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Stone Ridge Trail

Trail Conditions History 1999-2008

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 1:53 pm

Date Hiked: May 9, 2008
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Conditions reported by: Frank
Survey date: 9-APRIL-2008
General: IMPASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Near Goat Camp

Lost the trail completely between Goat Camp and the next brook. The sloping meadows past Goat Camp do not have any visible trail except for passages that might appear like use trails or dead ends as much as the "real" trail. It appears that erosion has done away with any signs of where to hike. Footing is also treacherous as the dirt has not settled or packed.

We pushed it and tried to get to the brook by scrambling past the point where there was no visible trail at all. We assumed that we'd be able to bushwhack our way to finding where the trail crosses the stream - despite trying for a good half hour, no luck! Got water and turned back.
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Conditions reported by: David Jacobowitz
Survey date: 7-AUGUST-2007
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

We hiked from the Cone Peak trailhead to Vicente Flat and then on the Stone Ridge with the intention of staying at Goat Camp and continuing around to Cone Peak. We ended up not being able to complete the loop for lack of water.

Overall, this trail is in pretty poor condition in various sections. Most troublesome are the washouts/slipouts of tread that occur frequently (in some areas with every step) along the exposed grassy areas near Goat Camp, etc. The soft trail would merely be extremely exhausting and frustrating, but in various points, because of the steepness of the terrain, it was dangerous, too.

A secondary concern with the trail is the lack of markings for long stretches. The optic-pink ribbons tied around trees for the most part have deteriorated or disappeared. To make matters worse, because of the erosion, hikers have been very creative in starting alternative trails, most of which peter out in a few hundred yards. For one not expecting trail "junctions" between, say, Vicente and Goat, this is problematic.

Of course, poison oak and encroaching brush go without saying. There were various places where it was necessary to climb over or under downed trees. Only once did my partner and I have to remove our packs to cross an obstacle, however. As a separate warning for particularly tall hikers (I'm 6'3"), there was a lot of overhanging brush that my partner did not have to deal with that I frequently was caught on.

Not a specific trail report, per se, but all water sources near Goat Camp appeared to be dry, at least where we crossed them. This includes the "reliable source" mentioned in the writeup in Hiking and Backpacking Big Sur, by Analise Eliot (Wilderness Press, 2005). Because we had insufficient water to comfortably stay the night, we turned around and returned to the unofficial Lime Kiln Creek campsites.

On the plus side, we did not see a single other human for four days. Where else can you do that in California besides Ventana?!
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Conditions reported by: Robert Parks
Survey date: 25 MARCH-2007
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Sections of this trail are likely to be pretty unpleasant with a pack...heavy brush falling into the trail made the clearances minimal for even small daypacks.

Section: Vicente Flat Camp to Stone Ridge/Twitchell Elevator - Difficult

Intermittent brush and a few deadfalls greet you as you climb out of Vicente Flat, nearing Hare Ridge, there are some bad sections of tread...when you are greeted by a choice of a well graded path trending upward and a uneven path dipping downwards, the real trail is the lower one leading to a minor saddle.

Past the saddle the trail slumps across brushy meadows, then clambers through heavy overgrowth before descending amid a profusion of deadfall into the logpile in Middle Fork Limekiln Creek.

It climbs out on soft soil, crossing many deadfalls before entering the hanging canyon of Cowshit Creek where it mills about through the deadfalls and climbs up to a minor ridge and shortly emerges onto the glorious meadows of Stone Ridge...expansive views (Cone Peak and the coast) and fine tread take you to a minor saddle on the Stone Ridge.

Section: Stone Ridge to Goat Camp - Passable

Generally as described below, with a few more minor deadfalls and some brush growth. There is one old slump area where the trail first skirts the drop off, then splits...keep to the right.

Section: Goat Camp to Ojito Saddle - Passable

At the beginning of this unpleasant very steep 1000' climb, the trail appears to have lost a few of the small switchbacks, then it gets brushy with some minor slumps. Eventually it dives into deep brush crowding the trail. Near the top it settles down to minor brush and nasty steep little switchbacks. The trail junction and trail sign is at the base of the giant dead pine on the saddle...the path that goes across the saddle from clear area is the top of the Ojito Camp Trail, the Gamboa Trail starts from the base of the tree.
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Conditions reported by: jdoelman
Survey date: 15-MARCH-2007
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: Stone Ridge to Goat Camp - Difficult

[Ed: Stone Ridge is the grassy ridge above Twitchell Flat, north of Middle Fork Limekiln Creek, this access to the Stone Ridge is sometimes known as the Twitchell Elevator]

We lost the trail at one point, in this case the correct trail is the high route. The lower route is often used and seems to lead toward the sound of the creek below.]

Section: Goat Camp to Ojito Saddle - Difficult

The brush is encroaching.

Section: Ojito Saddle to Trail Spring (Gamboa Trail)

The going gets better, but only after enduring the 1st half mile of brush and lots of down trees.
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Conditions reported by: Mike Heard
Survey date: 23-NOVEMBER-2006
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

General:

On Nov. 23-26 three VWA Trail Crew volunteers surveyed the upper Vicente Flat, Stone Ridge, Ojito, lower Gamboa, and Cone Peak trails. The information below is adapted from the report we sent to the Forest Service. Be aware that conditions may have changed since that time -- in particular, the recent storms may have resulted in significantly more downed trees.

Section: Vicente Flat Camp to Middle Fork Limekiln Creek - Difficult

From Vicente Flat Camp (N36° 01.787' W121° 29.391') to about 0.2 miles the open flat area above the camp (N36° 01.674' W121° 29.735') the tread is mostly in good shape, with the exception of a few spots with debris and slough. There are downed trees at two points the trail, but these are easily bypassed.

