Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

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Expand view Topic review: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

by AlanH » Fri Nov 18, 2022 8:34 pm

Date Hiked: November 6, 2022
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

The first 0.8 mi of trail (from Danish Creek crossing) is now marked with flags (between the existing metal squares nailed to trees, so watch for both). The orange/difficult rating on https://bigsurtrailmap.net/trailconditions.html should be extended just a bit further, to just above the "2" in 2440 marking the elevation line on the oval feature.

The last marker has 2 flags on the same branch; this gets you in sight of the narrower ridge past the oval feature. Once there, sticking to the ridge or just left of it is the best I've found so far. Still lots of brush to fight through. Look for flags at the later saddle point where the trail heads down; pretty easy to follow down to the creek crossing, with dense bushes on both sides of the trail. That section still orange/difficult. The hike out from Rattlesnake Camp to Danish Creek took me about 2.5 hours.

Water info: Rattlesnake Creek had good flow; Danish Creek above the confluence with Rattlesnake was dry.

PS: *Thank you* to the gentleman I passed on the trail who gave me flagging tape.. I had forgotten mine and it was much needed here!

Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

by Alan Harder » Tue Jan 18, 2022 4:17 pm

Date Hiked: January 17, 2022
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

https://bigsurtrailmap.net/trailconditions.html shows different conditions for different portions of the trail:
1st mile from Danish Creek marked as orange/difficult: still accurate.
2nd mile on the ridge marked as red/impassable: still accurate.
The last 1/3 mile from the ridge down to Rattlesnake Camp should be updated to orange/difficult. This was the one portion I could positively identify as the correct trail, so I did some clearing of deadfall and that portion is now in decent shape (if you can get there!)

More detail:

Start of trail: is not obvious. After crossing Danish Creek there is a nice clearing; head upstream, but not along the creek.. in the left half of the clearing. You'll reach a tree with silver metal squares nailed to it, one on the side you're approaching and another on the left side. Make a left turn here, heading towards the slope. There's another marker just a bit up the slope; I added red flagging tape on the same tree, as the metal square had partly broken off. Once here you're on trail that gets you started.
If you miss the tree at the bottom you'll reach a point where steeper slope comes down nearly to Danish Creek. You can head up the ridge line of this slope and likely find the trail, or backtrack to find the starting tree.

1st mile: this gets up onto the ridge and follows it for the steeper portion of the ascent. Much of it is fairly open and finding the "right" trail is the main challenge. There are patches of dense growth; if you manage to find another metal square every few minutes (or if you are lucky with the route you take!) then you can get through those patches without much difficulty. I found the gpx track from bigsurtrailmap.net to be fairly accurate in this stretch.

2nd mile: traversing the ridge. The ridge consists of an oval shaped feature, followed by a narrow saddle point, then a longer SW/NE section of wider ridge, and finally another narrow saddle point. At this 2nd saddle point the trail descends from the ridge.
Part 1: the oval. The gpx track shows the trail going along the right side and then curving back towards the center of the ridge; I found this to be the right idea, but a much wider curve avoids the worst of the dense growth in this area. Give the oval a wide berth, staying low enough to find gaps in the brush, then angle back to reach the center of the ridge at the saddle point.
Part 2: on the narrow saddle it is easy to find some tread; from here keep just slightly left (of the ridge line and the gpx track); there will be thick brush right on the ridge, but it is easy going for a bit if you stay along on that boundary.
Part 3: Transition to right side of ridge. This is the part I haven't figured out yet; hiking in and out I ended up fighting through some sizable sections of thick brush.
Part 4: once you are a bit below the ridge on the right side it is fairly open; ascend gradually to reach the saddle point.

Last 1/3 mile: the trail from the saddle point to Rattlesnake Camp is easy to follow and now in reasonable shape, as I mentioned above. It also matches the gpx track well.

Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

by dmw » Wed Jan 27, 2021 2:42 pm

Date Hiked: January 23, 2021
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

[Ed note: the below describes an off-trail route to Rattlesnake Camp, not Rattlesnake Trail itself]

I traveled from Danish Camp to Rattlesnake Camp, and from there to Elephant and Uncle Sam mountains. I have a lot of experience with off-trail travel, and this was truly a difficult trek.

