Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

This is the place to discuss anything related to trail maintenance or restoration. General trail questions should be posted in the Ventana Discussion forums.

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jbl
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Mt. Mars Area Trail Report-Update April 20, 2024

Post by jbl »

A group of us hiked a counterclockwise loop Salmon Creek Trailhead-Spruce Creek Trail-Dutra Flat-Murray Mine Road-Mt. Mars SE Usetrail-Mt. Mars-Kozy Kove-Salmon Creek Trailhead. I've reported on the Salmon Creek Trail and Spruce Creek Trail sections of our route in the trail reports. I will report here on the rest of the route.

Murray Mine Track from Spruce Creek Trail to the ridge (junction with County Line Road): relatively clear and passable but (1) the Dutra Creek Crossing requires some maneuvering downstream before crossing because a bit of water is flowing and a big tree has fallen slightly upstream which blocks the bypass that existed in a shallower spot there, and (2) once you are climbing up from the creek there are a few trees down that you need to go through/over/under.

Mt. Mars SE Ridge Usetrail to Mount Mars: Passable to Moderately Difficult. The climb up to the first peaklet is mostly in forest and other than encroaching PO this is relatively clear. after that it gets brushier and the track zig-zags in places where trees have fallen over the original track but it is always easy to find the way but there are some places with heavy brush encroachment where you must push through (and possibly get stabbed--my pants were torn in one particularly ugly stretch).
All in all it was not that hard and we got through relatively smoothly.

Mt. Mars summit through brush tunnel to the top of the west ridge: Passable, the HEAVY brush continues to grow in, and you've really got to be careful not to trip on any of the many stumps along the ground (it was easy to avoid these when the way was clearer and you could keep your eyes on the ground, but now you need to be looking ahead instead of down because of all the branches and other brush that are in your face blocking your view of the ground).

The hike down the west ridge is just a killer on the knees due to the steepness and also the fact that, despite all of the rain, the ground is not as absorbent at I'd hoped it would be so it can be slippery because of the rocks and grass (and will just get more slippery as we get further into the dry season).

The Mt. Mars Traverse Track from Kozy Kove Meadow back over to the Salmon Creek trail remains in relatively good shape but more brush is encroaching than was the case when I was last here in August '23.

Hey everyone--get out there and hike this route, the more people who use it, the more open it will get!!
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jbl
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Mt. Mars Area Trail Report--Update August 2023

Post by jbl »

I intended to replicate my November '22 counterclockwise route but the heat and extensive new growth forced me to avoid going into Dutra Valley where it definitely would have been too hot for me.

Route taken (using trail/track names from https://bigsurtrailmap.net/):
1. Salmon Creek Trailhead to Mt. Mars Summit via Salmon Creek trail and Mt. Mars Traverse track
2. Mt. Mars Summit to County Line Road via Mount Mars SE Ridge Usetrail
3. County Line Road to Highway 1
4. Hitchhike back to Salmon Creek trailhead (got a ride from a young couple from Oregon who were planning to backpack to Lions Den so I was able to give them some good intel as they were not familiar with the area)

The Mt. Mars Traverse Track from the Salmon Creek Trail to Kozy Kove Meadow (where Kozy Kove Track come up from Highway 1) was still in good shape despite all the winter rain, more brush is encroaching than was the case in November '22 and I cut a few especially intruding branches, tread was always visible.

The hike up the face of Mt. Mars was just as steep as always and tougher this time of year when the grass and ground is so dry so it can be more slippery.

The brush tunnel from the top of the grassy ridge to the Mt. Mars Summit was much worse than in November '22 as the heavy winter rains definitely encouraged a lot of growth, we had to push through brush for at least 50% of this section and I ended up covered with dust/duff/leaves and had to do some cleanup on coming out onto the summit. Long sleeve shirt, a hat and even a scarf to cover your mouth highly recommended here!

Based on my experience in the brush tunnel I was anticipating that the Mt. Mars SE Ridge Usetrail would be much more difficult than in November '22 and I was not off the mark. As noted in my November '22 report, there are 3 peaklets along this route, which is an old firebreak which follows the apex of the ridge the whole way. I have named these Peaklet 1 (the first on as you are headed to Mt. Mars), Peaklet 2 (the middle one) and Peaklet 3 (the one closest to Mt. Mars). Peaklet 3, which is always the toughest (due to heavy chaparral and other heavy brush), had gotten much nastier than in November '22; we had to crawl through a 10' section just as we started the climb to the summit, which I took as a bad omen; however, it was relatively easy after that all the way to the summit area, some brush encroachment but not too bad. But the summit section and the section down to the saddle between Peaklets 2 and 3 had gotten pretty bad, the brush has grown in a lot since November '22, I cut several branches in one particularly blocked spot but for the most part we just pushed through everything, accumulating more dust, duff and leaves. My hat was removed by overhead branches a few times. The good news is that the tread is always visible.