For the next 0.7 miles up to the point where the trail crosses ridge between Hare Canyon and the Middle Fork drainage (N36° 01.433' W121° 30.202') the tread is in very poor shape. There are numerous spots with down slope detours, in some cases causing tread displacement of up to 50' below the proper grade. One game trail is better-defined than the real trail, and we were lured into following it. When we got to the ridge we were able to recognize that we were too high by comparing our elevation with that on Schaffer's map, and we regained the trail by following the ridge down to a small flat with a large oak tree (the elevation at this point is about 2028 ft).

For the next 0.8 miles to the point where the trail crosses Middle Fork Limekiln Creek (N36° 01.830' W121° 30.366') the tread varies from fair to poor shape. It is overgrown in places, with one brush pile causing a down slope detour and one washout near a large rock. There are six downed trees of various sizes, including a 40" redwood suspended over the trail and a 54" redwood in the stream bed blocking the stream crossing. Look downstream for some pink flagging tape and a tin arrow on a redwood tree to see where the trail continues.

Section: Middle Fork Limekiln Creek to Goat Camp - Difficult

For the next 0.6 miles up to the point where the trail enters a hanging canyon known as Cow Shit Creek (N36° 01.842' W121° 30.479') the tread varies from fair to poor shape -- the west side of the stream crossing is in very bad shape, and one major switchback is easily missed. Mostly it suffers from slumping that is characteristic of trails on steep, soft ground. There are 8 downed trees with 13 boles of various sizes.

The next 1.9 miles cover the ascent from Cow Shit Creek, the trek across the grassy coastal slopes above the Twitchell homestead, and about 0.8 miles into the West Fork drainage (up to N36° 02.155' W121° 31.176'). The tread is generally in good shape except for a few spots where there are some moderate slumps. There are nine downed trees of various sizes.

For the next 1.3 miles up to Goat Camp (N36° 02.155' W121° 31.176') the tread is generally in poor shape. There are numerous spots with down slope detours, in some cases causing tread displacement of 20' to 30' below the proper grade. In some of these places a combination of soft soil on the outside edge of the trail and steep canyon walls make for hazardous trail conditions. There are ten downed trees of various sizes.

Right next to the sign announcing Goat Camp there is a fire ring with a metal grate that has been moved from the actual camp. To get to the actual camp follow the short spur about 100 yds south-west. Also, avoid the use trail that goes down slope from that wildcat fire ring -- it ends up in a patch of poison oak at the stream west of camp. The real trail is above it.

Section: Goat Camp to Ojito Saddle - Passable

On the steep ascent from Goat Camp to the Ojito Saddle the tread is in generally in good shape except for a few eroded spots. Encroaching ceanothus does need to be cut back, but thanks to previous effort a canopy has begun to form in the thickest areas. There are three small downed trees.

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Conditions reported by: EW
Survey date: 24-DECEMBER-2006
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

The Stone Ridge Trail is a quintessential Ventana Wilderness experience - steep, winding, off-camber, loose, tick-infested and DROP DEAD GORGEOUS!

Section: Ojito Saddle to Goat Camp - Difficult

From Ojito Saddle, the initial route is simple enough to locate, but very steep. Soon, Ceanothus thickets obscure the path, which twists and turns erratically; some flagging would be quite helpul here. A few spots have slipped out and footing can be precarious, also watch out for shin and eye level branches. Chaparral "body armor" strongly recommended!

Goat Camp was beautiful as always with streams flowing on both sides, was very happy to take a break here after the challenging descent. From the camp up to Ojito Saddle might be quite demoralizing with a pack.

Section: Goat Camp to benchmark 2449 (Twitchell "Elevator") - Passable

Onward across very steep slopes, lots of encroaching brush, (absolutely teaming with ticks) kept me moving rapidly, while stepping on the uphill side, since the ground was still soft from a recent storm. A few deadfalls occur here and there, most aren't too difficult to surpass, but some are a hassle with a pack.

Reaching the ridge (benchmark 2449) was nothing short of spectacular. This open country seems a fitting payoff for the tight, difficult stretches of trail on both sides. At this point I left the Stone Ridge Trail, hopefully someone else can furnish a report on its passage through Middle Fork Limekiln Creek.
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Conditions reported by: Rob Yang
Survey date: 6-MAY-2006
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Overall, I enjoyed hiking this trail. Creek crossings were mild, water cool and refreshing. I marveled at the sparkling ocean views. The groves of redwoods and the open grassland offer marked contrasts. Goat Camp was pleasant this time of year. This is one of my favorite trails in the Ventana. There were several difficult sections that may cause others some problems :

Section: Approaching the ridge between Hare Canyon and the Limekiln Creek drainage

Coming up out of Hare Canyon over the ridge into the Limekiln Creek drainage the trail slumps in places and some use trails have developed. I followed one to a point on the ridge about 100' above the trail. Nice views, but I knew I had to descend the ridge. Could be confusing. [Ed: this deer trail is better graded and in better condition than the actual trail]

Section: Climbing out of Middle Fork Limekiln Creek

Ascending out of the canyon after crossing middle fork Limekiln creek, the trail tread disappears (as noted in earlier report). Since I'd hiked this several times I had a general idea where it went and after a couple of false starts located the trail tread, which was faint. Unfortunately I wasn't carrying marker tape.

Section: 0.75 miles before Goat Camp

About 0.75 miles before Goat Camp things again get confusing. I saw a cairn, and perhaps I should have built some more. Basically if you find a place that goes right and up, take that fork rather than the one which goes left and contours along the hillside.

