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Pine Ridge Trail

Trail Conditions History 2000-2004

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 11:39 am

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Conditions reported by: Jim K.
Survey date: 4-DEC-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Big Sur Station to Terrace Creek Tr. jct.

Many logs across the path, a few of them hard to pass. The trail was eroded in places, although this was better on Dec 5th than Dec 4th (presumably due to the efforts of a pair of tool-carrying rangers that we passed). There were low-hanging branches from downed trees, which required some effort to get under in places.

On the plus side there was no difficulty in finding the trail.
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Conditions reported by: John Fedak
Survey date: 25-NOV-2004
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Section: China Camp to Church Creek Divide

Vast improvement since the trailwork was done over the past year. All of the deadfalls (especially on the inital ascent out of China Camp) have been cleared and the trail has been noticably widened in places.
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Conditions reported by: Tom T.
Survey date: NOV-21-2004
General: DIFFICULT DUE TO BLOWDOWNS
Specific:

Section: Barlow Flats to Big Sur Station

"Wilderness Freeway" on Saturday 11/20, "Difficult" on Sunday 11/21...

There was a severe windstorm Saturday night (11/20) which took down lots of trees. Hiking out Sunday from Barlow, most slopes with exposure to the northeast had blowdowns. The most severe was about 1000 ft. east of the Ventana camp junction, where the trail was impassable for over 200 ft.

Generally, there were scattered blowdowns from Barlow to Terrace Creek, and a lot of blowdowns from the ridge west of Terrace to a mile west of the Ventana Camp trail.
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Conditions reported by: Todd Meister
Survey date: 10-OCT-2004
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Section: Church Creek Divide to China Camp

Almost no washouts. The trail was widened via clippings by a couple feet in some places. No tree-scrambling (most likely due to the prevalence of horses and their riders). Beautiful views.
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Conditions reported by: Katie
Survey date: 08-OCT-2004
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Section: Big Sur Station to Sykes Camp

Aside from a handful of small deadfalls across this trail, it was definitely a wilderness freeway. Along the trail from Big Sur Station to Sykes Camp we only had slight trouble with one deadfall and then only because we had heavy packs. The area around the rock slide was not difficult but a bit scary due to the erosion of the trail and slip sliding dirt. It's the one between the Ventana Camp Trail start and the Terrace Creek Camp. It's about a 20 feet wide swath of sliding dirt where there's no tread.

Overall the trail was very clean, well maintained, and I want to heartily thank the volunteers that work so hard in maintaining this trail. THANK YOU!!

One thing that did concern me - at the crest of a ridge near the Ventana Camp Trail someone had abandoned their gear. I'm not sure why/how this happened, but it must have been recent as there were two boxes of rice that had not yet been feasted upon by wildlife. The gear was there on our way in on the 8th and on our way out on the 10th, and I must admit that we were too unsure of ourselves to go ahead and pack out the gear. It included a sleeping bag, food, body heat packs, a sleeping pad, and some other things. Very strange.
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Conditions reported by: Wendy
Survey date: 27-JUL-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: China Camp to Big Sur Station

We put in at China Camp at about 3pm. Hiked about 4 miles to Divide Camp where we stayed the night (arrived about 7pm). The little stream still had water - the first water we found on trail. The weather was nice and warm, no need for a tent or even jackets. The next morning we started on the trail about 10am. We crossed a few very small streams on our way to Pine Ridge Camp where we stopped for lunch. The spring there had water too. We saw two other hikers headed up the trail. The brush around Pine Ridge Camp was fairly thick and made us glad we had long pants on. We continued DOWN the trail, very steep and sun exposed, to Redwood Camp. Water was not to be found between Pine Ridge Camp and Redwood camp. What a beautiful place Redwood camp is - I wish we could have stayed a night there. The hike from Redwood to Sykes was very pretty and gentle. We stayed at Sykes our second night (arrived about 6pm). We were amazed at the beauty of the roots of a certain redwood tree that almost looked like a rock along the river. We saw one hiker briefly at Sykes. We didn't look too hard, but were unable to locate the hot springs. We didn't encounter any trash along the trail or at camp. On our final day we hiked out to Big Sur Station. We passed about a dozen hikers on their way up the trail. There was no water between Terrace Creek and Big Sur Station.

We were a group of 6 - all young and generally healthy. We made the trip in 3 days 2 nights. We took our time and averaged between 1-2 miles an hour.

I've read other reports that this trail is a Wilderness Freeway, but I'm not sure I would define it as that obstacle free and well traveled - especially the portion from China Camp to Redwood Camp. When I think of a Wilderness Freeway I think of the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Pine Ridge Trail was nowhere near as clear and obstacle free as the PCT. In fact, there were sections of the Pine Ridge Trail that we encountered that were "passable".

We had a wonderful trip and look forward to returning and actually finding the springs at Sykes.
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Conditions reported by: Carl A. Mounteer
Survey date: 09-AUG-2004
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Section: Big Sur Station Trailhead to Ventana Camp spur jct.

Except for, by my count, seven easily negotiable tree trunks or branches in the trail, this passage is wilderness freeway. The nice thing about this trail is that, on a Monday, I encountered hikers about every half hour. I hike alone so this makes me much more comfortable because if I get in trouble, I can count on another hiker or hikers appearing within a short period of time.

Compare this to the Gamboa or Coast Ridge Trails where you are not likely to encounter anyone for days.

After the first 3/4 a mile, when you reach Post Creek, there is a very steep elevation gain (712 ft./mile)for about 0.8 of a mile much of it in sun-exposed areas. After that, it is pretty level or only short intervals of elevation gain. Most of this latter portion of the trail is in the shade, even in midday. Compare this to the Mt. Manuel Trail that you see on the other side of the canyon which is nearly desert- barren from the solar pounding it gets. But bring lots of water. I went through about a liter and a half on the round trip day hike.

