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Bear Basin Trail

Trail Report

In the form below, enter a Subject line or title (optional), the date you hiked the trail, and a a rating as to the general passability of that trail then follow up with a more detailed narrative of the specific conditions or problems encountered. For the longer trails some folks like to segment the specific conditions part of their reports, reporting conditions in a serial fashion between landmarks such as camps or junctions. This is fine so long as the entire report is specific to a particular named trail.

Enter the code exactly as it appears. All letters are case insensitive.
Wilderness Freeway: Heavily used and well maintained.
Clear: No obstacles and tread well defined.
Passable: Some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident.
Difficult: Brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread.
Impassable: Completely overgrown or tread obliterated.

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Topic review

Expand view Topic review: Bear Basin Trail

Re: Bear Basin Trail

Post by Chris F on Tue Dec 26, 2017 11:23 am

Date Hiked: December 21, 2017
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

The trail itself was easy enough to follow, the brush was heavy from the waist up but relatively easy to push through. Luckily it was 28 degrees so no ticks, I sure would not want to go through if it was wet and warm!

Re: Bear Basin Trail

Post by AMHamilton on Mon Apr 25, 2016 9:37 am

Date Hiked: April 3, 2016
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Followed bear basin trail south from Pine Valley for ~1 mile, and attempted to find the cutoff East towards Pine Valley Trail. First half mile of steep ascent from Pine Valley is decent trail, but once the trail crests the track become steadily less clear, with numerous fallen trees blocking the trail and progressively heavier brush proceeding south. By the point of the east-ward cutoff connecting Bear Basin Trail to Pine Valley Trail, the trail completely disappears into disrepair with many false trails and heavy brush rendering it essentially inoperable. Avoid if possible.

Re: Bear Basin Trail

Post by davidjohnbremer on Fri Apr 08, 2016 4:46 pm

Date Hiked: April 4, 2016
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

We hiked this trail from Pine Valley to the Pine Ridge Trail. Overall it was in pretty nice shape. It is a vigorous climb out of Pine Valley. There were a few fallen trees, but mostly a very nice, clear trail. BEWARE: When you get to the top of the hill climbing out of Pine Valley, you come across a huge fallen tree that appears to have been there for some time. It appears as though the trail continues slightly to the right of this giant log. We ignorantly proceeded this way, and all was good at first. Clearly some maintenance had recently been done on the trail. There were sections that had been cleared and brush had been cut away. However, things get bad pretty quickly. This "trail" has you scampering down treacherous hillsides and ultimately the trail simply disappears. At this point you can see Bear Basin off to your right, perhaps 200 feet below. Eventually we realized that we had gone down the wrong way and backtracked maybe a quarter mile to the giant log. Perhaps someone had made a half-hearted attempt to restore the trail into Bear Basin? Not sure, but clearly we weren't the first ones to travel down this trail of doom. The trail that we should have been on (the one that leads to Pine Valley trail) is at the FAR LEFT end of the giant log. From here it was easy. Some encroaching brush, but overall very nice. The intersection with Pine Valley Trail was well marked, and from there it was on to Pine Ridge Camp.

[Ed.note: FYI at one time, within the past year, there were flags at each end of the junction between the Bear Basin and Bear Basin Connector, near each end of the downed tree, to guide hikers from one to the other, so they would not continue on to the now overgrown continuation of the Bear Basin Trail]

Re: Bear Basin Trail

Post by runcyclegirl on Mon Jun 02, 2014 10:23 pm

Date Hiked: May 17, 2014
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

This report is for the Bear Basin Connector.

We hiked this section from Pine Valley to Pine Ridge Trail and found it in very good shape, if not for a few clusters of down trees
I would have rated it a "wilderness freeway". Below are photos of the mentioned "clusters". Overall, they were easy to walk around
and/or step over. One tree required a brief scramble up slope causing some tread damage.

Brush-wise the trail is in excellent shape, hardly a scratch from a branch :).

Maria Ferdin

First "cluster" coming up from Pine Valley


This one required going into brush to get around it. It's located near the ridge.

This set is located on the ridge (near the Pine Ridge side) after the nice view of Bear Basin.

Re: Bear Basin Trail

Post by jack_glendening on Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:17 pm

Date Hiked : September 11, 2013
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Ample water found at Bear Basin Camp in this dry year. Tread to camp largely non-existent.

