South Fork Trail


Re: South Fork Trail

Post by karst »

Date Hiked: November 25, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Date Hiked: Nov 25, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

We hiked the South Fork Trail from Rainbow Camp to the intersection with Marble Peak Trail. North of South Fork Camp, trail has evidently been maintained earlier this year and is clear. South of South Fork Camp, trail is partially overgrown, but we never lost it. Without GPS track, we might have lost it once or twice. Some mild climbing over / under fallen trees and some brush.
Plenty of water at Rainbow Camp (enough to take a bath), even though the rainy season has not yet started.
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Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2008 11:28 pm

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by BP22 »

Date Hiked: July 19, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

This entry only describes the section from Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp.
Overnight to South Fork Camp. Basically, everything Leor says from the previous entry remains accurate. I would rate this portion of the South Fork Trail as PASSABLE, although at times that felt like a generous rating. Very faint tread, riparian vegetation sometimes completely obscures the trail, and there are many dead falls. Some flagging still exists, and I did some new flagging on some of the more confusing spots. The first crossing of the river after Rainbow is the most confusing. There is flagging after the crossing, but no sign of any trail. I spent time looking and eventually just walked up river a hundred yards to the next crossing, which I flagged. On my return the next day, I attempted to find the trail here from the opposite direction, and I once again lost the trail. So watch that first crossing. The rest of the trail is evident and passable if one pays attention.

[JG: The difficulty at the northern (most downstream) crossing results from the original crossing being obliterated by the large slide on the north side there - so the current crossing is a make-do, more upstream than the original. After crossing going south, you must continue beyond the the stream towards rising terrain where the original tread can be found on a shelf about 5 ft above the lower riparian bed, requiring a bit of a scramble - so very un-trail-like and easily missed. When last there I put a long flag at that spot, but expect it's now gone.]

Big Sur Trail Map gpx route helps very much here, as always, but for some reason, Every time I'm in the South Fork Canyon above Rainbow, my Gaia GPS goes haywire. I'll certainly be back with my loppers; this is a beautiful, and old trail, and South Fork Camp is lovely and wild.
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Re: South Fork Trail

Post by pantilat »

Date Hiked: March 13, 2022
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I would rate the entire trail as passable but with caveats. At this point there is no discernable difference between the parts south and north of South Fork Camp. It's not getting much use these days compared to the recently completed revamp of the Big Sur Trail so the tread is faint at times and the brush is filling in at some spots. I highly recommended having the GPX from There's a number of deadfalls throughout the trail and poison oak is virtually unavoidable. Flagging at the river crossings could be updated since the December storms rearranged the river banks and existing flagging was either washed away or is now faded. Strawberry Camp currently has water flowing nearby.
Kyle F

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by Kyle F »

Date Hiked: April 17, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked this trail as part of the Boranda, South Fork, Marble Peak, North Coast Ridge Loop. If this is the same trek as the gentleman below me is describing, kudos to him and his son. I easily clocked in 32+ miles with the route finding, navigating and general exploring. I completed this over a weekend - 2 nights and 3 days.

I was ascending the Boranda trail by 3:30 PM on Friday, April 16th. It was difficult but I very much enjoyed the flowers. At Timber Top I looked around for the use trail to the road that was marked on AllTrails, after some poking around I located two rocks cairns to the south with a feint tread and followed that to the road. At any point on the road is pretty easy walking. I was curious about DeAngulo but didn't have the energy to check out the downed tree that is supposedly blocking the trail near the top. Further on, near Cold Springs, I could see at least 4 tents at the camp from the road. I went down to the tank to get water before climbing back up to the road for a campsite all to myself.

In the middle of the night I moved locations as I had pitched my tent on an ant hill. The next morning I had left camp before 8, headed down to Cold Springs again. After crossing the creek and working my way around the hill, the trail had started to get brushier. When I began the descent I remember it being quite brushy, at least always brushing against my legs and arms. Honestly I don't recall the trail conditions that much, as I was having a tick nightmare. I had, honest to god, never seen so many ticks in my entire life. I think it may of been quicker for me to keep moving - but I was stopping every 10 yards or so to brush the ticks off. I seriously considered turning around at one point, but the thought of going back just made me shudder. At one point I lost the trail, and my AllTrails map was completely inaccurate. I poked around and backtracked before realizing I had missed a switch back. It becomes quite nice again once you get near the creek. There was a small group of redwoods here that was a nice surprise. Keep in mind, I haven't even gotten to the South Fork trail yet.

Mocho Camp seemed nice, I didn't stop there because another hiker was taking a break. He told me he was going up Pick Creek - I noted that for future exploration. There was a large tree down above the camp as you continue on to Rainbow Camp. Rainbow Camp was also very nice, I was happy to be at the river and it was not flowing as much as I thought it would. While soaking my feet I saw a nice sized garter snake slither by.

