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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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.

Map:
https://caltopo.com/m/VG1HE

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!).

Re: Carmel River Trail

by Saratoga123 » Tue Apr 12, 2022 6:55 pm

Date Hiked: April 8, 2022
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked from China Camp through to Los Padres Dam.

From Church Creek Divide to Pine Valley: CLEAR
Shortly after the end of Pine Valley the trail gets progressively more overgrown.
From a mile north-west of Pine Valley to Hiding Canyon Camp: IMPASSABLE
The trail is completely overgrown for much of it and about a mile from Hiding Canyon Camp I completely lost track of the trail. Trail refound on the north hill but still wildly overgrown.
From Hiding Canyon Camp to Bluff Camp West: DIFFICULT
Requires constant river crossing by either walking through water or rock hopping, with the latter sometimes hard to find (Season dependent). Faint tread and leaves makes it easy to lose trail after each crossing.
From Bluff Camp West to near Los Padres Dam: PASSABLE
Sometimes overgrown and areas of fallen away trail.

Other trails
China Camp to Church Creek Divide: FREEWAY
Pine Falls Usetrail: DIFFICULT
Los Padres Dam Bypass: PASSABLE

Re: Carmel River Trail

by Dillinger » Mon Jan 24, 2022 6:12 pm

Date Hiked: January 24, 2022
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

I hiked the lower part of the Carmel River trail starting from the Los Padres Reservoir parking lot--to check out the bypass around the landslide. The bypass trail is in good shape--well trampled and clearly marked--even the poison oak has been pruned! There are a couple of steep spots, but nothing requiring hand-holds. There is one ambiguous point: as you start to descend (from the high point of the bypass trail back toward the original trail) the trail seems to divide, with one path heading south (upstream) and the other heading north (toward the dam). Take the one heading north. It quickly turns east and drops you back on the original trail, upstream from the landslide. My thanks to the people who have worked on the trail!

Re: Carmel River Trail

by JeffBobMarin » Thu Jan 13, 2022 4:38 pm

Date Hiked: January 11, 2022
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Section Covered: From 2.75 miles west of Pine Valley Camp to Church Creek Divide Junction.

I camped at Pine Valley Camp on the night of 10Jan22. It was cold overnight with heavy frost on my tent in the morning. The camp site is excellent - lots of space and a great water source at the adjacent Carmel River.

The Carmel River Trail from Pine Valley Camp heading toward Hiding Canyon Camp has every trail condition from Wilderness Freeway for the first 1/2 mile through the meadow to Clear for a short distance then Passable to the peak and wooden gate. From there, heading downhill toward the river, the trail conditions are quite difficult - lots of overhanging brush and many dead tree falls. The trail was fairly easy to follow. It also helped that there were a few marking ribbons along the way. I was able to make it approximately 2.75 miles west of Pine Valley Camp where the Carmel River Trail became Impassable at a washout on a steep slope. At that point, I turned around and headed back to Pine Valley Camp.

From Pine Valley Camp to the Church Creek Divide junction, the trail varies between a Wilderness Freeway and Clear.

Re: Carmel River Trail

by BG Rich » Thu Nov 11, 2021 5:50 am

Date Hiked: November 1, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We hiked the Carmel River trail as part of our trip from China Camp to Ventana Double Cone November 1-3. We did the section from Pine Valley Camp to Hiding Canyon Camp. The first mile from Pine Valley Camp through the meadow was clear though the tread was light. There is a wooden gate that marks the end of the meadow and the beginning of the descent into Hiding Canyon. It was like entering through the gates of hell: a hell of faint tread, overgrown trail and thick poison oak. The trail completely disappeared on the climb from the river to the knob overlooking Hiding Canyon Campsite. It would have been very difficult to find the trail here without our GPS. As noted by a previous writer, there are some ribbons marking the trail coming down the initial section of the canyon which were helpful. This trail leaves the feeling that it's gradually being reclaimed by the wilderness. A previous poster noted an immunity to poison oak: we don’t have it and a week later, we’re both covered in rashes from head to toe. A biographical note for context: my partner and I are very fit, have 50+ years of backpacking experience between us and frequently choose routes that are "off trail" and require route finding. We found this to be a very challenging route. Hiding Camp itself was beautiful: nestled in the small canyon next to the river and had a nice picnic table. We left the mini bottle of scotch we found on the table for the next group.

Re: Carmel River Trail

by DaveP » Tue Jun 01, 2021 4:24 pm

Date Hiked: May 21, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Hiked China Camp to Los Padres Dam. China camp to Pine Valley is a wilderness freeway. Camped in Pine Valley.

Pine Valley to Hiding Camp is close to impassable. I am an experienced hunter and tracker, and have been on this trail before, so we got through without problem, but we met 2 parties in Pine Valley that had turned around due to the trail condition. I should also mention that our entire party was immune to poison oak which is a must after leaving Pine Valley. Checked out Round Rock camp site and Hiding Camp. Both are clear of brush but the trail to Round Rock is getting faint. I feel bad for not bringing a machete or pair of loppers, because this trail will be impassable next year if more maintenance is not done on it this summer.

Hiding Camp to Los Padres Dam is not a bad trail, but if you are allergic to poison oak you are going to want to stay off of it. There were multiple areas where you had to push your way through head high poison oak. There was not one river crossing where it was possible to boulder across with dry shoes, so either bring some water shoes to hike the river with, or accept hiking in wet boots.

Overall, we had a great time, but once again we were all immune to poison oak. The youngest in our party was 12, and the oldest was 50.

Re: Carmel River Trail

by DorianVR » Tue Jun 01, 2021 9:07 am

Date Hiked: May 30, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Unavoidable poison oak overgrowth on trail, starting about 1/2 mile in from Pine Valley Camp. Many small deadfall trees and washed-out/fallen portions of trail. Trail condition would be near passable if a brush clearing job were done to clear the poison oak.

Re: Carmel River Trail

by VWA Admin » Thu May 20, 2021 7:59 pm

Date Hiked: May 20, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Thanks for the report. Please note that access to the Los Padres Dam trailhead remains closed by the property owner CalAm pending a collaborative solution.
- The "official trail" is only a rough track scratched out in order to present a GPS proposal to the county, CalAm and the USFS.
- Work is tentatively scheduled for October(barring red tape snafus) to bring the trail up to standard without any slippery sections.
- The old trail is too steep to maintain over time.

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