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Topic review

Expand view Topic review: Pine Ridge Trail

Big Sur to Redwoods Campsite

Post by Harrison96 on Mon Oct 11, 2021 5:47 pm

Date Hiked: October 10, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

Water available at Redwoods Camp 10 October 2021

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by tedmerrill on Fri Oct 01, 2021 12:39 pm

Date Hiked: September 29, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

VWA Moderator Note: The "detour" referred to in the post below is an official reroute of the Pine Ridge Trail that was necessitated by the failure of a section of the original route. The US Forest Service determined that the reroute was necessary for public safety. Of course what is "safe" or "dangerous" is in the eye of the beholder. But as the managing agency for these public lands it is their call. They funded the contract crews that completed the reroute. Note: VWA volunteers were instrumental in making key access points on the PRT pack stock accessible to enable the contract crews to work more efficiently. Plus, volunteers completed hundreds of hours of work just making the trail better in general. Thank you!
As for the original route, there is a plan in place to eventually reopen it allowing for continued travel on the PRT without having to deal with the crossings down by Barlow Flat Camp. But for now it is reckless to suggest that the original route be used (or to actually use it). What may seem like an easy "scramble" today when dry could be a life threatening maneuver tomorrow. The slightest bit of rain could again make that whole section susceptible to slides. Do not use the old original route above Barlow Flat until it is officially reopened. And if you are visiting during times when the Big Sur River flows are high, don't try to cross it. Visitors are not owed the right to continue on a trail when natural conditions dictate otherwise. Accept Wilderness on its terms and stay alive.

Trail is excellent from Big Sur Ranger Station to Sykes, with one exception.
Many thanks to all the volunteers who cleaned up the trail!

The exception is where the trail is officially re-routed at Barlow Camp.
This detour requires two crossings of the Big Sur River and should not be attempted by most people during the high flows of a normal winter.

Fortunately there is a solution for those with minimal scrambling skills, which is to follow the original trail!

There is, on the original trail, a single slide where ground water undermined the trail.
The width of the slide is only about 20 feet.
On the west side is a drop-off of about 10 feet.
On the east side has a drop-off of about 5 feet (the east side is lower than the west side).
The natural slope of the hillside is steep enough to make traction difficult, but not enough to pose any danger to sliding in an unsafe way IMO.
There is, currently at least, a use trail just above the slide... this trail ascends easily 5 feet, traverses, descends easily 5 feet and then the last 5 feet to the east side is steep enough that traction is difficult (but there is currently a tree to hang on to).
I repeat that for someone with minimal scrambling skills, there is no danger even if you lose your footing.
IMO with a very small amount of work this use trail could be made to have a suitable gradient... if I had had a pulaski with me I would have done so.
It is possible that the trail above the slide will become, over time, unsuitable for a trail, in which case IMO filling in the slide with well-placed rocks would be an easily manageable project that several volunteers could accomplish in several days.
As to why the Forest Service decided a reroute with two river crossings would be required... unfathomable to me.
But since the new trail is there, it could come in handy some day.

Attached, I hope, is a picture of the slide and use trail around the slide, taken from the east side.

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by Eric-ventana on Wed Aug 25, 2021 4:48 pm

Thanks for the thorough report!!

Is there anything left of the hot springs? I know they busted them out due to heavy traffic and a lot of misuse. Has there been any effort or evidense of building a pool back up again?

Thanks again!!

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by kmahony1 on Wed Jun 23, 2021 4:49 pm

Date Hiked: June 16, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked the entire Pine Ridge Trail in 4 nights and 5 days beginning at China Camp starting on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Campsites at which we stayed were, in order: Divide Camp, Pine Ridge Camp, Redwood Camp, Terrace Creek Camp.

Condition of Trail to Divide Camp 80% Clear with some downed trees.

No water in the creek at Divide Camp
* The two small "trickles" on the PRT on both sides of the trail leading down into the Divide Camp are now "puddles" where one could get water, if needed, by scooping it, or by, very delicately, suctioning via a water filter.

There is water a 1/2 mile west on the PRT in a small stream that crosses the trail.

