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Expand view Topic review: South Fork Trail

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by Kyle F on Tue Apr 20, 2021 8:22 am

Date Hiked: April 17, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked this trail as part of the Boranda, South Fork, Marble Peak, North Coast Ridge Loop. If this is the same trek as the gentleman below me is describing, kudos to him and his son. I easily clocked in 32+ miles with the route finding, navigating and general exploring. I completed this over a weekend - 2 nights and 3 days.

I was ascending the Boranda trail by 3:30 PM on Friday, April 16th. It was difficult but I very much enjoyed the flowers. At Timber Top I looked around for the use trail to the road that was marked on AllTrails, after some poking around I located two rocks cairns to the south with a feint tread and followed that to the road. At any point on the road is pretty easy walking. I was curious about DeAngulo but didn't have the energy to check out the downed tree that is supposedly blocking the trail near the top. Further on, near Cold Springs, I could see at least 4 tents at the camp from the road. I went down to the tank to get water before climbing back up to the road for a campsite all to myself.

In the middle of the night I moved locations as I had pitched my tent on an ant hill. The next morning I had left camp before 8, headed down to Cold Springs again. After crossing the creek and working my way around the hill, the trail had started to get brushier. When I began the descent I remember it being quite brushy, at least always brushing against my legs and arms. Honestly I don't recall the trail conditions that much, as I was having a tick nightmare. I had, honest to god, never seen so many ticks in my entire life. I think it may of been quicker for me to keep moving - but I was stopping every 10 yards or so to brush the ticks off. I seriously considered turning around at one point, but the thought of going back just made me shudder. At one point I lost the trail, and my AllTrails map was completely inaccurate. I poked around and backtracked before realizing I had missed a switch back. It becomes quite nice again once you get near the creek. There was a small group of redwoods here that was a nice surprise. Keep in mind, I haven't even gotten to the South Fork trail yet.

Mocho Camp seemed nice, I didn't stop there because another hiker was taking a break. He told me he was going up Pick Creek - I noted that for future exploration. There was a large tree down above the camp as you continue on to Rainbow Camp. Rainbow Camp was also very nice, I was happy to be at the river and it was not flowing as much as I thought it would. While soaking my feet I saw a nice sized garter snake slither by.

At this point the trail goes up again, and it seems to always be going up. While I didn't mark every downed tree on my map, I tried to mark the ones I thought required more than a step over or easy walk around. There were enough to slow me down. I was surprised at the elevation changes and kind of angry at myself for underestimating the difficulty. The first river crossing was the most challenging regarding locating the trail again. I came down a steep bank to the river. I could see pink ribbons across, and a narrow channel I could leap across further upstream. I crossed at the narrow channel and went back down to the pink ribbons from there. Here I made my way up the bank (after poking around the river bed for some time) and followed that and it ultimately turned back into the trail (I think).

There were a few downed trees between each river crossing, and I was surprised how often the trail would climb up and over ridges instead of hugging the river. I imagine this is because the river makes it impossible to maintain a trail there. South Fork Camp was lovely. I hope to return and camp here at some point (I figured if Jack recommended it, it must be good). After South Fork there was a point I lost the trial pretty good, it was near where the river forks again. There were, again, several more large trees down between here and strawberry. The trail according to most maps I have looked at is completely inaccurate.

Once I was on Marble Peak Trail, I knew what to expect. I camped at Higgens Creek the second night, absolutely exhausted. The next day I didn't have any particular troubles, there is no water after Higgens Creek unless you intend to head down to Cold Springs. I didn't mind walking the road, although I was feeling impatient with it towards the end. There were too many people to enjoy the stroll down Boranda, and I let gravity do most of the work. My legs are still feeling it.

I saw a few people on this trip, one other solo hiker who was taking the South Fork going North, I saw him a little after South Fork Camp. Also another group of hikers who I had seen Saturday morning but had gone the opposite direction as me. Meaning, when I ran into them they had walked the road from Cold Springs to Marble Peak then South Fork. I met them a little before Strawberry. So the trail is seeing traffic.

I maintain my difficult rating because there were several moments for me, by myself, where I was honestly not sure if I had taken the right track or not. I had a great time, it was an adventure which is exactly what I wanted. I start to think I am some kind of masochist, but then I see something pretty and it's all worthwhile. The solitude out here is wonderful.