The beauty of this trail is really remarkable with majestic redwoods soaring up from a nearly invisible canyon floor far below to a hundred feet over your head. Truly exhilarating.

Also rather thrilling, but very dangerous, are the many sheer, and surely fatal, 50-75 foot drops right at the edge of the trail with nothing but thin air between your outside shoe and the canyon bottom. And sometimes there is gravel and a downhill slope. So pay attention. Much less exhilarating, if you can believe this, are the two separate piles of used toilet paper I unfortunately saw right at the outside edge of the trail. They were about a mile apart.

I am a 56 year old male, in moderately good condition, of average strength for my age, and I covered the 3.9 miles in 2.1 hours between about 10 A.M. and noon with no resting period (1.85 m.p.h.). Everyone else on the trail looked about 20-30 years younger than me.

The return trip took 2.9 hours, largely because the 0.8 miles before Post Creek took a lot of jamming my feet in the ground, even with trekking poles, to stop myself from skidding to a fall down the trail.

The bugs were not bad, surprisingly, but I wore mosquito netting over my face and I would recommend you do the same.

This is a well-traveled trail because it is so beautiful and accessible. I highly recommend it.
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Conditions reported by: Paul Greyson
Survey date: 25-JUNE-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Chine Camp trailhead to Pine Ridge Camp

The trail was easily passable the entire way though there's a fair amount of pushing through encroaching brush both near the trail head at China Camp (for about 1/2 mile) and then again for the last 1/2 mile to Pine Ridge Camp. Water was plentiful both at the creeklet 1/2 mile beyond Divide Camp and also at the Pine Ridge Camp spring.

I've posted some pictures of the area for those of you who have never hiked Ventana before (or even for those who have.)

http://photos.yahoo.com/

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Conditions reported by: Jim C.
Survey date: 30-MAY-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Big Sur Station trailhead to Ventana Camp Trail jct.

The trail condition is generally good, with well-defined tread and no encroaching brush most of the way. I'd rate it Clear except that there were 3 or 4 large deadfall trees and a fair number of washout/slide spots. All of these can be negotiated with a little care but it's disappointing to see this much deferred maintenance on the wilderness' most heavily used trail.
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Conditions reported by: Bill Graham
Survey date: 09-JUNE-2004
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Section: Redwood Creek to Pine Ridge/Black Cone/Bear Basin jct.

The switchbacks heading up from Redwood Creek have a few small sections that are eroded out. In some stretches the shrubs are encroaching. The real problems are on Pine Ridge. Despite some evidence of pruning the ceanothus is growing over the trail to the extent that one more Spring's growth will make the trail very difficult to find/follow.

A tree trunk labeled with permanent marker signs the crossroads of the Pine Ridge trail, the Bear Basin cutoff, and (presumably) the Black Cone Trail. The label for the latter, however, has been gouged off the tree trunk. If this is not the Black Cone Trail, no other trailhead is evident on the ridge.

Section: Pine Ridge/Black Cone/Bear Basin jct. to Pine Valley jct.

This trail section shows excellent recent maintenance. Much trimming, sawing, and, most impresively, drystone wall repair has occurred here.
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Conditions reported by: Valerie Nordquist
Survey date: 15-MAY-2004
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Section: Big Sur Trail jct. to BS Station

BIG SUR TRAIL JUNCTION to SYKES:
Clear with several areas of loose dirt and trail that looked like it was in the process of crumbling/washing away. Made for some mildly nerve wracking traverses for the cliff-conscious in the group, but most of it was likely more perceived risk than actual. (though a fall in those sections would still likely be painful and injurious) Very hot in the midday sun with periods of respite in the intermittent redwood gulches.

SYKES to BIG SUR STN:
Wilderness Freeway (due to heavy use) with the exception of multiple deadfalls (8-10?) requiring relatively easy climb overs.

Sykes hot springs were pretty full at noontime on the Thursday we arrived. Some debris and trash but relatively minimal for a well-used place.

Big Sur River was a knee-high ford.

Camped at Barlow which was in good condition--no visible trash. But very mosquito and fly-filled. Crossed to sites across river, again a knee high ford.
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Conditions reported by: David Roberts
Survey date: 06-MAY-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Church Creek Divide to Redwood Camp

Church Creek Divide to Redwood Camp

Trail tread from the Divide up to Pine Ridge Camp in good shape. A lot of brush cutting has been done lower down below the intersection with the Bear Basin trail, but in spots some additional judicious trimming was required. Very heavy brush at top of Pine Ridge -- acres of thick, brilliant, fragrant, blooming ceanothus made the trail nearly impassable. Much thicker than the last time I passed through two years ago.

Below Pine Ridge camp the brush was less thick but still required the occasional clipping session. The tread was sporadically poor much of the way down the "golden staircase" to Redwood Camp. Extreme caution must be exercised in places, a misstep could result in a hiker going into freefall down the steep hillside.
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Conditions reported by: John Yeo
Survey date: 21-FEB-2004
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Section: Big Sur Station to Sykes Camp

We hiked from the Big Sur ranger station to Sykes on Feb 20, and back on Feb 22. The hike in took about 5 hours. The trail was very easy to follow and in good shape. Several trees had fallen over the trail, but getting past them was not a problem.

The hike down river to Sykes was a bit tricky. It was necessary to climb along the rock cliff by the side of the river to get to the camp. Once at the camp, the trail to the springs was easy to find and follow.

The hike out took about four hours, and was a bit hard on the legs because there was so much downhill.
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Conditions reported by: Sinchi Tonooka
Survey date: 22-JAN-2004
General: PASSABLE but difficult and slow in places due to blowdowns.
Specific:

Section: China Camp to 1 mile past/west of Divide Camp.

Goal: In and out solo day hike to South Ventana Cone. Unable to achieve because started 2 hours too late and trail conditions slowed me down requiring extra energy.

