Sunday, January 26, 2014

Devils Gate and Environs

Some days are just for exploring. 
It can be awfully nice not to have a stated goal, just to go see what's what and come home with sore legs and some nice pictures.

Downstream of Devils Gate.

Devils Gate on the Lower Sespe marks the end of wilderness on that waterway. I'd say that the Sespe from Alder Creek to Devils Gate is the only true and untrammeled wilderness along it's entire length. Chalk that up to it's rough and remote nature, I've been through there a few times, but on those prior occasions I was generally too thrashed to pay much attention to my surroundings. The Sespe between Tar Creek and Devils Gate is somewhat tiring and difficult to navigate due to thousands of gigantic boulders. Good route finding skills can spare the traveller a lot of effort but it's a tough stretch whichever way one goes. I call this stretch of habitat the Sespe Rock Garden, and there are some truly titanic examples in there. I'm going to have to schedule a day to go back and just shoot artsy black&white photos of rocks and water.  This is also prime real estate for many species of migratory waterfowl, and this day's showing was good. Somehow the water levels are holding up, the pools are deep, and the many small cascades are still kicking, the trout still swimming.

Devils Gate from upstream.

I was joined on this day by a fellow named Mike who I've linked up with recently for some rock art stuff. He was game for some exploration off and above the creek so that's what we did. We selected a random rocky drainage to climb and get above it all. No real idea what we'd find, if anything. We sure didn't expect to stumble into a few acres of pristine oak forest well above the Sespe, but that's what happened. We had some fun rockaneering the immense talus below this eden, climbing for a good 1,000ft before the land leveled off and we found ourselves traipsing through the trees. I have to say it was really neat to uncover this totally unexpected little gem (which is why they call it "exploring"). After a nice lunch and with nothing else to see up there we dropped back down to the Sespe where I stripped and ducked in for a quick bath. The rest of the day we spent fooling around near the Gate. All in all, a fun day of exploring for exploration's sake. Enjoy the photos.

Mike, gettin' sketchy.

A thin slice of paradise.

One of the many naturally occurring oil seeps in the Lower Sespe.


  1. David.....good run my friend; enjoyed every minute of the workout. Agreed, there's some beautiful real estate to be had in the Devils Gate neighborhood. BTW, mighty impressed on the climbing and navigation skills; you run a clean line.

  2. Thanks M, exploration for its own sake is almost always worth the effort. -DS

  3. David. We need to go "charge it together" brother. I'm a Ventura local and am totally enamored and curious about the surrounding Los Padres. I usually struggle to find anyone to keep up/have the desire to truly explore. I'm always up for an adventure if you want/need a companion. You can email me @

  4. Where do you park to access the devils gate? Looks intriguing

  5. I generally park off the shoulder of the first few turns of Goodenough Rd and descend into the Sespe drainage and go upstream from there. Beware of the private property holding on the west side of the Sespe. The residents are touchy. -DS

  6. The trail's on the left through the oaks. It might be pretty faint since the private property owner has made access difficult. We used to hike in that way all the way to West fork.

  7. Thank you for sharing this beautiful hike.

    I tried this hike last month up to a mile above the gate. I parked my car at the end of grand ave. From behind the gate a young man spoke to me nicely to make sure i don't walk on the west side of the river bed as some of his relatives are touchy. On my way out, I got into a residential area along the grand and was told to leave the area as I was in their private property. I needed to backtrack a bit and get on the river..... Coming back to my car this way was also a hassle since I needed to bushwhack quite a bit...

    Next time I should try to park on Goodenough Rd as you suggested. I tried it actually but when I went there, the road was also gated and turn into Squaw Flat Rd which goes up the hill quick. I don't know this is something you could share here online but I wonder what you meant is to park along the orchard or park up on the forest rd? In either case, I will have to go through some private lands so I can easily be challenged I guess.... Any hints are appreciated here.
    -Kaz O

  8. I’m also curious as to parking access here and wondering if any spots would be safe to leave a car for
    several days for a multi night expedition. Let me know! Peace.