Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

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Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

by jbl » Sat Jul 10, 2021 9:31 am

Went up and down the face of Mt. Mars on June 23, 2021 using the route that starts on the jeep road that intersects with Highway 1 about 1/2 mile south of Salmon Creek Trailhead. This route is about 2,000' in 2 miles (and about 1,400' of that is in the 1 mile section from Kozy Kove meadow for an average gradient of over 25% in that section!)

The entire route from Highway 1 to Kozy Kove Meadow is on a jeep road in open terrain and is quite clear and not too steep.

The route from Kozy Kove to the pine trees that crown the west side of Mt. Mars is extremely steep and in the current dry conditions is not as easy as when the ground is damper; lots of sections with either ball bearing rocks or slippery grass which are hard enough to negotiate going uphill, much harder when going downhill. I highly recommend poles (which I usually bring but which I didn't have this time).

The zig-zagging "brush tunnel" from the ocean facing western side of Mt. Mars to the summit itself has survived and is still relatively easy to follow once you find the entrance, but it is growing in in places and there are numerous manzanita and ceanothus stumps along the way that you need to be careful of lest you trip over one.

The views of the back country (Lions Den, Three Peaks, Silver Peak, Dutra Valley) are quite nice from Mt. Mars but you must be standing to see them over the brush that surrounds the summit.

Since my first time to Mt. Mars in '05, the manzanita on the eastern side of Mt. Mars (the exit route to both the north-eastern ridge route to the Spruce/Dutra saddle and the south-eastern ridge route to the County Line Road/Murray Mine Road junction) has just grown and grown upwards and sideways such that there remains a clearly delineated route of sorts through it but back in '05 it was more of an open face with small manzanita and lots of gaps between the different bushes such that you could just walk up however you wanted.

This is definitely a hike that's worth the effort involved, BUT preferable when the face of Mt. Mars is greener and offers better traction.

Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

by jbl » Thu Apr 08, 2021 6:17 pm

Rubrnutz: I applaud your efforts and it is great to hear a report as I haven't been over along the ridge between Mt. Mars and the County Line Road/Murray Mine Road junction for several years. I must return (with my loppers and saw no doubt). The key to this section of the route is to know it is an old firebreak so it mostly sticks to the apex of the ridge; there are 3 peaklets along the way, the first two are mostly wooded an the easier ones, the third one is mostly chapparal and that is where the problems typically start as they are notorious blockers. It's too bad you didn't push a little further through that brush on the ocean facing side of Mt. Mars because it does end (probably not far from where you turned around) and then it's all open grass down to the Kozy Kove Meadow and from there you can follow an old ranch road all the way down to Highway 1 to a spot about 1/2 mile south of Salmon Creek, or if you can find it you can take the use trail that doubles back to the Salmon Creek Trail and take that down. These are all in the online Big Sur Trail Maps. DEFINITELY BRING A GPS WITH THE BIG SUR TRAILMAPS DOWNLOADED TO IT NEXT TIME AND YOU'LL DO A LOT BETTER!

Re: Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

by Rubrnutz » Mon Apr 05, 2021 12:52 pm

Went up to Mt. Mars a couple weeks ago from the Ragged Point Fire road side(south). Caught the trailhead at Murry Mine Rd. and County Line Rd. Really, it was unintentional to go up to Mt. Mars but I had tried probably a year earlier to access Mt Mars from the Salmon Creek side with no success. So I thought what the hell.. Tread is hardly visible, pretty much a game trail but earlier clippings and cuttings can still be seen. Old stumps that have clearly been cut with tools can be followed as well. I have to say it is a scramble though, constantly evaluating the easier route because of all the overgrown brush and fallen trees. To say the least, it is still doable but hardly worth the trouble. There are better views from County Line Rd than from the top of Mars. I did try to scramble down the north side of the mountain towards Thorndyke Top/Salmon creek but it quickly became very thick and overgrown....overhead as well so that made it tough to navigate. I guess one could use a trail app or GPS to follow the old trail but that would take some pretty determined folks to navigate that side as I have heard it is quite steep and seriously overgrown.
Any way, don't let this post detour you from at least giving it a shot, it would be really great to see that trail cleared up again as it would open up some great loop opportunities from both sides.

Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

by jbl » Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:25 am

Thanks for the report. I last hiked this route in February '18 ... 247111461/
and had been on it several times previously, at that time the section from Mt. Mars down to the NE Ridge Trail/SE Ridge Trail junction was somewhat clear, the junction was marked with a cairn (which had been there for a couple of years) and the NE Ridge Trail down to the Spruce/Dutra trail was followable but getting overgrown, sounds like overgrowing is continuing and the unofficial maintenance is not keeping up (the principal unofficial maintainer of the NE Ridge Trail has started to focus his hiking in other areas so we no longer benefit from his stellar work).