This being my first for Ventana, I was impressed with the overall cleanliness and the pristine conditions of the trails.

Considerable encroaching frost covered or wet melting frost brush in the morning. Did not really slow me down or prevent trail finding. Just barreled through holding my trekking poles in front of me. Caused my nylon pants to get pretty wet but they quickly dried. One tree fall not far from the trail head but was easy to walk around.

Once over the first ridge, the trail on the south facing ridge provided excellent views of the Church Creek drainage and the south to southwestern peaks on this first clear almost cloudless day after 2 weeks of wet weather. Although the soil adjacent to the trail was wet and soft, the trail was, in general, dry and firm and in great hiking condition. Lost the trail in a level clearing about 1/4 mile from Church Creek Divide. Took one of the use trails to the left (south) which descended to an area where there was stark photogenic evidence of the past fire in the area which I photographed but the trail dead ended. I back tracked and found a use trail leading back to the main trail. I looked back up the main trail and saw the fist size rocky wash leading up towards the clearing. Shortly further down the trail is a blow down which is easily detoured. I memorized the view of this section for the return. On the return, I hiked up the rocky wash and again the trail gets hazy. However, there is a faded pink plastic ribbon tied high to a bush blazing the way to the aforementioned clearing. Hint: Hiking east to west on reaching the level clearing, stay to the right side or to the north side of the clearing and take what appears to be a gravely wash trail.

Relieved to reach Church Creek Divide. Having never been here before, expected to find a significant creek such as Church Creek to ford but there was no significant water at the divide clearing area. When I called the ranger station for trail conditions and whether there were any streams to ford, the person answering the phone appeared to be clueless about this trail, so I carried Tevas just in case.

Continued on Pine Ridge Trail westward and crossed several small streamlets across the trail. It would be easier to use a filter pump rather than trying to fill a bottle from the shallow streamlet to be treated with chemicals, which I carry. Fortunately, I was carrying an adequate supply of water and the cool 40 to 50 in the shade and 60 in the sun temperatures kept my water requirements low. Hiking to about 1 mile past the Divide Campsite, I had to overcome at least 3 nasty blowdowns. Two of them, I had to climb over, because the bank on both sides were too steep to attempt to bushwhack around. The third I was able to bushwhack around. Since the trail continues on the north shaded side of the ridge for another mile where more blow downs were likely to occur, I stopped to reconsider the feasibility of continuing further and having to return with more fatigue over these obstacles in the dark, even with a headlamp which I was carrying. The blowdowns were relatively fresh and there was no evidence of anyone else crossing them.

I decided to call off the goal of tagging South Ventana Cone this time and try to return to China Camp before dark which I succeeded in doing. For being so early in the season there was only one other vehicle at the trailhead when I arrived about 7:30 am and it was gone when I returned about 5:00 pm. I saw no one on the trail, although I heard several shotgun reports, scaringly close, so it was deserted which was fine with me. It takes 3 hours to reach China Camp from San Jose. I thought it would take 2 hours. Tassajara Road and the last 7 mile dirt section to China Camp really slows one down. Had to be careful to avoid large boulders on the dirt section and really slow down for the drainage cuts across the road bed. I would hope the road condition is improved later in the season. The signs indicating mileage in the wilderness appear to be topo miles. Actual mileage is considerably longer as probably more reliably reported in Schaffer's book and can be better estimated from topo elevation profiles.

This being my first for Ventana, I was impressed with the overall cleanliness and the pristine conditions of the trail, China Camp, and Church Creek Divide. Saw no trash, paper etc. along the trail. One disturbing sight was numerous spent shotgun cartridges and unnatural accumulation of feathers on the trail just beyond the trail head near China Camp. The other was an ugly fire circle at Church Creek Divide with exposed remnant ashes.
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Conditions reported by: John Fedak
Survey date: 17-JAN-2004
General: PASSABLE TO DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: China Camp to Pine Ridge ridge top

Considerable amount of newly down trees in the past month, mostly in the first mile or two from China camp. 1st mile could really use some trail maintenance.

No change in Church Camp to Pine Ridge ridge top. Water shortly after divide camp, trail overgrown in places
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Conditions reported by: John Fedak
Survey date: 22-NOV-2003
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: China Camp to Pine Ridge/Black Cone junction

China Camp to top of ridge: 1 new down tree in the last week and numerous short sections where you're tunneling through vegetation. No real route finding problems.

Ridge top to Church Creek: Mostly Clear. No water at Church Creek Divide.

Church Creek to Divide Camp: Damp. Trail muddy in places. Small bit of water about a half mile past Divide Camp.

Divide Camp to top of Pine Ridge. Trail overgrown in numerous short stretches. Minor route finding difficulties shortly before trail junction.
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Conditions reported by: Nathan York
Survey date: 06-SEPT-2003
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Entire - China Camp to Big Sur Station

China Camp to Church Creek Divide: Mostly Clear, but difficult in sections where deadfalls are blocking the trail. The trail is still very hard to find in one area about .25 miles from Church Creek Divide -- lots of deadfall and some use trails that dead-end.

Church Creek Divide to Bear Basin Connector junction: Difficult. Trail very overgrown and/or faint in places. There are some small trickles of water flowing across the trail near Divide Camp -- last water on trail till Redwood Creek Camp (although I've heard that Pine Ridge Camp has a spring???).

Bear Basin Connector junction to Pine Ridge Camp: Passable. Some Poison Oak.

Pine Ridge Camp to Redwood Creek Camp: Difficult. Faint tread in places near top of Pine Ridge. Otherwise, trail mostly overgrown but clear. Just before the Big Sur Trail junction there is a rock slide covering a section of the trail that traverses near vertical terrain -- in other words, its very dangerous. Besides the fact that I don't like scrambling over rocks near a cliff (w/o a rope that is!), the rocks themselves don't look very stable. After the Big Sur Trail junction the trail is soft and crumbling/sliding/damaged in many places. Also, we had the good fortune of seeing lots of Poison Oak and a Rattlesnake ... a very exciting bit of trail indeed!

