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South Fork Trail

Re: South Fork Trail

Postby Guest on Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:28 pm

Date Hiked: January 5, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

The trail is in terrible condition from Strawberry to Rainbow Camp. I highly recommend avoiding this section unless you are down for a fight. Absolutely miserable.
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby Paul on Mon Aug 01, 2011 10:08 pm

lostsheep wrote:Date Hiked: June 22, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I was asked by a ranger to report back on our experience for this route so here we go:

We hiked through this section of trail on June 21st and 22nd going from Rainbow to Strawberry. This section of trail took everything my partner and I had to follow the trail. Whoever flagged the trail, thank you, thank you, thank you. The trail is doable but it is not for the faint of heart. I have two very large poison oak patches on each ankle and I removed several ticks (none had bitten me).

I do not recommend this section of trail unless it's between you and your destination.


I hiked this same trail July 22nd. It was really bad. Spent most time crawlining over limbs. We left a rope at one place were trail was avalanched. Poison ivy is bad. Three of the 6 of us that went got a bad poison ivy rash. Two of us saw a rattle snake on trail. Lost site of ribbons half way and got a little lost. Luckly we found them the next day and hiked out of there. Followed trail back to man van. Will not be back. They should close that part of trail down.
Paul
 

Re: South Fork Trail

Postby lostsheep on Mon Jun 27, 2011 10:12 am

Date Hiked: June 22, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I was asked by a ranger to report back on our experience for this route so here we go:

We hiked through this section of trail on June 21st and 22nd going from Rainbow to Strawberry. This section of trail took everything my partner and I had to follow the trail. Whoever flagged the trail, thank you, thank you, thank you. The trail is doable but it is not for the faint of heart. I have two very large poison oak patches on each ankle and I removed several ticks (none had bitten me).

I do not recommend this section of trail unless it's between you and your destination.
lostsheep
 

Re: South Fork Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:16 am

Hiked out to see the waterfall south of Rainbow camp reported by "fulmar2", of which he saw only the top. It took a careful approach to reach a vantage point, about 35 ft off-trail, from which the entire falls could be viewed, but it was a nice spot to eat lunch while viewing the falls, as the attached photo attests. The drop from top to pool is 53 ft, not as tall as had been guessed, but it is a pretty falls with a green mossy background near the bottom. Hopefully others will enjoy viewing this waterfall as they hike the South Fork Trail. It's exact location can be obtained from my Ventana on-line trailmap:

http://www.drjack.info/HIKES/TRAILMAP/v ... ilmap.html

Jack Glendening
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RainbowFalls-glendening.eighthsize.jpg
Rainbow Falls
Big Sur Trailmap: http://bigsurtrailmap.net
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:01 am

Thanks much for providing your GPX file containing your South Fork Trail route. I have now extracted a smoothed-version of it and am displaying it in my on-line Ventana Trail Map

http://www.ventanahiking.net/TRAILMAP/v ... ilmap.html

where it can be compared to the trail locations as provided by the USFS and as mapped by Jeff Schaffer for his Big Sur hiking book.

I've also added the waterfall you report along the South Fork Trail, so others will be aware of it. I have a personal interest in waterfalls yet it was unknown to me, since it is not mentioned in any of the guidebooks (Schaffer, Elliot, Sierra Club), so thanks for reporting it, I will have to visit it sometime. .

Glad you had an enjoyable trip and thanks for the excellent trail report. Thanks also to Greg for the extensive trailwork he did. We need more hikers like him!

Jack
Big Sur Trailmap: http://bigsurtrailmap.net
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Thu Jun 09, 2011 7:54 am

Date Hiked: May 28, 2011
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

The below was moved from a post originally placed in the Marble Peak trail reports

fulmar2 wrote: From Strawberry, you ascend briefly on nice trail, but very shortly after the descent towards Rainbow begins, the trail disappears. Fortunately, some people had flagged the route (quite well, I might add - see previous posts).

The previous posters claim that this section took them 4 hours to negotiate - probably because they were flagging so well. It took two guys with hiking poles in their 30s a little under 2 hours to cover. Indeed, there is almost no trail for 1.5 miles, and you are constantly climbing over deadfall washed out gullies, and penetrating thick brush - but following the flags appears to be the best route.

Shortly after start descending from the little pass out of Strawberry, you are on decent, steep switch backs. There is a landslide shortly after the switchbacks end (you will have to climb over some fallen trees before the switchbacks truly end). Once you hit the landslide, keep an eye out for the other side (South side) of the creek. You will hopefully get a glimpse of a short piece of trail across the creek shortly after you pass the landslide. We just blazed down the hill (and up the other side), and got on some decent tread that helped us move down river another few hundred feet

. After that, though, you're strictly following flags through non trail. We did a little machete work - but only the minimum amount to prevent ourselves from getting poison oak / nettle stings. As the previous poster said, at the junction of the two creeks, the trail starts to become evident again. It isn't exactly smooth sailing, but it very gradually improves as you get closer and closer to the camp.

