Ventana Wilderness Forums • San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)
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Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Posted: Thu Feb 29, 2024 6:48 pm
by VWA_Ranger
Date Hiked: February 25, 2024
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

VWA/USFS Volunteer Rangers patrolled the Salmon Creek and Spruce Creek trails after the recent storms. In short, once you get onto the Spruce Creek Trail, the trail becomes difficult until you reach the open meadow at the top of the canyon there are many trees down. You also need to navigate the last edge of the Spruce Creek Slide as described in the previous report.

Attached are a few pictures of the many downed trees and slide area.

Also it is a new year. be sure to get a 2024 Campfire/Stove Permit if you are planning to stay overnight.

San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Posted: Mon Jan 29, 2024 9:05 am
by jbl
Date Hiked: January 28, 2024
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

We hiked this trail from the Salmon Creek Trail to about 3/4 miles past Dutra Flat Camp.

Section: Salmon Creek Trail to Spruce/Dutra Saddle: Difficult to Passable. This would be difficult for a backpacker but is more passable for a day hiker. There are numerous trees down in the first 3/4 to 1 mile of this section, climbovers and climbunders of various sizes. The "historic slide" area (about .6-.7 miles up, you'll know it when you see it) has held up well as you can still cross under the big tree that was cut a few years ago and then cross the creeklet that flows from the right on a log (or by stepping down and walking next to the log). Once you get to the switchbacks things are much more clear.

Section: Spruce/Dutra Saddle to Dutra Flat Camp: Clear, but several of the meadow are a bit muddy. Water is flowing nicely from the pipe at Dutra Flat Camp. Several in my group who hadn't been there before filtered their water flowing from pipe, I did not (I've always gotten water from the pipe without filtering), no ill effects to me as of now.

Section: Dutra Camp to where we turned off (near Dutra Homestead): Clear but the ground is pretty saturated and muddy at various spots along here and the cow footprints are annoying

Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Posted: Tue May 23, 2023 8:51 am
by Eric_Hightower
Date Hiked: May 21, 2023
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Faint Tread/Tread Evident. Went back out realized my mistake from the weekend before and did a 17.5 mile loop going up Baldwin Ranch Road, down the Murray Mine Track, and up to Dutra Flat. I took San Carpoforo Trail from Dutra Flat down to Baldwin Ranch Road. I realized I got lost on/off San Carpoforo Trail last weekend by following a cow trail that did not stay high enough on the grassy area and I crossed a few ravines through riparian ecosystems that have clearly had branches cut by a saw. That trail ended in an area where cows lie down. This time, I used an app called Komoot and followed the Spruce Creek Trail on it as best as I could. The trail mostly stayed true to it, but I had to do some route finding of my own. I would find trail tread, a rock cairn, an overgrown camp, basically some faint signs of human activity here and there. Definitely a far cry from how I remember the trail ten years ago when the tread was in great shape and I never had to glance at a map. I think map skills are useful, but the line on any map is just a concept. San Carpoforo Trail is becoming a route/concept trail. I still really enjoyed it, but I don't think a lot of people would. There wasn't any bushwhacking in the traditional sense. Baldwin Ranch Road was just graded. Plenty of water available on trail at this time. I sometimes carried a liter as a precaution but probably never needed to carry more than half a liter and could probably have gotten away with carrying little to no water and just hydrating at available streams. Though I would only recommend this if used to hiking/running this way in more comfortable environments. I only mention this because I was astounded by the amount of available sources this time of year.

Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Posted: Wed May 17, 2023 5:53 pm
by Eric_Hightower
Date Hiked: May 14, 2023
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I was briefly on the San Carpoforo Trail between the saddle that separates the San Carpoforo drainage from the Salmon Creek drainage beyond Dutra Camp and the old homestead a little ways. The trail tread is faint and indistinguishable in some places.