Redwood Creek Camp to Sykes Camp: Clear. Some minor overgrowth and some Poison Oak in places. Sykes Camp proper had 3 sites occupied. Heavy use is apparent (wear and tear along river), but it appeared to be mostly clean. I assume the pit toilets have helped. However, we took a trek to the hot springs and found lots of campers along the way and lots of improper toilets ... ie human waste not buried and toilet paper scattered about. I guess some people cannot be bothered to dig a hole (or camp a few hundred yards from the springs). It would be nice if camping where restricted (and enforced) to areas near the pit toilets!

Sykes to Big Sur: Wilderness Freeway.
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Conditions reported by: David C. Laredo
Survey date: 24-MAY-2003
General: CLEAR
Specific:

This trail is in excellent shape with a few exceptions. Between Pine Ridge Camp and Redwood Camp there are long sections where encroaching brush almost obliterates the trail trace. Care must be take to remain on the trail. A slide has made travel a bit treacherous midway between these two camps, but it can be crossed with care, although loose scree and a full pack make for a bad combination.

Water at Pine Ridge Camp is plentiful. Wild flowers are still in magnificent bloom as of this weekend.
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Conditions reported by: joneelee
Survey date: 17-MAY-2003
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: China to Redwood Camp and return

Started from China Camp. Hiked as far as Redwood Camp. Heavy use and new tread around deadfall exists from China to Church Creek Divide. Trail from Divide to PRT x Black Cone is easy to follow, however, you have to push through lots of overgrowth. I carried a clipper to clear some of the path as we went -- but hardly made a dent. PRTxBCT down to Redwood: LOTs of overgrown grass and brush. Also a good deal of Poison Oak, though I either clipped or stomped down growths that would directly get in the way. Be careful at 1 small rock slide when you have to traverse a small very-unstable area ... a fall would be bad.

Camps:

Camped at Church Creek Divide because Pine Valley on a weekend was a carnival. Redwood Camp was very nice. River was fine and crossable. At Redwood camp, lot's of avoidable poison Oak, lots of bees (there might even be a nest in the ferns). Be nice to them and they'll be nice to you and store your nice smelly food away from where you're staying. I'd recommend you hang your food, not for bears, but for the little critters and varmints out there.

On the way back stayed at Pine Ridge Camp: plenty of water, flys and other bugs though. I'd recommend you buy one of those $3 bug nets for when you're hanging around at camp -- when walking, flies and other assorted winged creatures were not a problem.
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Conditions reported by: Thomas Meissner
Survey date: 5/6-APR-2003
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

China Camp - Church Divide:
large area with recent dead falls just above Church Divide. Use treads have developed around the obstacles.

Church Divide - Pine Ridge Camp:
several fallen trees, brush starts to encroach. trail easy to miss at the junction with the new Black Cone Trail on the top of Pine Ridge, especially when going E->W. Follow the trail going straight and descending towards the camp, don't follow the trail to the left (South, which is the new Black Cone trial), but also not the one to the right (North, which eventually will lead back towards Bear Basin). The situation is very confusing. A trail sign would be valuable.

Pine Ridge Camp - Redwood Camp:
Lots of brush starts to encroach now after the fire. Tread gets obscure at some spots. About 1/2 mile above the Jct with the Cineaga Trial, the trail crosses a gully, where a slide went across again. It is a chancy scramble. This problem has obviously been mentioned in earlier reports (Mark Maslow), was preliminary fixed a couple of years ago, but now has occurred again. Lots of ticks this time of the year due to the brush. Lots of poison oak above Redwood Camp.

Redwood Camp - Sykes:
Again, brush starts to encroach badly and therefore lots of ticks. Also lots of poison oak, especially above Sykes. Crossing the Big Sur River is a wet ford this time of the year.

Sykes - Big Sur:
mostly clear, little brush and easy walking. The only exception are a couple of large fallen trees, which one needs to crawl across or scramble around.
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Conditions reported by: Rob Ehlers
Survey date: 8-MAR-2003
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

China Camp to Pine Ridge Camp

The trail was mostly clear from China Camp to the Church Creek Divide. However, there is not really any shade to mention.

From the divide to Pine Ridge camp had a good amount of encroaching brush and downed trees across the trail. A couple of places required going around an alternate path.

None of the deadfall trees or brush really slowed me down much, the trail was generally in good condition.

I'd like to say that Pine Ridge camp is a WONDERFUL place to camp. You have a commanding view of the ocean, mountains, and just about the whole sky (star gazing).

I passed only a handful of people during my trip, and only on the section from China Camp to Church Creek Divide.
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Conditions reported by: Jerry Lee
Survey date: 22-23-JUNE-2002
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Big Sur Station to Sykes Camp: Wilderness Freeway. No significant trail problems. No water flowing between Big Sur and Terrace Creek. Lots of creeks and springs from Terrace Creek to Sykes Camp. Big Sur River easily crossed by rockhopping at Sykes. The hot springs pools are in good shape at Sykes. Only one illegal campfire at Sykes out of 6 occupied campsites observed.

Sykes Camp to Redwood Camp: Wilderness Freeway. No significant trail problems.

