Mount Pinos is a beautiful mountain range in Los Padres National Forest that’s known for hiking, mountain biking, camping, and 4×4 off-roading. Located halfway between Bakersfield and Los Angeles, Mount Pinos is a great place to come enjoy star gazing in the summer and snow activities in the winter.
With expansive mountain views, fresh air, miles of hiking trails, and lush pine forests, Mt Pinos is one of the best hiking regions for those in search of nature that’s relatively close to major Southern California cities.
The most popular trail here is the 3.5-mile-long Mt Pinos hike that leads to scenic viewpoints of Central Valley and Los Angeles in both directions. In this post, we cover where Mt Pinos Trail is located, how to get there, difficulty, and other hiking tips.
Location & Parking
Mt Pinos Hike starts by the Chula Vista Campground in Los Padres National Forest. There is a wide paved road that leads to the Chula Vista Campground and can easily be accessed from Highway 5 in The Grapevine mountain pass.
To get there take the Frazier Road exit off Highway 5. Then continue on Frazier Road until it turns into Cuddy Valley Road and follow that all the way to Chula Vista Campground.
The drive to Mount Pinos is straight forward and paved but there are some windy sections as you near the top. Once you reach the endpoint there is a large parking lot next to the Mt Pinos Nordic Base where you can park and leave your car.
Mt Pinos Trail starts to the left of the Nordic Base building. If you go to the right, you will enter the Chula Vista Campground. We accidentally entered the campground before realizing that we were going the wrong way.
If you’re not sure where the Mt Pinos Trailhead starts, I recommend downloading Maps.Me or AllTrails hiking apps to track your route.
Overall, it takes around 1 hour to get to Mount Pinos from Bakersfield and around 1.5 hours from Los Angeles. This is one of the most picturesque regions in SoCal that is easily accessible but yet little known.
Mt Pinos Trailhead: Forest Rte 9N24, Frazier Park, CA 93225
About Mt Pinos Trail
Mt Pinos Trail is a beautiful 3.5 miles long hike that leads through a forest and ends at Mt Pinos viewpoint. Once you reach the end of the Mt Pinos trail there are some other lookouts that you can go to so we ended up hiking around 4 miles total, out and back.
Mt Pinos Trail is not very difficult but it does steadily gain 500 feet in elevation as you hike to the top. It travels along a wide path that used to be a road and can be rated as easy to moderate.
This hike is great for the entire family and we saw kids and people of all ages on this trail. It is also dog friendly so we brought our pup along with us.
Mt Pinos Trail is part of the Los Padres National Forest, one of the largest National Forests in the country. This trail leads into the Chumash Wilderness, a 38,150 acres large protected wilderness area that is home to over 150 plant species and a variety of wildlife including bears, bobcats, and the endangered California condor.
Despite being so close to Bakersfield, weather at Mount Pinos in the summer stays in the mid-70s, even while Central Valley temps spike past 100. This is thanks to the high altitude – Mount Pinos stands at 8831 feet and is the highest point in Los Padres National Forest.
Many locals come to hike or mountain bike this trail in the summer to escape the heat, do some star gazing and get some exercises.
Hiking Mt Pinos Trail
Mt Pinos Hiking Trail starts by the Mt Pinos Nordic Base parking lot. There are a couple of access points that connect with this trail. We followed the AllTrails hiking map that led us up a small hill to the left of the parking lot.
Right after starting the hike you will pass through a gate. This used to be a drivable road but now is only used for hiking.
Mout Pinos trail is straight forward and leads through a beautiful pine forest. It’s easily accessible so you can expect it to get a bit crowded, especially on the weekends.
Sections of the trail open up to meadows and clearings but most of it does pass in a shaded forest.
The hike goes by very quickly and ends at the Mt Pinos viewpoint.
You will see a large tower to the right so head that way for the best views of Central Valley from the top. Ideally, you want to do this hike on a clear day to see views of Bakersfield and the surrounding landscape.
Mt Pinos viewpoint is located at 8831 feet in elevation and it can be chilly and windy at the top. I brought along a sweater that I was happy to throw on while we enjoyed the views and a quick snack.
Before you head back keep going along the main trail for a couple more minutes until you reach East Tumamait Trailhead and viewpoint.
This section looks out in the direction of Los Angeles to the south, separated by multiple layers of mountains.
Tumamait trail starts at the top of Mt Pinos and leads into Chumash Wilderness. It was named after Vincent Tumamait, a leader of the Chumash Native American people and a storyteller who shared his wisdom and heritage with the public.
There are a couple of benches for resting right by the viewpoint and some information about Chumash history and wildlife that you might encounter at Mount Pinos.
After enjoying the views, we started venturing back down. The trail goes back the same way along the wide path. Some people even stay at the summit to watch sundown, just make sure to bring along a headlamp for the way back.
On our drive home, we stopped by the highly-rated The Red Dot Vegetarian Kitchen restaurant in Frasier Park and ordered a few plates and a fresh juice to go.
Frasier Park is a very small town so we were surprised to find such a highly rated restaurant there but it lived up to our expectations. I got the Malaysian Laksa plate that is very similar to coconut curry – very savory and full of flavor. If you have the extra time, make sure to try it out!
If you plan to stay in the area to explore more of the Los Padres National Forest, there are many charming vacation rentals and cabins in the Pine Mountain Club neighborhood nearby. For Pine Mountain Club cabin availability and reservations see more here!
Other Mount Pinos Tips
- There are no water sources along Mt Pinos Trail so make sure to bring plenty of water for your trip.
- We didn’t see any trashcans anywhere around the trailhead parking lot. Bring along a small trash bag and pack out any trash that you might have.
- If you plan to visit Mount Pinos in the winter, you might need to get chains for your car. Make sure to call the local ranger station and check before your trip.
- In the winter visitors are required to get an Adventure Pass that costs $5 in order to park at the Mt Pinos Nordic Base Parking Lot. This fee is not required in the summer.
- If you plan to stay at the Chula Vista Campground, you don’t need reservations. It works on a first-come-first-serve basis and it’s free to stay at any of the 12 sites available here.
- This area has a high bear activity. Although we didn’t see any, many people report seeing bears around the Chula Vista campsite so make sure to store away any food, preferably in a bear canister if you have one.
Here are a few other awesome hikes near Bakersfield that you may like: