Big Sur Trail

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Betsy M
Posts: 411
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:35 pm

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: October 9, 2022
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and/or well maintained)

Section: Rainbow Camp to Cold Springs Camp


After a week of trail work by the Los Padres Forest Association Trail Crew in August, 2022, along with VWA trail crew outings both before and after that work trip, the Big Sur Trail has been cleared of brush, fallen trees removed, and the tread restored. A huge thank you to the LPFA crew for working in the heat, poison oak, and with swarms of yellow jackets, to bring this section back to freeway condition.

This effort built on previous work by a USFS-funded ACE crew hitch that cleared brush from Logwood Ridge down to Cisco Creek. Combined with VWA volunteer trips, the first 4.5 miles from the trailhead at Cold Springs Camp are now a wilderness freeway.

Water: there is plenty of water along the trail. Starting with the tank at Cold Springs (access this water from the road below the tank - just turn the handle on the pipe above a small trough), then at Cisco Creek 2.7 miles from Cold Springs Camp, at Mocho Creek, and at the South Fork of the Big Sur River at Rainbow Camp.

Los Padres Forest Association trail crew clears brush on the switchbacks above Mocho Camp
LPFA Trail Crew on the BST.jpg

American Conservation Experience trail crew grubs out plants from the trail on Logwood Ridge
ACE crew grubs out manzanita plants on the Big Sur Trail20211009.jpg

Before brush and tread work
20220805_125631 Before3.jpg

After brush and tread work
20220805_155136 After3.jpg

VWA volunteer wilderness ranger attaches handles to a crosscut saw in preparation for sawing a 2-foot diameter pine tree at the top of the switchbacks above Mocho Camp
PXL_20221007_230315304.jpg

VWA volunteer clears poison oak vines in the Cisco Creek drainage, before grubbing out the roots so the plants won't come back
PXL_20221009_151529063.jpg
crockettonearth
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:24 am

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by crockettonearth »

Date Hiked: May 30, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Big Sur Trail 3E07 - full segment


1. Conditions of this trail are passable -clear. Lots of tall grass and brushing are needed in the segment north of Cienega Camp. We brushed vegetation blocking the trail from Cienega Camp to the north fork of Big Sur River and an uphill segment of the trail heading west to the south fork of Big Sur River. Conditions in this segment are Passable - clear trending toward clear. The western slope of Big Sur Trail Between the North fork of Big Sur River and the south fork of Big Sur river is overgrown in spots with grass still possible at the time of this writing. From Rainbow camp to Mocho Creek conditions are passable. More brushing work is needed for a clear trail to be obtained. From Mocho Creek camp to Cold Spring camp, conditions are passable. More brushing work is needed in this segment to make it clear. We brushed the worst segments we encountered as we climbed from Rainbow Camp to Cold Spring Camp.

2. There is water in spring about 1/3 of a mile north of Cienega Camp, Cienega Creek, North Fork of the Big Sur River, South Fork of the Big Sur River, Mocho Creek, Cisco Creek about 1.5 north of Mocho Creek, Logwood creek, Cold Spring Camp stock tank.

3. Poison Oak will be encountered north of Cienega camp, and between Rainbow Camp and Cold Spring Camp.

4. Bugs are minor but present near water and at camps. Flies are worse than mosquitoes. Rainbow Camp had bad flies when the wind was not blowing.

The link to mapped based talk through of the report is here--> https://youtu.be/zrwLf_bWGJM
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VWA_Ranger
Posts: 92
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2020 4:41 pm

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by VWA_Ranger »

Date Hiked: May 7, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

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

Description:

Over the past weekend VWA/USFS Volunteer Wilderness Rangers patrolled the Big Sur Trail from Cold Springs Camp on the North Coast Ridge Road down to the Pine Ridge Trail then back to the trailhead near Big Sur Station. Some of the camps visited were Cold Springs Camp, Macho Camp, Rainbow Camp, Cienega Camp, Redwood Camp, Barlow Flat Camp and Terrace Creek Camp. They did spot brushing, trail work, checked camps and gathered information to help plan for future trailwork and other needs along this trail corridor.

