Carmel River Trail

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Here give the SPECIFIC CONDITIONS ENCOUNTERED such as tread washouts, encroaching brush, downed trees, slides, or other difficulties following the trail.  Water reports or dangerous conditions particularly requested !

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Expand view Topic review: Carmel River Trail

Re: Carmel River Trail

by Steve B » Fri Jul 28, 2023 4:05 pm

Date Hiked: July 27, 2023
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The new route around the landslide at the Los Padres Dam has not been constructed yet, we are waiting for the forest service to do the paperwork to establish an easement to make the reroute a forest service trail through California American Water Company property. We have completed the Monterey County requirements for the biological, archeological surveys and the county grading plan. At this time the trail is a scratched in track that that is difficult to walk however the trail has been heavily used which has caused tread damage form hikers walking on the outside edge of the trail. We are ready to start work on the trail once the forest service easement is completed and the ground is damp which may take a couple of years. In my opinion the new route around the landslide at Los Padres Dam in not ready to be opened to the public until we are allowed to start the trail construction. If you do walk the reroute, please use caution and try not to walk on the outside edge of the trail. The reroute is difficult especially if hiking with a backpack. Once the trail is completed travel with stock is not recommended.

The trail beyond the slide to Bluff Camp is overgrown but passable.

Re: Carmel River Trail

by Betsy M » Thu Jun 22, 2023 5:21 pm

Date Hiked: May 7, 2023
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

The section of the trail from Church Creek Divide to Pine Valley has very short brushy sections, and some narrow tread that would be difficult if you were a mule, but the average hiker should not have any problems. All the side creeks are easy to cross. The first side creek is only about 5-10 minutes down from the Divide, and is a great stop for water.

A VWA volunteer trail crew cleared all the trees on this section, including a couple of pines beyond Jack English's cabin so it is easy to get to the meadow.
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Re: Carmel River Trail

by williegoat » Wed Jun 21, 2023 8:23 pm

Date Hiked: June 17, 2023
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Fun ramble down to a very popular backpacking spot with babbling clear waters and plenty of bugs.

Some difficulties. One small downed branch across the trail, several small feeder creek crossings and lots of brush encroaching the trail, at times fully over the trail. Plenty of poison oak.

Summary: I hiked in from Church Creek Divide around 10:30am on Saturday the 17th and made it to Pine Valley around 11:00am. I hiked out on Sunday the 18th from Pine Valley around 6:00am and made it back to Church Creek Divide around 6:40am.

The trail was OK and the tread was easy to follow. Water started just below the divide, and so did the bugs. The feeder creeks running down the hillside that crossed the trail were very easy to step across directly or over one or two sturdy rocks.There was a blowdown that had been cut and cleared (thank you!!). A small branch lay across the trail and was an easy step over for me. Once in the valley, the trail was easy to follow all the way to the junction with Bear Basin at the fence by the cabin.

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I did explore past the cabin a short way (less than a half mile) into the meadow. In the meadow proper the trail is much harder to follow as it is very overgrown with the meadow grasses.


Plenty of shade. I enjoyed the rock formations on the north side of the trail. Lots of people hanging out by the creek. Looks like a lot of work goes into maintaining this trail. Thank you!!

Re: Carmel River Trail

by Firefly » Mon May 22, 2023 8:41 pm

Date Hiked: May 18, 2023
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

From Pine Valley to Round Rock and back: this was my day hike goal. I got about halfway before I decided I really didn't want to go through once now and then again on the way back. Trail is in pretty bad shape. It's possible to follow, but encroaching ceanothus in parts, tunnels of unavoidable poison oak in others, large fallen trees, and midway, a fallen brushy tree that makes the trail impassable unless you feel like crawling through its massive brush (my turnaround), makes this a way that isn't really a way anymore, until some work is done.

I hiked this section in 2020, 3 years ago, and remember the trail being clear and easy until close to Round Rock junction, where there was a slide significant enough to turn me around. A lot happens in 3 years!

