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San Antonio Trail

San Antonio trail is Passable but Needs Some Work

Postby riatch on Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:52 pm

Date Hiked: October 11, 2009
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked down the San Antonio trail 2 days before the big storm of Ocotber 13, 2009 ... so I imagine the conditions are even worse today than what I am reporting now. While it is only 1.5 miles from Cone Peak Rd. down to Fresno Camp ... I was not able to hike all the way to Fresno Camp. I turned around about a half mile from the camp. This is not to say the trail was not passable, I simply did not have the time to hike all the way down to the camp.

The first hundred yards of the trail are plagued with encroaching brush and the tread is strewn with small rocks. Someone (possibly a fire crew) did some clearing in the area that is typically a tunnel through the brush. While heavy-handed, whoever did this work cleared areas where brush can be pushed down the slope instead of having to weave cut brush through the tunnel to get it out of the way.

I had to duck or crawl under at least 6 small to medium sized deadfalls about a half mile from the trailhead. Since the trail is still an old road cut at this point, the tread is readily apparent ... but there are small slides and encroaching brush that threaten the long-term viability of the tread.

I encourage anyone who hikes this trail to take a hand saw and / or loppers to help brush out this trail. The reward of this hike is the beautiful benchlands along the headwaters of the San Antonio river ... though I shudder to think what it was like back there yesterday when at least 9 inches of rain dumped on the ridge above.
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Trail Conditions History 2001-2008

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 12:01 pm

Date Hiked: April 21, 2008
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Conditions reported by: More McCormack
Survey date: 21-APRIL-2008
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Cone Peak Road to Fresno Camp - Passable

Some encroaching brush but the tred is well defined and the trail is easily followed down to Fresno Camp. Fresno Camp has one nice area towards the eastern end of the site and good water.
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Conditions reported by: Rich Popchak
Survey date: 19-JANUARY-2008
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Cone Peak Road to Fresno Camp - Passable

We hiked down the San Antonio Trail for an overnight at Fresno Camp. We encountered encroaching brush initially and we did some minor clearing. But we soon encountered multiple small to medium sized deadfall scrub oaks...probably blown down by the storm of 1/5/08. In most cases, we were able to remove these snags from being across the trail by pushing them deep into the brush. There are one or two madrones down across the trail and we did out best to clear the limbs we could handle with a Corona saw. We also lopped a significant amount of encroaching ceanothus, yerba santa and scrub oak. Certainly anyone heading down to Fresno Camp can now do so with very little effort...but continual maintenance will be required to limit the encroaching brush and the ticks it can harbor. Fresno Camp itself is a delightful place and the spartan upper and lower camps can be located with a minimum of effort.Poison Oak is abundant in the floodplain. We did not cross the river and venture past Fresno Camp.
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Conditions reported by: Greg M
Survey date: 20-OCTOBER-2007
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

As the editor notes in Mike Blanksma's 11/5/02 trail report, the San Antonio trail is actually an old road built by the army during WWII. This knowledge will help the hiker discern what is trail and what is simply a river bench.

Section: Cone Peak Road to Fresno Camp - Clear to Passable

This section of the San Antonio was cleared by the VWA Trail Crew in January 2005. Their excellent work is still mostly intact. The tread remains clear, packed, and obvious. Brush is encroaching in spots, especially in the top 1/3 of the trail by Cone Peak Rd. Only a few deadfalls on this section, with one crawl-under, one deadfall that you can do a 'swinging limbo' move to get under, a couple to climb over, and several to simply step over. Poison Oak is no problem on this section. There are four switchbacks on the way to Fresno camp, with the last switchback dumping you directly in the camp's flats. The first switchback, which was a source of confusion before the trail crew's work, is still obvious with no chance of losing the trail. A major deadfall just before you make camp forces you to make a 100' detour, but the camp's location is obvious: simply in the flats at the bottom of the canyon, next to the river.

Despite the dry season, the river was a swift stream at Fresno camp, with plenty of flow and volume. The water was cool, clean and clear, simply coming from the nearby eastern slopes of Cone Peak.

Fresno Camp is a jewel, despite it taking heavy beatings from previous El Nino years in '85 and '99. You can clearly see a run-off course from those years which created an island around the main, riverside camp. Planks from the original table make an impromptu seat, with a sturdy, deep firepit and cosy bedsite right next to the river. For this trip, fire restrictions were in place and observed. Other, very comfortable bedsites are close by, and this main camp can accommodate a small group of 3-5 tents.

Another camp lies upstream about 120 yards, with more table plank seating and a less established fire ring. There is room for 3 tents here, maximum.

