A stream that flows yearlong through Lopez Canyon into Lopez Lake, lush streamside vegetation, and chaparral-covered slopes and peaks that rise above the canyon are the prime ingredients in the lightly visited Santa Lucia Wilderness. Elevations range from about 800 feet down in Lopez Canyon to about 3,000 feet near Hi Mountain Lookout at the eastern end.
Hiking the Lopez Canyon Trail along the stream will expose you to a wide assortment of vegetation, including stands of ancient oaks, much of them flourishing where a wildfire raged in 1985.
You can access the 5.3 miles of the Lopez Canyon Trail from East Cuesta Ridge and find pleasant campsites near the stream. Two 3.5-mile trails descend near Little Falls (with its 50-foot waterfall) and Big Falls (with a pair of dramatic waterfalls) into the canyon from the southern boundary. Mostly managed by the Forest Service, the Wilderness extends onto Bureau of Land Management land in the northwest and southeast corners.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Santa Lucia Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.