Big Pines Trail

Posts: 23
Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2008 11:28 pm

Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by BP22 »

Date Hiked: April 22, 2021
General Condition: passable

Day hike from Long Ridge to Big Pines camp. long ridge to Devil's peak is clear, with very recent work done on the trail up devil's peak, by VWA volunteer rangers. They did a fantastic job, as Devil's Peak trail is vastly improved I am impressed and grateful. Devil's Peak to Big Pines trail junction is clear. thew short trail to Big pines camp is difficult to follow. I quickly lost the trail, but there's not much brush, so after walking for a bit luckily ran into a trail sign. Big Pines camp is a mess. There's an old fire pit and that's the only indication that this was once a camp. Fallen, splintered trees, overgrown brush and poison oak have taken over. Danish Creek is flowing nicely though. I took the Danish creek connector to the Pat Springs trail, which has encroaching brush, but is easier to follow. Had to go slow cause of some man-sized ticks. Just another day in paradise :D

Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by dmw »

Date Hiked: January 23, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I walked this trail from the Ventana junction down to Los Padres reservoir, traveling west to east and generally downward. I'll describe it in that direction.

In the vicinity of the Big Pines/Ventana trail junction, the tread is faint and there are many deer trails. Indeed, I only happened to see a trail junction sign by chance, as I was navigating by compass at the time on what I thought was a deer trail (the Ventana tread is also random and faint in this area and I had lost it). The sign I saw is not located where my map indicated the junction, rather, farther to the east somewhere near 36.3690, -121.7504 (ish). Luckily this area is pretty open and travel is easy; just stay on the south side of the ridgetop and the trail will come in and out. I didn't look for the Big Pines camp.

Farther east, where the ridgetop gets narrow, I found what I believe was the trail contouring east-west along a relatively steep slope south and below the ridge. That said, the satellite photo indicates some lines along the ridgetop in the old dozer line that would probably also work. There were a few cairns where I was, and it was possible to see the tread because of the steepness.

At some point, whether you find the remnant of the official trail or not, you'll be on the ridgetop/old dozer line winding your way through chamise brush, which is reclaiming the ridge. Travel in the old dozer line is relatively easy; though you'll never be sure you're on the real trail, it works to just stay on the ridgetop. I believe the old trail occasionally contoured around steeper areas, but the dozer line does not. I didn't catch the trail in these places, though it was dusk when I was there. Be careful, when the ridge splits, to follow the correct line - use your map and compass.

In the lower sections, they have recently bulldozed the ridgetop, so you will be walking in a shiny new dozer line with no brush at all. It's open and nice.

If you're descending like I was, be careful when you need to turn off the dozer line southeast down the smaller ridge to the reservoir, because the turn is hard to identify. There is no sign. The junction is northeast of the little ridge 100 yards or so, and you can see an old grade cut. The new dozer line does not take you to the reservoir, but continues NE along Blue Rock ridge into private land. If you're coming up, you won't have this problem.

The lower section is also quite faint. I climbed up it in the morning to Danish Creek trail, and was able to follow the tread; however, descending at night in the dark with a headlamp, I was unable to find it consistently and eventually ended up dropping straight down a spur in the lower section (where it is nice open forest).

The junction with Carmel River trail is marked with a signpost, which is good, because the tread is faint. The Danish Creek junction also has a signpost.

Summary: you're mostly following a dozer line and it's mostly easy walking, but the tread is faint enough that you're rarely certain you're on the correct line. Bring a map and compass and stay "on the map" (aware of where you are).

Finally, the lower sections have poison oak growing across the trail in many places. You will almost certainly be exposed, more so between February and late summer when it's in leaf.

Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by dillinger »

Date Hiked: March 13, 2020
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked from reservoir to the blue rock. The bypass trail around slide is steep but passable. Skirts top of slide by a wide margin. The rest of the trail is in OK shape.

Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by akirmse »

Date Hiked: February 20, 2020
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

While the massive slide is still there not far above the dam, there are no signs warning people away, at the easily-bypassed fence by the dam, or elsewhere. There is a red-flagged use trail going uphill shortly before the slide that is narrow and loose but goes well above the top of the slide. I met a couple backpacking on this bypass, and they said they had called the ranger station before their trip, and the rangers didn't know of any closure.