Overall:

Tread was as usual somewhat sloping, narrow, etc. Brush really wasn't much of a problem until after Goat Camp, heading up to the Ojito camp junction / saddle. I spent a good 90 minutes clipping and sawing, but more is needed. Blowdowns were pretty much the same as last year, maybe some new ones, but nothing really difficult. Ticks were present in the higher grassy areas of course.
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Conditions reported by: Andrew Gottscho
Survey date: 30-APRIL-2006
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: Vicente Flat Trail to near Goat Camp - Difficult

I would say roughly 50% of the trail was passable, 10% was clear, and 40% was difficult. Additionally, there was one impassable section which forced me to camp on the spot and turn back the next morning.

Throughout the trail there are quite a few fallen trees; all these spots are passable, some are difficult. I found myself crawling on my belly quite a few times. Many areas also have thick encroaching brush. In grassy areas, the spring grass has shot up all over the trail. The trail is still followable, but before long it will disappear in a sea of grass.

One particular section I had difficulty with was the west side of the Limekiln Creek drainage [Ed: sounds like the area around Cowshit Creek]. In the oak woodland just above the redwoods, the trail definately blends in well with the leaf litter, and careful observation is needed. At a switchback I accidentally veered onto a heavily-used deer trail which looked quite similar to the real trail. I followed this into some chapparal that was absolutely crawling with ticks! Every 10 feet I had to brush the ticks off my pants. By now I noticed that the only tracks were deer tracks, so I headed back a different way. With my pack, the going was rather difficult and exhausting. Eventually (an hour later) I retraced my steps and found my way back to the main trail. This portion of the trail could use some more of those pink ribbons!

The rest of the trail was OK. It was somewhat overgrown all over the place but for the most part it wasn't too hard to follow the trail. Except when I approached Goat Camp.

Just as I could hear the creek roaring (according to my map, this must have been the Goat campsite) the trail just vanished. I backtracked to make sure I was on the right trail, which I was, then I came back. Several routes seemed possible; they were all fresh deer trails, with no human tracks, and they all lead into steep, poison-oak laden terrain with loose footing. I searched for any signs of tread but found none. By this point it was getting dark so I was forced to camp on the flattest ground I could find, just before where the trail dead-ended. The next morning I tried again with no success. Someone needs to investigate this part of the trail! I suspect plant growth and erosion erased the trail. Due to the difficulty of moving off-trail in this area, I turned back.

Overall though the trail was very fun - I saw lots of wildlife, including alligator lizards, fence lizards, western skinks, millions of blue jays, hawks, quail, deer, etc. Bird watchers will enjoy this trail. I am not good at identifying bird calls, but there were dozens and dozens of species singing!!

The other thing I enjoyed about Stone Ridge trail is the sheer diversity of habitat and vegetation! One minute you are in dry fir/pine forest, then you find yourself in a foggy redwood grove, 5 minutes later you are in oak woodland, then you are in a hot, sunny grassy area with those agaves before descending through rocky chaparral. This trail gives a nice mix of the different habitats in the San Lucia range. I suppose this is due to the mix of southern and northern climates. Elevation, slope direction, and moisture are extremely variable in a small area. Backpacking along this trail piqued my interest in the ecology of this region.

In conclusion, the Stone Ridge Trail is very fun, but it needs some tender love and care!
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Conditions reported by: Adam Bogdanowicz
Survey date: 16-APRIL-2006
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: Ojito Saddle to south of Goat Camp - Difficult

The trail switchbacks down the side of the ridge, at this point it is hard to make out with many switch backs and deer trails off the main trail; also there is about an 1/8 mile of dense encroaching brush.There are rock piles to show the correct route. Beyond the brush the trail is distinguisheable to Goat Camp. After Goat Camp there is a 4 ft wide river/stream crossing- as the water is flowing strong from all the rain. Beyond the gully the trail is difficult to make out due to leaf cover and overgrown grass. The trail levels off with some slight ups and downs. Watch for poison oak at the big downed bay tree 1/4 miles after the gully - recommend hiking down around the tree to stay clear of the poison oak.
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Conditions reported by: Tim Steffen
Survey date: 3-SEPTEMBER-2005
General: IMPASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Vicente Flat to Middle Fork Limekiln Creek - Difficult

We spent the entire first leg of the trail from Vicente Flats to Limekiln Creek being very thankful that we didn't have to go back that same way. The trail is very washed out, narrow and loose and we spent a good amount of time sloped back against the ridge.

[Ed: on the return:] It's possible that the trail back to Vicente Flats is even more difficult as it is steep out of the canyon and the ground is very loose throughout. We spent a lot of time on the ground. You should definitely have hiking poles and in some cases a good rope couldn't hurt. There is also a lot of brush overgrowth on the descent back into Vicente Flat. Long sleeves (and a machete, as one commenter noted) would have been nice.

Section: Middle Fork Limekiln Creek to Stone Ridge - Impassable

At the top of the ridge North of Limekiln Creek the trail disappears completely under dense foliage, dead leaves and sapling growth. [Ed: the group turned back here]
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Conditions reported by: Mike Lisitza
Survey date: 25-JUNE-2005
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

There are lots of spots on steep slopes where the trail is eroded to nothing, and its hard to find something solid to step on. Ceanothus has overgrown the trail in many spots, especially from Goat Camp up to the Gamboa Trail junction. A machete would have helped a lot and been worth the weight. Lots of ticks. Poison oak is unavoidable in some sections.
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Conditions reported by: Robert Parks
Survey date: 13-FEB-2005
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Twin Peak Ridge to near Hare/Limekiln Ridge : Passable

Again, access from the Twitchell Flat Road. The trail is generally clear except near the Middle Fork of Limekiln Creek, where it verges on difficult. The grassy section where it traverses the side of the ridge is clear, although the tread is narrow and worn in spots and grassy in others. Once it dips into the trees the tread is generally distinct, and although still narrow and worn, it is well flagged. A section of the original alignment is lost where it drops off a descending ridge (mostly due to large deadfalls).