Trail conditions from Divide Camp to Pine Ridge Camp:
60 % clear with more fallen trees, and more brush encroaching on the trail.
** There is water at Pine Ridge Camp via the piped-in spring 200 or so feet beyond the campground.

Trail Conditions from Pine Ridge Camp to Sykes Camp:
* Very Bushy first 2 miles between Pine Ridge Camp and Sykes, although there were signs of someone clearing out helpful amounts of brush that would have otherwise severely impeded passage of this section if not had been removed. We did have to pay close attention to where we placed our feet and our poles during this section due to the tread of the trail being right on the outside edge of the contour of the ridge heading down.

* Some very EXCELLENT trail work evident the last mile or 3/4 of mile heading west before reaching Redwood Camp and onward to Sykes Camp. (Kudos to the trail workers!)

Trail Conditions between Sykes and Ranger Station:
Very much passable. Well worked trail.
** The reroute at Barlow Flats was clearly marked and easy to navigate.
** I was not aware to the reroute at the end of the trail which now leads into Big Sur Campground before being rerouted back to the original trail for the last 1/4 of the trail leading back to the ranger station.

Some General Observations:

All in all, I thought trail was in good condition. (Better than when I went in July, 2016 - right before the fire a few weeks later.)

The only difficult section remains between Pine Ridge Camp and the area right before Redwood Camp.

Toilets at Sykes and Terrace Creek are the best backcountry toilets I have ever seen, by the way.

Thanks to all who do the trail work and keep us informed! :) :)

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by Betsy M on Tue May 04, 2021 10:33 pm

Date Hiked: May 2, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

SECTION: Big Sur Trail Junction to Pine Ridge Camp Trail Junction

As reported by others, the section between the Big Sur Trail junction (.8 miles above Redwood Camp) and the Pine Ridge Camp Trail junction is super brushy. Not so brushy that you could lose the trail. But enough that you really have to focus on watching where you are going, pushing brush out of the way, and watching your step so you don't trip on low branches. I day-hiked this section and it was annoying. With a backpack it would be even more so. When you reach the end of the brush, it is amazing how much easier it is to walk on open trail with good tread.

There is a good bit of tread slump in the lower sections, caused by chamise, scrub oak, and other chaparral species growing on the uphill side of the trail, making hikers step off on the downhill side and eroding the tread.

In the upper sections, manzanita bushes growing in on both sides make the trail corridor tight. Someone has been working on the upper sections of the trail which has really kept it from being completely impassible. There are also quite a few stretches up top where the trail has wandered from its original (straight) route. Watch for clipped brush to find the trail.

For a while in the middle, more rocky section, the trail remains fairly open, with good tread and not so much brush.
You can see the work that went into construction of this beautiful rock wall (right side of photo).
There was lots of creeping sage on the middle, more open part, of this section, with beautiful fragrant flowers.

Note 1: If you are hiking up this section, watch for the switchbacks. After a long straightaway above the Big Sur Trail junction, hikers have been continuing straight at the first switchback. I tried to pile chamise clippings to block the wrong route. The sticks laid across the trail here were not doing the job, as a pretty good trail had been established continuing straight at this switchback. Then at the next switchback, there are some odd jogs in the trail. Just watch to make sure you are staying on what looks like tread and you should be fine.

Note 2: The trail clearing coming up from Redwood Camp reached about a half mile above the junction with the Big Sur Trail. After that it is 2 miles of brush before the trail opens up again on Pine Ridge.

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by PDunn on Sun May 02, 2021 12:15 pm

Date Hiked: May 1, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Started at China Camp:
After the first few hundred yards of clear trail the bushes closed in again. Very brushy but worth the effort to enjoy the lupines and poppies.


Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by sfrake on Sun Apr 18, 2021 5:28 pm

Date Hiked: April 14, 2021
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

My son and I hiked the length of the trail from China Camp to Big Sur Station. The section from China Camp to Pine Ridge Camp is described well in the previous posts. From there, for about 2.5 miles, it is very brushy, with poison oak to dodge at times. I would rate it passable, but pushing through growth for that long becomes a bit of a chore (fortunately the incredible views are distracting). Then, maybe 1/4 mile above the Big Sur Trail junction, the trail opens up and is wonderfully clear, the result of recent trail work. It remains so the rest of the way to Big Sur. This is indicated on Jack Glendening's map so is not news (though I suppose the green section on his map could extend just a bit north/west of the Big Sur Trail junction). I can't thank enough those who worked so hard to clear and repair the western portion of the trail.

