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Three Peaks Trail (aka Dutra)

Re: Three Peaks Trail (aka Dutra)

Postby Jim Ringland on Fri Mar 20, 2015 4:51 pm

Date Hiked: March 19, 2015
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked this west to east (up hill). Having hiked this in the past, I didn't have the route finding difficulties the last few posters had. The only tricky section for me was finding where the trail leaves the valley near Dutra. (See jbl's April 6, 2013 post below.) Beyond that, open eyes and a few cairns can guide the way. Some pushing through the chaparral, but nothing too bad. Some steep grades. There was a breeze when I hiked, but I can imagine exposure to the hot sun could be a real risk here on a warm day.

Going up this trail was the last leg of a three-day loop that started at the top after the 14 mile drive up the Willow Creek and South Coast Ridge Roads. The first night I walked down to Three Peaks Camp. The trail down is an old road and is clear. Three Peaks is a nice camp in a narrow riparian corridor through what is otherwise dry chaparral (manzanita, chamise, ceanothus, etc.) dotted with Coulter Pines. The camp is under oaks and bays. New sign. There are two camping areas. Right from the sign as you come in is a wooded camp with a stove and table. (The table is much, much older than that new sign). Left from the sign is a sunny, grassy flat. Noisy burbling stream. Mod cons. Three Peaks Camp is one of the few with a still-intact, if old and creaky, wooden toilet. (Correct me if I'm wrong, though. Burying one's waste 6" down seems the more environmentally appropriate option.)

Jim Ringland
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Re: Three Peaks Trail (aka Dutra)

Postby Bill Waycott on Sat Aug 02, 2014 7:03 pm

Date Hiked: June 22, 2014
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

As reported in the April 13, 2014 write-up, the Three Peaks Trail has not changed much. We (California Native Plants Soc., Rare Plant Treasure Hunt) hiked from east to west. At one point, walking the ridge between Davis Creek (south) and Spruce Creek (north) prior to ascending the ridge above Dutra Flat, we lost the trail. Make sure to stick to the ridge even if the tread and brush don't point towards the direction of the trail. The faux trail took us into Davis Canyon. Then, at the top of the ridge above Dutra Flat, we lost the trail again. Be sure the go left at the top of the ridge to continue on the trail. To the right is the ridge high point with good 360 degree views. Once at Dutra Flat, the way is clear towards Spruce Creek Camp. It would be good if the next hiker carried pink flagging tape to mark the portions of the trail that are not clear. Thank you.
Bill Waycott

Re: Three Peaks Trail (aka Dutra)

Postby HikePieHike on Sun Apr 27, 2014 12:26 am

Date Hiked: April 13, 2014
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We hiked this trail East to West. The trail was passable, but difficult due to brush and faint tread in some parts. The trailhead sign on South Coast Ridge Rd has been damaged and is no longer legible. There is no sign at the junction where the trail splits off from the fire road that continues to Three Peaks Camp, and although the trail is visible on the ridge in the distance, the part near the junction isn't as obvious. As a side note, the stream at the camp was flowing and looked cool and inviting. After the junction, the trail mostly follows the ridge line, which makes it easy to navigate even with faint tread, but also leads to a couple steep sections with loose rock. This section is also exposed, so there are some great views but be sure to have sun protection. There was also plenty of brush to push your way through. The portion leading to the ridge above Dutra Flat and then down was probably the more difficult part to navigate, the brush was dense and the tread was faint. The trail is marked with some pink plastic ribbons tied to the brush in a few spots through this section. We lost the trail heading down into Dutra Flat and ended up just South of the Spruce Creek junction. The area around Dutra Flat was beautiful with rolling green grassy hills, large oak trees and cattle that like to peek their heads over the hills to watch you hike. The Spruce Creek Trail from Dutra Flat to Salmon Creek was clear and easy with some encroaching poison oak.

Re: Three Peaks Trail (aka Dutra)

Postby pantilat on Tue Mar 18, 2014 4:05 pm

Date Hiked: March 16, 2014
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The Three Peaks trail is mostly clear but there are a couple sections of light brush and the tread is not always obvious in the stretch immediately above Dutra Flat. Between South Coast Ridge Road and the prominent ridge above Dutra Flat, the route sticks to an old fire break on the ridge crest so navigation is never really in doubt. This ridge provides views of the surrounding terrain, which is mostly chaparral and Coulter Pine. There are also excellent views of Dutra Creek, Dutra Flat, and County Line Ridge on the final descent into Dutra Flat. Overall, this is an efficient way to get from South Coast Ridge Road to the Dutra Flat/Mt. Mars area with few impediments.