Note: Please do your part to help keep things nice. Fill out the free Wilderness Permit Self Registration Form if starting from the Big Sur Station. Have a valid Campfire/Stove Permit, pack out all your gear, trash and TP. Leave a place nicer than when you found it.

Trail Conditions are as follows:

North Coast Ridge Road to the top of Devil’s Staircase - Clear

From Cold Spring Camp to the end of the ridge before Devil's Staircase, the trail is remarkably clear. There is a section where Yerba Santa grows but thankfully it is short. The upper section of Devil's Staircase is grassy and brush is encroaching.

The top of Devil’s Staircase to Cisco Creek - Clear

From the top of Devil’ Staircase there are longish sections where the trail is canopied by tall ceanothus and oak and very little is growing in these tunnels. However, the backslopes could use a scrape. Closer down the canyon toward Cisco Creek, grass is growing in the tread

Cisco Creek to Rainbow Camp - Passable

Conditions are similar all the way to Rainbow Camp. There are at least four down trees all on the ground and a large overhang before Rainbow Camp. The trail on the west slope of the ridge, on the South Fork side, is obscured with grass, brush, and PO. Tread is damaged in several sections.

Cienega Camp to Pine Ridge Trail - Clear

Trail from Cienega Camp to saddle before the BST/PRT junction is grassy and brushy obscuring tread in many places.
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Attachments
A poor example of good backcountry etiquette. Lots of trash left behind.
A poor example of good backcountry etiquette. Lots of trash left behind.
Trash left behind by a careless camper.
Trash left behind by a careless camper.
Restored Fire Ring after removing trash.
Restored Fire Ring after removing trash.
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Jim Ringland
Posts: 125
Joined: Sat May 07, 2011 12:02 pm
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by Jim Ringland »

Date Hiked: March 30, 2022
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

I hiked the entire trail, from Cold Spring to Cienega Camp on the 30th and from Cienega Camp to the Pine Ridge Trail junction on the 31st. As Betsy and others have noted, trail conditions vary from wilderness freeway to passable, with Mother Nature doing her best to move things toward the latter. Even the passable sections looked pretty good. It’s mostly soft vegetation flopping in from the margins: deerweed, poison oak, bracken, pea vines, etc. In a few places individual Ceanothus stems have flopped into the trail. I saw only one downed larger tree, and it was an easy step-over.

A few notes section by section, with a fair amount on the camps:

Section: North Coast Ridge Road to the top of Devil’s Staircase: Wilderness Freeway


It’s a road down the water tank, so no problems there except for a few water-runoff ruts. The trail section beyond is still just about perfect. There’s water at the Cold Spring tank (look for the spigot by the horse trough) and in Logwood Creek. The original Cold Spring camp, opposite the tank with the grate and the sign, looks forlorn and long unused. There’s a campsite a few hundred feet down the road at the end of the turn-around. As lylegordon noted last October, it has all the ambience of a parking lot. I opted to stay up where the Cold Spring Road meets the North Coast Ridge Road. I was on a little flat up (southwest) from the junction, among some old Ponderosa Pines. I had to haul water a half mile from the Cold Spring tank, but the great views and pleasant ambience offered compensation. Years ago, someone on these forums (Boon Hughey?) recommended that camping spot. I’m in that person’s debt.

Section: The top of Devil’s Staircase to Cisco Creek: Clear

The tread narrows a bit and there are a few very minor obstacles of the types described above, but the overall feel is of a clear trail. Here (and elsewhere ahead) there is occasional slumped or cross-sloped trail. While much of this section just traverses oak woodland, some passes through tunnels of Ceanothus. A lot of much appreciated trail work went in here.

Section: Cisco Creek to Mocho: Passable

This section has just that little bit more soft brush creeping into the trail. Still there are no real difficulties. There are two camp sites at Mocho. The marked main camp is OK, but scraggly shrubs and burnt-out trees limit the ambience. A more enjoyable-looking site, clearly in view from the trail, is a few hundred feet downstream.