I should note that the re-route at Barlow Camp was confusing for us; when we reached the creek there wasn't an obvious trail on the other side. We crossed where it looked like the trail continued and indeed it did, so it wasn't a big deal, but for a moment we were flummoxed. If you're traveling east there is detailed signage of the re-route so this isn't an issue, and then on the return you'd of course have experience. So this only applies to anyone heading west on the re-route for the first time.

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by BP22 on Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:18 pm

Date Hiked: April 15, 2021
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

so nice to have the this wilderness playground back from BSS to Sykes. the trail is immaculate, so many thank you's to trail crew. The Terrace Creek Trail also looks great. The slide re-route through Barlow Flat is very nice and gives us two river crossings. I only saw like 5 other hikers and nobody at Sykes, NO TRASH. Not missing those hot springs. Very enjoyable hike.

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by Jim Ringland on Thu Apr 15, 2021 1:50 pm

Date Hiked: April 12, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I did an in-and-out from China Camp to Pine Valley on April 12, 13, and 14. On the layover day I day hiked. This report draws from all three days. I did various parts in various directions but I’ll describe all from east to west.

Section: China Camp to Church Creek Divide Junction – Clear

Most of this trail is wide open, some of Wilderness Freeway quality. There are a few places where the brush is lapping over the trail and a very few places where it’s come in from both sides and you have to swish through. The trail bed is in pretty good shape, with a few sloped or rocky spots here and there.

Section: Church Creek Divide Junction to Black Cone Trail Junction – Passable

This is more interesting. The gloss is that this is brushier than the first section, and there are numerous deadfalls, but most are easily managed. There are large stretches of open trail.

But George Graybill’s April 1, 2021 report was spot-on in using the word “awful” for the bit just west of the Church Creek Divide Junction. The half mile from there to Divide Camp has three messy obstacles. First (heading west from the Church Creek saddle), a piece of hillside trail above a small stream bed has partly washed out. There’s now big drop on one side. You can stay safe but have to move over into the brush to do so. Second, there’s deadfall that came straight down on the length of the trail so there’s 50-100 feet of stepping over various branches. It’s quite a log pile. No one step is all that hard, but there are lots of them. Finally, there’s a big deadfall that completely blocks the trail in an area that mixes open and denser brush. Even with just a day pack, I decided climbing over/through the mess wasn’t a good option and detoured. The go-around was slow, annoying, and longer than expected to find a workable way back to the trail. All three of these were within maybe a quarter mile. The rest of way still has the occasional brushy spot and lots of deadfalls, but almost all of the latter were simple step-overs or duck-unders. On one, a four foot log, I did have to climb up, scooch over the top, then slide down the other side. But I recall only one of those.

I walked down to Divide Camp. There’s one simple main camp with a fire ring and some sitting logs plus a lower, much less used camp, with a few pieces of an old icemaker stove. Water is limited. There is a trickle in the Woodwardia ferns above the main camp, but none lower down. On the other hand, back up on the Pine Ridge Trail, there a better rill a few hundred feet east of the Divide Camp Trail junction. There’s also muddy water about the same distance west where the gully feeding the water-and-woodwardia mix in camp crosses the trail above. If worst comes to worst, the small stream half a mile or so west of Divide Camp on the Pine Ridge Trail was running well.

On my dayhike day, I actually went a short distance west from the Black Cone Trail junction, but not quite all the way to the Pine Ridge Camp junction. All clear there.

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by George Graybill on Thu Apr 01, 2021 12:06 pm

Date Hiked: March 26, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Beginning at Tassajara Road the trail changes from very good to awful at Church Creek Divide. Tread is fairly good, but there is a lot of brush and deadfalls. Passable but annoying. I only went as far as Divide Camp, where I spent the night.