Photo album here.
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Three Peaks Trail (aka Dutra)

Postby jbl on Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:14 am

Date Hiked: April 6, 2013
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

This report covers the segment from Dutra Flat camp to the top of the first ridge north of camp (el. ~2,790'), where the trails turns north.

I've done this before, but (as has been the case before) the "entrance" to the trail on the hillside just past the San Carpoforo trail/3 Peaks trail junction is not readily apparent

The trail itself (once you get onto it) is clear to passable; it is an old dozer cut so you just need to follow the flat "roadbed" as it makes its way up the sidehill. It is amazing how the manzanita has grown in in the middle of the roadbed and gotten so big, causing you to thread around it to the left and right, but the way is always certain.

As to the entrance to the trail down at Dutra Flat, see the below Google Earth image, which shows (in green) the current track on Jack Glendening's online maps and (in yellow) the actual track (I'm forwarding my GPS track to Jack, so by the time you read this he may have updated his online maps). The key information is: you need to turn up into the grassy draw past the first brushline you pass as you leave Dutra Flat, and you will see a rock on top of which is a spool of barbed wire with another rock on that (which I've called the Barbed Wire Cairn). You go about 20 feet past that, and at that point, although the way looks to still be straight ahead (which is a continuation of the grassy draw), instead you turn right through a narrow opening in the brush (with two small cairns in front of it) and you will be on the trail as it bears right.

3 peaks.jpg

Here are two pics that show the lay of the land and the route out of the grassy draw:
Barbed Wire Cairn.jpg
View towards Barbed Wire Cairn and trail entrance into brush

The Way.jpg
The opening where you go through the brush
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Re: Three Peaks Trail (aka Dutra)

Postby khammer8280 on Fri Mar 15, 2013 7:27 am

Date Hiked: March 11, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

three peaks trail from coast ridge road trailhead to end of trail at dutra flat.
sign at trailhead is partially shot up but trail (thanks alot, idiots. can't hit anything that moves?) is east to find here. just look for the locked gate on an old jeep road dropping down the coast ridge road just south of the eponymous three peaks. about a half mile down road trail splits off the dirt road (the dirt road leads down to three peaks camp where plenty of water was flowing). the easy to miss trail is unsigned and goes straight up the ridge through thick and spiky chaparral (thick and spiky enough to put a hole in my thermarest atop my pack). no water till you drop to dutra flat. trail was tricky to follow; keep an eye open for strategically placed flagging. when you reach the ridge just above dutra flat, the trail heads both directions. coming from the north, taking a left turn will keep you on the trail you want (keep an eye open for occasional cairns). trail past here is easier to follow and quickly drops down to dutra flat. dutra flat camp is fenced off but accessible to prevent livestock from entering. water is in a metal trough on the other side of the trail, also protected by a fence.

Re: Three Peaks Trail (aka Dutra)

Postby kfox on Thu Nov 08, 2012 9:30 am

Date Hiked: November 6, 2012
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The 3 peaks trail is still in fine shape and, with the exception of a few quite brushy areas, in in good shape.
I hiked down from 3 peaks to Dutra Flat and back up on Tuesday the 4th of November. The trail has more ups and downs than I was anticipating, especially on the upper part. There are a few sections where the tread is quite steep. The only place I lost the trail was coming back up out of Dutra flat. Look for the Cairns and matted grass. Soon you'll be on the old road and on your way.

Along the whole trail there are cairns and a few bits of flagging tape at the spots where it gets confusing.

I didn't make it over to 3 peaks camp as I was a bit pressed for time.
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Dutra Flat to Three Peaks Camp

Postby Dan Heaston on Mon Feb 14, 2011 5:41 pm

Date Hiked: February 13, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked Three Peaks Trail from Dutra Flat Camp to Three Peaks Camp today as part of a loop starting and ending at Salmon Creek hwy 1 trailhead.

Salmon Creek to Spruce Creek is well traveled and clear.
Spruce Creek to Dutra Flat: tread is in good shape, and only a few areas with poison oak encroaching on the trail.

Three Peaks Trail:
From Dutra Camp, the trail was a little vague at first with several faint trails in the grass. I found a couple ducks, and zig zagged through a little brush until I found the dozer cut. Once on the dozer cut it is a no brainer, just follow the cut to the top.

