Carmel River Trail


Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by bmoffitt »

Date Hiked: May 23, 2024
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Day-hiked from the parking area to first Bluff camp. Trail is in very good shape - Thank you to Alan Harder and others who have trimmed and marked the trail. I found it a little tricky crossing Danish Creek - the trail ends on the south bank and restarts at the north bank 50' upstream, and you need to pass under a tree fallen across the creek. Since it was my first time on the trail, it confused me.

The track was mostly perfect, but there are a couple of short but slippery washouts - I actually slipped one foot on the gravel in one of them. There is a LOT of poison oak - I scrubbed everywhere I THOUGHT I might have touched, but it was not enough - had breakouts around my ankles (despite long pants and good socks), a little on my arms, and (bizarrely) on my lower back (did I SIT in the stuff???). I'm extremely allergic to urushiol, your mileage will, hopefully, vary.

With the incursion of poison oak and occasional berry brambles to the trail, my main thought was that this is a trail that needs to be used more to maintain its integrity, so I want to encourage others to hike it as often as possible.
Alan Harder
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Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by Alan Harder »

Date Hiked: April 28, 2024
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked from Los Padres to Hiding Camp, clearing brush and deadfall past Carmel River Camp.
So that's good news about the reported slides: both are passable.
The first is on the ascent past Buckskin Flat, and is a rocky slide about 20 yards wide. Not too hard to cross.
The second is between Buckskin and Hiding Camp and is a slide from above the trail which is along the river; the slide itself is no issue, but it brought with it a large tree. I put a flag marker on a branch to indicate where hikers should climb over; there is a river crossing immediately on the other side and you can see another flag marker across the river.

No changes to the status currently shown on the trail conditions map, so still orange from Carmel River Camp to Hiding Camp (but I'll say when I arrived it was orange-bordering-on-red, and now it's much closer to yellow). There's no visible tread in several places as you get closer to Hiding Camp, but in all such cases you just proceed along the river until forced to cross. River crossings with this level of water flow were challenging but doable; hiking poles definitely helpful.

PS: Thanks to Will who I met on the trail and helped out clearing brush for a couple hours!

Also a correction: when you click on Carmel River Trail on the condition map the popup says "16 river crossings between Bluff Camp (W) and Hiding Canyon Camp". The number is actually 27.
Danish Creek :: Bluff Camp (W) :: Carmel River :: Bluff Camp (E) :: Miller Fork :: Carmel River Camp (N) :: CR x2 :: Carmel River Camp (S) :: CR x3 :: Sulphur Spring Camp :: CR x7 :: Buckskin Flat Camp :: CR x13 :: Hiding Camp :: CR :: Pine Valley

JG: indeed there are 26 Carmel River crossings to Hiding Canyon Camp with another to Pine Valley Camp - had those 27 crossing points in Carmel River Trail GPX file (plus Miller Fork), also shown on the PDF and Garmin maps (when zoomed in). Dunno how the 16 in the interactive map popup got there, likely typo, but has now been corrected. Thanks.
Alan Harder
Posts: 7
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Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by Alan Harder »

Date Hiked: March 31, 2024
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I did some work on the Carmel River Trail last weekend.. Los Padres to Carmel River Camp is now in great shape.

Bypass trail at start: I did nothing here, but it is clear/green. Thanks to the builders/maintainers!
Bypass to Bluff Camp: I was able to clear out some deadfall, I'd now upgrade to green.
Bluff Camp to Carmel River Camp: I cleared some deadfall and trimmed some brush, but the brush still encroaches in places. Still one log to climb over. I'd upgrade from orange to yellow.
Water was too high/fast at the first crossing past Carmel River Camp, so I wasn't able to inspect the reported slides.
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Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by jack_glendening »

Date Hiked: November 25, 2023
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

A Big Sur Trailmap user reports two slides south of Buckskin Flat, the second one large enough that he lost the trail and turned around.

Big Sur Trailmap:

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by SBWaltz »

Date Hiked: October 21, 2023
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

New route around the Los Padres Dam slide, the "hump," is a bit of a goat trail, but clear. In spots, upside of trail remains compacted while downside is soft and crumbling. Safe, but worth keeping an eye on your footing.