Before you get to camp, the flags take you up (on a trail) above a stunning waterfall that is ~150 feet high. Unfortunately, we could not find a good vantage point to safely observe the fall. I will see if I can post a GPS track of our route; it seemed pretty straight forward. If you are OK with off trail hiking, this section is OK - great thanks to the flaggers! We could have made it through without the flags, but they probably saved us some time - and were good for morale!

I have posted a GPS track at this location:

http://gotoes.org/biketours/20110527_Ve ... rnesstrip/

The GPS track includes the relevant section between Strawberry and Rainbow camps (and our small error near the base of the 150 foot waterfall). For the most part, we successfully followed the flagged route. The track also includes the path we followed from Rainbow to the Pine Ridge Campground (where we experienced some surprise snow)! For the moment, the above link is to an empty directory with just the GPS track, but I plan to add the remaining GPS tracks for the rest of our journey (through other possibly lost sections of trail) as well as a writeup with pictures.
Big Sur Trailmap: http://bigsurtrailmap.net
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby Guest on Mon May 30, 2011 6:47 pm

Date Hiked: May 30, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

omg, just got back and i must say this trail is not too much fun. i have a high tolerance for hard/difficult terrain and this was a hard one. this was one of the few trails i have left in completing all of the ventana wilderness, and it might be one of the worst ones i have ever been on. whoever marked the trail with ribbon, God bless you, but still, even with tape, this trail happen to thred through some serious deadfalls almost the entire way.
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby reedkrase on Wed May 18, 2011 6:32 pm

Date Hiked: May 14, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I marked this trail as difficult, not impassable, because if you're experienced and persistent you will make it. Take this trail only if you are looking for a challenge. It is about 4.5 to 5 miles from Rainbow Camp to Strawberry Camp and it took us 5 hours, including rests and the creek crossings. The vast majority of the time was spent on about 2 miles between South Fork Camp and the top of the divide before you get to Strawberry Camp. Contrast this to the day before, it took us 7 hours to hike from China Camp down to Skyes (about 13-14 miles), including rests and lunch, and that was not a demanding day. The journey from South Fork to Strawberry requires one to walk through numerous poison oak patches. You will get poison oak if you walk this trail, even if you wear pants, unless you are immune. You will also come out with at least a couple ticks due to the heavy brush.

We started the day at Sykes Hot Springs and walked up the South Fork of the Big Sur River. This section was beautiful, very challenging, but is a subject for another post, so suffice it to say we left Rainbow Camp at 1:30pm, tired from the morning's hike.

The trail from Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp is not bad. There are a few deadfalls, but the trail is flagged. The flagging is a little inconsistent at the creek crossings, but as long as you know that you're going to cross the creek about 5 times, you should be fine. The walk took us an hour and a half, and then we spent about 30 minutes at South Fork Camp pumping water and getting ready for what we knew would be an undertaking.

It took us three hours to get the 2.5 miles from South Fork Camp to Strawberry Camp. The trail out of South Fork Camp is well flagged by Pink flags for about .75 miles and is faint, but easy enough to follow. Then all of a sudden the flagging stops at the confluence of the South Fork headwaters and the stream the trail to Strawberry camp follows. We spent about 15 minutes thrashing around in the brush before we realized there were no flags and that we'd have to go off trail. We followed the northeast bank of the stream since it was mainly south to south-west facing - more grass and less brush. We stayed close to the stream, crossing a few times. After about .5 miles we miraculously stumbled upon another pink flag. We spent 5 minutes looking to see if we had missed the trail. There were no flags to be found. I’m still irked by this section missing. Shortly after we came across old orange flags, that had been replaced in spots by the pink flags. The flags were sometimes difficult to find, but they continued through the hardest part of the trail. There were numerous dead falls, poison oak, brush and other obstacles that clearly were not present when the trail was flagged. About .5 miles from the top the flags switch to blue and shortly after we came upon the remains of the old trail. While it didn’t last long, the three or four switchbacks were certainly a welcome sight. The blue flags led us to the top of the divide. Once on top of the drainage the trail is clearly present, though overgrown, and the walk down to strawberry camp was quick and easy.
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby Jordan on Sun Apr 24, 2011 11:06 pm

Date Hiked: April 22, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We hiked from Strawberry Camp to South Fork Camp along the South Fork Trail, and returned the following day. I DO NOT RECOMMEND following this trail. I marked it as difficult rather than impassable since we made it through, but difficult is an understatement. This trail should only be attempted if you have lots of experience in the Ventana wilderness backcountry and have very good orienteering skills (we used a GPS but that only worked some of the time because the trees blocked the signal).

