Mt. Piños / Sawmill Mtn. (dayhike)

Trip Date: 6/12/2016

Location: Los Padres National Forest, Chumash Wilderness

Permit/Pass: None


Directions: From Interstate 5 between Gorman and Lebec, take the Frazier Mountain Park Rd. exit (Exit 205) and head west on Frazier Mtn. Pk. Rd. for just over seven miles, at which point the road name changes to Cuddy Valley Rd. but continues straight for another five miles. Here, the road forks, with Mill Potrero Hwy veering off to the right and Cuddy Valley Rd. continuing straight. Stay on Cuddy Valley Rd. for another eight and a half miles as it climbs and winds its way up the mountainside, eventually dead-ending at the parking lot for the Mt. Piños Nordic Base. The trailhead for the Mt. Piños trail is at the southwestern corner of the lot.

Synopsis: Beginning at above 8200 feet, this trail is a cool and verdant slice of mountain pine forest hiking with a couple of summits thrown in for good measure. Neither is a difficult climb, though to get both you do have to make pretty much the same climb three times. However, for that effort the hiker can claim the highest peaks in both Ventura and Kern counties - not to mention some truly wonderful views.

Trail sequence: Mt. Piños Rd.-Cuddy Valley Rd. / Tumamait Trail / Mt. Piños Rd.-Cuddy Valley Rd.

Type: Out and back

Distance: 7.5 miles

Elevation: Min. - 8301', Max. - 8823'


Rating: Moderate (factors: altitude, elevation gain, length)

Notes: I haven't yet figured out the official name for the trail that leaves from the Nordic Base to the Mt. Piños summit. It was once (and may still be at certain times) a fire road open to vehicle travel all the way to the peak. It seems to have previously been known as a continuation of Cuddy Valley Rd., as well as having been called Mt. Piños Rd. I've also seen it referred to as the Mt. Piños trail. At least the single-track trail that heads west toward Sawmill Mtn. is only known, as far as I can tell, by "Tumamait Trail."

Track: Mt. Piños / Sawmill Mtn. - Los Padres NF: Everytrail, GaiaGPS 

Turn by Turn:

 -- Pick up the fire road at the southwestern end of the parking area. The hillside next to the lot has been ravaged by people who cut off the extra walk, but go ahead and take the hit for acting like a junior ranger (who cares what anyone else thinks, anyway?) and try to minimize your effects on the environment.

  -- A few hundred feet up the dirt road you pass a gate. Just after which the trail dips and bit and forks. Take the left (ascending) fork and begin the climb to the summit. 

  -- The old road ascends steadily at first to the northwest, then heads west until it levels out at a very pretty meadow. You meander up and down a bit again before coming to what looks like a cell tower next to some solar panels. Some websites suggest this is the Mt. Piños summit. It's not. Continue on a short distance to a wide area (previously a turnaround for vehicles) with some signs, a bench, and the trailhead for the Tumamait Trail. This is the Mt. Piños summit.

  -- To continue on to Sawmill Mtn., pick up the Tumamait Trail and follow the immediate left fork (the right just goes to an observation spot) as the trail switchbacks down the west side of Mt. Piños to a saddle between the two high points. There are a few steep sections near the saddle on either side, and it can be a bit rocky, but the going soon smooths out.

  -- As the trail continues to climb to the west, you once again negotiate a short, steep section before leveling out near the top. The trail veers to the west again before coming to a junction on the right with a spur trail (at the time of this writing there were branches marking off the trail). This is the path to the Sawmill Mtn. summit.

  -- It's a brief, relatively level walk over to the stone structure marking the top of Sawmill Mtn. From here the views are wide and, if clear, vast.

  -- As you return, remember to take a left (east) upon regaining the Tumamait Trail, after which all that is required (besides climbing up Mt. Piños again, from the west this time) is to follow your outbound path along the fire road back down to the parking lot.

Video: Youtube