From Big Pines Trail intersection up to ridge, there is increasing weeds to deal with, but merely calf high. From ridgetop to Danish Camp intersection, the trail is less clear (though follow-able) and you will have to navigate around head shoulder high woody shrubs. I turned around at that point, returning back to Los Padres Dam parking lot.

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by Dillinger »

Why will it take YEARS to obtain the easement from the forest service?
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Steve B
Posts: 112
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Location: Del Rey Oaks, CA

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by Steve B »

Date Hiked: July 27, 2023
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The new route around the landslide at the Los Padres Dam has not been constructed yet, we are waiting for the forest service to do the paperwork to establish an easement to make the reroute a forest service trail through California American Water Company property. We have completed the Monterey County requirements for the biological, archeological surveys and the county grading plan. At this time the trail is a scratched in track that that is difficult to walk however the trail has been heavily used which has caused tread damage form hikers walking on the outside edge of the trail. We are ready to start work on the trail once the forest service easement is completed and the ground is damp which may take a couple of years. In my opinion the new route around the landslide at Los Padres Dam in not ready to be opened to the public until we are allowed to start the trail construction. If you do walk the reroute, please use caution and try not to walk on the outside edge of the trail. The reroute is difficult especially if hiking with a backpack. Once the trail is completed travel with stock is not recommended.

The trail beyond the slide to Bluff Camp is overgrown but passable.
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Betsy M
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Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: May 7, 2023
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

The section of the trail from Church Creek Divide to Pine Valley has very short brushy sections, and some narrow tread that would be difficult if you were a mule, but the average hiker should not have any problems. All the side creeks are easy to cross. The first side creek is only about 5-10 minutes down from the Divide, and is a great stop for water.

A VWA volunteer trail crew cleared all the trees in this section, including a couple of pines beyond Jack English's cabin so it is easy to get to the meadow.
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Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by williegoat »

Date Hiked: June 17, 2023
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Fun ramble down to a very popular backpacking spot with babbling clear waters and plenty of bugs.

Some difficulties. One small downed branch across the trail, several small feeder creek crossings and lots of brush encroaching the trail, at times fully over the trail. Plenty of poison oak.

Summary: I hiked in from Church Creek Divide around 10:30am on Saturday the 17th and made it to Pine Valley around 11:00am. I hiked out on Sunday the 18th from Pine Valley around 6:00am and made it back to Church Creek Divide around 6:40am.

The trail was OK and the tread was easy to follow. Water started just below the divide, and so did the bugs. The feeder creeks running down the hillside that crossed the trail were very easy to step across directly or over one or two sturdy rocks.There was a blowdown that had been cut and cleared (thank you!!). A small branch lay across the trail and was an easy step over for me. Once in the valley, the trail was easy to follow all the way to the junction with Bear Basin at the fence by the cabin.

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I did explore past the cabin a short way (less than a half mile) into the meadow. In the meadow proper the trail is much harder to follow as it is very overgrown with the meadow grasses.


Plenty of shade. I enjoyed the rock formations on the north side of the trail. Lots of people hanging out by the creek. Looks like a lot of work goes into maintaining this trail. Thank you!!
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Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by Firefly »

Date Hiked: May 18, 2023
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

From Pine Valley to Round Rock and back: this was my day hike goal. I got about halfway before I decided I really didn't want to go through once now and then again on the way back. Trail is in pretty bad shape. It's possible to follow, but encroaching ceanothus in parts, tunnels of unavoidable poison oak in others, large fallen trees, and midway, a fallen brushy tree that makes the trail impassable unless you feel like crawling through its massive brush (my turnaround), makes this a way that isn't really a way anymore, until some work is done.

I hiked this section in 2020, 3 years ago, and remember the trail being clear and easy until close to Round Rock junction, where there was a slide significant enough to turn me around. A lot happens in 3 years!

I am sad to see so many trails disappearing so close to one of the most beautiful and accessible parts of the Ventana: Pine Valley. I spent most of my time out here wishing there were more people willing to do trail work here, as it is obviously an enormous task to maintain the existing trails from year to year, and I know volunteers are working hard every weekend. We need more hands!

What would it take to restore and maintain ALL the Ventana trails? Even the ones currently long lost?
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