A short detour (past the ducks that mark the trail veering right), to the rock on top of the first ridge provides a great view of Dutra Flat to the West and Three Peaks to the North/East. From here you can see the dozer cut (Three Peaks Trail) across the valley and up the ridge to coast ridge rd.

Having not hiked this trail before, I took comfort knowing I was headed the right way as Three Peaks is visible for most of the route.
The last 1/4 mile before reaching Ridge Rd is fairly overgrown and in some areas the best indicator of being on the trail is the presence of old cuttings.
I do not recall any poison oak or ticks on the trail and the views were outstanding.

The road to Three Peaks Camp is an easy walk and a good place to refill the water bottles.
Dan Heaston

Water is back at Dutra

Postby Deleted on Thu Dec 24, 2009 9:49 pm

Date Hiked: December 24, 2009
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiking to Dutra Flat Camp from Salmon Creek.

The trail starting at the junction near spruce creek to dutra is in decent condition with only a few deadfalls that are easily passable. More importantly...there is water again at the dutra camp. Quite a few of the creeks along the way have water again also but none of them are difficult to cross. It's nice to see green again, the grass near dutra isnt completely green but its alot better that everything being brown for a change. There's no washouts or landslides or encroaching brush on the trail. The only part that made us stop for a second to get our bearings was coming out of the trees into the clearing. The only thing marking the trail were some rocks stacked on top of one another, the other cattle trails cause a little confusion when picking the right direction.

Trail Conditions History 2000-2008

Postby Site Administrator on Thu May 07, 2009 1:59 pm

Date Hiked: May 4, 2008
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Conditions reported by: Pablo
Survey date: 4-May-2008
General: CLEAR
I hiked this trail from north to south as part of a loop trip starting at Salmon Creek. The trail, initially a gated jeep track, leaves South Coast Ridge Road at an obvious and signed fork directly south of the Three Peaks knolls (the padlock on the gate had been cut and there were signs of vehicles recently going to the camp below). Follow this jeep track about one half mile and you will have the option of (1) turning right and following the jeep track to Three Peaks Camp or (2) continuing straight on the foot trail which leads to Dutra Flat. A small cairn was erected as this junction, though the foot trail is visible in the distance as it works its way up the next ridge.

A visit or stay at Three Peaks Camp is highly recommended, if for no other reason than to fill up on water (the next water source being at Dutra Flat, about 2.5 miles south). As mentioned below, this camp is a ‘veritable oasis’ in the otherwise barren and parched chaparral dominating the area. There are two camp areas at Three Peaks camp – one with a table and fire ring in a heavily shaded and somewhat grassy area by the brook; the other in nearby open area with fire ring. The spring at Three Peaks was gushing with cool, clear water.

The Three Peaks Trail, being an old and indistinct dozer cut, follows the roller coaster ridge line in a due south direction. You are walking on essentially granulated rock so there is no “tread” to speak of. Just continue south through the channel cut in the chaparral (signs of previous brushing will let you know you are on course). As you reach the last ridge before descending to Dutra Flat you will see three cairns set up directing you, counter-intuitively, to the left. Follow this route to loop around the east end of this ridge and start the south-west descent to Dutra Flat, where the older dozer cut becomes more evident.

Sections of this trail are quite steep and the loose rock plays havoc in keeping your footing. I would agree with poster Greg Minter that this trail is best tackled downhill, from north to south. I didn’t encounter any flies or poison oak the entire stretch.

Conditions reported by: Leif Behrmann
Survey date: 14-JULY-2007
General: CLEAR

I managed to follow the Three Peaks trail up from Dutra Flat. At first the trail is more of a human sized track. To start I bore off in the direction the sign indicated, but when the track started heading east I looked around and found a track going toward the ridge for a short while. There is a point where I came out onto a grassy slope and the trail appeared to end. After a moment I wondered if the trail veered up and to the left and was obscured by the fallen leaves of a nearby oak. Sure enough, as I started up and around the tree and beyond, I realized I had found the old dozer cut. It was strange at first walking an old cut with brush springing up here and there, but after I imagined the dozer I was set alright again.

It is very hot and dry up there, and there isn't much shade, but on the plus side, the poison oak and flies are minimal. I took breaks in the shade when I could find it. I would recommend at least 2 full quarts of water, if not 3 to tide you over until Three Peaks camp.