There are at least 3 fire rings and possible campsites downriver from the main site, but none has been used for a long time. The bedsites are overgrown and would have to be cleared to create a cozy spot. The fire rings would have to be dug out and rebuilt to be functional. However, each site itself was beautiful. Fresno camp must have been spectacular before the El Nino years, with several pristine sites along the beautiful flats of the riparian corridor.

Section: Fresno Camp to San Antonio Camp - Passable to Difficult

This section was covered as a day hike between the two camps, with a second night being spent at Fresno. So, we had the benefit of having only day packs as weight and encumbrance. Please note that if a full backpack were worn on this section, I would classify the trail as difficult to very difficult.

Also note that poison oak is a huge problem on this section. We were lucky to tackle this trail in Autumn, when the plant's leaves had fallen off, and mostly just the brown stalks and buds are all that were visible. I still got a mild case, and I applied Ivy Block before and washed with Tecnu after. If poison oak is in full bloom, or even if the leaves remain, the trail would become obliterated in places, and you would have to push through walls of poison oak while walking in a waist high field of it.

The trail immediately crosses to the north bank of the river directly out of the main campsite at Fresno. Right away, there are two deadfalls to negotiate, falling in line directly over the trail. One can climb atop the deadfalls and walk the length of the downed trees, climb in the river, or climb up and over the falls. (See note above regarding full packs.)

The trail is indistinct, overgrown, with faint tread at first. You will pass two overgrown campsites with fire rings within a quarter mile or so. When the true left bench peters out into bluff, cross to the south bank.

You will pass another large fire ring and flat that must have been a big, beautiful group site 'back in the day'. Once past this big ring, look for the road cut climbing high above the river, along the true right side.

This is where we made our first mistake heading downriver. We ended up slogging through the river much of the way towards San Antonio camp, only eventually stumbling on the roadcut after a fair distance.

Heading back upriver to Fresno, we were able to stay on trail for nearly the entire length, and cut our return time by 45 minutes. In addition, we were able to do some minor sawing and pruning of a few deadfalls on our way back to Fresno camp.

Once you find the roadcut at this critical juncture, the San Antonio Trail is a pleasant, if not difficult, route all the way to San Antonio Camp. In fact, a few sections become clear, despite the ever-present poison oak springing up all around.

The trail crosses the river several times, perhaps 4 crossings total, as it winds down the canyon. Blue tape from a previous adventurer signaled the river crossings. This tagging helped immensely in our travels thanks to whomever tagged this trail!

Heading downriver, we lost the trail after the second crossing back to the north bank of the river. The blue tape was placed to suggest a steep climp up and around a bluff, and we followed what seemed to be a trail until it washed together with several other animal trails, none of which seemed to be an established trail. After some hemming and hawing, we went back down to the river and walked in the stream for a time around the bluff, until we again found the roadbed.

As you near San Antonio Camp, the trail winds around through thick brush as the original roadbed is washed out in several ravines. Keep an eye out for the blue tape, and realize that you'll typically hit the roadbed again as you wind back out of the ravines.

San Antonio Camp is a delightful, open, clean area on a bench some 20 feet above the river. There is one main site with a fire ring, table plank seating, and an old icemaker stove. Instead of its original metal roof, which was gone, some clever person strung barbed wire across the top for a makeshift grill. Water is obtained with a short jaunt down the 20 foot hill to the river. There is sun and shade at the open site, with room for 5-8 tents. It may be obvious, but it looked like the site had not been used in awhile.

Just downstream from San Antonio Camp, we came upon a strange sight- the Casey stone house. This stone and mortar cabin was a mere 5-10 minutes downstream from the camp, enclosed in a barbed wire fence. Just as the roadcut starts climbing the hill leading to the Salsipuedes Ranch boundary, the house is found on the flats by the river in a shaded grove of trees. Inside the enclosure was a picnic table in excellent condition, and a stone and mortar firepit with a cast iron stove mounted atop it. Unfortunately, garbage was strewn throughout inside the cabin, and the items found inside lead one to think that this structure may be used as a base for pot growers. This fine old structure has a past that I would like to learn.

Overall:

The San Antonio Trail suffers from overgrowth, deadfall, and forests of poison oak. However, since it is an old roadcut, most sections are in good shape. I applaud any efforts to explore, restore, and maintain this trail. It follows a beautiful river valley from the east side of Cone Peak towards the Central Valley, and allows a visitor to enjoy sublime solitude in the heart of Ventana within easy hiking distance of the Cone Peak Road.
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Conditions reported by: Andy Miller
Survey date: 26-JULY-2005
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: San Antonio Trail to Fresno Camp - Passable

We hiked this trail for an overnight stay at Fresno Camp. The trailhead was a little hard to find and we initially drove too far up the Cone Peak Rd. The first part of the trail was quite brushy but no problem getting through or keeping on the trail. Overall the trail is in good condition but it does appear to be lightly used. There was only one tree across the trail and it was easy enough to get under it (or around it).