As it drops into the Middle Fork, many and larger deadfalls appear, all are crossable (over or under), the crossing of the Middle Fork is obvious, if a bit sketchy. The short switchbacks on the south side of the creek manage to avoid the worst of the downed redwoods. Once away from the creek, the deadfalls drop to a more managable size. I stopped about 1/2 mile short of the Hare/Limekiln Ridge.

I brushed, clipped and cut (under 6"), so what remains is large deadfall and treadwork.
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Conditions reported by: Robert Parks
Survey date: 30-JANUARY-2005
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Twin Peak Ridge to South of Goat Camp : Mostly Clear

We accessed the trail from the Twitchell Flat Road and the partly well defined use trail up to the Stone Ridge Trail (very steep, but stunningly beautiful).

We worked our way north along the Stone Ridge Trail, brushing and cutting small deadfall (under 6") and cleared that aspect of the trail. In places the tread is faint or filled in but still easily followable. On a few exposed slopes ingrowth of deerweed(?) and other low brush is causing slumping and tread diversion.

Section: Vicente Camp to the Hare/Limekiln saddle : Passable to Clear

We brushed/cleared this section the next day up from the Vicente Flat Trail. Except for a short tread diversion caused by a large downed oak the obstructions on the trail are easily crossed by hikers. There is a section of poor tread approaching the Hare/Limekiln saddle...at one point, we followed a perfectly up-graded animal trail in preference to the badly and unevenly slumped trail tread (as you approach the saddle, the trail contours, FYI)
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Conditions reported by: EW
Survey date: 22-JANUARY-2005
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: From Vicente Flat to the ridge dividing Hare Canyon from the Middle Fork Limekiln

2 large Oaks & a few smaller deadfalls need to be circumvented, but pose no real obstacle since the largest occur on relatively flat ground. Brush comprised mostly of Deer Weed (lots of Ticks!) encroaches along most of this ascending traverse, but tread is evident in spite of a few minor slides. Be sure to stay on track after reaching a Coast Live Oak at the top - a use trail spurs toward the coast, the Stone Ridge Trail proper descends north, marked by parallel white stones on either side.

Section: North of the ridge dividing Hare Canyon from the Middle Fork Limekiln

Thus begins the most difficult portion we hiked this day - quite a bit of tick-infested brush encroaching, a few downed trees, 2 easily missed switch-backs & several tunnels beneath ceanothus, toyon & aromatic black sage - carefully duck the many sharp eye-level twigs. Nearing the Middle Fork, 2 large Tanoaks obscure the route - when in doubt, look for switchbacks.

Flags clearly mark the diagonal creek crossing, which I've found to be a bit tricky on past walks. A fresh creek-side deer carcass made us think twice about sipping from the Middle Fork. Ascending northward, the route is once again narrow, but easily followed, thanks in major part to several recently sawed deadfalls (the work of RLS School, perhaps?). Be careful when traversing a particularly steep portion over thick leaf litter - one misstep could be a doozy!

Soon SRT enters the fabled "Cowshit Creek" - this section is now flagged and easily navigated - stay on the south side of the creek and climb steeply through open forest to an oak-shaded ridge that soon connects with open, grassy Stone Ridge - an emergence nothing short of glorious. Many cattle trails spur this way & that, but the SRT is the only route with obvious tread. We continued only as far as the hairpin turn, so hopefully someone else can furnish a report on the remainder of this trail to Ojito Saddle.
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Conditions reported by: Rob Yang
Survey date: 15-JANUARY-2005
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

I didn't have much difficulty with the trail tread on the Hare Canyon side, and the brush looked pretty decent as well. Actually I didn't take out the clippers but once or twice along the whole length of this trail.

My pruning saw on the other hand saw a lot of action, heading down into the Limekiln drainage, and towards Goat Camp. Took out lots of blowdown, but there were numerous larger trunks down. To be expected after a series of winter storms, I guess.

The galvanized trash can at Cow Sh*t Creek was gone.

By typical Ventana standards, the trail tread was in reasonable shape, except for the odd place where it was filled in by leaves, narrow, or sloping. I remember one short spot between Goat Camp and the Ojito saddle where the tread looked to be collapsed, but was able to traverse above it.

Lots of ticks to be had. Fantastic weather and excellent views of the sea. Saw two banana slugs near Goat Camp.
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Conditions reported by: Kevin
Survey date: 30-JULY-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Vicente Flat Camp to Ojito saddle

Trail conditions were in line with what the reports of the last 2 yrs. describe, particularly the detailed 8/03 report from Mike Heard. I also did this trail in 3/03, and on balance it seemed in about the same shape overall with a few segments having had noticeable brush work in the last yr, others growing in a bit. Some relatively good sections are present, but be prepared for a narrow tread with the possibility of sudden slumps and a steep drop below you. Not a trail for the faint of heart, but a very neat trail nonetheless.

The only details I would add are that the section between Middle Limekiln and Goat camp seemed particularly brushy, though there is also a fair bit of brush between Vicente and Middle Limekiln. Someone must have worked on the section between Goat camp and Ojito saddle, it was in considerably better shape than I remembered it (Thanks!). At Ojito saddle, we actually ended up going down the Ojito Camp trail for a bit, its start was more obvious than the Gamboa trail, so look carefully for the Gamboa trail at the top of the saddle if you're doing the trail from South to North the way we were.
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Conditions reported by: C. Royer and M. Fuller
Survey date: 16-APRIL-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Entire Stone Ridge, parts Gamboa and Vicente

We parked at Cone Peak lookout parking area and hiked along the road to Vicente Flat trailhead and then along the trail to Vicente Flat camp. From Vicente Flat camp we made a loop using Stone Ridge Trail and Gamboa Trail to the lookout at Cone Peak.