I am sad to see so many trails disappearing so close to one of the most beautiful and accessible parts of the Ventana: Pine Valley. I spent most of my time out here wishing there were more people willing to do trail work here, as it is obviously an enormous task to maintain the existing trails from year to year, and I know volunteers are working hard every weekend. We need more hands!

What would it take to restore and maintain ALL the Ventana trails? Even the ones currently long lost?

Re: Carmel River Trail

by Samuel » Mon May 22, 2023 12:46 pm

Date Hiked: May 16, 2023
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

First off the connector trail [ED: from Los Padres Dam] - huge thanks to whoever worked on that. May add distance but now the watershed is safely accessible.

Next - as previously noted, trial is in great shape for first couple miles or so. Numerous dead-falls and wash-outs beyond this zone make it slow going compared to last time I was here in 2018 / 2019. Even under normal conditions it's easy to loose the tread, but now it definitely gets lost in several places completely. Save for the flagging, also previously mentioned, it would be difficult to follow. Wanted to get to Hiding canyon but due to time constraints only got about 75% of the way there. On the return I opted to wade / swim in the river as opposed to re-experiencing the overgrowth and dead-fall on a length of trail between Buckskin and Sulfur Springs. A couple washouts in this area and beyond look potentially dangerous.

Every camp I saw was in good shape.

Re: Carmel River Trail

by Guest » Sat Apr 29, 2023 10:02 pm

Date Hiked: April 29, 2023
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Coming from China Camp, went to Pine Valley. From the Church Creek divide to Pine Valley there was some dead fall on the trail and in some parts it was brushy. You could see where the trail is at all times. The trail intersects parts of where the river rose to. On the way out we saw some VWA volunteers clearing the trail. Also saw two people with their two pack horses clearing the trees. Thank you for all the good work! It was hot enough to see a rattlesnake about 2m from the trail. He was hissing and about 1.5-2m long. River had some flow, but nothing exaggerated. Beautiful place!

Re: Carmel River Trail

by Michael H » Wed Apr 12, 2023 1:46 pm

Date Hiked: April 10, 2023
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

As part of a loop hike I hiked up the river from Carmel River Camp to Church creek divide. I'll have to reiterate what others have said. From Carmel river camp to Buckskin flat the trail is a bit faint sometimes but is an easy hike. The water was high and fast moving at spots so I'd recommend a few weeks wait for shorter folks to try this. There was much evidence of extreme flooding and logjams along the hike but the trail was mostly intact and the camps mostly unscathed. South of Buckskin the trail is much more faint, though there are generally flags to show the way and all the river crossings are flagged. The trail from Hiding Camp to the intersection to the trail to Round Rock Camp is about the same. A little faint with some encroaching brush but not that bad. South of that the brush gets thicker all the way down to hiding creek, but is still passable. The trail along hiding creek has very evident tread along most of the way but the thick growth is encroaching and the trail meanders back and forth across the creek in this thick growth. There are lots of flags so it's hard to get lost but there are fallen trees everywhere and the undergrowth sometimes makes turns hard to see. I cut a lot of fallen trees (birch?) out of the way but there is soooo much more. Two years ago I hiked this trail in the same direction and was relived to find a well maintained trail after climbing most of the way out of hiding creek canyon but this year that section of trail was so overgrown that I had to crawl under chamise for a long time. The most I've ever had to crawl on a hike. It was horrible after the exhausting hike along the creek. I had the most ticks on me that I'd ever seen.

There are a few slides on the trail a bit south of the intersection to Round Rock Camp that are very dangerous and steep. Two years ago I tamped a path across with a log but this time I was more in a rush. They're pretty sketchy IMO.

Re: Carmel River Trail

by PaulS » Wed Nov 16, 2022 6:48 pm

Date Hiked: November 12, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Trip overview:
2 night / 3 day loop, starting at Los Padres Dam, following the Carmel River Trail in southern direction until Hiding Camp (1st night), then Puerto Suelo Trail uphill in western direction, then Ventana Double Cone (VDC) Trail in northern direction until Pat Springs Camp (2nd night), then Big Pines Trail in eastern direction until it hits the Carmel River Trail again near the Los Padres Reservoir. Back on the Carmel River Trail to Los Padres Dam. I hiked alone.