I should mention I had the pleasure of meeting Jack at the Big Sur Station, which felt very serendipitous. I hope I can provide some muscle to clearing the trails when meetups begin again. I also found a pair of sunglasses at the intersection of Marble Peak Trail and South Fork - they have duct tape on them. Please reach out to me if they are yours.

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by sfrake on Sun Mar 14, 2021 12:01 pm

Date Hiked: March 13, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked the length of the South Fork Trail with my son as part of a Boronda/Coast Ridge/Big Sur/South Fork/Marble Peak/Coast Ridge/Boronda day hike. I'd say the conditions as indicated by the bigsurtrailmap.net trail conditions map are roughly accurate. From Rainbow camp it was pretty clear for about 1/2-1 mile; afterwards there was occasional deadfall that made for slow hiking. At times the degree of difficulty of navigating the deadfall was increased by the presence of poison oak. At least once it took a few minutes to discern where the trail continued, but we were helped immensely by the GPS track that is downloadable from the bigsurtrailmap.net site (thanks Jack Glendening!). There were also periods of clear sailing, albeit too brief. My memory is too poor to recall how many trees we had to go under/around/through, but it was enough for a day. That said, I am thankful for the work that had been done in recent years to at least make the trail passable. It's a beautiful area.

I am very curious why the detail of trail location on any available map (except for Jack's) is so off from the actual routing? When you're unsure whether to cross the creek or not, go up the ridge or down to the creek, or whatever, it is more harm than good to rely on an incorrect map. Are the other maps all based on an old route?

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by zacdalton on Sun Feb 28, 2021 1:41 am

Date Hiked: February 23, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp:

This was my first time on the South Fork Trail and it was was an amazing experience! Kind of reminds me of the Upper Sisquoc in the southern Los Padres. Tread was evident for much of the way, losing the trail a couple times briefly. A little over halfway to South Fork Camp, I lost the trail pretty badly and opted for the river. Found the trail on the opposite bank about 10 minutes later. Downed manzanita shortly after Rainbow I had to go up and over, but everything else was expected. Thanks to the people who have flagged the trail, helped me quite a bit! Will carry some tape on me from here on out.

Attempted to go up to Pick Creek Falls, but that creek is pretty gnarly! Much respect for those who have gone up or down it. I bypassed the first narrows section on a steep slope on the north side of the creek. Hiking solo, I decided not to push my luck and turned around when I hit a pretty deep pool. Probably could have been passed through some thick stuff on the south side of the creek. Felt like the falls may have been just past this part, as the creek took a 90-degree turn.

Thanks to everyone who has worked on this trail! It was such a great experience. There are some healthy Santa Lucia firs down in here. Rainbow Camp was a magical place — very lush. South Fork Camp was very peaceful amongst large oaks and Santa Lucia firs.

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by georged on Sun Feb 09, 2020 7:05 pm

Date Hiked: February 8, 2020
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Considerably more difficult than the section of Big Sur Trail between Cold Spring Camp and Rainbow Camp. The river crossings were no joke, there being about 6-8 crossings of the Big Sur River where stepping on logs or rocks was not an option. This requires a skillful juggling and drying of socks (at least that's how I deal with it!) to avoid blisters but it ended up alright. Hiking alone and with a broken trekking pole, this was unideal. There were also some downfalls which made room for some creativity on the trail. This was slow going here, I consider myself a very quick hiker and did about 2 miles/hour which was a bit slower than I had planned. That said, this is a special stretch of trail with that amazing eery yet peaceful sense that makes Ventana so special. Mother nature is the boss...

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by pantilat on Tue Oct 22, 2019 4:53 pm

Date Hiked: October 20, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The South Fork Trail is fairly close to being being a relatively clear (for these remote parts) trail from bottom to top.

The blowdown mentioned in the prior report is at the second to last crossing of the creek moving up to Strawberry and the last crossing that currently has water flowing. There's actually a half dozen creek crossings after South Fork Camp and they all have flowing water except the uppermost and they are easy to capture water if needed. There are also a couple other new downed trees between Rainbow and South Fork Camps.

In the upper part there is some encroaching brush and some tread issues in spots near riparian areas, but the way is always obvious and aside from the one complex blowdown mentioned above, there are no real substantial impediments. The South Fork Trail should be marked "yellow" from South Fork Camp all the way to Strawberry Camp on the wilderness conditions camp.

From Strawberry Camp to the junction with the Marble Peak Trail the conditions are passable, largely owing to the encroaching wild rose.

