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Elk Camp Trail

Re: Elk Camp Trail

Postby Jeffrey Cannon on Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:55 pm

Date Hiked: August 7, 2016
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Just returned from day trip to Elk Camp from Ragged Point. I wish I had read the existing trip reports before hand as they would really have been helpful. Found the camp in great condition with a strong flow of water. Without any waypoints to follow except one I established for the camp itself, we reverted to basic route finding skills that kept us pretty close to the correct route once we found it. It is really a strange route to follow since the only places you can find the old tread are in the forested sections. You are completely on your own in the meadows! The hard part for us was getting from San Carpaforo camp to the trail. For this, I add the following comments.

[JG: note the following describes a current "use trail" to San Carpoforo Camp from the Baldwin Ranch Road - the historic trail. east of this route, is currently overgrown. The camp lies along the historic trail.]

If you cross the creek as you enter the area of the camp you will climb into a meadow that has fencing from an old cattle camp or homestead. By walking the length of this meadow, skirting the fencing, you will reach the end of the meadow in about 100 yards. At this point, there is a sketchy looking brush tunnel heading back toward the creek. THIS IS THE TRAIL! By following it, you reach the bank of the creek and will see a large fallen log that would make a great bridge in high water. The route up the hill to the East is quite obvious from this point.

As noted in previous reports, you can also access this point by stream walking from the camp. BTW, San Carpaforo's official camp site, assuming the fire box marks the spot, it about 50 yards down stream from where the trail initially crosses the creek as you approach from the North. At this point in time, the large log bridge is the obvious landmark for the start of the trail.

[JG: note following refers to Elk Camp route]

Final note, the Hearst property fence line provides an excellent landmark at more than one place along the route. You know you are too far south if you ever actually reach it.
Jeffrey Cannon

Re: Elk Camp Trail

Postby LBehrmann on Sat Feb 13, 2016 7:18 pm

Date Hiked: June 20, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Sorry, this is a little late,but I'm finally posting. This can be hiked by using a Burro Mountain 7.5 minute quad. I lost my compass, but one would be good. The trip goes through meadow and forest.

Before my trip I drew the route to Elk Camp on my Burro Mountain quad by carefully looking at the online map at Using this map, and the sun, I managed to follow the trail where it went through the trees, and navigate the route I drew on the map. I was also able to see where the grass was crushed from cattle that had been driven back to Elk Camp earlier in the year. Where the trail goes through the woods, there is an occasional tree blaze, as reported years ago by Boon Hughey in the online trail reports. While finding my way to camp, I almost turned around at one point because the route became so uncertain, but then I saw a tree blaze and some pink flagging, and I ventured onward. The final leg of the route took me east through woods and more meadows of crushed grass. Halfway up Jones Mountain, whose base is directly north, a big dragon rock looms over the small valley that funnels you to Elk Camp. The route passes directly adjacent to the south of a large rock formation, and immediately down the hill to the east is Elk Camp, which lies along a small perennial creek. The map indicates this creek is born on the south face of Jones Mountain and feeds Chris Flood Creek.
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Re: Elk Camp Trail

Postby Jim Ringland on Fri Mar 20, 2015 4:24 pm

Date Hiked: March 18, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

The reports by jbl, Jack Glendening, and others describe the situation here very well. I can add just a few additional thoughts. Not being as light on my toes, mine was a wet-foot crossing of San Carpoforo Creek. At least the cow pies are from last year. There is no 2015 bovine activity (yet). There's just enough poison oak about in the wooded sections of this hike that I'd probably still rate this "passable" if I discounted the faint tread issues. And yes, this is a very pretty corner of the wilderness, especially from that high viewpoint.

Wildflowers were out but scattered. I expected the lupines, poppies, buttercups, hedge nettles, blue dicks, paintbrush, blue-eyed grass, iris, and popcorn flowers. I was happy to find myself unexpectedly facing a hillside of mission bells (Fritillaria affinis). And I was more than happy to spot a few Streptanthus glandulosus ssp. glandulosus, which have the wonderful common name of "most beautiful jewelflower". (The California Native Plant Society lists them under the older name, Streptanthus albidus ssp. peramoenus.) They are fairly rare, which is nice, but the common name is maybe just a bit overblown for what you get.