Redwood Camp to Pine Ridge Camp: Passable. Trail footpath is generally in good shape, but new brush growth is rapidly encroaching. Shorts not recommended - I came through with many many scratches from the brush. In places it was necessary to push through the brush with considerable effort to get through. There are two possible pitfalls for persons who don't know the trail: 1) at the cutoff to Pine Ridge Camp, the temporary sign is gone. There is no indication of the correct trail to the campground and water, and which way is the continuation of the main trail. Also, 2) at the downed tree near the top of Pine Ridge, there is a new (or newly exposed) trail leading off downhill in the wrong direction, while the real trail on the other side of the downed tree is obscured by new plant growth. (Ed. note: SE is the BCT, NW is Bear Basin Trail, and NE/SW is the Pine Ridge Trail) I was traveling ultra light and had no way to leave any trail markers at these trouble spots. There were plenty of biting flies and ticks on this section of trail, but a thick dousing with insect repellent seemed to deter them.

Pine Ridge Camp to Church Creek Divide: Wilderness Freeway. No significant problems.

Church Creek Divide to China Camp: Wilderness Freeway. Brush is starting to grow over some parts of the trail, but is not a significant problem yet.
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Conditions reported by: Stevenson School Wilderness Expedition
Survey date: FEB-2002
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Church Creek Divide to China Camp road head:
This is a wilderness highway. There are a couple of small step-over trees down across the trail near the top of the ridge above China Camp trailhead.

Big Sur Station to Pine Ridge Camp:
The trail is generally in good condition. We did some clipping along the section above Redwood Camp and on to the top. Generally, this should be a good hike for anyone who understands the elevation changes involved.
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Conditions reported by: David Knapp
Survey date: 22-FEB-2002
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY TO PASSABLE
Specific:

Big Sur Station to Sykes Camp

This was my first trip in this area, and my first solo hike. Left at 10:30am - arrived at 4:50pm.

I took the Pine Ridge Trail from Big Sur to Sykes Camp on FEB 22nd and back on the 23rd. I'm not sure what a wilderness freeway is - but I think that sounds like most of this trail - there were about 7 different places where I had to go under or over some parts of fallen trees - but other than that it was pretty good. In two places I noticed that others had stepped too close to the edge of the trail and it looked as if they came precariously close to tumbling down the hill - so be careful where you step - especially if the trail is narrow, muddy, and high.

Temperature was about 75 during the day, and about 40 at night. One other nice thing about this trail is that 90% is in the shade.

Also, the first four miles in took the longest for me and were the most difficult miles. It got easier for me past the Ventana Camp intersection.

The stream crossings I was able to make by rockhopping - but at the Big Sur river next to Sykes Camp I had to take the plunge and crossed in bare feet - that was incredibly cold water - it was also about 2-3 feet deep - dunno if that is normal or not. My feet were numb by the time I reached the other side.

There were no flies, and the mosquitos weren't worth mentioning - a couple got in my tent, but were easily killed.

I didn't use any deet, bug hat, or sunblock that trip.
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Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers
Survey date: 14-January-2002
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY TO PASSABLE
Specific:

Robert Louis Stevenson School's Wilderness Expedition leaders and co-leaders were out the weekend of Jan 13 to do some trail clearing and flagging into and out of Bear Basin Camp. I'm sending along my impressions of the trails and the results of our flagging.

China Camp to Church Creek Divide is a fine highway, barring a couple of freshly fallen trees at the top of the ridge above the trail head. These are easy step-overs and do not require detours off-trail. No problem for stock.

Church Creek Divide to Pine Valley is in excellent shape.

Church Creek Divide to Bear Basin Connector. The trail tread is mostly excellent. There are freshly fallen trees across the trail at several of the draws between the Divide and Divide Camp trail. These make for somewhat hazardous travel. All the trees are less than a foot in diameter that far. Past Divide Camp there are occasional fallen trees that require straddling or swinging under. Scrub oak and ceanothus are beginning to grow back across the trail in places.

Bear Basin Connector to Pine Ridge Camp. The trail is excellent, although scrub oak, ceanothus, and madrone are infringing on the trail. The only new fallen timber appears at the top of Pine Ridge where a tree has fallen, requiring a walk off trail. We flagged the route around the obstacle and cleared out the path. Those trunks are similar to the step-overs just before the trail junction down to Pine Ridge Camp. The trunks are about ten inches in diameter, larger than our saws could handle. Pine Ridge Camp is clean. The water source is not flowing through the pipe, though, but over the masonry wall. There is a good flow, but it makes one wonder whether the water is clean enough to drink without treating.
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Conditions reported by: Thomas Meissner
Survey date: 30-APRIL-2000
General: CLEAR
Specific:

The whole trail is in good condition.
Basically no fallen trees or other major obstacles.
Small rockslide about 2 miles E of Big Sur with loose tread.
Wet ford of Big Sur river at Sykes camp.
All other stream crossings can be rockhopped.
No signs of fire between Big Sur and about 0.5 miles W of Redwood creek, but there is some brush and poison oak at this stretch of the trail.
Beyond Redwood creek you walk through recent fire area, which has the advantage that almost all of the brush and poison oak is gone and there is a beautiful display of wild flowers (especially lupines).
I would not recommend to hike the section E of Redwood creek on hot day. There are some nasty flies out, but fortunately they don't bite.
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Specific Conditions

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Big Sur Station to Terrace Creek
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Conditions reported by: Andrew Ricciardi and Jennie Rees
Survey date: 9-June-99
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Wilderness Freeway, Very passable. One overgrown spot of French Broom about a mile from the trailhead.
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Conditions reported by: Meade Fischer
Survey date: March 1999
General: CLEAR
Specific:

In the woods above the gorge -- trail narrow and crumbling in spots, not "flat" due to slippage from rains. Places where one should be careful of footing.
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Terrace Creek to Sykes Camp
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Conditions reported by: Chuck Freedlun
Survey date: June-00
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Last June I and 4 young people hiked into Barlow. I had not been to Barlow since 1958, that's right, 42 years ago. I am 64 but I was determined to 'swim' the gorge one more time. We estimated that it was about 8 miles to Barlow and an additional 1/2 mile up stream to 'the gorge' that not too many people know about. So it was about a 17 mile hike, and it took us about 9 hours including the swim. I recommend it to everyone, I may even go again next year.
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Conditions reported by: Andrew Ricciardi and Jennie Rees
Survey date: 9-June-99
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Very passable. No slides, washouts, downed trees or overgrown brush.
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Sykes Camp to Pine Ridge
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Conditions reported by: Stevenson School Wilderness Expedition 2000
Survey date: APRIL-2000
General: CLEAR to WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Redwood Camp to Big Sur Trail = CLEAR TO WILDERNESS FREEWAY

Redwood Camp is clean and pleasant. Fire crews, besides cleaning it, stacked cords of fresh cut wood there. The trail up to the Big Sur Trail Junction is in the best condition it has been for years. The large tree across the trail a half-mile above Redwood Camp has been removed. A WILDERNESS FREEWAY up into the burned area.