Section: Mocho to Rainbow and up to the top of the divide between the N and S Forks: Clear

After the Cisco-to-Mocho section, this seemed just that little bit better, although there certainly are places where I had to nudge soft brush or PO away or to push a stray Ceanothus branch aside. Rainbow remains one of the nicest backcountry camps. There's room for many. The table is still there, halfway collapsed. And it wins the prize for the most signs, of widely varying ages, at a single trail junction. The wade at the S Fork was low-to-mid calf at the deepest spot. Lots of pleasant oak woodland on the way up after the crossing, with some good view near the top.

Section: Top of the divide down to the N Fork: Wilderness Freeway

This slope burned hard in the 2008 Basin Fire. When I last came through here in 2011, it was quite open: lots of grass, small three-year-old shrubs and baby trees, lots of downed burnt trees. This slope did not burn in 2016’s Soberanes Fire, so it’s now seen 14 years of regrowth. Today, right at the top the trail enters a tunnel. Much of the long downslope ahead is filled with densely packed 20-30 foot tanoaks, plus a few larger trees and a few smaller shrubs. There are almost no long views. It was a tour-de-force of trailwork to punch a clean trail through all that energetic growth. The big fallen tree near the bottom that lylegordon mentioned has been cleared. There’s a small use camp 50-100 feet before (south) you get down to the N Fork crossing. The N Fork crossing was a rock-hop.

Section: N Fork to Cienega Camp: Passable

The lower reaches of Cienega Creek are redwood forest, and, like the slope on the other side of the N fork, burned hard in 2008 but not at all in 2016. In 2008 the redwoods lost many of their lateral branches. Today you see lots of new short branches and new growth filling in on the surviving branches. There’s lots more understory compared to my 2011 visit too, including some fairly large alders. So yet another display post-fire resilience. I noted a few more brushy obstacles here, including a fallen over ceanothus tangled with PO on a slope. I made a fair amount of PO contact getting by and collected a bit of urushiol. Cienega is a camp of convenience, no more. It’s a flat right next to the creek, under redwoods. It feels dark and damp. There’s a second slightly less dank-looking flat just a few tens of feet up the trail.

Section: Cienega to Pine Ridge Trail: Clear

Mostly clear with occasional soft things leaning into the trail. I was impressed by a little log bridge that the trail crew constructed over a washed-out section just above Cienega. Some nice views near the top.
guest

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by guest »

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

hiked the Big Sur Trail, and It's just awesome, I'd also like to use this as a space to thank the Trail Crews for doing such a fine job. I've never seen it this clear, the whole way. so much gratitude for all the hard work, thank you. when i passed through Sykes, I put out an unattended campfire (at 1pm in 80 degree weather), and on the Pine ridge trail, I passed 40 hikers headed to Sykes before I turned off at Terrace creek. might be time to decommission those hot springs again, but that's another conversation. the Big Sur Trail is awesome.
sfrake
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Mar 15, 2021 9:51 am

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by sfrake »

Date Hiked: March 13, 2022
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Nothing new to report; the entire trail from the Pine Ridge Trail to Cold Springs is in beautiful condition. I mainly wanted an outlet to express my gratitude for all the hard work put in by the volunteer trail crews in recent months to clear this trail. It's obvious when hiking through the bush tunnels and alongside thick poison oak that it was a massive undertaking. Thank you!
driggsy
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Feb 15, 2021 9:22 am

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by driggsy »

Date Hiked: February 5, 2022
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Went the entire length of the trail. Not quite as "Wilderness Freeway" as the Pine Ridge Trail, but pretty close. Tread had a little more grass in spots, and some very slightly brushy sections, but very easy to follow and pass through. Devil's Staircase was 100x better than when I did it last March, so thank you to all of the trail crews that have done work here!
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Betsy M
Posts: 411
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:35 pm

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: December 6, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

Hikers: please note the trail conditions are provided for segments of the trail. While the entire trail is passable, conditions of each segment vary from Passable to Clear, to Wilderness Freeway. In addition, conditions can change as trees fall.

Section: North Fork to the top of the ridge heading towards Rainbow Camp and the South Fork. Wilderness Freeway.

