The Los Padres National Forest stretches over 200 miles from the Carmel Valley to the western edge of LA County. It’s a giant playground for hiking, camping, horseback riding and mountain biking.
Several scenic hiking trails lead off Paradise Rd, which crosses Hwy 154 north of San Marcos Pass, over 10 miles from Hwy 101. On the 1-mile round-trip Red Rock Pools Trail, the Santa Ynez River deeply pools among rocks and waterfalls, creating a swimming and sunbathing spot; the trailhead is at the end of Paradise Rd.
Stop at the ranger station for posted trail maps and information and a National Forest Adventure Pass (per day $5), which is required for parking (unless you have an 'America the Beautiful' Annual Pass, $80). Family-friendly campgrounds with drinking water, flush toilets and both first-come, first-served and reservable sites are along Paradise Rd.