We overnighted at Vicente Flat and Ojito camps. Overall the trail conditions were much better than expected. There were some problem areas on the Vicente Flat trail; perhaps a mile from camp there was a medium size redwood jumble, causing erosion on the uphill side of the trail. In Limekiln Canyon it was evident that Mike Heard and crew did a wonderful job clearing the trail, which made it easily passable, I was especially grateful for the pink ribbons!! Thanks. The trail to Ojito was spectacular, many beautiful vistas and wildflowers. Getting to Ojito camp was a challenge after a long day of hiking (very steep and longer than expected), in the future I will plan ahead for water and camp at the intersection of Ojito and the Stone Ridge trail it has a much better view. The only other part worth mentioning is that the tread to Cone Peak is in need of repair, but it is navigable.
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Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers - Stevenson Wilderness Expedition
Survey date: 30-feb-2004
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Section: Vicente Flats to Goat Camp to Ojito Saddle

The trail has a few spots sliding on the South side of the first ridge you traverse before dropping into the Limekiln Canyon. The trail down to Limekiln Creek is in the best shape I have seen it. Work has been done to make the trail very passable with the one exception of a huge Redwood that needs to be climbed over right at the creek's edge.

The north side of Limekiln canyon is also in much better shape. The tread is still not real stable but was better than I have ever seen it (someone did a lot of work on it recently) and all the blowdowns were either removed or large branches were taken away to make them easily climbed over. Once out of the canyon and climbing towards the large meadow we found a spring running with more water than I have ever seen. You could actually camp at this spot if the water has not dried up at this point about half way to Goat from Vicente. The trail to the large Meadow was taped recently, making it easy to follow in places that are not always obvious.

The last 2 miles traversing and climbing to Goat Camp are a mess. There are a number of blowdowns but the real problem is the sliding tread. Often the ground is moist and cuts out from under foot making a dangerous fall possible. This would be an amazing trail if the tread were ever redone but for now it is one of the hardest trails in the wilderness to hike.

Continuing up/northwest from Goat Camp the trail is in good shape with a few new blowdowns from old burned trees during the climb to the Ojito Saddle.
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Conditions reported by: James Yurchenco
Survey date: 12-MAR-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific: Vicente Camp to Ojito saddle

The trail is reasonably clear except for a few deadfalls too large for our loppers. The tread is not in good shape on portions of this trail. Flagging is still present in the area of the incongruous garbage can.
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Conditions reported by: EW
Survey date: 17-JAN-2004
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Stone Ridge Trail from "Twitchell Flat Road" saddle & Ojito Saddle:

We approached this trail via the steep ridge descending from Twin Peak & so by-passed it's lower sections in Hare Canyon & Middle Fork Limekiln Creeks.

The upper Stone Ridge Trail needs love. Without some serious brushing & a bit of grading, this gem may be lost in the near future. Except in a few rockier sections moist ground often sagged with each step & brush encroaching from above made for a nerve-racking traverse.

Water was available at 2 seasonal springs among Redwoods, then again at Goat Camp, which sits on a low ridge between 2 (perennial?) creeklets.

The upper Stone Ridge Trail zig-zags across various slope aspects, encountering Coast Live Oak woodlands, steep grassy meadows, Bay-Laurels, and a few pockets of Redwoods fairly near their upper range.

Woodier shrubs were frequently difficult to skirt whereas softer bunch grasses & sedges hosted enough ticks to have us stopping to remove several each of 3 distinct species every 5 minutes. Poison Oak is also a problem, especially amid the Bay-Laurels on wetter slopes.

Still, the fantastic views of West Fork Limekiln Creek made it worth the effort & lovely Goat Camp provided a fine resting spot before the steep slog up through burned chaparral to Ojito Saddle. This last stretch was actually in much better shape than I remembered it & refreshingly tick-free.

Near the saddle, some faint tread appears to lead to the road from New Camadoli Hermitage, perhaps remnants of the historic Gamboa Trail???
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Conditions reported by: Lindsay Jeffers
Survey date: 30-Dec.-2003
General: CLEAR
Specific:Vicente Flats Trail jct. west about 1/2 mile

I took the Stone Ridge Trail out along the use trail to the point beyond where the main trail goes north down to Middle Fork Limekiln Creek. This section is in fine condition except for a pair of 4 inch thick ceanothus stems that have fallen across the trail just past the abandoned stock gate. They will yield quickly to a pack saw, which I did not have.

Hikers should recognize that this trail section goes along very steep hillsides and could be frightening for someone bothered by heights. There are a few spots where earth has slumped or slid a bit, but nothing out of the ordinary for a Ventana Wilderness trail.
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Conditions reported by: Rob Yang
Survey date: 26-DEC-2003
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Vicente Flat to Ojito Saddle

There was evidence of recent work on this trail. Hand clippers seemed to dispatch most of the remaining brush. Various deadfalls were also present, pretty much what one would expect after a series of winter storms. Did some sawing for the smaller ones.

The biggest problems seemed to be huge deadfalls near the crossing of Middle Fork Limekiln creek (noted in reports below), and several large ones up the canyon from there. These latter deadfalls are accompanied by narrow tread on a very steep hillside, partly filled in by potentially slippery leaves. It got a little scary.

The galvanized trash can near Cow Sh*t Creek was still there, and pretty much full. Flags marked the way up out of the canyon. That little ridgelet just above with the view of open oak woodland below is just magical.

It was an enchanting hike. Goat Camp had a great view of the sea, and there was plentiful water nearby.