Big Sur Trail Junction to Pine Ridge Camp =CLEAR TO WILDERNESS FREEWAY

This trail is in generally very good. After leaving the junction heading up, the first major runoff channel has experienced a gravel flow that threatens the trail, but it can be stepped over now. The rest of the trail to the top is a WILDERNESS FREEWAY. The first third passes through mostly burned area with good views, then the chaparral returns where the trail tends to the northeast, then re-enters burn on the last push up Pine Ridge to the Black Cone and Bear Basin Junctions.

The junction to Pine Ridge Camp is no longer as clear as it was, for the sign is gone and the clearings in the bushes are burned over. However, the trail down to the camp is excellent. Each of the gullies the trail crosses has been scoured down to the granite and is more dramatic than when covered by green plants.

Pine Ridge camp is more open than in the past; all the brush and manzanita around it has burned. The trail to the spring has been nicely cleared. The secondary spring just before the main channel still flows across the trail. Most of the remaining pines around the camp have been completely burned, but there are signs the big madrone in the center of the camp may survive.
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Conditions reported by: Andrew Ricciardi and Jennie Rees
Survey date: 9-June-99
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Trail in great condition, very passable. You know you're approaching Sykes Camp by the litter of toilet paper alongside the trail. Campers at Sykes Camp need to be informed on the LNT philosophy or how to correctly shit in the woods. Trail uphill from Redwood Camp is in good shape with no slides or washouts.
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Conditions reported by: Mark Maslow
Survey date: April, 1999
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Pine Ridge Trail cleared of downfall, brushed and tread work completed from junction with Big Sur Trail to crossing of the Big Sur River at Sykes.

The one known obstacle along the trail is a slide about 1/4 mile above the Big Sur Trail junction. This has been somewhat stablized by careful placement of rocks, and is now passable, but this small section will ultimately need to be rebuilt.
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Pine Ridge to Church Creek Divide
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Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers - Stevenson Wilderness Expedition
Survey date: 03-MAR-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Church Creek Divide to Pine Ridge Camp

Significant stretches of this trail are obscured by brush, mostly ceanothus, that is six feet high and must be pushed through. These sections are not long, and we cleared several in an hour or so of dedicated work. There are only a few deadfalls or other places where one must leave the established trail, so it remains passable to the top of Pine Ridge and beyond, but requires more work and pain from hikers than it should for such an important and popular trail. Immediately before the Pine Ridge Camp junction some additional trees have fallen across the trail, making it even more difficult to keep on the correct trail. Pine Ridge Camp has plenty of water, but more branches have fallen into the camping area.
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Conditions reported by: Ted Merrill
Survey date: 9-OCT-2002
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

I took this only from the Bear Basin Connector trail westward to Pine Ridge Camp. The trail is getting overgrown, especially due to regrowth after the fire of several years go, but twenty minutes of clipping on my part alleviated a few particularly bad spots. The tread is poor in places, but acceptable. Pine Ridge Camp and it's immediate trees mostly escaped the fire (were protected by fire fighters?) but it is a little bleak around there. The creeklet had a steady flow of water. The trail to the camp is now marked with a sign; thanks, volunteers.
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Conditions reported by: Ojai Valley School - "Las Papas Gigantescas"
Survey date: APRIL-MAY, 2002
General: CLEAR to PASSABLE
Specific:

Pine Ridge Trail: Pine Valley to Black Cone Trail:
It rained during the night and we woke to find our semi-dry gear all wet again! After we passed the gate and crossed the stream to another large camp we took the trail just left of the spring. Steep climb would be better with switchbacks! We traversed around Bear Basin on a well-marked trail; however, the trail to the basin looked to be in good condition and was recently taped (Snow flurries). Trail around Bear Basin had lots of soft brush (carwash). This was a good trail that had some snow on the north-facing slope, but the trail was not really affected.
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Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers
Survey date: AUGUST-01
General: CLEAR to PASSABLE
Specific:

Church Creek Divide to Pine Ridge Camp

The trail is easy to follow but there are four or five trees across it that require stepping over carefully. Divide Camp is unattractive at this time of year. Although there are several significant flows across the Pine Ridge Trail itself, even this late in August, there is only a trickle of water in the camp area. Go upstream from the flat camping area, avoiding the stinging nettles if possible, and use a shallow pan to gather water from the flow. Nearer the camp, water flows along the surface. As a result, a jungle of greenery has sprouted in what used to be the center of camp. Besides the lack of water, and lots of stinging nettles, there is a lot of nighttime noise from nocturnal animals on the slopes above the camp. I guessed them to be wood rats. In any case, they did not bother my food but were active and noisy throughout the night.