The slide itself looks exceedingly dangerous. The bypass is moderately difficult, but other than that, the trail is easy to follow and only somewhat overgrown up to the top of Blue Rock Ridge, where I turned around.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by seagoat1724 »

Date Hiked: October 24, 2018
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

Editor's Note: this report describes conditions from October, 2018.

Between Carmel River Trail Junction and Danish Creek Trail Junction
Trail is wilderness freeway. Steep... around 900 ft in one mile.
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Betsy M
Posts: 408
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:35 pm


Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: May 15, 2019
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

On May 15th, three Ventana Wilderness Rangers surveyed the approach to the Carmel River Trail (and the Big Pines Trail) on the Cal-Am access road just past Los Padres Dam, and indeed: the road has been obliterated by a landslide--with more slides to come, by the looks of the fissures within fifty yards of the main slide. The trail is impassable--very dangerous. The road at the dam end is blocked by a cyclone fence, and further up, by orange netting and a sign stating "Notice: Active Landslide--Extreme Danger--Do Not Enter!" We also posted a sign at the China Camp trailhead indicating that the trail to the dam is impassable.

The trail itself is probably fine, as indicated in the last report. You could use it to do a loop hike. There just isn't access through Los Padres Dam.
Dam slide.jpg
Dam face of slide.jpg
Andrew Carter
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Apr 22, 2019 2:22 pm

Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by Andrew Carter »

Date Hiked: April 18, 2019
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Trail clear, easy to follow, however uneven footpath in most places where the trail tries to slab around the up-and-down ridgeline.
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Jim Ringland
Posts: 124
Joined: Sat May 07, 2011 12:02 pm
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by Jim Ringland »

Date Hiked: April 17, 2019
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Section: VDC Trail junction to Big Pines Camp

There been a bit of work of this part of the trail, here at the top of the Danish Creek drainage: new flags, some simple shovel work on the trail bed in places, and saw cuts on larger deadfalls. The net result is easy hiking with at most very minor route-finding and obstacle issues.

There is no trail to Big Pines Camp any more, but it's easy cross country down to the camp site. As Jack noted last year, the camp has been reconstructed. I think there's been some expansion since he took his picture. The grate and surrounding rocks are not too different from when I camped there in 2006 (in a mostly intact pine forest). The picnic table is long gone. There’s an excellent bedside where, I think, the table had been. Camp is still marked by a big pole with a tape flag a top, moved some from Jack's picture and certainly very prominent. It almost seems a defiant statement: the Big Pines Camp will survive, even if the pines of Big Pines haven’t.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by jeff_aa6xa »

Date Hiked: October 26, 2018
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Hiked up from the dam to a Blue Rock Ridge high point (2787). Took about 2 hours.
Some sections had grass growing over the trail. Lots of poison oak in the shady sections. Tread was well defined and easy to follow. Flagging was still there, but didn't seem necessary.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by jack_glendening »

Date Hiked: June 18, 2018
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I went out to see the current state of the Big Pines Trail. Someone has kindly marked the trail with orange flagging, which did follow the old terrain-contouring trail instead of up-and-over the knobby firebreak (except the section just before the Blue Rock serpentine was skipped. Also a section near the last knob was not followed, but I can understand why since the ascent there is small, only 30 ft, and vegetation much less dense - I could see that becoming the new route, but for now am leaving it as "stubs" on my trailmap route). Following through the contouring sections can be tricky since the flags are widely spaced and branching "use tracks" have been beaten into the vegetation, but it is certainly possible. "Tread" is rough or non-existent in those sections. Lots of PO, of course. Overall, I found the trail generally "passable" but with some "difficult" spots - for those my GPS did help.

At one point there was a "Y" with a orange flag leading right but an even clearer path through the grass to the left - had it not been for the flag, I'd have thought the trail went left. Decided to see where the left fork went but it petered out after ~150 ft. It was headed towards Big Pines Camp so I went to check that out. Was surprised to find the camp in such excellent shape - see photo. The last post indicates that cleanup was done by "ajrunr", so kudos to him.

Was surprised to find a USGS geodetic marker along the trail, at an unusual spot since not on a high point. Also surprised it was not on the supposedly "official" compilation of USGS markers I have. Wonder what the story behind that is.

Mystery marker
Mystery marker
Big Pines Camp - resurrected
Big Pines Camp - resurrected
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