I began my hike from Ragged Point Inn. I went up Baldwin Ranch Road to the ridge and went north to Mount Mars. There is some encroaching poison oak at the start of the use trail up Mount Mars where the road ends but it was a non-issue for me and I am typically picky. The way to Mount Mars made sense but there typically was not a trail tread. Getting to Dutra from here made sense as I have been there enough times from Salmon Creek or Three Peaks. I wanted to proceed down the San Carpoforo trail and felt confident going down towards Baldwin Ranch Road with no navigation. However, I veered too far downhill following a cow trail and ended up having to backtrack as it was getting late. I took the Mine Trail by Dutra Flat back to the ridge.

The damage wrought by decades of mismanaged ranching/cow pasturing is becoming apparent. I have visited Dutra Flat for over a decade and had hoped new oak trees would take hold, but ranchers/cows prevent that. The health of the two old oak trees at Dutra Flat seems to be jeopardized by ranchers/cows.

Wilderness is really starting to feel like an extension of Indigenous land dispossession for the benefit of ranchers/cows at large and a few of us fortunate to get out there on a backpacking trip or day hike. While I want to do trail maintenance, the best I can do for now is donate. I also question the sustainability of volunteer trail maintenance and donations versus campaigning for allowing Indigenous management of the Wilderness. Hopefully Traditional Ecological Knowledge will be practiced as a land management technique here. The ranching is a joke.

Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Posted: Mon Apr 03, 2023 10:03 am
by Rob
Date Hiked: April 2, 2023
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked up this from the Baldwin Ranch Road on Saturday, and then back the other way from the Salmon Creek Trail on Sunday.

Starting from the east end, the sign on the road was kind of easy to miss -- there was a small old wooden sign that said "trail", but it was lying in the grass at the foot of a post; I missed it until I encountered the San Carpoforo trail sign and backtracked. The trail was a bit faint, but fairly easy to follow in most places up to Turkey Springs Camp, which looked pleasant enough and had plenty of water.

The meadows above were muddy in places, and the trail was hard to miss, since a lot of cows had been through. This was my first time on this trail east of Dutra Flat, and it would be hard to recommend it this time of year due to all the muddy cow tracks and fresh cowpies :), though I will say the views were grand, and probably in a few more weeks the wildflowers will be amazing this year (there were quite a few blooming already).

Water was flowing strongly around Dutra Flat, which looked unchanged since the last time I'd been, maybe 20 years ago ?

The meadows from there to the switchbacks were much like the other high meadows; intermittently muddy with cow tracks, etc. There was one section that was pretty loose and rocky, perhaps more so after the storms, but there would be little chance of losing the tread.

The switchbacks from the junction with Salmon Creek Trail were mostly in pretty good shape, but there were some downed trees and a few washouts, though people have been making it past them with some care. I probably would have spent some time sawing, but I had a very long day Sunday.

Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Posted: Sun Nov 20, 2022 6:56 am
by toejam
Date Hiked: November 19, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Was pleasantly surprised to find the water trough at Dutra Flat Camp full of clear water with a trickle from the pipe. The attempt
to patch the rusted bottom of the trough during the dry summer months was successful and the spring re-charged with the season's first good rain. Another metal trough was located and brought to the location for use in the future. Hope nobody shoots it full of holes.

The trail from Salmon Creek to Dutra Flat is in good shape - mostly wilderness freeway with a couple of step-over logs and the scramble across the slide section.

Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Posted: Sat Jul 30, 2022 6:15 pm
by dougmajor
Date Hiked: July 30, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Traveled from Balwin Ranch Road up to Turkey Springs camp. Entry point marked just by a post, no sigh. Baldwin ranch road was recently cleared but now has areas of very loose soil on very steep inclines. Tread up to the springs decent, needed All Trails to locate where to exit large grassy open sections. Turkey Springs Camp is in good shape with good water flow. No flow down Dutra Creek at the road crossing and further down at the San Carpo trail crossing. The Old San Carpo trail sign is covered with low-hanging branches. I did some trail mild trail clearing and marking. Hunters have made a connection from Baldwin Ranch road to the San Carpo camp ATV accessible, including the river crossing.

Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats): Mount Mars use trail

Posted: Sun May 29, 2022 5:48 pm
by Lonhart
Date Hiked: May 28, 2022
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Description for Mount Mars Traverse (Use Trail)

I hiked up to Mount Mars on 28 MAY 2022, after spending the night at Dutra Flat Camp. The "use trail" is definitely unmaintained, and although I had a little GPS help (InReach Mini), it was not particularly helpful. The basic idea is to stay on the spine of the ridge, right up to Mount Mars. If you stay dead center on the ridge, you'll make it. I did the hike with a full frame pack on, and was brushing as I went. So the 1.8 miles or so to the summit took me a couple of hours. At some points, due to the pack, I had to crawl on all fours. Other areas were wide open, but not really easy to follow. Some red flagging has been added, more as a reassurance that you are not the first one here. ;-) When in doubt, look for evidence of trimming--that's the way to go.

I did go off the spine at one point early on, opting for the grassy slope and pines, but then had to make my way back up to the ridge line, and found the "trail" again.

There are a few areas with poison oak, and I tried to trim it back, but you will brush into some during the ascent. Near the top it gets easier after one brushy section. As you cross into the zone with low-lying manzanita, you are close. The summit is a clear area, and just before reaching it you'll see a trail head off to your right, along the intersecting ridge and heading south. I now realize that was the use trail down to the County Line Road. The view from the peak is good, but since it is a flat summit, there are obstructions. On the way up, be sure to look behind you, and you'll have some great photo opportunities.

The trail continues down the summit, heading towards the ocean, and into a thicket of madrone and shrubs, averaging 7-8 ft tall. I lopped as much as I could, and pushed through, but the trail is easily observed, just not as easily traversed. This section is relatively short, compared to the ascent from Dutra Valley.

Emerging from the thicket you are in a stand of pines and have grassland spreading in front of you, and on a clear day, impressive views of the ocean. I had very impressive views of clouds and fog, which was constantly swirling and shifting, sometimes allowing views of the coastline.

I was not prepared for this part of the trail. I was standing at about 2500 ft, with lots of golden grass and a few rocky outcrops ahead, and a very, very steep slope. The drop from here to Kozy Kove below is over 1000 ft in a little over 0.5 miles. It was the steepest descent I've made with a backpack on and NO switchbacks. This is, after all, a use trail. Nobody would "design" this trail, and as steep as it was going down, and I had to go sideways most of the time (you cannot point your toes downslope), I thought there might be some people that hike UP it. That is just plain crazy. Down was tough, but up is nuts.

The trail is hard to follow, becoming fainter as you descend, but again is on the spine. I made the mistake of going off the spine, only to realize I needed to angle back towards it.

Upon reaching Kozy Kove with battered knees, I searched for the "use trail" that enters the woods and then connects with Salmon Creek trail near the big gray-soiled outcrop. I walked along the entire edge, saw nothing that looked promising, and to be honest, I wanted no more whacking through shrubbery. I also had not loaded that into the InReach Mini, so I was a bit stuck. Instead I turned south towards the old access road that one can see the entire descent. I followed that, at an easy stroll, downward toward Highway 1. Loved the switchbacks!

After climbing over the fence, I had a 0.9 mile walk along Highway 1, back to my car near the Salmon Creek trailhead. It was a longer route, but it saved my sanity, and likely a lot more pushing through shrubs, which I'd had enough of at that point.

I am very glad I did it, but it would have been much better as a day hike, with a small pack, and with long sleeves.

Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Posted: Sun May 29, 2022 5:01 pm
by Lonhart
Date Hiked: May 27, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

This description is for the Spruce Creek trail (6E10), starting at the junction with Salmon Creek trail (6E11), and ending at Dutra Flat Camp, which I hiked to on 27 May 2022 (Friday; left Hwy 1 at 3:20 pm).