Elk Camp is delightful. Shady little nook next to an active stream with a table and stove. As jbl's added picture shows, it's furnished: a coffee pot, frying pan, and saw all neatly hang from a hook on a tree.

Jim Ringland

(3/22: From my pictures, it looks like what I thought was Fritillaria affinis (mission bells) was, in actuality, Fritillaria biflora. Even nicer common name with this one: "chocolate lily".)
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Elk Camp Trail

Postby jbl on Sun Mar 15, 2015 5:50 am

Date Hiked: March 14, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)


I had a free day and decided to use it to take my first trip to Elk Camp.

My rating of "Difficult" would be applicable for anyone who hasn't uploaded Jack Glendening's GPS track to their GPS (THANKS, JACK!); if you've got the GPS track, I guess I'd rate it "Clear" but WITHOUT the tread well defined. There is currently no flagging along the route (previous poster had seen green flagging).

The problem is this--much of the route to Elk Camp in in open grass either on grassy hillsides or across grassy meadows, and the tread (due to winter rains, lush grass and little traffic) just isn't visible in a lot of places, and without the GPS track I would have been completely lost or had to spend a lot of time doing routefinding (and given the 16 mile round trip from Ragged Point Inn, I'm glad I didn't need to spend a couple of hours doing routefinding!). Note-much of my route to and from San Carpoforo Camp (the jumping off place for the Elk Camp Trail) is across grassy areas where the tracks have historically been visible and I found that the tracks here had also disappeared or were extremely faint.

San Carpoforo Creek is flowing moderately, I was able to pick my way across it at the spot where the Elk Camp Trail starts without having to get wet but it was a little tricky. I got across starting at a spot about 50' upstream from where the actual trail crosses (because there was no way to cross at the trail crossing without wading through knee deep water):

San Carpoforo Creek Crossing to Elk Camp Trail

I can't believe the amount of cow activity that has extended way along the Elk Camp route--cow patties seemingly everywhere.

I took some pictures when I got to the viewpoint at the high point of the ridge that separates San Carpoforo and Elk Camps, as Jack has said these are some nice views:


Here's a picture of the prominent brown rock that will guide you to Elk Camp (as well as the big rock formation that looks like a face that's on the side of the mountain above Elk Camp):

Rock Formations.jpg

Elk Camp is a quite pleasant spot with a flowing creek and a functional picnic table in the shade where I enjoyed my lunch and some functional items hanging on a tree:

Elk Camp.jpg
Elk Camp

Camp Furnishings.jpg
Camp Furnishings at Elk Camp

As was the case when I hiked through the upper Dutra Drainage last weekend, wildflowers are everywhere and quite beautiful.
Last edited by jbl on Mon Mar 23, 2015 8:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Elk Camp Trail

Postby RSI SamE on Mon Feb 25, 2013 2:26 pm

Date Hiked: February 30, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Elk Camp Trail
Twixt San Carpoforo Camp
And Elk Camp
• Trail: Difficult (hard to follow, it could be considered passable if one stays on the “trail” the whole time).
• People: 0
• Signage: No Camp Sign at Elk Camp. Some flagging (green in color) on the trail.
• Note 1: Some tips on finding Elk: Follow the meadows and stay high. At the ridge loot for a red pyramid rock. Drop to your left and again stay high in meadows till rock. Go around rock to far side.
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Re: Elk Camp Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:03 pm

Date Hiked: April 20, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I see there has been only a single trail report for this trail, posted way back in 1999 by Boon Hughey. An unsuccessful attempt by Herb Stroh to use this trail to reach Elk Camp produced a discussion (viewtopic.php?f=26&t=580&p=2995#p2995) which has led to this new trail report, 12 years later. I hope the next trail report will not be so long in coming!