A 14-person VWA volunteer trail crew completed brushing the Big Sur Trail above the North Fork. This completes work on the Big Sur Trail starting from the Pine Ridge Trail, to the top of the hill between the North Fork and the South Fork, begun a year ago by Betsy and Brian. Many volunteers helped with this effort - Brian Robinson and Tom Nicholson the stalwarts who returned trip after trip, starting in 100 degree temperatures, through to this last trip with normal December temperatures. One redwood remains just up from the North Fork, but it is easily negotiated with the help of a branch to step on and a ceanothus stem to hold on to.
All done! Taking a break at the top
All done! Taking a break at the top
Brian working on brush on the final switchback leading up to the top of the ridge
Brian working on brush on the final switchback leading up to the top of the ridge
Section: Cold Spring to Cisco Creek. Wilderness Freeway.

A recent ACE hitch at Cold Spring completed work on the trail to Cisco Creek, which was started by VWA volunteers.

Section: Cisco Creek to Rainbow Camp: Passable to Clear.

Some sections of brush and eroding tread, but the trail is easy to follow and poison oak has been clipped back. All the fallen trees have been cleared.
Clearing a large pine from the switchbacks leading down to Mocho Camp
Clearing a large pine from the switchbacks leading down to Mocho Camp
Section: Rainbow Camp to the top of the ridge heading up towards the North Fork: Passable to Clear.

There is about a half mile heading up from Rainbow Camp that needs brushing, and the entire 1.3 miles up from Rainbow needs tread work and intermittent brushing. All the fallen trees have been cleared. We are seeing hikers on every trip who are doing the 33-mile Big Sur Loop.
lylegordon
Posts: 10
Joined: Tue May 29, 2018 9:26 am

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by lylegordon »

Date Hiked: October 28, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness freeway (mostly)

Hiked the Big Sur Trail from the junction with the Pine Ridge Trail to Cold Springs camp.

Trail was in mostly excellent condition (except the following issues below)

There is a remaining overgrown (passable) section (about 1/3 mile) just north of the ridge between the South and North fork of the Big Sur River. Even with the overgrown section it was easy to navigate (note: many of the plants lost their leaves in the fall so this might have made it easier but the tread was readily apparent). This didn't feel like a bushwhack just overgrown, it was always possible to see the route and travel was only slightly slower.

There was quite a large fallen tree to go over just south of the North Fork of the Big Sur River

Trail was also slightly overgrown (still passable) in the wet areas around Mocho and Cisco creek.

There were numerous back and forth crossings of Cisco creek and it was a bit harder to find the trail at times but still straightforward.

Mocho and Cienaga camps were pretty limited. Rainbow camp was great and had numerous sites. Cold Springs Camp was a bit unappealing and looked like a parking lot, maybe a staging area for firefighters?

It was a warm but not hot day and Devil's Staircase didn't feel much worse than climbing and of the other ridges, just a bit longer. There was occasional shade from the tall brush off the trail.

Water was available at all camps, Cisco Creek and Logwood creek. The tank at Cold Springs also had nice clear water. The seep east of Cienaga camp was barely a trickle.

Minor issues with annoying flies. Some poison oak but not really on the trail itself.
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Betsy M
Posts: 411
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:35 pm

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: May 31, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

SECTION: between Cienega Camp and the North Fork of the Big Sur River: Wilderness Freeway. See previous reports for other sections of the Big Sur Trail.

After 3.5 days of hard work by Brian Robinson and Betsy MacGowan, with assistance from Joe Dirt, the .7 mile section of trail between Cienega Camp and the North Fork is clear. Joe continued on to Rainbow Camp and confirmed the dense ceanothus/poison oak corridor above the North Fork. We met hikers that made it over from Rainbow, but at least one group could not find the trail at the top of the ridge between the North Fork and Rainbow. They returned to the Pine Ridge Trail to hike back out. This route might be easier coming up the hill from Rainbow - at least you have the saddle to aim for, if you lose the trail. A GPS track from https://bigsurtrailmap.net would be super helpful in this section.

Thank you to Joe Dirt for the assistance, and to Joe and hiker Kirsten for helping clear a redwood from the trail just above Cienega Creek.

The Big Sur Trail between Cienega and the North Fork is now a wilderness freeway. .
Brian tossing brush.jpg
Clear Trail Section.jpg
The Big Sur Trail beyond the North Fork will need brush cleared from 1.4 miles that currently look like this.
Big Sur Trail Above North Fork.jpg
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