We made it into Fresno Camp and located the main site by the river. The camp is also somewhat overgrown so we took some time to clean it up a bit. There is a nice pool right by the camp that we caught a few rainbow trout in. The trail after Fresno camp is barely there anymore. With all the overgrowth and poison oak I would be reluctant to even call it a trail. We did walk about a mile downstream by simply walking in the river. We could see remnants of old camps and the trail as we went. We also found some Indian grinding morters about 100 yards up river from the camp.

One thing I like about this time of year is how warm it stays at night. We slept outside our bags most of the night. The flies were very friendly and hardly left us alone at all! The heat on the way into and out of Fresno Camp this time of year is a bit intense as well.

All things considered, the hike to Fresno Camp is a quick way to get deep into Los Padres in a minimal amount of time.
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Conditions reported by: David Knapp
Survey date: DEC-4-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Cone Peak Rd. trailhead to Fresno Camp

The San Antonio Trail is a combination of passable, clear, and wilderness freeway after a lot of hard work by the Forest Service (Thanks Wil, Dario and whoever else sawed up the 25 odd trees!) and 2 days of work by our VWA Trail crew - Adrian, Bob, Dave, Robert, Art, John, and Wil. There is no longer any danger of losing the trail on the way to Fresno Camp. Major sections are now brushed. Over 7 flags were made superfluous and eliminated. Approx. 300 ft of tread was rebuilt and about 1000 ft of brush was cut back. The first switchback where people kept losing the trail was cleared and made obvious. There is plenty of room for improvement, including a few areas where treadwork could be done.

We left the flags up at Fresno camp where the trail crosses the river in order to encourage others to make the crossing. There is a large tree down on the river bank which of course blocked the trail, however we were able to clear out another smaller tree and hopefully made obvious the trail on the far side of the river.
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Conditions reported by: Robert Parks
Survey date: 12-4-2004
General: CLEAR
Specific:

Section: Trailhead on Cone Peak Rd. to Fresno Camp

This report describes the trail after the VWA work trip the weekend of December 4-5- from Cone Peak Road to Fresno Camp only.

The trail is clear and easy to follow down to Fresno Camp. There remain a few substantial deadfalls that require scrambling detours (not terribly difficult)...the Forest Service may send a crew to log those. The tread is mostly good, although there are sections that have filled in and still need work. Brush is clear of the trail, although there remain sections where additional brushing would be welcome.

The crossing of the San Antonio River at Fresno Camp was cleaned up and made more distinct, although no work was done beyond that point.

Some pictures from the worktrip:

http://sonic.net/~rparkssf/lvhot/041204-ventana/
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Conditions reported by: Gary Auth
Survey date: 27-AUG-2004
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: Cone Peak Rd. trailhead to Fresno Camp

The San Antonio Tr. trailhead is marked with a new sign and starts out brush free with a clear tread thru typical chaparral flora. It is a short (a little over a mile) downhill hike all the way to Fresno Camp with beautiful views of the San Antonio watershed. Water flows in the San Antonio River (creek) year round. But trail conditions have not changed much since the last report so bring your pruners!!

About halfway down to the river the trail begins to get a little iffy. A couple of deadfalls block your way and the yerba santa, poison oak, and chamise become thicker, growing right out of the tread. A little further on, another chaparral weed resembling broom begins to dominate. When you arrive at the 90 degree switchback (now heading northwest) this weed, which grows in excess of 6 feet tall, encroaches from both sides of the trail and completely obliterates the tread. You have to fight your way thru and keep an eye out for the pink or yellow ribbons which indicate you¹re on the right track. This broom is easily prunable but loves to hang out with poison oak, so be careful. Adrian and I both had pruners and worked hard to put a very small dent in this weedy forest.

Two more large deadfalls hinder your progress until you finally arrive at Fresno Camp, a pleasant little spot in the riparian corridor, cool and shady on this summer day. The trail crosses the creek and continues on to San Antonio Camp but was so overgrown and thick with P.O. that we did not pursue it.
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Conditions reported by: Rob Yang
Survey date: 27-DEC-2003
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: Cone Peak Road to Fresno Camp

The first half of the descent to Fresno was intermittently brushy, and I did some clipping and sawing to help that. Further down, there was a longish stretch where the brush really closed in, and I passed through on the heels of someone else's clipping and flagging, for which I'm grateful, but it still needs a lot of work. Several large deadfalls were also present on the lower part of the trail.