"Elk Camp Trail" is a very historic route, once connecting the main San Carpoforo route between the coast and Jolon eastward to the Jones, Flood, and Rogers homesteads back in the late 1800s. Currently it seems to be used only by a few hunters and the cattle allotment holders, seldom by hikers. It has been poorly marked and without visible tread in many places, particularly where it goes through open grassland.

Parts of the route are very scenic - a panorama from a prominent viewpoint, the highest point along the trail, can be viewed at ... ersize.jpg. In fact, one might simply use the trail to go that viewpoint for a grand view of Jones mountain and the surrounding area instead of going all the way to Elk Camp.

In an attempt to make this trail more accessible to hikers, Paul Danielson and I used the verbal description and guesstimated route map provided by Boon Hughey, who has hiked it many times in days of yore, to scout the trail from San Carpoforo Camp to Elk Camp. While we succeeded in finding Elk Camp, we realized we had missed a turn somewhere (since we crossed a narrow steep gully, which we should not have since a horse would have difficulty crossing it), so I went down there again (a 23 hour day, my car getting hit by deer and needing a tire change after a 19 mile, 4800 ft gain hike!) and found the correct routing, as marked by blazes and pre-existing flags. I've now created an "Elk Camp Trail" based on these findings, trying to follow the "historic route" as best I could, and have put that route into the on-line Ventana Trail Map ( - and for awhile will also display the official USFS route in red, so the two can be compared.

To help encourage hikers to get out to this area, Paul and I placed flags along the route. But it is still difficult to follow for several reasons:

() in places the trail goes through extensive grassland with no visible tread and no place to put a flag, though I've tried to at least put a flag at the beginning and end of the grassy regions. In particular, the final section of the trail goes through open grassland with no visible tread or markers, being guided only by a prominent (100 ft high) "red pyramid rock", the picnic table marking Elk Camp lying 400 ft ESE of that rock amid the trees along the perennial stream there - see photo below.

() There are places where the tread disappears in the forest. And like a river which braids, there are some "junctions" at which appear several alternative treads of roughly equal use so the "correct trail" is not clear. I've indicated some of those alternatives in my "Elk Camp Trail" as stubs leading off from my best estimate of the historic trail. (While I tried to flag only the latter, a few times I decided I had actually been following an "alternative" route so went back to retrieve the flags I had put there, then flagging the "correct" trail, and I'm not sure I found all of those alternative flags, especially between the frog ponds.)

() The section most difficult to follow, I feel, is where the trail first enters a forest, leaving the large open grassy area through which the trail has ascended after crossing the San Carpoforo River just beyond San Carpoforo Camp. At that point a frog pond lies on one's right, later followed by a frog pond on one's left - but along that section there is no visible tread, though there are a few tree blazes. Further, people have created a "use trail" by continuing up along the ridge, past the forest entrance, to a "Hunter Camp" flat where they enter the forest and take an alternative path down to the second frog pond. On both hikes, on my return I inadvertently found myself at "Hunter Camp" because I was simply following tread and that's where the tread led (and that is where Herb Stroh found himself when he tried to follow the trail) - but that "use trail" is not the "historic route" as marked by tree blazes. While I placed flags along the "historic route" between the frog ponds, people seem to be "voting with their feet" for that alternative route, so I've also added that "use trail" to the on-line Trail Map. Likely many people will continue to take that use trail if they are unaware of the "historic route", since it is apparently a more naturally-followed route.

On the positive side, the route is essentially brush-free and a large backpack would not be a problem (though for a few short stretches the trail does get steep). For anyone wishing to follow the route, I'd suggest reading Boon's verbal description (see below). Also, I've created a GPX file which can be loaded into Google Earth or a GPS to display the trail and locate many "points of interest" mentioned above or in Boon's description ("Hunter Camp", frog ponds, etc.) at ... _Trail.gpx

Finally, should anyone find a tree blaze which is _not_ on my best estimate of the "historical route" I'd appreciate hearing about it, so I can change my route to include it.

