Los Padres National Forest

A cool experience with 6 to 10 mile hikes
Pups are welcome at camp and on hiking trails
Driving to and sleeping at a campground

Splashing in Salmon Creek Waterfalls in Silver Peak Wilderness

Splashing in Salmon Creek Waterfalls in Silver Peak Wilderness

Splashing in Salmon Creek Waterfalls in Silver Peak Wilderness

Splashing in Salmon Creek Waterfalls in Silver Peak Wilderness

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Last updated
May 17, 2024

Trip · 3-day camping trip

For · Families

Vibe · Moderate and fun

Permits · No need for a wilderness permit, just fill out a CA campfire permit online and reserve a campsite

Drive · 4 hours from LA and SF

Ideal dates · November to March to see the seals and the best waterfalls

Pets · Welcome on trails and campgrounds

Los Padres National Forest  (LPNF) boasts a whopping ten wilderness areas: Ventana, Silver Peak, Santa Lucia, Garcia, Machesna, San Rafael, Dick Smith, Matilija, Sespe, and Chumash. In total, the forest has a mind blowing 1.75 million acres. This trek takes you through Silver Peak Wilderness, which is supervised by the Monterey Ranger District, and covers 31,555 acres along the central coast. You'll walk through chaparral scrub to pockets of dense redwood forest—with seaside vistas and flowing streams. Did we mention there's a glorious waterfall too?

Official National Forest Website

Official Fire Restrictions

Directions to Campsite

Main image credit: Wikipedia

Stuff to know

  • There are critters in the Silver Peak Wilderness. Make sure you pack up your food and scented items in the car or an animal proof container when they’re not in use.
  • Mosquitoes, horseflies, and ticks like to hang out during the summer. Bring yo' bug spray, or even better a bug net.
  • Watch out for poison oak, especially if you venture off-trail.
  • Make sure you check campfire restrictions before you go! Restrictions happen seasonally, depending on how high the wildfire risk is.
  • Practice Leave No Trace! That means packing out any trash and making sure you keep an eye out for litter.
Check the weather
Salmon Creek Waterfall in Silver Peak Wilderness

Where to camp

Plaskett Creek Campground

Each campsite comes with a:

  • Picnic table
  • Fire pit
  • Space for up to 6 people
  • Two parking spots
  • Vault toilets & flushing toilets (on site)
  • Drinking water

Plaskett Creek Campground offers a beautiful location just minutes from Sand Dollar Beach, one of the largest and most popular beaches in central California. The campground gives visitors access to a variety of outdoor activities, including water play and exploration of the surrounding hills and forests. The family-friendly campground offers comfortably equipped sites, allowing anyone to enjoy a relaxing stay in the Los Padres National Forest.

Check-in: Noon · Check-out: Noon

Nightly Rate: $45

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Day One

Plaskett Creek Campground. Credit: Recreation.gov

Leave LA in the morning

  • Last pit stop · Mini Mart and Gas - 19019 CA-1 in Ragged Point
  • Nearest grocery store · Linn's Gourmet Goods - 4241 Bridge Street in Cambria
  • Pick up a sandwich, cup of soup, and/or a slice of pie at Linn's!

Arrive at Plaskett Creek Campground and check in to your site

  • Arrive at the site and get your tent and gear set up.

Explore Sand Dollar Beach

  • This beach is across the highway from the campground
  • True to its name, the beach is known for the sand dollars that wash up on its shores, especially during the low tides of the winter months
  • The 0.4 mile easy out and back Sand Dollar Beach Trail will take you up and down the shore.
  • Explore the Jade Cove at the northern end of the beach and the sea caves at the south end of the beach.

Cook up dinner and chill

  • Enjoy your night and get dinner ready. For an easy dinner that the kids can participate in, try foil campfire dinner packets with your favorite veggies, protein, and sauce.
  • Enjoy the night around the fire and tell some campfire stories about America’s national parks from this book.
Silver Peak is named for "the silvery sheen of the chaparral vegetation that covers its slopes," according to the USFS wilderness map

Day Two

Salmon Creek Falls. Credit: Adventure Hacks.

Make brekkie and head out to explore Salmon Creek Falls

  • Enjoy a quick breakfast at the campsite. Think of a classic that you enjoyed on the weekends growing up, like bacon and eggs.

Explore Salmon Creek Falls via the Salmon Creek Trail

  • This easy 0.3 mile out and back trail will take you from trailhead parking to the waterfalls
  • Once there, explore the waterfall and let your whimsy take hold

Head back to camp for lunch

  • Enjoy a lunch at your campsite and take an afternoon siesta

Checkout the Redwood Gulch

  • This easy 0.6 mile out and back trail will take you through a hidden valley of the southernmost Redwoods in North America

Enjoy dinner your last night at camp

  • Relax for your last night at camp and take in the wilderness and stars.
Silver Peak Wilderness is known for its lush and unique vegetation along the creeks. This includes fern-covered canyons, grass and oak-dotted meadows, and heavy timber. The Wilderness hides the world's southernmost stand of redwoods, an isolated grove of coastal redwoods.


Lombardi’s Pasta Familia. Credit: Facebook

Pack up and leave camp by 10 AM

  • Cook up brekkie, pick up any random pieces of litter around camp, and save some snacks for the return trek
  • Make sure you have enough water and snacks for the car ride back home

Catch a view of the Elephant Seals on the way home

  • Stop off at the Elephant Seal Vista Point to see elephant seals and their newborn babies during peak seasons.
  • An estimated 18,000 seals visit California’s coasts during their peak breeding season from November to March.

Check out Lombardi’s Pasta Familia for lunch on the way back

  • This family-friendly Italian restaurant in Cambria is sure to please even the pickiest of kids.
  • Located at 4851 Bridge St in Cambria, about a forty-minute drive from Salmon Creek Trailhead
  • Open Every Day · 11:30 AM - 9:00 PM

Head home!

California has the second largest number of wilderness areas in the nation (Alaska has the most)

June 1, 2024

Bewilder at LAist Super-Fun Saturday

Make wildflower seed bombs with Bezzi the Yeti at LAist's Super Fun Saturday

Event in 2 days

Bewilder Basecamp: Spooky Wonders

Join Bezzi the Yeti on her first spooky camping adventure!

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Bezzi's Pick

NEMO 4-person Aurora Highrise

This colorful tent has plenty of standing room, is easy to set up, and pack out!

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NEMO Stargaze Reclining Camp Chair

Lean back, and we mean all the way back, in this comfy camp chair. You'll never want to sit up.

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NEMO Moonlander Camp Table

We can confirm that these camp tables withstand hot bevvies and rock collections.

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Food For The Sole Blueberry Banana Crunch

Gluten Free • Vegan

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Packit Gourmet Diner Deluxe Eggs with Sausage

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Campfire cinnamon roll ups


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Brookside Dark Chocolate Covered Blueberries


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Angie's Boom Chicka Pop

Gluten Free · Vegan

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Santa Cruz Organic Apple Sauce

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Summer rolls with almond butter satay

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Dan dan noodles

Gluten Free · Vegan

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Asian chicken lettuce wraps

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Pho ramen

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Curry ramen

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Peanut butter cheesecake overnight oats


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