At the peak of the ridge someone had erected cairns to corner off and show the way toward Three Peaks. Down the first slope as the trail skirts around a little peak of a hill, and the bushes are actually encroaching enough to hide the track for a few yards.

The rest was mostly clear, with some steep parts and thorny bushes. It follows the ridge tops until it meets up with Three Peaks Camp road.

I turned left and went downhill to the virtual oasis of Three Peaks Camp. The small creek had some pools of water to replenish my supply.

At camp I threw down my tarp and slept under an awesome display of stars.

Conditions reported by: Jean LeBlanc
Survey date: 26-AUGUST-2006

Having never done this trail I didn't know what to expect, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is essentially in Wilderness Freeway condition for its entire length. The top two miles of this trail are especially incredible as it roller-coasters along the top edge a seemingly never-ending ridgeline with unbeatable views of the lower and upper San Carpoforo watershed and a branch of the upper Salmon Creek watershed, as well as the 3 (or 4, depending on how you count them) Peaks and Lions Peak. I highly recommend this trail.

Conditions reported by: Greg Minter
Survey date: 3-JULY-2006
General: CLEAR

Section: Ridge Road at Three Peaks to Dutra Flat - Clear

This is a spectacular trail that gets very little use. Thanks to Boon for providing excellent information about this remote gem in the Silver Peak Wilderness. This is a ridge top trail that is an old brush cut rather than an established trail. However, the path was always evident and route-finding was not a problem. This trail is best tackled from north to south, as a south to north route is uphill, and the trail is completely exposed and waterless. After turning south from the Ridge Road at Three Peaks, follow the Three Peaks Camp road until it makes a sharp right turn. At that point, there is a small cairn that marks the trail, where you'll start climbing the ridge instead of continuing on the road to Three Peaks Camp. You're essentially following the ridgeline, with the vast Davis Canyon and Wagner Creek to the east, and the Spruce Creek watershed to the west. As Boon said, "Big views, no people." !

The only available water was at Three Peaks Camp, about three-quarters of a mile past the cairn. All other seasonal water sources are dry, so you must go all the way to camp for water. Three Peaks Camp was rather bleak and overgrown, probably not used for quite some time. The creekside camp was fairly overgrown with grass and weeds. A bit of raking or tramping down the grass would be necessary for a decent tent site. The second site about 60 yards away looked more inviting. The stream at Three Peaks Camp was flowing well. Count on stopping here if you're going to undertake this trail at this time of year; it's the only water between Dutra and either Lion Den, Estrella, or Lottie Potrero. An excellent trail!

Conditions reported by: Boon
Survey date: 13-FEB-2005

This is a great trail that opens up a number of loop trip possibilities in conjunction with the Cruickshank and Salmon Creek trails. The upper end is a little difficult to locate if you aren't paying attention, as there is no sign. But westward hikers should take the gated road to the right at the fork from the South Coast Ridge Road at Three Peaks and follow it downhill about a quarter mile until it makes a sharp switchback to the right. When the road switchbacks right, YOU GO STRAIGHT on the old firebreak up the ridge. Once you make that transition it's easy to follow all the way to Dutra Flat.

There is a very minor amount of encroaching brush, but for the most part the trail is clear albeit a little steep in places. It follows a ridge for most of its length, with wonderful views in all directions when the weather cooperates. There is no water at all along the three mile length of the trail, although there is water at Dutra at the west end and at Three Peaks Camp near the east end (Three Peaks Camp is at the lower end of the gated spur road mentioned above, about half a mile past the trail junction).

A really nice and challenging dayhike can be enjoyed by parking at the Salmon Creek trailhead, following the Salmon Creek Trail to the ridge, walking south on the ridge road for three miles or so to where the Three Peaks camp road forks off, then picking up the Three Peaks Trail to Dutra Flat and the San Carpforo and Salmon Creek trails back to your point of beginning.

Conditions reported by: EW
Survey date:7-MAR-2004

Section: South Coast Ridge Rd. to Dutra Camp

This "trail" leaves the 3 Peaks jeep road as a steeply climbing fire-break and continues plowing up and down peaks and intervening saddles (trekking poles HIGHLY recommended- your knees will thank you) until switch backing down to Dutra Flat, at which point the exact route gets somewhat ambiguous.

After trying in vain to follow the actual trail, I spotted the San Carpoforo trail and bee-lined it. Of the five of us hiking we arrived at Dutra Flat from 3 different directions. I always heard 3 Peaks Trail was difficult to locate from below and now I see why...