Jack Glendening


Directions to Elk Camp - Boon Hughey

You leave San Carpoforo camp and walk downstream through a cobblefield, pass an unofficial campsite, then climb over some flood jetsam and arrive at a nice, open sandy flattish place with a nice pool about 200 yards downstream of San C camp. Cross the creek here and climb the root-steps trail on the opposite bank, staying to the left when it forks. Head up through the oaks until it opens up into wide open grasslands, and keep going upward and slightly to the right, following the logical way to climb up through the meadow and eventually getting up onto and following a small grassy ridglet. On your right about 75 yards away from the ridglet will be the edge of the oak forest, and the trail enters that forest at a indistinguishable place marked with a faded orange flag. Once you enter the forest, the first frog pond should be right there on your right. Continue past it through level forest looking for tree blazes, and in short order the second frog pond will show up on your left. Stay well to the right of the second frog pond and the trail will become quite evident as it descends into the gully just beyond the second pond.

The route is easy to follow for a while, uphill out of the gully, around some bushes, then steeply straight up an open grassy hillside. Look for Mariposa lilies along this stretch. Eventually the Hearst Ranch/County Line fence will show up on your right and you'll follow along very near it for a while until you come to a sort of small grassy bowl under a nice bay tree where the trail seems to disappear. Climb up and to the left through this bowl, slowing reversing direction and heading up toward a steeply ascending ridge at a very small but obvious saddle. This saddle will be your first wonderful viewpoint. From there you just follow the ridge straight up through knee-high brush toward the larger more prominent ridge which is the highest point along the route. Toward the top the trail traverses to the right to gain the ridge top. The views from that ridge are wonderful in all directions.

Looking eastward toward the Elk Camp environs from that ridge you will see a large, prominent red rock outcrop about 100' tall in the shape of a pyramid at the base of Jones Mountain. Elk Camp and Elk Camp Creek are just on the other side of this rock. Burn this pyramid rock into your mind as the landmark you need to find Elk Camp.

When you leave the ridge, don't do the obvious and try to follow it out and down in the direction of Elk Camp. The trail actually crosses right over the ridge and drops down the backside into a nice grassy bowl, entering the oak forest at the far end and becoming easier to follow. It makes a gradual descent through forest and eventually pops out at the upper end of a good-sized sloping meadowland with a small gully through the middle of it. While it seems natural to make a level traverse across the meadowland and re-enter the forest at the far side, to follow the trail you'll cross the small gully and head straight down through the grassy meadowland instead. The trail leaves the very bottom of the meadowland as if it were going out the bottom of a funnel. Once back in the trees the route becomes obvious again.

From here you just follow the trail as best you can through forest and a couple of large, open grassy meadows, keeping an eye on that red pyramid to guide you to Elk Camp. When you get close to the pyramid rock, skirt below it then climb up the low grassy ridge on the far side. Elk Camp is down the other side of the grassy ridge in the trees on the creek. There's a table, stove and highline for horses there. The creek is right next to the camp.
Red Pyramid Rock & Elk Camp
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January 1999 report by Boon Hughey

Postby Site Administrator on Thu May 07, 2009 2:58 pm

Date Hiked: January 1999
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

The Elk Camp Trail is for the most part free of brush and other hindrances (I think it's somewhat maintained by the folks who have the grazing allotment back there), but can be almost impossible to follow if you haven't been over it before. I lucked out a number of years ago on my first time back there, happening by chance to be heading in on the same winter's day as the grazing alloment holders were heading in horseback. Horses leave pretty easy tracks to follow in wet December earth. But the trail starts out uphill through a big grassy meadow, which shows an obvious path in the fall and winter but can become pretty vague when the grass starts to grow. It then ducks into oak forest without any signage, and continues along, up, down, and through alternating meadowland and oak forest, with cattle trails often confusing the route. The occasional tree blaze and cut branch show the way here and there, but prime opportunities for losing the route abound.
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Elk Camp Trail

Postby Site Administrator on Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:02 pm

* USFS trail #7E01
* Parking: Hwy 1 at Salmon Creek Guard Station
* Watersheds: San Carpoforo Creek, Chris Flood Creek
* Junctions: San Carpoforo Trail
* Connects: San Carpoforo Camp with Elk Camp
* Camps: Elk Camp
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