Out of Danish Camp, it's an easy walk up Danish canyon to confluence of Danish and Rattlesnake Creek, only a couple hundred yards. Turning into the Rattlesnake drainage, you'll see some flagging on the south side of the spur which rises on your right. I didn't really attempt to follow the flagging, but stayed on the east hillside (traveling south), which is nice open forest for at least 1/4 mile. Unfortunately this hillside then turns to junkier forest as you bend west, and finally dumps you into a large open hillside of chamise. Traveling in the chamise is not all that bad, by Ventana standards. I tried venturing up to the ridgetop, but there is some thicker, stouter brush there (scrub oak etc), so I ended up traversing WSW through the chamise, losing altitude gradually until I was back in the Rattlesnake Creek canyon. Travel there was pretty easy until the camp. Not sure whether it would have been faster to stay along the creek the whole way - suspect yes, but there may be waterfalls and difficult vegetation where the canyon narrows.

The camp location is approximately 36.3609, -121.6995, in the canyon along Rattlesnake Creek (the table and sign are on the east side of the creek). It is marked wrong on some maps, including Google maps.

Upstream from the camp, the character of the canyon changes and travel becomes incredibly difficult. (In many years of off-trail trekking experience, this was the most difficult creek trek I have encountered.) The water flows in a 3-4 foot deep, narrow channel; the channel itself and any flat ground around it are absolutely choked with thick, waist to head+ high bushes and, especially, blackberry vines. The canyon walls are very steep and have a lot of thick, tough brush (scrub oak, coyote brush, etc), though there are small openings in places (usually the steepest places). No more chamise, alas. I opted to traverse on the slopes, which was physical but much faster than staying in the bottom. My plan to use a side drainage up to the ridge failed, as these are just as bad as the main creek; so I finally left the canyon around 36.3539, -121.7004 and bashed through the heavy brush on the open hillside. It's worse up higher (plenty of belly crawling).

Eventually, a ruined pair blue jeans later, I emerged onto the relatively open ridgeline joining Elephant and Uncle Sam mountains, near the saddle. The way up to Elephant is really pretty nice - there are even a few grassy areas with great views. The place I identified as the Elephant summit was pretty open and beautiful, in contrast to other reports from previous years (perhaps that brush has not yet grown back?). The Uncle Sam side of the ridgeline SW of the saddle is not too difficult but thicker, with some fighting required and small but tricky rock outcroppings in places. Uncle Sam's summit is brush-choked, though there are some nice meadows and even beautiful lone oak trees on and around a second, lower high point to the south.

Getting to Rattlesnake Creek with an overnight pack would be difficult. Past the camp, impossible.

I would only recommend this trip between mid November and mid January, when the poison oak is bare.

Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

by seagoat1724 » Thu Sep 19, 2019 2:25 pm

Date Hiked: March 28, 2019
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Rattlesnake Trail, between Danish Creek Camp and Old Homestead
People: 0
Trail: Good – trail is good out of camp, but crosses creek immediately, and if you cannot cross than you walk pretty easily on the same side until the homestead. Tread is not always evident. Landslide across trail just up creek from Danish Creek Camp. Yellow flagging going up Rattlesnake Creek where trail does not go. Perhaps a route up the creek?

Rattlesnake Trail, between Homestead and Rattlesnake Camp
People: 0
Trail: Impassable – There is a metal trail sign for Rattlesnake Creek trail at the beginning of the incline and a large human-made rock pile is the most evident sign of the trail head. Corrugated sheet metal markers from the old McCracken trail mark the trail throughout but are only worth following up to the first hill-top on the ridge. On the ridge top the trail is overgrown with many dead-falls and much brush making it hard to continue following them.

For the first half we left the trace and followed other use trails going on the left side of the ridge towards Rattlesnake Camp. The way was easy going contouring upward along steep grassy hillsides until chaparral starts and we went back up to the ridge and McKracken markers. The last half of the trail was spent attempting to follow the trail more or less, snaking through brush on top of the ridge. The creek rises sharply towards the trail, (waterfalls can be heard below confirming a difficult creek route), making the descent in view and more obvious where to go down. However, the actual drop down to the camp is the easiest section of Rattlesnake Creek Trail since the initial climb, and is a well-cut swath through the chaparral down to the creek bottom. The trail crosses creek to left bank and follows along creek until ground flattens and you are at Rattlesnake Camp.

Rattlesnake camp is in good shape, seems rather untouched by the fire and still has enough trees to have a canopy, a picnic table and camp grill. The picnic table has the least amount of graffiti seen in any back country camp. Everything is covered in brambles from open canopy. Large population of tall, spikey Santa Lucia gooseberry in open dappled sunlight spots. The large rolling area around camp seems like it had more tread activity before the burn. A stovepipe for ice box assemblage is still present.

