Where Do I Need an Adventure Pass in Southern California?

Southern California’s ubiquitous Adventure Pass system was dealt another blow this week, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals announced a long-awaited settlement in an ongoing legal battle between the U.S. Forest Service and Arizona hikers that was first heard in 2012.

According to the settlement, the Forest Service will no longer charge access fees for almost 400,000 acres of public land in the Southwest, and will only be allowed to charge fees near developed trailheads and other sites with six specific amenities: developed parking, a permanent toilet, trash receptacles, picnic tables, interpretive signs, and security services. In addition, the Forest Service has agreed that alternate parking 0.5 mile from each of these developed areas will be fee-free, so that users who simply want to utilize the trails in the area can park for free (assuming they don’t mind adding an extra mile of hiking to their trip).

The Forest Service has identified 66 specific sites that will currently require a user fee, and they will be installing additional signs marking the boundaries of these fee areas so that users know exactly where they can park their cars without having to pay. Signs are expected to be installed during the summer of 2016 and Kitty Benzar, the President of the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition (which advised the plaintiffs during the court proceedings), said “It is our understanding that there will be no fee enforcement at these sites until the signs are in place.”

In Southern California, the sites that will require a fee (once signs are installed) are as follows: (note that the settlement document did contain some typos in these place names. I’ve tried to correct the ones I’m familiar with.

Angeles National Forest / San Gabriel Mountains National Monument:

  • 6000′ Day Use Area
  • Buckhorn Station Day Use Area
  • Burkhart Trailhead
  • Chantry Flats Day Use
  • Charlton Flat Day Use
  • Chilao Picnic Area
  • Colby Bridge Day Use
  • Delta Flats Day Use
  • Devil’s Canyon Day Use Area
  • Eagle’s Roost Day Use Area
  • East Fork of the San Gabriel River
  • Grassy Hollow Picnic
  • Icehouse Canyon Trailhead
  • Indian Canyon Trailhead
  • Inspiration Point
  • Islip Saddle Day Use
  • Jarvi Memorial Day Use
  • Mill Creek Summit Picnic
  • Millard Day Use
  • Mt. Pacifico Trailhead
  • North Fork Picnic
  • Oak Springs Picnic
  • Oak Springs Trailhead
  • Piru Ponds Day Use
  • Pony Park Day Use
  • Red Box Picnic
  • Skyline Park
  • Stonyvale Day Use
  • Switzer’s Picnic
  • Three Points Day Use
  • Upper Bear Creek
  • Vincent Gap
  • Vogel Flat Day Use
  • West Fork Trailhead
  • Wildwood Day Use
  • Wilson Saddle
  • Windy Gap (Little Jimmy) Trailhead

Cleveland National Forest:

  • Aqua Dulce Trailhead
  • Dripping SpringsTrailhead
  • El Cariso Picnic
  • Falcon Trailhead (at Blue Jay)
  • Holy Jim Trailhead
  • Hotsprings Trailhead
  • Laguna Trailhead
  • Maple Springs Trailhead
  • Meadows Trailhead
  • Pine Creek Trailhead
  • Pioneer Mail
  • San Juan Trailhead (at Blue Jay)
  • Tenaja Trailhead

Los Padres National Forest:

  • Piedra Blanca

San Bernardino National Forest:

  • Aspen Glen
  • Big Falls & Vivian Trailhead
  • Bonita Falls Trailhead
  • Children’s Forest
  • Cougar Crest
  • Falls Picnic
  • Grays Peak Trailhead
  • Heaps Peak Trailhead (No fee if you stay in your vehicle)
  • Humber Park
  • Juniper Point
  • Meadows Edge
  • Middle Fork
  • South Fork
  • Splinter Cabin
  • Woodland Trailhead

You can read the entire settlement here if you’re in the mood for legalese (PDF).

We have been following the case for several years and we think this is a fair compromise between people who utilize the developed areas of the National Forests and those who tend to stay in the backcountry. The new signs will hopefully alleviate some of the massive confusion that has resulted from the piecemeal solutions that have been in place thus far, and will ensure that the forests can continue having access to a badly needed source of revenue — that, fairly, comes from users in areas that tend to have a heavier footprint on the landscape.


Featured Image “All Vehicles Must Display a Forest Adventure Pass” by Thomas Hawk. Used by Creative Commons License.

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