The trail was very easy to follow, not as well worn as the section from Hwy 1 on Salmon Creek trail, and was instead covered with leaf litter in many areas. I would rate it "Clear" for over 90% of the way, but there were a couple of minor obstacles. One is the wash out of the slide near Spruce Creek, which has been covered by others (with photos)--it looks the same. I traversed it, slowly, with my pack on and had no issues. Also there are, as I recall, two small tree falls that I easily straddled over. I brushed as I went, so minor encroachment by plants is infrequent. Poison oak was absent from most of the trail, and easily avoided where it occurred.
Typical trail view up the slope.
Typical trail view up the slope.
Upon emerging from the wooded section, I was struck by the vast openness of the "Dutra Valley", which is an expansive grassland dotted with pines and rocky outcrops. Truly spectacular, even in its dry, golden-hued state. There is an ad-hoc fire ring right as you emerge (not a great place to camp), and the trail to Dutra Flat Camp descends on your left, whereas the use trail up to Mount Mars is on your right. More on that in a separate post.
View as you emerge from wooded slope
View as you emerge from wooded slope
This area has cattle grazing in it, although I did not see any on Friday, although there was plenty of evidence. The trail is narrow here, through the grass, and edges along the left side of the valley. It rises a bit onto even more expansive (and flatter) areas of the valley, and after an easy trek you'll arrive at Dutra Flat Camp, with signs to all the other trails just 100 ft past the camp.

Dutra Flat Camp is nestled under 4 cypress trees, which had to be planted here. There is room for a couple of tents inside the "fenced" area, which is not really an intact fence, and cows clearly have made it into the camping area. There are plenty of flat areas nearby, so no shortage of space. There is a table, which is in good shape, and a fire ring with grill and grate, and a shovel.

A sign points to the spring, which is 200 ft up the slope, through a wire fence, and hidden by a large green shrub. There is a metal pipe that pours cold spring water into an old trough, and even an old folding chair that allows you to sit while filling your water bottle! The flow as of 27 May 2022 was strong (fill a liter in a minute or less). I packed a lot of water up because I thought the spring was in bad shape. Someone must have done some work since the prior post, since the flow was good and we had no rain in the interim.

Overnight temperatures were mild. I had a tick bite me at 3 AM, but removed it quickly. Only saw two ticks the whole time, expected there to be more. In the morning, two cows up the hill intently watched me emerge from the tent. Eventually they took off through the brush, and a few minutes later I watched 20-30 all black cows head up the grassy hill north of the spring. Never saw or heard them again.

Did not see another soul the whole time. Very peaceful. Highly recommended if you enjoy open spaces, which are relatively uncommon in Los Padres/Big Sur. Not like Pine Valley, but very cool in its own way.

Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Posted: Tue May 17, 2022 4:02 pm
by VWA_Ranger
Date Hiked: May 15, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

*** VWA/USFS Volunteer Ranger/Trail Crew Report ***


Five friends hiked the Spruce Creek Trail to Dutra Flat on Sunday. They ran into Steve Cypher a VWA/USFS Volunteer. He was working on the Spring at Dutra Flat. It worked for a bit, then slowed back down to a trickle the next day. How long it will last nobody knows.

Trail conditions are as follows:

Spruce Creek Jct. to Spruce Creek Slide - Clear with no obstacles, lots of encroaching brush and some PO.

Spruce Creek Slide to the saddle just past the cattle gate - Passable. Lots of encroaching brush and PO. Several sections of the trail are rutted, but the trail has been that way for many years. The slide repair is in good shape, except at the far end. One needs to drop 3 to 4 feet to the upper log, then traverse to main trail.

Saddle just past the cattle gate to Dutra Flat - Clear. Lots of open grasslands and beautiful views all around.