On the way back we followed trail markers but found we had to drop down to the left side of the ridge several times to get around brush. In short both sides of the ridge offer some advantages and while Rattlesnake Camp can be reached in a few hours from Danish Creek Camp the trail is gone.

Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

by seagoat1724 » Sat Jul 20, 2019 6:13 pm

Date Hiked: October 25, 2018
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Between Danish Creek Camp and Rattlesnake Camp
Trail is impassable. Trail is followable and alright up along the creek heading out of Danish Creek Camp to the next meadow with the old homestead remnants. Trail sign is at far end of that meadow on left lookin upstream. Trail head up ridge following old flagging and even older corrugated tin flagging nailed to trees. Gets more overgrown and repeatedly forks and diverges as you near top of ridge. Then around halfway between Danish Creek Camp and Rattlsnake camp the trail enters fully burned area and become a full bushwhack in loose soil on a thin ridge. People have put yellow flagging going up rattlesnake creek, it is possible that folks are going this way or trying to make a new trail this way.

Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

by jdoelman » Mon Feb 05, 2018 9:52 am

Date Hiked: February 4, 2018
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

We descended into the Rattlesnake creek area from the VDC trail in hopes of finding some usable portions of the Rattlesnake trail, we did find some token sections of the trail but nothing that would make this trail remotely usable. We found the ice-maker stove with stand-pipe marking the location of the Little Pines camp located in the little-pines basin, and a McCracken trail marker near that location. The Rattlesnake trail passes through a densely brushy section of terrain that was not sufficiently burnt to make it passable.

On the trail below Rattlesnake camp we benefited hugely from recent travels along the ridgeline which made it relatively easy going. The Rattlesnake trail was once resurrected by McCracken (1970s?), then lost and resurrected by the Ventana Mounted Assistance ( in 1989-91?) and maintained at some level of usefulness. It may be waiting for its next incarnation now. At this point there is no trail.

Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

by jack_glendening » Sun Nov 26, 2017 10:12 pm

Date Hiked: November 24, 2017
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

As anticipated, bushwhacking to Rattlesnake Camp along the ridgeline above the trail, or just to its Rattlesnake Creek side, had much less brush and downfall than along the trail itself. Time from Danish Creek to Rattlesnake Camp was 3 1/2 hours, return was 2 3/4 hr. The Camp itself was untouched by the fire, though there are some singe marks on nearby trees. Details at
http://blog.bigsurtrailmap.net/rattlesn ... bushwhack/


Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

by jack_glendening » Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:11 pm

Date Hiked: November 12, 2017
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Sadly, the lower half of Rattlesnake Creek Trail, below Rattlesnake Camp, must now be rated impassable. This venerable trail was one of the oldest in the Ventana wilderness, having appeared on a 1921 quadrangle when few Ventana trails existed. The upper section of Rattlesnake Creek Trail had been "lost" since the 2008 Basin Complex fire - but the lower trail had still been "passable".

I had hoped that conditions now would be similar to what they were after the 2008 fire. Back then there was still tread which could be followed, the connections just needing to be found. But now there is very little tread to be followed - previous knowledge of the route or a GPS track is required to follow the path. Yet it's not worth following since there is just as much, if not more, brush and downfall there as elsewhere. If wanting to visit Rattlesnake Camp, I suggest you bushwhack.

For more details, see blog post: http://blog.bigsurtrailmap.net/bushwhac ... eek-trail/


Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

by RSIBryce » Mon Sep 25, 2017 6:25 pm

Date Hiked: August 22, 2017
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I have recently been out conducting B.A.E.R. Trail Surveys in the Soberanes Burn Area with Francisco "Franco" Guzman - assessing the trail conditions to help inform the forest re-opening and get an idea of what's out there after the burn and big rains this past winter. We began at the Los Padres Dam and ventured toward Danish Creek with the goal of surveying Rattlesnake Creek Trail to the camp, and additionally from the camp to Little Pines at the Ventana Double Cone Trail, a historic route that was declared a dead-end at Rattlesnake Camp way back in 1991, according to Monterey County Place Names. The idea being of course that the fire may have made this lost/historic trail more passable. As probably mentioned in other postings, this route was important in the mule packing days when the Ventana Double Cone Lookout was in service. Please note that my trail condition rating is based on the route to Rattlesnake Camp, the route to the VDC remains impassable, as the rest of my report will tell.