From Strawberry to the col the trail is fine. There are a few dead falls, one place where the trail has slid away, and some brush on the trail, but in general the trail is in good condition. After the col the quality of the trail quickly disintegrates. The brush begins to encroach. Then there becomes numerous dead falls. There are several points where the trail is completely blocked by debris and is impassible, You can get around some of the obstacles by circumventing switch backs, but this is very tricky because the soil off the trail is very loose so its easy to fall or roll an ankle. Also many parts the trail are surrounded by ten foot chaparral that is a mixture of dead and living plants which forms an impenetrable wall. Eventually you will come to a bush that has a blue flag on it. You must keep an eye out for it because if you miss it is practically impossible to continue. If you continue on the trail it rapidly disintegrates to the point where the trail is washed out completely. We missed the flag and got to this point. After reading the prior post I had expected this and had planned to bushwhack my way down through the creek bed till we got to South Fork Camp. Luckily I spotted a trail on the other side of the canyon so we scrambled down the canyon through the poison oak and raspberry brambles to the other side. It turns out that the original trail shown on old USGS topo sheets along the north canyon wall is completely lost. Beyond that point it is washed out and is now just a sheer cliff. Someone has gone through the valley and flagged another trail to circumvent the lost one. When you see the blue flag you should immediately turn off the main trail and start head straight down the ravine. The tread is faint at first but if you follow the blue flagging eventually you get to the bottom and start head up a trail on the opposite (south) side. This trail is not on the map and doesn’t seem to connect to the trail coming out of Strawberry Camp. it looks like some one made it a while ago and it was abandoned, but some one has recently gone through and reflagged it so it connects up with the original trail lower down. At first the trail is nice and is in great condition then it suddenly goes straight into what appears to be a bush. From here on the trail becomes extremely difficult. It goes straight through thick brush and right over numerous fallen trees. Several times the tread disappeared and we had to search for flags. The whole trail has three different color flags. There are blue, pink, and orange flags. In many places the flags have been covered with brush or have fallen to the ground. There is one spot before you descend to the creek where the chaparral opens up and there is a clear hill with a large oak on it, and the flagging appears to stop. I got lost here both coming in and going out. Try and find the trail quickly here and DO NOT stand under the large oak tree. About ten feet up the oak there is a beehive, and the bees do not like visitors. We made the mistake of stopping there, and I got stung once and assaulted by many more. After this point the trail descends into the creek. Here the trail is faint and it is often unclear when you cross the creek and when you don’t. Most of the trail is flagged but the flags are spread out and the majority are faded orange and somewhat hard to see. You may be tempted to stop following the trail and just bushwack through the creek. We did this on the way down, but on the way out we were able to follow the trail. It’s definitely easier to follow the trail. After the creek joins the south fork of the Big Sur river the trail becomes more evident and is easy to follow. South Fork camp itself was beautiful and is a great campsite. There are large portions of ground around the campsite that are torn up by pigs looking for acorns. I would recommend anyone camping here to follow the same protocols as for bears around since wild pigs can be dangerous and unpredictable. We hung our packs from a tree to prevent the pigs from getting into them looking for food. We never actually saw any pigs but their rootings were fresh, and there were signs of older rootings, so I presume it is one of their common haunts. The trail on to Rainbow Camp seems to be in good shape, though we did not pass the first place the trail crosses the river.

Thanks very much to those who took time to flag this trail. We couldn't have made it through otherwise.

Overall this trail is brutal and harsh, but can be accomplished if you have a lot of will power and experience. South Fork camp is 2.5 miles from Strawberry Camp. It took us 3.5 hours to get there and 4 hours to get out, with almost all of this time spent in the worst 1 mile stretch. I came out with numerous scratches from the berry bushes, a lot of Poison oak (unavoidable on this trail.), and at least 20 ticks. Not a trail for the faint of heart but definitely a great adventure.
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Re: South Fork Trail

Postby Amy L on Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:01 pm

Date Hiked: November 12, 2010
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

The South Fork Trail is in great condition from Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp. One large easily passed deadfall is the only obstacle. The trail is in decent condition from South Fork Camp to the fork in the South Fork Big Sur River where it follows the northern branch over the col to Strawberry Camp. Past the fork the trail is disappears completely. Flagging stopped at the creek crossing. We made an effort to find and follow the trail, but after thrashing about for half an hour, gave it up as not worth the effort.

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