Re: Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

by Sap_ » Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:49 pm

Date hiked 1/2/2020

From Salmon Creek trail to Kozy Kove Meadow the route was overgrown but definitely passable with clear tread.

From Kozy Kove Meadow to summit the route was very steep but had excellent views. There was some bushwhacking towards the summit but the vast majority of the climb up the ridge line was clear with great views.

From Mount Mars summit to Spruce Creek trail the route was overgrown and slow going. I did get a little turned around at the junction with the SE Ridge Usetrail (GPS was very helpful).

Overall it was a great route! Big thanks to all the ventanaphiles who inspire me to get out there.


Re: Mt. Mars Area Trail Report-UPDATED 3/17/15

by jbl » Tue Mar 17, 2015 6:17 pm

A group of us hiked up the Western Ridge of Mt. Mars and then down its Northeastern Ridge on 3/7/15 (we didn't go over the SE ridge, but I understand that that remains about the same as I reported in '13).

The Western Ridge was pleasant due to slightly damp, grassy tread (this section is horrible when dry--very slippery due to ball bearing nature of the rocks and dirt).

The NE Ridge, which I hadn't been on for several years and which is NOTORIOUS for heavy brush growth with lots of PO, has benefited from work that's been done by someone who has effectively either cleared or made an obvious path through the entire route (it's slightly tougher towards the bottom, sometimes with a couple of different ways through a given section of heavy brush, but generally if you stay at or near the apex of the ridge the entire way up you are home free).

I actually can't wait to return along the NE ridge, which I didn't say after my last trip there.

Re: Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

by LBehrmann » Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:10 pm

That's very interesting, I will have to check that out, and thanks for the nice report! That County Line Road is interesting though, I haven't been up it in a while (I mentioned it in a very old San Carpoforo trail report in 2007 or so). There is one place near the ridge where hawks were circling around very close to the road because it just so happened the updrafts worked out that way. I just learned about the online map JG made, and wow, I'm impressed!

I actually didn't know about many of these fire breaks and "use" trails in the area. Before too long I'm going to have to get a new Burro Mountain quad because mine is getting so dog eared. :lol:


Leif Behrmann

Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

by jbl » Thu Nov 07, 2013 5:01 pm

As there is no official place in the Trail Report forum for providing reports for the use trails around Mt. Mars, I'll give a report here so that those who may go exploring up there will know the current conditions. In this report I'll use the trail names that Jack Glendening has adopted in his online Big Sur Trailmap.

I visited Mt. Mars last Saturday with 3 others. We approached from the junction of the County Line Road, the County Line Ridge Usetrail and the Murray Mine Track, using the "Mount Mars SE Ridge" route. For those who've never been up there, this route crosses 3 sister peaks to the southeast of Mt. Mars before arriving at Mt. Mars, and follows an old fire break that generally stays on top of the ridge. The first two peaks are in forest, and the route is relatively clear, although baby pine trees and manzanita are growing in the middle of the track, and on the approach to and descent from the second peak the manzanita along the edges of the firebreak (that wasn't cut when the dozer went through to cut the firebreak) grows out across your path in many places (we cut a lot of this).

From the saddle between the second and third peak to the saddle between the third peak and Mt. Mars, you are out of the forest and in medium to tall chaparral, and this is always the worst part. I was last there in '11 and there was an open path of sorts the whole way, but on Saturday it was blocked in many places. We cut through all of the heaviest blockage and there is now an open path through again, but more work is needed in places.

From the saddle between the third peak and Mt. Mars all the way up to Mt. Mars, you are in low (but ever-spreading) manzanita and it is easy to pick your way through to the summit where there's a nice little clearing from which to take pics of Lion's Den and Three Peaks to the northeast:
View Northeast From Mt. Mars (picture take on prior trip)
View Northeast From Mt. Mars (picture take on prior trip)
We intended to leave the summit towards the west along the "Mt. Mars Traverse" track, and I was prepared to do my traditional hunt for the narrow and often hard to find opening into the 650' long brush tunnel that is west of the summit, when lo and behold I made a pleasant discovery: this route been cleared and widened to 5' wide for its entire length by person or persons unknown (THANKS!), with the only hazard being some stumps along the path that you've got to look out for. But it is now easy to find this exit route from the summit and to not get lost when following it (which was always a possibility at the times when it was overgrown).

Once we'd gone through the brush tunnel and had a pleasant lunch at 2,550' on the grassy ocean overlook at the western end of the brush tunnel...
Ocean View From Mount Mars (picture taken on prior trip)
Ocean View From Mount Mars (picture taken on prior trip)
...we headed down the ridge to Kozy Kove Meadow and continued on the "Mt. Mars Traverse" track as it doubled back towards the Salmon Creek Trail. We found that this section of the trail had been brushed a bit and was more clear than normal.

All in all a very pleasant day.