The section from Danish Creek to Rattlesnake Camp was quite miserable, especially once you leave Danish creek and begin climbing the ridge between Rattlesnake and Danish creeks. As one might expect it was overgrown considerably in many areas, and the tread was very difficult to follow. The metal McCracken trail markers are still intact as you make your ascent. The fire did some damage in this area and the dry ravel, as they call it, is considerable. Lots of downed trees to navigate and tremendous, thick growth of chaparral along the top of the little ridge in addition to the regrowth from the burned Madrones, which are numerous in this area.

Smashing through some of the thicker sections was quite a challenge, and a few times we were forced to go around them completely - the actual trail follows the ridge top but its become so overgrown its almost not possible anymore. I recall being able to crawl through some of the sections back in January of 2013, however it appeared thicker and more menacing than ever. Going down the side of the ridge a ways and around was feasible, but not without some teeth gnashing. Sometime around noon it dawned on me that August might possibly be the worst time to hike this trail - the heat and flies were almost unbearable, but were to be expected. We made it to Rattlesnake Camp in one piece but rather tired, and were glad to see that the old table still stands under the large live oaks and their cool shade. The register was in poor shape, the rains had really done a number on the notebook. I was pretty beat and did not look it over to finely - though I doubt it has seen much action since Jack Glendening made the hike in 2015. The creek (as most all creeks in this year of the great rains) was running beautifully, and had enough water to take a little cool down soak in the small pools. We took a long lunch break before continuing our journey toward the VDC, dreading what might await.

We followed the tread from Rattlesnake Camp for nearly an hour before it became too difficult and exhausting to go further. It was clear that the fire had done nothing to open the trail, but perhaps make it harder. Of the 1.9 miles from Rattlesnake Camp to Little Pines, roughly half follows the creek - as we found later, the fire tends not to burn as hot in the drainages, leaving a lot of dead and downed wood in addition to the regrowth. The only thing to do was climb the hillsides, which had been cleared of brush by the fire, but were steep and daunting, and also very hot in the afternoon sun. We managed to get to the ridge to the north and travelled westward toward the VDC as far as we could, but found sections that were unburned and very brushy, making travel difficult. Eventually night was approaching and we opted to make camp on a flat on the ridge in a little clearing. Another mile or so remained for our goal of Little Pines and we opted to try again in the morning. We had just enough water to hold us over until an early morning go of it when the sun rose.

Re: Rattlesnake Trail (aka Little Pines Trail)

by jack_glendening » Sat Nov 14, 2015 3:24 am

Date Hiked: November 13, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Perhaps you read the last trail report and thought that the trail from Danish Creek to Rattlesnake Camp was impassable. We DIDN'T think that, so three of us (myself, Gene Anderson, and Jesse Cude in photo below) headed out to Rattlesnake Camp. All three returned. :D

For the 1.8 miles, going out took us 4 hours (0.45 mph) and return took 2.3 hours (0.8 mph), doing some lopping and flagging along the way. While not impassable, it IS difficult - a whole body sport - as the above times attest. The metal "McCracken markers" helped guide us, but we had to do much route searching and our GPS with accurate trail route was very helpful.

However, the trail _above_ Rattlesnake Camp must be considered impassable.

In 2013, Rattlesnake Camp was visited by 5 people, including my last visit and Bryce Winter for a VWA survey and notably by a father and son who finally made it on their _fourth_ attempt! In 2014 the camp was visited by 2 people, This year no one had visited, until our hike. So while not quite a lost camp, Rattlesnake Camp is on its way to becoming one. Quoting from the Sierra Club Trail Guide:
"By some miracle, Rattlesnake Camp and its immediate environs escaped the fire devastation of 1977. So it is one of the few areas that still give the sense of virgin forest, with handsome mature trees. H.J. McCracken, the grand old hiker who died later in Anderson Canyon, first reopened the trail to Rattlesnake Camp over 20 years ago [circa 1965 - jwg] and nailed the markers to the trees. The many friends who loved and admired him can think of peaceful, forgotten Rattlesnake Camp as his permanent memorial."
Jack Glendening

PS: water was flowing well at Rattlesnake Camp but Danish Creek was bone dry at the lower end of Rattlesnake Creek Trail (though likely it does have flowing water elsewhere along its route).