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Puerto Suello Trail

Re: Puerto Suello Trail

Postby RSIBryce on Wed Sep 27, 2017 1:49 pm

Date Hiked: August 23, 2017
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Puerto Suelo has been, and may always be, a rugged hike. We approached from the VDC at the top (the preferable direction to hike a trail like this) and began by searching for the tread, well, after a long water break and cool down, (August is an intense time to be out in these parts.) The fire burned hot in this area and we found massive deadfall as well as massive regrowth. I've hiked this trail once before back in 2014 and have also hiked past the junction on 2 or 3 summits of the Double Cone, I recognized nothing. Fire really has a way of rearranging a place. It's steep, brushy and full of deadfall near the top, and the tread was nearly impossible to follow or find, even with the aid of a GPS unit. My hiking partner had hiked this beast a few times (including a legendary 11 hour ascent from the Carmel River with a group of students, greeted at the top by a snow storm) so we had an edge on the chaos that followed. After the initial devastation near the saddle, the trail became more easily found as we descended further, recalling the switchbacks and being delighted as we found semblance of trail that wasn't washed away. Much of it is rather badly eroded. We had to manuever a lot of downed trees, dry ravel, etc. as we made our ascent. It was difficult going, but with patience and a pair of loppers, we persevered. Aside from the Soberanes Fire Summer 2016, the rains in the Winter of '16/'17 really wreaked havoc on trails, especially ones that follow steep drainages like this one. There was a number of sketchy scrambles that involved balancing atop downed complexes of branches and heaving ourselves over. Taking time to remove such hinderances was not on our agenda.

Once we reached the creek it was much easier to follow the trail in theory, but the intense growth of bramble and other water loving plants in the drainage made travel rather difficult. As I read on a previous post, you'll want to be wearing pants for this one, long sleeves is always a good idea as are boots. (I gave some Ventana trail advice to a friend once who later told me they had a good trip but that his friend's feet were in terrible shape- this really isn't Chaco sandal country. Far from it, dude.)

We attempted to follow our GPS track out of the canyon and on an alternate route that climbs the northern bank, wishing to avoid the brambly, deadfall ridden creek. That turned out to be its on untenable challenge as we got caught in half burned chapparral along the steep, hot hillsides, desiring instead to be near the cool of the creek- which had an ample flow. Once approaching the the last part of the trail, it leaves the creek for good and climbs up and over southeasterly over the ridge. This section of tread was evident, but also riddled with deadfall, including tricky complexes of downed trees that involved awkward balancing acts. In summary, Puetro Suello is a mess, but passable if your up for a challenge. We arrived at Hiding Canyon Camp in just under 6 hours from the top. Would be incredible to see this trail cherried out one day, its such a great connector for doing long through hikes.
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Re: Puerto Suello Trail

Postby pantilat on Tue May 31, 2016 1:16 pm

Date Hiked: May 29, 2016
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Conditions are largely the same as prior posts (including my post from April 4, 2015) except spring chaparral and riparian growth has added some extra brush. The good news is that some of the chaparral is reaching appreciable height enabling tunneling. The orange flagging and blowdown removals over the past year have improved the conditions on this trail substantially, but it's still a difficult trail overall with brush push-throughs, sloping and/or eroded trail in spots and lots of deadfall/blowdowns remaining.

The Puerto Suello spring 0.20 miles from the top is still trickling but much better water is 0.15 miles farther down the trail (0.35 miles from top) where clear and cold water is flowing over the trail.
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Re: Puerto Suello Trail

Postby sboor on Mon Feb 15, 2016 12:11 pm

Date Hiked: February 14, 2016
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked down from Lone Pine to Hiding Canyon. The Puerto Suello trail has a fun assortment of challenges making it difficult rather than just one or two. It is heavily brushy in many spots, a few areas of steep cross-slope with deteriorating/ slippery tread, and plenty of dead-fall to navigate. It is really well flagged so although I had to stop and scratch my head a few times I never lost it. It is slow going heading down to Hiding Canyon until you climb over the last ridge. Then it turns into an easy hike.

Re: Puerto Suello Trail

Postby DANO on Wed Jan 06, 2016 3:28 pm

Date Hiked: January 3, 2016
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Used this trail hiking from Carmel River Camp to Lone Pine Camp with two friends. We are in our mid-twenties and in decent shape. It was a long day!

As many have noted, the lower portion of the trail was well maintained. However, the higher you get the worse the trail becomes. Throughout this 2.5-3 mile trail there are numerous trees that have fallen across the trail. Most can be stepped over or ducked under, however towards the upper portion of the trail we were forced to crawl on our hands and knees, and in at least one spot army crawl on our bellies. In addition to the many trees, the majority of the trail is severely overgrown with brush that is at head level. This brush is complemented by a carpet of thorny plants below. For this reason long pants and sleeves are highly recommended (I was wearing shorts and my legs are now covered in cuts and scratches). All of this said, the trail has been marked with many flags and stacked stones, and is actually quite easy to follow. We did not loose the trail once.

Although this trail is relatively short, it gains significant elevation. When you combine this with all of the brush and downed trees it makes for a very challenging hike. To go from Hiding Canyon to the Ventana trail took us 3 hours. If you are just doing a day hike up to VDC from Hiding Canyon (without large packs like we had), it would probably be a little easier. However, be prepared to be climbing over and under trees, and pushing your way through brush for long periods of time.

Stellar views from the upper portions of the trail! A fun adventure!