The heart-pounding climb from there up to the Ojito saddle had some grassy brush and yerba santa, but nothing too serious, except for plentiful ticks this time of year. There was also a deadfall or two, but flags were in place to mark the way.
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Conditions reported by: Mike Heard
Survey date: 20-Aug-2003
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Section: Vicente Camp to Ojito Saddle/Gamboa Trail jct.

From Vicente Flat Camp to the crossing of Middle Fork Limekiln Creek: the trail is in fair shape until about 1/4 mile above the crossing. There is one deadwood snag just beyond the old fence above Vicente Flat and several patches of lotus on the west wall of Hare Canyon that are covering up the tread, resulting in downhill side detours. Where possible try to avoid these downhill detours, especially in the lotus patches where the ground is soft and erodes easily. There is also a big (3') slump about halfway down the east wall of Limekiln Canyon that is ugly but not too difficult to negotiate. The real fun begins about 1/4 mile from the creek, where the trail detours from its original course to avoid a big jumble of redwoods. The path in this section is mostly clear (and flagged where not), but unfortunately there are now a lot of newly-fallen trees that weren't there the last time I was through here. I cut out one snag that was covering up the steep switch-back about 1/8 mile from the creek, but about 100 yards beyond that is a big fallen tree that is a tight squeeze to crawl under and (for me) too big to climb over. After that you should be able to see some pink ribbons indicating the crossing point. You will need to scramble about 100 yds downstream across the redwood jumble to the continuation of the trail on the other side of the stream. It is marked by a tin arrow on a large redwood tree on the downstream side of the trail and also by a second set of pink ribbons.

From Middle Fork Limekiln Creek crossing to start of West Fork Limekiln Creek traverse: there is one big tree to crawl under just above the creek, and there are a number trees to step over and one big deadfall to detour around before you get to Cow Shit Creek. One navigational hazard worth mention -- where the trail switches back from going nearly due south to nearly due north there is a distinct use trail (apparently made by grazing cattle) that continues south, and it's easy to be fooled if you're not aware of it. Just before entering Cow Shit Creek you will pass through a canopy which has been cut through a big snag. The tread in Cow Shit Creek is occasionally indistinct, and it's somewhat brushy; hand shears are recommended. As noted in other reports, there is a large galvanized trash can here, but please don't put anything in it that you can pack out. It's almost full, and it's anyone's guess when the FS will get a pack animal in to haul it away. From where you exit Cow Shit Creek to the start of the West Fork canyon the trail is in great shape and offers splendid scenery. Of all the Ventana trails I've hiked this is probably my favorite.

From the start of the West Fork Limekiln Creek traverse to Goat Camp, along the east canyon wall: as noted in Steve Wilson's report this is the most difficult part of the trail. There are numerous snags , at least one of which requires a hazardous down hillside detour, and there are also several places where the trail is overgrown with lotus, resulting in similar problems. In one section where the overgrowth is particularly heavy I lost the tread and ended up on a use trail that was maybe 100' below the main trail. There is also quite a bit of poison oak. However, there is nothing that causes more than a modest delay; in past years I've seen conditions that were much worse.

From Goat Camp to Ojito Saddle: this part was brushed last year (Aug. 2002) by a USFS trail crew, who removed all of the temporary flagging (thanks!), and it's still in fair shape, which is to say reasonably easy to follow. Unfortunately, the vegetation grows quite rapidly, especially on the upper 1/3, and there are lot of new yerba santa plants sprouting up in the middle of the tread. I pulled out only a few, however, because it was getting close to the end of the day and I needed to make Ojito camp before dark.
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Conditions reported by: Steve Wilson
Survey date: 22-MAr-2003
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

From Vicente Flat to start of West Fork Limekiln Creek traverse, conditions pretty much as indicated in previous reports, but not a wilderness freeway in my opinion. Maneuvering around the Middle Fork Limekiln Creek Redwood jumble requires some agility and an eye for red flags and indications of foot traffic. As should be expected, the roughest part of the trail is the traverse along the east side of West Fork Limekiln Creek to Goat Camp. Continuing deadfall and ravel from the fire, narrow, sloping tread and slip outs, and encroaching Poison Oak slow progress. From Goat Camp to the saddle, conditions remain clear, though we did have to cut through some recent deadfall to keep that rating intact. In my opinion, this is one of the most glorious trails in all of the Northern Santa Lucia, offering the quintessential Ventana hiking experience.
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Conditions reported by: Jane
Survey date: 15-FEB-2003
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

Vicente Camp to Middle Fork Limekiln Creek:

The trail heading from Vicente Flat is fine--tread is well-marked although quite narrow. About 2 miles from Vicente Flat, the trail heads down to Middle Fork Limekiln Creek and here the trouble begins. The trail is almost impassable (and difficult even to find) due to several large, downed redwoods. You can follow the pink ribbons down to the creek and then cross at the pink-ribboned cross-point. However, I believe the trail (via the pink ribbons) actually continues about 20 yards downstream from the creek crossing. (Ed. note: The Stone Ridge Trail at this point does cross Middle Fork Limekiln and climbs directly away from the creek for 100 yds or so then curves south and slowly climbs to a switchback. After the switchback it traverses north above the creek until it turns west into Cow Shit creek and continues on to Goat Camp.) There are a few campsites if you head about 50 yards upstream of the crossing, right along Limekiln Creek. If you try this trail, I recommend you hike it in broad daylight and be prepared to scramble over/under/through the redwoods. Past this section of the trail, I don't know the condition.
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Conditions reported by: Rob Yang
Survey date: 11-NOV-2002
General: CLEAR
Specific:

The work recently done on the section from Goat Camp up to Ojito saddle is nice: wide and brushed, though of course very steep (1300' in 0.9 miles, according to the Sierra Club guide).