Los Padres Dam to Hiding Camp via Carmel River Trail:
Started my hike at 11.30am from the car. The parking is about a mile away from the Los Padres Dam. After bypassing the locked gate at the Northeastern corner of the reservoir (just climb around where the fence meets the rock), the trail leads along the shore of the reservoir but only for a few steps until the land-slide bypass trail begins. It is clearly marked with red flags. Thanks to the people who set up this trail. The bypass trail is steep and eroding in places and good footing required. However, the path is clear and it’s over quickly. Moderate difficulty.
The bypass trail merges with the main trail again to lead further south, passing the intersection with the Big Pines trail. Approximately until Carmel River Camp the trail is easy to follow, even though it’s narrow and overgrown here and there. Fantastic views of the river and the narrowing canyon and the mountains in the background. After Carmel River Camp the trail slowly becomes more difficult but is still very passable. More vegetation is encroaching onto the trail, and because of the many river crossings (more than 25 I believe) it requires to stop, look, and plan the next few steps from time to time. All river crossings were easy, and my boots rarely got wet, I did not have to switch to my water sandals as I thought I would have to (I suppose that’s season dependent though). The trail and especially all crossings are marked with red flags, even though it sometimes takes a few minutes to locate the next one when a crossing is diagonally. The closer towards Hiding Camp the less defined the actual trail is and a few times some bushwhacking is required before the trail is found again. Overall, the trail is passable with some sections maybe a bit more difficult. Hiking along the river is nice and the rock-hopping is fun and adventurous. It’s shady and has a wild feel to it. Hiding Camp had a picnic table, a fire ring plus grill and some nice flat tent sites. Water is available in abundance. All other camps I passed on the way seemed to be in good shape with at least a fire ring, flat, dry camp sites and water access. No problem with poison oak/ivy.
The sign at the parking lot gave the distance with 9 miles, but according to my gpx track I hiked for 12 miles (19.5 km). This entire section took me 5 and a half hours (including one break to fetch water and chat with some other hikers I met halfway to Carmel River Camp).

Re: Carmel River Trail

by BP22 » Mon Jul 18, 2022 1:02 pm

Date Hiked: July 17, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Day hike from Los Padres Dam to Hiding Camp.

Overall, I found this beautiful trail to be passable with sections and aspects that are difficult.

Bypass Trail Passable. I'm sure glad it exists, so we can hike. It's steep, and the tread is sloping in many places, eroding in many others. Very little brush encroachment.

Bypass to Buckskin Flat Camp Passable. There is a lot of poison oak, but the trail is no real problem. Not hard to follow if you pay attention.

Buckskin Flat to Hiding Camp passable/difficult. The poison oak and brush encroachment is much worse here. There is also eroding tread on some high spots, specifically when the trail goes high for a bit as the river curves, there is a washout that could be dangerous, but you can always go back down to the river and follow it up past this. The brush is overgrown right before hiding camp, so pay attention to flagging.

This trail would be a solid "difficult" rating if not for the flagging throughout and especially the many river crossings. the flagging is very well done. Thank you so much to whomever did such a fine job! It is much appreciated!!
All of the camps are in great shape.

Re: Carmel River Trail

by kai10 » Fri Jun 17, 2022 1:44 pm

Date Hiked: June 5, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

We hiked from Los Padres Dam to Hiding Canyon Camp, camping at Carmel River Camp and then at Hiding Canyon Camp.

Trail conditions:
Bypass: very steep: a good level of fitness and hiking poles are highly recommended. There was a locked gate at the north-western end of the dam that blocks the access to the bypass around the landslide. It's easy to get around the gate.

From Los Padres Dam to Carmel River Camp: Clear (except for the bypass).

From Carmel River Camp to Hiding Canyon Camp: Difficult: Requires 27 river crossings, lots of poison oak. The trail is overgrown in many parts and would be difficult to follow if it weren't for the trail volunteers who have marked the trail and the river crossings with red ribbons (thank you! Shout out to Joe!).