From Divide Camp to Pine Ridge Camp the trail is generally in good shape. There are a couple of trees to cross, but only one requires briefly leaving the normal trail. Brush is beginning to creep back over the trail, mostly scrub oak, manzanita, bay, and ceanothus. There is very little poison oak.
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Conditions reported by: Greg Meyer
Survey date: 18-MARCH-01
General: CLEAR - SECTIONS PASSABLE TO DIFFICULT
Specific:

The Pine Ridge Trail from China Camp to Divide Camp is in good shape with minor blow-down from the fire and a snowy winter. The section from Divide Camp to Pine Ridge Camp however is passable but sections could be rated difficult. In mid-March many of the north-facing sections above 4000' still had 6" - 12" of snow. The heavy snow of winter, left many downed tan oaks and madrones across the trail on this section. Many fire damaged trees were also downed. Sections of the trail were very soggy because of the snow melt and I would guess that will continue through spring.

While on our 3 night trip, we climbed the South Ventana Cone from the saddle before Pine Ridge Camp. Nothing is left of the trail that had been cleared to the top but hiking cross-country was easy because most of the chaparral has been cleared by the fire. If anyone is interested making this hike, I would do it soon as the ceanothus and manzanita was vigorously stump-sprouting after the fire. The slopes will probably soon be covered again in heavy shrubs.

I also hiked the Pine Valley-Pine Ridge trail and found it to be in excellent condition. Very little fire damage and great views of Pine Valley, Bear Valley and the Double Cones. Many Santa Lucia Firs along the way too.
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Conditions reported by: Stevenson School Wilderness Expedition 2000
Survey date: APRIL-2000
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Church Creek Divide to Divide Camp=CLEAR

The trail from Divide to Divide camp is also great. One of the springs crossing the trail has turned it into a mud pit, which people are trying to avoid, hence spreading the trail. There has been a lot of clearing on this section, and all the way up to Pine Ridge. In Divide Camp, a second flat has been developed below the first: the second is smaller, and not entirely level, but has better water. The way to it has been flagged by someone recently: from the flattest ground in the upper camp, pass by the firepit on the right hand side, and continue down the hill in that direction.

Divide Camp Junction to Pine Ridge=CLEAR, SOME SHORT PASSABLE SPOTS

Continuing past Divide Camp up to Pine Ridge there were two spots where people have detoured around brush growing over the trail, but we clipped this and the original tread is now quite inviting. The junction with the "shortcut" to Pine Valley has been well brushed out, and is now impossible to miss, but it needs a sign. Farther up, a bit below the point where the trail crosses a gravel slide (with a wall well built into it) a spring has been revealed by the fires: it sits on an obvious shoulder about 20 feet below the trail at a point where the trail rounds an outside corner. The water seeps and drips from a small cave, but can't be said to flow. There is a ton of new growth right around the spring, so it probably won't be visible for long, and may not run in the summer. The trail to the top is in good condition, and the effects of the fires (1999 and Marble-Cone) are striking. Many trees felled by the first fire were burned off by the second, and other newly fallen trees have forced slight detours in the trail, which remains easy to follow (although perhaps not if there were snow on the ground). The intersection with the Black Cone trail and the Bear Basin Trail needs a sign badly, and the junction with the Pine Ridge Camp Trail could probably use one as well. Pine Ridge itself and Pine Ridge Camp both look drastically different, and the camp, without even the protection the chaparral provided against the wind, will prove an undesirable one in a storm. The springs near the camp are running quite well.
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Conditions reported by: Boon Hughey
Survey date: 2-APRIL-00
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Following Thom's description below, Steve Wilson and I went through with bow saws and cut out the few trees that lay across the trail. But as with all the other trails in the burn area, trees are going to be coming down on a regular basis for years. If everyone would go out and invest $8 in a bow saw and carry it with them on their backcountry trips we may just be able to stay on top of this inevitable problem.
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Conditions reported by: Thom Carson
Survey date: 27-MARCH-00
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Overall condition of trail: Good with some snags between Church Creek Divide and Bear Gulch Trail junction.

There in NO reason I saw why this trail should have been closed. The fallen trees I encountered were no worse than those I encounter every spring after a normal winter. Were the tread any wider, I could have driven my SUV the entire length to South Ventana Cone. There were a few south facing slopes that were scorched pretty much to the ground. The worst being just before the decent into the divide and at SVC. The canopy from the divide to SVC in nearly intact. I was in the shade most of that portion. The headwaters of the Carmel River were cool and sweet. For the most part, the biggest effect the fire had on this portion of the PRT is to remove any sign of poison oak and most of the brush that had encroached on the trail. Anyone traveling this portion of the PRT could help if they carried a small bow saw to help clear the few remaining problems.
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Church Creek Divide to China Camp
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Conditions reported by: greg meyer
Survey date: 27-MAR-2004
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: China Camp to Pine Ridge Camp via Pine Valley

Our group hiked from the China Camp trailhead to the Church Creek divide. The trail was passable but is getting very brushy in places and there are a number of deadfalls across the trail from trees that died in the 1999 fire. >From Church Creek we hiked into Pine Valley and up the Bear Basin trail. Back on the Pine Ridge Trail, we continued towards the So. Ventana Cone. Both the western reaches of the Pine Ridge and the Bear Basin trail are really overgrown with deerweed, ceanothus and other shrubby plants. The trail is much less passable than it was just two years ago and travel is slow through the overgrown areas...
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Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers - Stevenson Wilderness Expedition
Survey date: 29-FEB-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: China Camp to Church Creek Divide

The trail is passable with the exception of 6 significant blowdowns across the trail, some from the storm this week. Immediately out of the trailhead several slender pine trunks are down in the trail. Three more trunks across the trail require minor detours before reaching a double-trunked oak that requires climbing over. Two more spots require detours, one very brief to avoid a brushy tree top and one more severe that has occasioned a major trail re-route shortly before the Divide. Nevertheless, with the brush clearing we accomplished,this section of the Pine Ridge Trail is easily passable.
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Conditions reported by: EW
Survey date: 21-MAR-2004
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

Section: Church Creek Divide to China Camp

Church Creek Divide> China Camp: CLEAR to WILDERNESS FREEWAY Easily followed as per usual, a downed tree has necessitated a flagged re-routing around a prominent Black Oak just above the divide. There are no serious impediments to travel, but Ceanothus has choked parts of the trail more severely than I've ever seen - a brush crew is needed in short order.
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Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers
Survey date: 15/16-FEB-2003
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

China Camp to Bear Basin Connector

Pine Ridge Trail, China Camp to Church Creek Divide, is in poor condition due to blow downs and encroaching ceanothus. There are two low overhanging trees on the way up the first ridge, several step-over trees on the slope going west, and a slip-out of the tread past the new switch backs. On the final sweep down to Divide, there are four major trees across the trail. Use trails are developing around the obstacles, but pack animals would most likely be blocked. We clipped and sawed lots of ceanothus, but much remains to do.