This was my first time on the Stone Ridge trail - I started from Vicente Flat. There was some brush to deal with, and some places have very narrow tread, some of which is slipping, but all in all I really enjoyed it. Incredible views, and varied habitats (open oak woodland, grassland, chaparral, redwoods, etc).

One thing struck me as odd: Coming up from Limekiln Creek, towards Goat Camp, near a seasonal tributary, I spied a galvanized trashcan placed behind a tree. This is right before the trail starts to turn left up the ridge (mostly oak woodland at this point), before it becomes grassland again, maybe about 2-3 miles from Vicente Flat.

It does look like a tempting place to camp, and there is sufficient water this time of year (I'd bet it dries up fast, though). I availed myself of the trashcan and deposited the three aluminum cans I'd picked up on the way from Vicente.
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Conditions reported by: Steve Graner
Survey date: 3-OCT-2002
General: WILDERNESS FREEWAY
Specific:

The short, but very steep section from Goat Camp to the intersection with the Gamboa Trail has recently been put in excellent condition. Many thanks to the trail crew that did this one.
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Conditions reported by: Mike Heard
Survey date: 29-30-JULY-2002
General: Vicente Camp to Goat Camp - PASSABLE WITH ONE DIFFICULT SECTION
Specific:

I found conditions surprisingly good, with distinct tread all the way and no significant deadfall or overgrowth, and with ample water at both Goat Camp and the middle fork or Limekiln Creek Creek. There were a couple of slumps on the section of trail from Vicente Camp to the Stone Ridge that required some care to climb up. The section from the Stone Ridge down to the crossing of the middle fork of Limekiln Creek was in good shape all they way to the detour on the lower east side. The last time I was on this trail I found this detour a bit hard to follow and came prepared to add some more flags, but that proved to be unnecessary, as the rebuilt tread was quite distinct. The only problem -- both on the lower east and lower west sides of the crossing -- was a covering of leaves and silt, which can lead to problems with footing. I removed as much of that stuff as I could, but I think it's likely to be back soon. Once past the lower west side of the middle fork crossing, the trail is in good shape through Cow Shit Creek and along the ridge to the outcropping where it turns into the canyon above the West fork of Limekiln Creek. The upper part had a pleasant ocean breeze, a strong scent of vinegar weed, and excellent vistas of the coast and mountains. The section that runs along the length of the West fork of Limekiln Creek to Goat Camp is somewhat rough, but there is no significant deadfall anymore, and the previously eroded spots seem to have been regraded.

Goat Camp to Ojito saddle/Gamboa Trail: PASSABLE WITH DIFFICULT SECTION AT TOP

As noted in the March report by Steve Chambers, the lower 3/4s of this section is just very steep, but the the upper 1/4 just below the Ojito saddle is overgrown and difficult to follow. It is flagged and there has been some recent brush clipping, but the flags and/or brush clippings can be difficult to find in places. I had to backtrack in a couple of places and posted some additional flags at those points.
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Conditions reported by: Steve Chambers
Survey date: 02-MARCH-2002
General: PASSABLE WITH A FEW DIFFICULT SECTIONS
Specific:

Cone Peak Road to Vicente Flats Camp: PASSABLE

This section of the Stone Ridge Trail was cleared by Forest Service crews during the late summer/early fall of 2001. But being inside the 1999 Kirk Fire, many deadfalls now lay across the trail with many more to fall in the coming years. Still the tread is well graded, some water bars have not been breach by illegal mountain biking, and the vistas and sights are impressive.

Vicente Flats Camp to Goat Camp: PASSABLE W/ A DETOUR

Like most trails within the Ventana Wilderness the tread of this section is sloping outward more each year. Bring your strong ankles. A detour is flagged on the east side of the middle fork crossing of Limekiln Creek to avoid a mass of downed redwoods at the bottom. West of the middle fork the trail follows Cow Shit Creek for a short distance. Pay attention to where the trail leaves Cow Shit Creek on its southwest bank and climbs steeply toward a sharp ridge under mature oaks. Fortunately the cattle which gave Cow Shit Creek its name have been removed from this the Twitchell Allotment.

Due to years of cattle grazing and no maintenance, the trail tread along the length of the West fork of Limekiln Creek to Goat Camp is rough, narrow, outsloping, and fun. Again many downfalls from the recent fire allow for squeezing over, under or around them.

Goat Camp to Ojito saddle/Gamboa Trail: PASSABLE WITH DIFFICULT SECTION AT TOP

The lower 3/4s of this section is just very steep, but except for a few short brushy areas, easily followed. The upper 1/4 immediately below the Ojito saddle is within a rapidly regrowing burnt area of the 1999 fire. It¹s followed by either finding the flags recently placed or the stubs of brush clippings from other trail users. The predominate resprouting plant here is Yerba Santa, with tall stalks and dark green leaves. Bring your hand shears and help keep this section open and passable for hikers.
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Conditions reported by: Stevenson School Wilderness Expedition
Survey date: FEB-2002
General: PASSABLE
Specific:

Vicente Camp to Goat Camp: Trail is fine until near Limekiln Creek where lots of large downed trees obscure the path. On the north side of the creek, the trail is unstable and sloped. After climbing out of the canyon the trail is hard to follow. It is easy to lose the trail going up the gulch where it heads to a small saddle. Several blow-downs cross the trail here. The trail to Goat Camp is tricky with potential for serious slips into the canyon.