Re: Puerto Suello Trail

Postby Erik on Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:25 pm

Date Hiked: November 23, 2015
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I walked from Hidden Canyon Camp to the Ventana trail. According to the previous posts I was prepared for the worst. But it was not that bad.
I never had a problem to find the trail thanks to the orange flags and stacked stones which are placed at strategically good positions.
The lower part is no problem at all. As pantilat noted in April, someone did a great job clearing out the upper part, although vegetation had taken over the trail again.
I had a hand saw with me and took some time to clear out the upper part again. I also worked on the middle part which was really tricky because of fallen trees. Now even the middle part should be no problem. You still have to climb under or over fallen trees a few times, but no acrobatic is needed anymore :-)
To be clear: don't expect the trail to be in the same condition as the Carmel River Trail. But I think I can now give the attribute "Passable".

Re: Puerto Suello Trail

Postby christoph28 on Tue Jul 07, 2015 3:05 pm

Date Hiked: July 4, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We day hiked from Hiding Canyon camp up to Ventana Double Cone and back via Puerto Suelo / VDC Trail. The first part of Puerto Suelo is pleasant, but it soon becomes thick with brush, trees, berry vines, and poison oak, particularly in the sections that stay near the creek that runs parallel to the trail. A number of creek crossings required some route finding due to the thick brush/weeds growing along the banks, and many deadfalls demanded some acrobatics to navigate around. Be also wary of high deadfalls hiding in the brush -- there are several right at head level, which could cause a headache if you are blindly plowing through. Parts of the trail are eroded and slippery, particularly near the top where the trail steepens and follows a dry creek bank with minimal plant coverage. Water is available from the stream that parallels the first 2/3 or so of the trail, which eventually splits off before the top. There is even a refreshing pool around the halfway point great for cooling off if the temps are high (upper 90s F when we hiked it). Overall this is a tough, rough trail that needs serious work to get back to hikeable condition. With day packs, it took us around 2 hours to hike from Hiding Canyon camp to the VDC junction and slightly less to hike back down, and about 7 hours total to hike up to Ventana Double Cone and back. Be prepared for some serious bushwacking, route finding, and generally tough conditions if you are going to attempt this hike.
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Re: Puerto Suello Trail

Postby austin_modern on Mon Jun 22, 2015 8:14 am

Date Hiked: June 20, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I'll echo what many said below - this trail is very difficult. I went from Hidden Canyon Camp -> Double Cone -> Hidden Canyon Camp as a day hike from by tent at Hidden Canyon to reach the top and back. The trail is decently marked with flags and stacked stones at most of the places you might lose track of it. Pushing through 6-8' tall brush at points along this trail and past really make it slow going. Overall took the better part of the day to complete the above loop, and I was as beat as I've ever been on a trail hike. Probably some of the hardest miles I've put under my belt. I would NOT attempt this with a full backpacking pack. I will not be adventuring on this trail again. Was fun, but the experience was a bit much compared to Dam -> Hidden Canyon hike along the Carmel River Trail.

Re: Puerto Suello Trail

Postby drew on Tue May 26, 2015 9:25 am

Date Hiked: May 24, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We hiked up the Puerto Suello from Hiding camp. Signs of recent trail maintenance on some sections is clear. A good amount of the larger blowdown has been cut and cleared. As others have reported, the presence of flags makes the difficult-to-navigate sections of the trail more clear. Without these flags (and occasional rock piles), the trail would be very difficult to locate in sections. HOWEVER, this trail is still very hard going. Most of the middle section of the trail requires pushing through thick brush that makes travel extremely slow. Long pants and shirt are essential. Eye protection also highly recommended. This is a doable, but not at all casual hike. We are two frequent backpackers in good shape in our late 20s, and found this trail to be about at the limit of what we considered 'not miserable'....and it probably did cross that threshold in sections.

Thank you to all of you that have helped keep this trail passable! It was great to be able to make a loop from Los Padres Dam -> Hiding Camp -> Pat Spring -> Los Padres Dam.
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Re: Puerto Suello Trail

Postby pantilat on Wed Apr 08, 2015 1:49 pm

Date Hiked: April 4, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I had previously reported on conditions of the Puerto Suello Trail on January 10, 2015. I'm happy to report that conditions have improved on this trail. Somebody came through with a hand saw and orange flagging and cleared out the top mile from Puerto Suello Gap down into the canyon. It looked like a ton of work since I know how many trees were down over the trail before and the dozens of cuts are evident along this upper stretch. This upper mile is now "passable". Thank you!! The middle part is still difficult with lots of blowdowns remaining over the trail, but some new flags, trimmed branches and recent use have made the way pretty obvious and easier than before. One additional note is there is quite a bit of PO along the trail that I didn't notice as much in January when it was not leafy. Once you leave the drainage and cross the small ridge to begin the final half mile descent into Hiding Canyon Camp the trail is in pretty good shape with only a couple blowdowns and minimal brush. To summarize the upper and lower parts of this trail are now "Passable" and the middle part remains "Difficult."

A note on water: Puerto Suello Spring looks like a muddy puddle. About 0.15 miles farther down the trail is flowing water over the trail that is clear and cold (0.35 miles from Puerto Suello Gap). This water source is just below where the trail traverses a steep and loose dirt/scree slope. Further down the creek is flowing well with ample water.
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Re: Puerto Suello Trail

Postby Kim Glenn on Fri Mar 20, 2015 5:22 pm

Date Hiked: March 18, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

My daughter and I hiked this from Hiding Camp to Ventana Double Cone trail junction. Conditions are as recently reported, emphasizing the difficulty of finding and staying on the trail given the blowdowns and dense growth. Be prepared to go slow. We were pretty exhausted after almost 4 hours to complete the less than 3 miles. No ticks (yet). Arms and legs seriously scratched up so wear long pants and sleeves. Would be a shame to lose this trail as we enjoyed the connection for a through hike from China Camp to Bothchers Gap.
Kim Glenn


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