The section from the saddle between Peaklets 2 and 3 to up and over Peaklet 2 is more open than the nasty brushy section on Peaklet 3, it starts through manzanita and then becomes more forested and is still not too tough, manzanita loves to grow sideways out across the trail and the heavy rains have definitely resulted in more manzanita encroachment but it isn't really blocking the trail (yet!!!!).

From the summit of Peaklet 2 to up and over Peaklet 1 to the County Line Road/Murry Mine Track junction, which is mostly in pine forest, remains relatively clear. It is somewhat of a "tree carnage zone" and numerous trees, large and small, have fallen here over the years leading to many well established detours around them, and the poison oak has really come in strong from the winter rains. But for the most part you only need to push through brush in a few spots as this is all much more open country.

Upon getting to the County Line Road/Murray Mine junction, we decided that it was just too hot to take the planned route down the backside of the ridge and over to Dutra Flat and headed down the County Line Road to Highway 1. I have not been on the upper section of the County Line Road (the 1.2 miles above the turnoff to an old homestead trail which is my standard route in this area) for probably 10 years and was shocked at what bad shape this is in, deeply rutted, some trees across it, even brush encroachment in places. The lower 0.8 miles (from my homestead trail turnoff to Highway 1) is in better shape, but one thing that was very noticeable: I hiked this lower section in late June and water was flowing heavily in the several spots where the road crosses the creek that is in this canyon, and now, less than 2 months later, there was zero water flowing across the road!
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jbl
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Mt. Mars Area Trail Report-November 2022

Post by jbl »

Route taken (using trail/track names from https://bigsurtrailmap.net/):
1. Salmon Creek Trailhead to Mt. Mars Summit via Salmon Creek trail and Mt. Mars Traverse track
2. Mt. Mars Summit to Dutra Flat Camp via Mount Mars SE Ridge Usetrail [to County Line Road] and Murry Mine Track [to Spruce Creek Trail just west of Dutra Flat Camp] and Spruce Creek Trail

The Mt. Mars Traverse Track from the Salmon Creek Trail to Kozy Kove Meadow (where Kozy Kove Track come up from Highway 1) was in surprisingly good shape, tread was always visible and there was very little encroaching brush.
The hike up the face of Mt. Mars was just as steep as always, the brush tunnel from the top of the grassy ridge to the Mt. Mars Summit was relatively clear, the brush starts encroaching as you approach the summit and definitely watch out for the numerous stumps along the way.

The Mt. Mars SE Ridge Usetrail was quite a pleasant surprise, I hadn't been on it for a number of years and was prepared for the worst as it gets so little traffic, but for the most part it was clear and easy to follow. There are 3 peaklets along this route and the route (a very old firebreak that has grown in a lot) essentially follows the apex of the ridge the whole way. The peaklet closest to Mt. Mars is always the toughest as it has a lot of chaparral and other heavy brush that often grows in and must be pushed through, but generally the brush doesn't encroach terribly except along the flat top of the peaklet and on the descent to the saddle to the next peaklet (I did some cutting here but more could be done, I had to duck under and push through a bit of brush); from this saddle to the next peaklet and the descent from there you are in more of a pine forest with much lighter brush except there's a bit of manzanita that historically had grown out across the trail as Manzanita will do, I had cut a lot of that about 10 or more years ago and that cutting has fortunately held up. Things open up into more lightly brushy forest on the ascent to the 3rd and last peaklet and the quite long descent from there to the County Line Road junction.

The Murry Mine Track was very clear on the descent to Dutra Creek; however at the crossing I missed the continuation of the trail (which climbs steeply on a wider track that is almost perpendicular to the creek) as there is a quite well established trail that continues parallel to creek on the right side after you cross, but it quickly drops back into the creekbed and then goes into the confluence of a side creek with the main creek; I retraced my steps and found the correct continuation at the creek crossing and continued on my way. From here there is a lot more encroaching brush and if I had loppers (I only had brought by saw) I would have cut some of it, it isn't horrible, mostly chest and face high branches that you need to push out of the way. As you climb up from the bottom you come into some open grassy areas and you need to pay attention so as not to get off the track. There is no more problem brush as you get higher into the open areas, and you will suddenly find yourself hitting the Spruce Creek Trail where a right turn will take you quickly over to Dutra Flat Camp (where the water was flowing and I had a delicious lunch before turning back down the Spruce Creek Trail which I took to the Salmon Creek Trail which I took back down to my car).

All in all, a perfect day as the weather was spectacular with blue skies and temperatures in the low 60s.
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jbl
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Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

Post by jbl »

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.
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jbl
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Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

Post by jbl »

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!
Rubrnutz

Re: Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

Post by Rubrnutz »

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.
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jbl
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Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

Post by jbl »

Thanks for the report. I last hiked this route in February '18
https://www.meetup.com/The-Monterey-Bay ... 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).
Sap_
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Re: Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

Post by Sap_ »

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.

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

Post by jbl »

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.
LBehrmann
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Re: Mt. Mars Area Trail Report

Post by LBehrmann »

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:

Thanks,

Leif Behrmann
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