Goat Camp to Gamboa Trail: The trail out of Goat Camp is not hard to find but it disappears a few hundred feet below the saddle (and will be harder to follow soon because of new spring growth.) The route to and past Trail Springs Camp and up to the Coast Ridge Trail is good.
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Conditions reported by: Rob Yang
Survey date: 23-FEB-2002
General: CURRENTLY VERY DIFFICULT
Specific:

Ojito saddle to Goat Camp

The trail started out faint, got fainter, and I ended up wondering which use trail to follow (and I followed several). By this time I was far down an incredibly steep hillside not knowing how bad things were ahead or where the next piece of known trail was. Getting back up was an adventure in bushwhacking and side-stepping, and I headed back to Trail Spring Camp, conquered by the mighty Ventana.
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Conditions reported by: John Smida
Survey date: 10-NOV-2001
General: PASSABLE W/ BADLY ERODING SECTIONS
Specific:

I have some bad news for those who like to hike from Vicente Flat to Stone Ridge. Before this last rain two thirds of the trail out of Limekiln was gone, totally, nothing, zippo. The erosion is terrible, which was started by cattle and finished off by the fire. Look for some really bad silting into Limekiln Creek.
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Conditions reported by: Mike Heard
Survey date: 20/21-SEPT-2001
General: PASSABLE W/ BADLY ERODING SECTIONS
Specific:

On September 20th and 21st I hiked the Stone Ridge trail along its entire length from Vicente Flat to the intersection with the Gamboa trail. The section coming out of Limekiln Creek up to Stone Ridge was pretty dicey in places (i.e., starting to slide down the side of the canyon), but I would not have characterized it as 2/3 gone. For sure, the portion from Stone Ridge to Goat Camp along the side of West Fork Limekiln canyon was a lot worse -- there was erosion at nearly every gully, to the point of being hazardous to life and limb in some places. The upper part of the section from Goat Camp to the saddle at the intersection with the Gamboa trail was very brushy and indistinct owing to the 1999 fire -- I lost the trail in fact and had to bushwhack it.

I'd be interested in volunteering to work on the Stone Ridge trail next spring. It sure needs it.

Mike Heard
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Conditions reported by: Craig Lassen
Survey date: 13-JANUARY-2001
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

From Vicente Camp the trail is in fair shape to Limekiln Creek, only a medium sized section of fallen rocks needed to be cleared. 100 feet from the bottom of the Limekiln Creek Canyon, the trail is blocked by a large fallen set of Redwoods. There is apparently a side trail that will take you above the trees, but I did not find it. Out of the canyon the trail is clear until you reach the last 2.5 miles before Goat Camp. Here as you head up the West Fork Limekiln Creek canyon, the tread is missing, the trail is being heavily encroached upon by brush, and some fallen trees also block the path. From Goat Camp up to the intersection with Gamboa Trail, the tread is even more evasive.
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Conditions reported by: Vince Manning
Survey date: 16-AUGUST-00
General: PASSABLE WITH DIFFICULT SECTIONS
Specific:

The uppermost portion of the Stone Ridge trail at the northern end -- maybe 1/4 mile -- is just not there. With a map and trail guide it is easy to find the quite steep route which is essentially straight down from (or up to) the saddle. There were some flags in the area where the gulley levels out and widens that helped me pick up the tread to Goat camp. Goat Camp was nice -- no major fire damage here. It was obvious that the portion from Goat to Vicente camps gets much more use than the upper part of this trail. Excellent views! The recent fire produced more deadfall than usually encountered. The largest are on the trail into the middle branch of Limekiln creek.
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Conditions reported by: Stevenson School Wilderness Expedition 2000
Survey date: APRIL-2000
General: PASSABLE WITH A FEW LARGE DOWNFALLS
Specific:

The climb up and out of Vincente Flat is normal and the trail is in good condition. Because of the limited use in this area, at times it is hard to follow but there are sufficient markings.
On the traverse down to the middle fork of Limekiln Creek there is a huge Redwood across the trail. It is impossible with a pack to get over and around the tree. We decided to climb down the ridge and head for the river. It is about 100 yards from the huge redwood trunk down to the river, but it is quite a steep climb down. Once we got down to the river, the trail became very visible and easy to follow on the other side. (ed. note- a use trail exists around the UP HILL side of this Redwood. Much easier and safer. Back track if you didn't see the use trail just before the last switchback.) The trail up from Limekiln Creek to the ridge is clear with a few small washouts but nothing impassable.
Along the ridge as we got closer to Goat Camp we encountered more trees down across the trail, but nothing too difficult to cross. The trail right out of Goat toward the Ojito Saddle is clear for about half the way up (1/2 mile). Where the fire has burned along that ridge, it has completely devastated the trail. Thankfully someone flagged a way up to the top with pink markings. Just remember to keep looking up and it will be an easy route to follow.
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Conditions reported by: Boon Hughey
Survey date: 27-MARCH-00
General: PASSABLE to DIFFICULT
Specific:

Expect numerous trees down across the trail, as well as a good number of places where the tread has slid out or been buried by moving earth. Pretty much every gully that the trail crosses has been scoured out tremendously, with a few of them taking out some trail in the process. Where the trail passes through burned forest, the tread has filled in considerably with gravel and debris from upslope, making it difficult to walk on and in places easy to lose.

The big snarl of fallen trees across the trail just before the middle fork is still there, requiring caution and agility to get past.
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Conditions reported by: Meryl Block
Survey date: 31-MAY-99
General: DIFFICULT
Specific:

The trail is overgrown as you go towards the junction for the Goat and Ojito trail. A lot of the trail is pushing through brush on the trail. Great views.
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Stone Ridge Trail

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 1:52 pm

* USFS Trail # 4E13
* Parking: Cone Peak Road, Hwy 1
* Watershed: Limekiln Creek
* Junctions: Vicente Flats Trail, Gamboa Trail
* Connects: Vicente Flats Trail with Gamboa Trail at Ojito Saddle
* Camps: Vicente Flats Camp, Goat Camp
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