Pine Ridge Trail, from Church Creek Divide to the Bear Basin Connector (the cut off to Pine Valley Camp) is in poor condition due to blow downs and encroaching ceanothus. There are two large trees across the trail on the way to the Divide Camp Trail, and more from there to the Cutoff. The foot bed is good, but the blow downs would probably prevent pack animals from using the trail until it is cleared by people with full-sized hand saws.
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Conditions reported by: Jerry Lee
Survey date: 5-DEC-2002
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY to PASSABLE
Specific:

The November storm knocked down a considerable number of fire-deadened trees on the ridge. Most of the trail is still in very good shape, but a number of trees fell onto the trail. An afternoon with a brush saw has cleared the deadfalls so that hikers can easily pass over/through them, but horses will still have to go around. A crew with a larger saw will be needed to cut through the tree trunks and completely clear the trail. Expect the mid-December storm to knock down a lot more trees everywhere.
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Conditions reported by: Jacob Koff
Survey date: 2-Nov-2002
General: CLEAR W/ FEW BRUSHY SECTIONS
Specific:

The trail is generally in excellent shape, except for a few areas that are overgrown. There is a tiny trickle of water at Divide Camp. A nice stream, with a small but steady flow, crosses the trail about 1 mile west of Divide Camp. The next water is at Pine Ridge Camp. This steam was flowing nicely, even in early November of a dry year.

The junction of the Pine Ridge and Black Cone Trails is well marked, not only with a metal sign affixed to a tree, but with bright plastic streamers.

There is also a volunteer-placed sign on the Pine Ridge Trail, just west of its intersection with the Black Cone Trail, pointing the way to Pine Ridge Camp and water. The weekend I was there, there were several hunters near the area where the Pine Ridge Trail intersects the Pine Valley Trail. Gunshots were frequent.
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Conditions reported by: John Ueng-McHale
Survey date: 5-AUGUST-2002
General: CLEAR TO PASSABLE
Specific:

China Camp to Church Creek Divide:
Parts of the trail were quite overgrown, but the tread was always obvious. I recommend pants and a long-sleeve shirt to avoid cuts. Bugs weren't bad hiking in or out of the valley, but during the day in the valley itself there were plenty of flies and mosquitoes. Still, the views on this section of the trail are well worth the brush and bugs. Also, we found no water from China Camp in to Divide Camp (~4 miles), so bring enough water to get you at least to there.

Church Creek Divide to Divide Camp:
There was plenty of brush in this section (long pants and shirt sleeves recommended, even in August), but the trail was always obvious. A meter-wide section of the trail was muddy from a small stream runoff (I can only imagine what this section is like in the rainy season), but easily passable. There were perhaps two downed trees, but these were easily stepped over as well.
The stream at Divide Camp was only a trickle, but we were able to filter all the water we needed from it. During the day, there were many flies and mosquitoes -- we spent part of the day in our tent as a result!
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Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers
Survey date: AUGUST-01
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

This is a wilderness highway with few issues except several soft spots where the foot bed is slipping downhill on some of the steep meadow stretches.
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Conditions reported by: W.H.
Survey date:MARCH-01
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

China Camp to Pine Valley

At the top of the first climb from China camp brush is blocking the trail but is passable by crawling on all fours. The snow on that first climb makes for a tedious ascent stepping in other's footsteps. The second descent has several fallen trees that will not deter most hikers but may block livestock. The trail through the meadow (at Pine Valley) is almost completely under water as the meadow is in its swamp phase.
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Conditions reported by: Stevenson School Wilderness Expedition 2000
Survey date: APRIL-2000
General: CLEAR
Specific:

China Camp to Church Creek Divide =CLEAR

From China Camp up to the ridge top, the burn (and someone with a saw) has really cleared the trail. The few fallen trees in that section burned away, as did the brush, leaving great views of Miller Canyon.
From the ridge down to Divide the burn was intense in places, but again served primarily to improve the trail and its views. The Live Oak is making a comeback, however, with new growth from stumps in all but the hottest burn areas. The trail seems also to have received a ton of maintenance, especially on the final drop into Divide, where new tread has been put in where the old one slumped. There is one place visible at the beginning of the drop into Divide that looks like it is a small (30ft diameter) bomb crater. It is heavily burned out, and has a bowl shape. Did they ignite backfire here? Or drop a whole helicopter full of water in one spot? Or could it be a natural feature?
Church Creek Divide is well signed, with a new sign, but the trail
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Pine Ridge Trail

Postby dknapp1 on Tue May 26, 2009 11:34 am

* USFS Trail # 3E06
* Parking: Big Sur Station ($4/day), China Camp
* Watershed: Big Sur River, Carmel Rivers
* Junctions: Ventana Camp Trail, Terrace Creek Trail, Big Sur Trail, Black Cone Trail,
Bear Basin Trail, Carmel River Trail, Church Creek Trail
* Connects: Big Sur Station with Tassajara Road at China Camp
* Camps: Terrace Creek, Barlow Flat, Sykes, Redwood, Pine Ridge, Divide Camps.
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