Conditions reported by: Gary Auth
Survey date: 10-MAR-2004

Section: Dutra Camp to South Coast Ridge Rd.

Be sure to fill your water bottles at Dutra Camp because even in springtime the Three Peaks trail yields little shade or water and is a hot and demanding uphill trek.

The signed trail leaves Dutra Camp in a northeasterly direction and follows the remains of an old bulldozer cut that functioned as a firebreak/ jeep access road. A few deadfalls and some overgrowth make the first ten minutes challenging, but after that it is relatively easy to follow the switchbacks of the rocky road. As you approach the ridge top (visible from Dutra Flat) you will be heading northwest. Keep an eye out because it seems natural to continue hiking the ridge and you may miss the trail to Three Peaks which descends to the right (a faded pink ribbon tied to a low bush may still be there to guide you). From this ridge you can look east and see the three peaks in silhouette and, across the valley, a steep section of the trail as a brown scar on the green hillside. The tread along this section is mostly little flakes of decomposed sandstone and/or shale which makes for comfortable walking but the intrusion of large manzanita bushes and other chaparral plants may misdirect the dreaming hiker off the trail.

Eventually the trail intersects with a graded road. Head west and in approximately 3/4 of a mile you will come to Three Peaks camp, a neat little flat spot with both sun and shade, a table and stove, and a flowing creek with a small wading pool. Head east and in 1/4 of a mile you will reach the Coast Ridge road approximately 2.5 miles south of the Salmon Creek trailhead.

If you have not arranged a car shuttle, you have three options to return to Highway 1: head back the way you came, descend via Salmon Creek trail (the forest service sign has been blown off its post by shooters with more ammo than brains), or walk north another .3 mile and descend via the Cruickshank trail (also signed).

Conditions reported by: Nathan Eldridge
Survey date: 30?-FEB-2004

Section: Dutra Camp to South Coast Ridge Road

I wanted to hike from Dutra Camp up to the South Ridge Road. The beginning of the trail was easy enough to spot, but soon the trail was lost between a mess of fallen trees and stray cow paths. I ended up trailblazing for an hour then turned back around to Dutra Camp. I went north until I found a dried up washout and had a difficult climb up to the top of the ridge. There is a slight trail at the top of the ridge that met up with the Three Peaks trail. I followed that back down to Dutra Camp.

Day Two - I knew where to start so I left Dutra Camp up the newly found Three Peaks Trail (there's almost no way to find it coming from the bottom). Once up the ridge, the trail is fairly clear. Before the junction with the South ridge road, the trail is covered with thorny bushes that go through your pants. Some clearing of this area needs to be done.

There should probably be a sign marking the junction of the Three Peaks Trail and the South Ridge Road. Awesome views once you get up to the top. Well worth the climb.
Conditions reported by: Neil Havlik
Survey date: 25-JULY-2002
General: CLEAR

I explored this trail, an old jeep road, for about a mile or so from Dutra Camp. The trail climbs the ridge immediately north of Dutra Camp, and has a few short sections where a little brushing would be nice in the next year or so, but nothing to make it really hard to get through. After the first quarter mile or so it becomes quite clear and passable all the way to the top of the ridge above Dutra Camp. The views are spectacular. I went to a point where I could see the Coast Ridge Road and it looks like the trail is in pretty open condition all the way there. The trail does not appear to get much use, but I was wondering if it is possible to make a decent connection to the Three Peaks Camp which shows up on some maps. If that is so a good loop together with the Salmon Creek Trail or the Cruickshank Trail might be a possibility.
Conditions reported by: Steve Chambers
Survey date: 20-DECEMBER-00

This three mile long dozer cut fire line begins just southeast of Dutra Flat Camp. It climbs in switchbacks to the major ridge north of the camp. On the ridge the fireline follows other ridges and divides which separate Spruce Creek (north) from Devils-Davis Creek (south). The fireline makes many short and two long STEEP climbs along ridges as it moves towards its connection with the now closed Three Peaks Camp road. Upon reaching the closed camp road, climb another 1/4 mile to meet the South Coast Ridge 4WD Road.

Due to serpentine and rocky soils, the chaparral along this route grows slowly. Therefore, while brush only intrudes into the path in the northeastern sections, there are few shade trees to create any relief from the sun.

Unsurpassed views to the south and southeast.
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