TIP: The best time to visit Mount Pinos for stargazing is on Saturday nights closest to the new moon during warm weather months. The parking lot fills with astronomers and organizations like the Ventura County Astronomical Society. Many of the regulars will let you take a peek through their serious gear—everything from Dobsonian to apochromatic telescopes.
Mount Pinos is about 22 miles northwest of the Frazier Park exit from Interstate 5. Follow Frazier Mountain Park Rd west for about 7.2 miles, and at the intersection with Lockwood Valley Rd, stay right onto Cuddy Valley Rd. In another 5 miles, you’ll reach a junction with Mil Potrero Rd, where you’ll follow signs for Mount Pinos as you stay straight for Mount Pinos Rd. Continue about 10 miles to the end of the road and park at the Nordic Center. Arrive well before dark in order to get a parking spot and to avoid using headlights, which disrupts the astronomers. Adventure Passes ($5) are required on Mount Pinos (though there are a couple of campgrounds where they're not), and can be purchased Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Mount Pinos Ranger District Office (34580 Lockwood Valley Rd; 661-245-3731). Passes are also available at several businesses in Frazier Park; a list of the locations is available at the Forest Service website. Dog-friendly, but not ideal around all the fragile telescopes.