Big Sur Trail

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Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:21 pm
Location: SJC

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by Rob »

Date Hiked: December 10, 2023
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked down from Cold Spring to Rainbow Camp on Saturday, and back up on Sunday, on my way back from South Fork. It was my first time on this trail, and I was overall very impressed.

Conditions remain much the same, except for a large downed tree across the trail about a quarter mile from Cold Spring. One can squeeze past it, but it is somewhat awkward.

The "brush tunnel" area was amazingly clear, and sure there were the few stray branches, but nothing that truly made me reach for my pruning saw -- that and my work gloves remained dead weight on this trip.

Rainbow Camp looked chilly and damp in December, but the pools looked like they would nice in warmer times of the year.

The Mocho camp site with the metal sign looked miserable and cold, but there were larger sites further up that looked warmer.

There was an area between Mocho Camp and Cisco Creek where one could see towering Santa Lucia firs, very impressive.
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Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2008 11:28 pm

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by BP22 »

Date Hiked: August 6, 2023
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

The Big Sur trail is in great condition. Absolute gem of a trail. There are a few spots on the North Fork side of the divide where vegetation is causing hikers to step into the down-slope of the trail, but nothing too bad. I really just wanted to take the opportunity to express gratitude to the VWA Trail crew; your hard work is so much appreciated. Thank you for everything you do!
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Betsy M
Posts: 432
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:35 pm

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: June 11, 2023
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

A VWA volunteer trail crew worked on the Big Sur Trail June 10-11th. We were able to clear 6 trees from the trail including a large oak near the top of the Devil's Staircase and the "branch" that blocked a switchback at the bottom of the Devil's Staircase, just up from Mocho Camp. There are still some brushy sections but nothing bad. You can dodge everything including poison oak.

We camped at Rainbow Camp and enjoyed the large pool just a couple minutes' walk downstream. This pool was filled with sediment and blocked by a huge log jam last fall, but the high water this spring seems to have cleared it out. There is plenty of space in the main camp if you are willing to squeeze in. There is an overflow camp also, beyond the marshy section. Or if you don't mind hauling your pack downstream, there is another flat area beyond the beautiful pool.
PXL_20230610_170202883 (1).jpg

Re: Big Sur Trail

Post by Guest »

Date Hiked: March 26, 2023
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Section: Big Sur Trail from Cold Spring Camp to Rainbow Camp.

Mostly in good condition, and easy to follow. There are some downed shrubs/trees that can be passed under/over/around while still remaining more or less on the trail. However, there is one large tree branch that has fallen on the trail and is impassable. Location is 36.223981, -121.665094 . It's right at the corner of a switchback, so it can be bypassed by bushwhacking directly down the slope and the trail is quickly found again. I have photos but I'm afraid I don't know how to insert them into my message...

The creeks are flowing but not too bad to cross. Big Sur River is flowing very strongly. At Rainbow camp where Big Sur Trail crosses it, I would estimate it to be around 30" deep. I decided to turn back instead of crossing.

[Ed.: it is the South Fork of the Big Sur River that runs next to Rainbow Camp. This is not the actual Big Sur River. Below the confluence of the South Fork and the North Fork, it is the Big Sur River.]
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Betsy M
Posts: 432
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

VWA volunteer clears poison oak vines in the Cisco Creek drainage, before grubbing out the roots so the plants won't come back
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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-->
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Posts: 111
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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 ***


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.
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: 133
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.

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.
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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!
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