Plenty of water at the camp, but *cold* this time of year. Probably got down into the 20's when I was there, and a hard frost covered everything in the morning. There were several hanging trash bags and plastic water bottles strewn about when I got there. Wish I could have packed them out.
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Conditions reported by: Rick Johnson
Survey date: 21-JUNE-2003
General: IMPASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Cone Peak Rd. Trailhead down

The starting point for our Boy Scout 50-miler was Cone Peak Road. At first we could follow the trail then as it got into very tall brush, we missed the switchback down to Fresno and ended up following what looked like an old road for a way. We lost that and went straight down a water course to the San Antonio River. After hours of difficult walking along the river, we, by accident, came upon a trail and camped at the first flat spot we could find. The next morning, we followed the trail and came upon San Antonio. We continued on the trail past slides and downed trees to the boundary at the private property. The Forest Service had told us we could pass. But we encountered several locked gates and No Trespassing Signs.

(ED. NOTE: As stated on this San Antonio trail conditions page, DO NOT attempt to CROSS lands of the SALSIPUEDES RANCH.)

The river area is very beautiful, but without a proper trail, I would not recommend entering this area as the easy access/egress is blocked by private property (From Cone Peak Road, the access is difficult enough going down, I couldn't imagine climbing out.)
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Conditions reported by: Mike Blanksma
Survey date: 5-NOV-2002
General: IMPASSABLE
Specific:

VERY STRENUOUS Cross Country!

No evidence of the trail coming out of Fresno Camp, so we continued cross-country by boulder hopping down the river. (ED. note: The ³trail² between Fresno and San Antonio Camps is/was a road built by the Army during W.W.II. Many hikers looking for a trail miss the old roadway) Spotted fresh mountain lion and black bear tracks along the riverbank. TONS of poison oak. Pushed on for three very strenuous hours until we came upon San Antonio Camp. The camp is overgrown and there is no evidence of use in years, but the fire pit is still there and the site is in over-all excellent condition, considering the lack of use. Room for three tents on a very level table above the river. One hundred or so yards down stream from the camp is a fire road leading up to Timothy Bottom's ranch. Cattle tracks on the road- we did not go up the road, knowing Mr. Bottoms does not appreciate trespassers. We did find evidence of the San Antonio Trail heading out of the camp, but this climbs up to the ranch and soon disintegrates into nothing. We did not attempt the trail on the hike out. I would not recommend this hike but to the heartiest of souls and definitely not during storm season.
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Conditions reported by: Steve Graner
Survey date: 3-OCT-2002
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Many areas of significant brush encroachment requiring a "push-through". One important switchback, not evident because of overhead, thick brush, is now flagged. A few deadfalls and a few tread washouts. Lovely camp at Fresno. Plenty of flowing water. Great weather. And no one else around--I think the Coast Road may have been closed.
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Conditions reported by: Rob Yang
Survey date: 23-FEB-2002
General: CLEAR TO DIFFICULT
Specific:

From Cone Peak Road to Fresno camp - good tread, some encroaching yerba santa and madrone, and only a few blowdowns - the main one was about a mile or so from the trailhead. I walked downhill to get around it at first (bad), and uphill of it coming back (better). Water was flowing nicely along the San Antonio River at the camp.
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Conditions reported by: Steve Chambers
Survey date: 02-FEB-2001
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

The trail sign, probably burnt in 1999, has been replaced with a sign board at the trailhead. The tread and trail becomes more distinct as it descends into the San Antonio watershed. This is an extremely well graded trail, with only a few overhanging burnt brush stems now. Many of the burnt, but standing, small trees and brush along the trail will become deadfalls in the coming years. At the third of four switchbacks, a 30 foot cascade may be observed far below the trail, a tributary to the San Antonio River.

Not much left of Fresno Camp, an informal rock fire ring with a few boards lashed together for a bench, and an unused iron grill and a culvert fire ring upstream. Much of this river area has been scoured and flooded by El Nino storms and runoff after both the 1985 and 1999 wildfires.

Trail condition downstream is unknown.
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San Antonio Trail

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 12:00 pm

* USFS Trail # 5E04
* Parking: Cone Peak Road
* Watershed: San Antonio River
* Junctions: None
* Connects: Cone Peak Road with San Antonio Camp
* Camps: Fresno Camp, San Antonio Camp
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