Re: Bear Basin Trail

Post by jack_glendening on Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:25 am

Date Hiked : June 26, 2013
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)


I'd been thinking about doing a backpack to Bear Basin Camp since I think it's a lovely spot. But the last Trail Report gave me pause, so decided instead on a dayhike first to assess the current conditions.

Remnants of the old trail could be followed, with difficulty, for 0.2 miles from the Bear Basin Connector. But beyond that I could find no tread, despite using my GPS to roughly follow a track of the old route. I did find a few cairns, which looked lonely because the tread once there is no more. It was definitely rough and difficult, much more so than my last trip (or at least my memory of my last trip) and would have been very difficult with a backpack. On my last trip I'd found some sections beyond the initial 0.2 miles showing some apparent use, but on this trip found none. So I expect I will be changing the route marked on my Big Sur Trailmap from a "use trail" to "historic", meaning "lost". Currently this is essentially a bushwhack, though likely made easier by approximately following the old route.

Bear Basin Camp is attractive, with a lovely view. I found a main and an auxiliary fire ring, the former with rock "seats". To address the concerns of the previous post, Bear Basin Camp is in a large flat area amid oak and _ponderosa_ pine trees (small cones). It seems only lightly touched by the 2008 fire, though evidence of the fire is abundant elsewhere. The pines here are all thriving (I saw only two upright dead trees in the camp area, both relatively small and with bare branches.) The stream 150 ft NE of the camp was running well when I was there - the Sierra Club Trail Guide says there is "ample water through mid-summer".

Lonely Bear Basin Camp awaits those seeking solitude and a beautiful view of Uncle Sam mountain and the Carmel River drainage. But the absence of a usable trail means potential users will find access difficult. Bear Basin Camp has now joined those other camps which must be considered "lost" to the average hiker (but is less "lost" than some others, such as Vado).

Lonely sentinel, a monument to bygone days
Fire ring with stone seats
Bear Basin Camp panorama - firering is just left of forked oak tree (click to enlarge)

Re: Bear Basin Trail

Post by mikesplain on Wed May 15, 2013 3:29 pm

Date Hiked: May 10, 2013
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Connector to Pine Valley-

Clear overall, with a bit of deadfall and encroaching brush here and there, but never ambiguous,
save for a short stretch at the very bottom- watch for flagging tape to stay on course.
No one else encountered.

Re: Bear Basin Trail

Post by mikesplain on Wed May 15, 2013 3:28 pm

Date Hiked : May 10, 2013
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Bear Basin / Pine Valley Connector to Bear Basin Camp-
departing from the top of the ridge, the first hundred yards or so of this trail are quite evident, but it fades into oblivion in short order
and one must pick through alternating dense brush, overhead ceanothus and steeply sloping meadows, with lots of up and down on the way to the "camp", which, despite having seen it several times before, I was unable to locate this time.
Maybe that's for the better, since Bear Basin was ground zero during the 2008 wildfires and most of its large pines and incense-cedars are now dead with dangerous "widow-maker" branches awaiting enough of a breeze to come crashing down.
No sign of anyone this day nor much sign of anyone having hiked here recently.

Re: Bear Basin Trail

Post by bigsurnut on Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:23 pm

Date Hiked : March 22, 2013
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

So, as far as I can tell, this trail does not exist. My buddy and I decided to bushwack it nonetheless, and we made it to Bear Basin camp where we expected the trail to appear and be somewhat visible. Alas, no such luck. We bushwacked our way back up to the ridge and found the Bear Basin Trail connector, which then lead us to the one section of the bear basin trail that is there (which is quite clear). Don't know how anyone would get down to Bear Basin campsite, though.

Re: Bear Basin Trail

Post by jack_glendening on Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:54 am

Date Hiked : February 1, 2013
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)


I went out to explore the western-most end of the "lost" south/west section of the Bear Basin Trail, which is southwest of the Bear Basin Connector Trail. I'd previously hiked that as far west as Bear Basin Camp but had heard that a cairn-following route once existed up to the intersection of the Pine Ridge and Black Cone Trails. I'd noted that such a trail is depicted on USGS quadrangle map, but Trail Reports indicate the depicted route was not the actual trail in 2000, if it ever was. This trail has long been somewhat dubious, as back in 1988 Schaffer noted;
"The climb south, by whichever route you choose, is overly steep, and the bushwhacking near the top is horrendous."
and his depicted trail stops at Bear Basin Camp. And the previous Trail Reports indicate that this trail has a long history of being spotty at best.

