit the road by say 4PM, you can arrive later.

Take free airport shuttle to our local hotel to congregate and meet up:

We will assemble at: TBD, To Be Determined

Mini equipment shakedown, mostly going over what you already reviewed in your virtual shakedown

Make-Your-Own trail mix bar from a surfeit of provided ingredients

"Before" body composition measurements taken

Trip to REI, 321 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 560-1938, for forgotten or last minute equipment. Closes 8:00 pm (6PM on Sundays)

Your off-trail bag(s) will be put in storage at the hotel or storage unit. Please limit the size and number of bags you are storing.

At around 3PM, shuttle to campsite: Nira Campground, Los Padres National Forest. Site(s) TBD Elevation: 1875'

Shuttling will take about 1.5 hours

Guides prepare dinner in camp. On some trips with longer shuttle times, we may opt to go out for an opening dinner at a local restaurant. (Cost of restaurant dinner not included in trip price)

Camp at Nira Campground, Los Padres National Forest. Site(s) TBD Elevation: 1875'

Monday, October 16, 2023

Second set of "before" measurements taken

Begin Hiking at Nira, elevation 1788'

Hike 6.8 miles to Manzana Narrows, elevation 3032'

Water is reliable here

Camp at Manzana Narrows, elevation 3032'

Distance today: 6.8 miles. Total to date: 6.8 miles

Possible Bailout: Nira

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Hike 0.5 miles to the Manzana Trail, elevation 3143'

Turn left and hike 3.4 uphill miles to Happy Hunting Ground, elevation 3507'

Hike 3.6 downhill miles to Lonnie Davis, elevation 2664’. The water is beautiful here.

Camp at Lonnie Davis, elevation 2664’.

Distance today: 7.5 miles. Total to date: 14.3 miles

Possible Bailout: Nira

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Hike 0.6 miles to South Fork, elevation 2480'. There is reliable water and a ranger station near here.

Turn Left on the Condor Trail

Hike 9.5 miles on the Lower Sisquoc Trail to Cliff, elevation 1791'

Camp at Cliff, elevation 1791'

Distance today: 10.1 miles. Total to date: 24.4 miles

Possible Bailout: No good options, over a day away

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Hike 6.7 miles on the Condor Trail / Lower Sisquoc Trail to Water Canyon, elevation 1329’

Camp at Water Canyon, elevation 1329’

Distance today: 6.7 miles. Total to date: 31.1 miles

Possible Bailout: No good options, over a day away

Friday, October 20, 2023

Hike 4.1 miles on the Condor Trail / Lower Sisquoc Trail to Manzana Schoolhouse, elevation 1162'

Manzana Schoolhouse is the lowest elevation on this trip

Turn left off the Condor Trail and hike 4.0 miles on a dirt road following Manzana Creek to Horseshoe Bend, elevation 1431'

Hike 1.4 miles on the Manzana Trail to Coldwater, elevation 1534'

Camp at Coldwater, elevation 1534'

Distance today: 9.5 miles. Total to date: 40.6 miles

Possible Bailout: Private dirt roads near Manzana Schoolhouse

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Hike 2.8 miles on the Manzana Trail to Sunset Road, elevation 1739'

Hike 0.4 miles on Sunset Road to NIRA, elevation 1788'

End of Hiking

Distance today: 3.2 miles. Total to date: 43.8 miles

Shuttle back to local hotel: TBD, To Be Determined

Gather your off-trail items from storage

After body composition measurements taken

Dinner and awards ceremony at a local restaurant (Dinner cost not included in trip price)

Stay in our local hotel (included in trip cost)

This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

There will either be a free airport shuttle, we may drop you at the airport or we may order a shared cab/Uber to get you there.

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