As I've described previously, this trail has excellent biodiversity. It's almost like an ecological staircase moving through the various forest communities as one ascends the canyon. Three pine species (ponderosa, coulter, knobcone), Santa Lucia Fir, Redwood and Incense Cedar were the conifers observed along the trail. I was very happy to see that the Soberanes Fire did little damage to this amazing forest.

Re: South Fork Trail (rainbow to strawberry)

Post by mkellman on Mon Oct 07, 2019 8:21 am

Date Hiked: October 5, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Passable to difficult.

Rainbow camp to South Fork camp is easy going and clear. South fork camp is beautiful.

South Fork camp to Strawberry camp is difficult. There is downed tree at river crossing approximately halfway between these two camps. Easiest way to pass is to climb under trees going up stream bed five meters and cutting back climbing over fallen tree. Took 20 minutes or so to figure out. Pink tags were unbelievably helpful in finding trail.

No water second half of this trail. Easiest fill up is at South Fork camp.

There is water at Strawberry camp. If you hike five meters up black cone trail there is a running creek to your right in the brush. :D

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by Firefly on Wed Sep 25, 2019 12:30 am

Date Hiked: September 22, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked this South Fork trail from Rainbow to Marble Peak junction. From Rainbow to South Fork Camp, the trail is easy to follow, with clear flagging at creek crossings. South Fork camp is beautiful.

From South Fork to Strawberry, there are a couple sections that could be misleading due to tread going off trail, in particular at the area where the South Fork trail splits from the river to follow another tributary. The maps on your GPS for most of South Fork trail are precisely wrong [unless using a BigSurTrailmap Garmin/PDF map - ed]. This part of the trail map accurately shows only a general direction of travel (along the river, crossing it several times). Do not seek the trail where the trail is supposed to be according to your electronic device: you will be led astray. If you find yourself thrashing around in brush and/or scrambling up a precipitous vertical slope where you suspect no other person would intentionally put themself, you have lost the trail. Go back to where you last definitely knew you were on the trail, and look around more carefully for another way.

Strawberry camp was rather uninviting this time of year, surrounded by dry grasses and with no water available. It took about 10 minutes to find the trail that leads from Strawberry camp toward Marble Peak trail, as it was obscured by grasses. The trail, once found, was very brushy and flagging helped to find the way. I found 2 different bear scat on the trail in this section.

There are a few spots between Strawberry camp and Tan Oak camp where small amounts of standing water or small trickles of water can be found.

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by mattes on Mon Jul 15, 2019 2:47 pm

Date Hiked: July 6, 2019
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Thanks to all the folks who helped to cleanup/maintain South Fork. Had an epic time on my first BigSur thru-hike (Arroyo Seco -> Boronda). Pretty much free cruising. Just be prepared for wet feet. Lots of creek crossing, some of them with little/no chance of dry rock hopping.
This trail is in better shape than (middle part of) Marble Peak trail.

On Marble Peak past Tassajara Tony Trail some sections are grown over badly with PO and required lots of bushwacking.

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by Betsy M on Wed Jun 05, 2019 7:38 am

Date Hiked: May 26, 2019
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp is Clear. A VWA volunteer trail crew worked to remove all the fallen trees starting at Rainbow Camp, ending at the first crossing upstream of South Fork Camp. Thank you to the volunteers who reported sizes and locations of fallen trees. Thank you to the volunteers who came out on Memorial Day weekend to saw trees in the rain. We have a trip scheduled June 21st to come in from the Strawberry side and work on the remaining large trees.

Update: on the June 21st outing, we cleared the remaining trees, between Strawberry Camp and where we stopped on this trip. Including a huge oak that had fallen shortly before our trip. There are a couple of brushy sections coming down the hill from Strawberry, but all major obstacles are clear.

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by kevin on Fri May 31, 2019 9:10 am

Date Hiked: May 26, 2019
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Three of us hiked from Strawberry Camp to Rainbow camp on the South Fork Trail, continuing on the Big Sur trial to the North Coast Ridge Road.
One madrone towards the start of the descent from Strawberry Camp caused us to lose the trail for about half a minute, as we ended up on the wrong side of a rise after climbing over. Besides that it was pretty smooth sailing with the only impediments being the numerous creek/river crossings and occasional poison oak which was generally easy to avoid.

We ran into Betsy & numerous other volunteers doing trail maintenance past South Fork Camp and onwards--we sure were glad for the work they were doing seeing how many deadfalls had been cleared recently on the trail! Thank you!

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