My main goal was to find the cairns which once marked the route. To help find them, I used a GPS track from a Meetup hike of Robert Barringer in 2010, which indicated the most apparent route at that time.

Starting from the PineRidge-BlackCone trail intersection, I first explored the USGS trail route, which soon led to a gully filled with brush - if that route ever was the actual trail, it certainly is not usable now. I then followed beaten-down grass and faint tread --indicating some recent use-- along the ridgeline to a slope where a pine-filled flat could be seen below. Seeing no apparent path, I headed straight down a brush-free slope following the GPS track - while steep, the slope could nevertheless be negotiated (with difficulty) with a backpack. I was rewarded by finding my first cairn, a very large one (#302 - see photo below)! I continued on to another cairn (#302) but then departed from the GPS track to follow a noticeable tread - the GPS track route was in the opposite direction, and likely this tread was not visible from below. Reaching its apparent end, I switchbacked and was rewarded by finding more cairns, some rocks lining the route, and a flag to cairn #309, then continued to what appeared to be a fallen cairn at #311. At that point no route was apparent, so I followed the GPS track down a steep, brushy, broken slope with much evidence of erosion - finally finding another cairn at #320. That "treacherous slope" was very difficult and dicey, with uncertain footing - I'd consider it not do-able, and dangerous, with a backpack. There was certainly no tread!

Continuing onward by what seemed the most apparent route, guided by the GPS track, I found cairn #325. That was my last cairn and there was no apparent route beyond this - I simply followed the most open route which roughly followed the GPS track direction, eventually ending up at a "handshake point" (#334) that I'd previously reached coming the opposite direction. The last section I passed through had much deadfall of large trees blocking easy passage, making it obvious why I'd stopped where I did on my previous hike going the opposite direction.

I feel that I have found what essentially was the old "Bear Basin" route. It was generally passable (with difficulty) with backpack except for the "treacherous slope" section between cairns #311 and #320. Perhaps there was a tread there which has eroded. Perhaps there was a different route, such as a switchback. Perhaps a better route can be found between those cairns, i.e. to the west of the straight-line route between them.!

For anyone interested in exploring this area themselves, I've uploaded a Google Earth file of the below map depicting my route (red) and Robert's 2010 route (blue) with cairns depicted as green circles (usually twice, since I marked them on both descent and ascent)

And I've also shown a "Bear Basin Usetrail" depicted in orange. Since this route is still marked by cairns and by some tread, and except for one section can be backpacked (with difficulty), I've decided to place this "Bear Basin Usetrail" onto my on-line trailmap (, using my best route estimate (which includes all cairns) since there is no single apparent route. The intent is to serve as guide rather than an exact route and includes a warning about the "treacherous slope" section (echoing Schaffer's comment). In addition to the section I just hiked, this "use trail" includes the section north/east of Bear Basin Camp which I'd previously hiked. While the tread of the latter often disappears, it is relatively open and thus passable so long as one knows where one is going. Whereas this route is "impassable" as a trail, in the sense that tread is largely non-existent, it "passable" as a route, in the sense that it is not blocked by brush. I do not concur with Schaffer's comment that "bushwhacking near the top is horrendous", at least for the route I used (where I take "bushwhacking" to mean "having to push through brush").

If you have never been to Bear Basin, or if desiring solitude, consider it as a off-the-beaten-path destination.
Bear Basin Camp has wonderful views of the Carmel River watershed and Uncle Sam Mountain - but for backpacking it should be accessed from the Bear Basin Connector Trail, not via the Pine Ridge Trail as I did on this hike.

And should you find a cairn which is not on my route I'd love to hear about that! (The "Bear Basin Usetrail" GPX file which you can download from and load into your GPS includes all the cairn locations I found as waypoints - FYI I consider a large rock placed atop a downed tree trunk to be a "cairn".)

First Cairn
Historic Bear Basin Hike - map
Historic Bear Basin Hike - Google Earth file
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