At this point the trail goes up again, and it seems to always be going up. While I didn't mark every downed tree on my map, I tried to mark the ones I thought required more than a step over or easy walk around. There were enough to slow me down. I was surprised at the elevation changes and kind of angry at myself for underestimating the difficulty. The first river crossing was the most challenging regarding locating the trail again. I came down a steep bank to the river. I could see pink ribbons across, and a narrow channel I could leap across further upstream. I crossed at the narrow channel and went back down to the pink ribbons from there. Here I made my way up the bank (after poking around the river bed for some time) and followed that and it ultimately turned back into the trail (I think).

There were a few downed trees between each river crossing, and I was surprised how often the trail would climb up and over ridges instead of hugging the river. I imagine this is because the river makes it impossible to maintain a trail there. South Fork Camp was lovely. I hope to return and camp here at some point (I figured if Jack recommended it, it must be good). After South Fork there was a point I lost the trial pretty good, it was near where the river forks again. There were, again, several more large trees down between here and strawberry. The trail according to most maps I have looked at is completely inaccurate.

Once I was on Marble Peak Trail, I knew what to expect. I camped at Higgens Creek the second night, absolutely exhausted. The next day I didn't have any particular troubles, there is no water after Higgens Creek unless you intend to head down to Cold Springs. I didn't mind walking the road, although I was feeling impatient with it towards the end. There were too many people to enjoy the stroll down Boranda, and I let gravity do most of the work. My legs are still feeling it.

I saw a few people on this trip, one other solo hiker who was taking the South Fork going North, I saw him a little after South Fork Camp. Also another group of hikers who I had seen Saturday morning but had gone the opposite direction as me. Meaning, when I ran into them they had walked the road from Cold Springs to Marble Peak then South Fork. I met them a little before Strawberry. So the trail is seeing traffic.

I maintain my difficult rating because there were several moments for me, by myself, where I was honestly not sure if I had taken the right track or not. I had a great time, it was an adventure which is exactly what I wanted. I start to think I am some kind of masochist, but then I see something pretty and it's all worthwhile. The solitude out here is wonderful.

I should mention I had the pleasure of meeting Jack at the Big Sur Station, which felt very serendipitous. I hope I can provide some muscle to clearing the trails when meetups begin again. I also found a pair of sunglasses at the intersection of Marble Peak Trail and South Fork - they have duct tape on them. Please reach out to me if they are yours.

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by sfrake »

Date Hiked: March 13, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked the length of the South Fork Trail with my son as part of a Boronda/Coast Ridge/Big Sur/South Fork/Marble Peak/Coast Ridge/Boronda day hike. I'd say the conditions as indicated by the trail conditions map are roughly accurate. From Rainbow camp it was pretty clear for about 1/2-1 mile; afterwards there was occasional deadfall that made for slow hiking. At times the degree of difficulty of navigating the deadfall was increased by the presence of poison oak. At least once it took a few minutes to discern where the trail continued, but we were helped immensely by the GPS track that is downloadable from the site (thanks Jack Glendening!). There were also periods of clear sailing, albeit too brief. My memory is too poor to recall how many trees we had to go under/around/through, but it was enough for a day. That said, I am thankful for the work that had been done in recent years to at least make the trail passable. It's a beautiful area.

I am very curious why the detail of trail location on any available map (except for Jack's) is so off from the actual routing? When you're unsure whether to cross the creek or not, go up the ridge or down to the creek, or whatever, it is more harm than good to rely on an incorrect map. Are the other maps all based on an old route?
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Joined: Sat Nov 28, 2020 10:49 pm

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by zacdalton »

Date Hiked: February 23, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp:

This was my first time on the South Fork Trail and it was was an amazing experience! Kind of reminds me of the Upper Sisquoc in the southern Los Padres. Tread was evident for much of the way, losing the trail a couple times briefly. A little over halfway to South Fork Camp, I lost the trail pretty badly and opted for the river. Found the trail on the opposite bank about 10 minutes later. Downed manzanita shortly after Rainbow I had to go up and over, but everything else was expected. Thanks to the people who have flagged the trail, helped me quite a bit! Will carry some tape on me from here on out.

Attempted to go up to Pick Creek Falls, but that creek is pretty gnarly! Much respect for those who have gone up or down it. I bypassed the first narrows section on a steep slope on the north side of the creek. Hiking solo, I decided not to push my luck and turned around when I hit a pretty deep pool. Probably could have been passed through some thick stuff on the south side of the creek. Felt like the falls may have been just past this part, as the creek took a 90-degree turn.

Thanks to everyone who has worked on this trail! It was such a great experience. There are some healthy Santa Lucia firs down in here. Rainbow Camp was a magical place — very lush. South Fork Camp was very peaceful amongst large oaks and Santa Lucia firs.
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Joined: Sun Feb 09, 2020 11:57 am

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by georged »

Date Hiked: February 8, 2020
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Considerably more difficult than the section of Big Sur Trail between Cold Spring Camp and Rainbow Camp. The river crossings were no joke, there being about 6-8 crossings of the Big Sur River where stepping on logs or rocks was not an option. This requires a skillful juggling and drying of socks (at least that's how I deal with it!) to avoid blisters but it ended up alright. Hiking alone and with a broken trekking pole, this was unideal. There were also some downfalls which made room for some creativity on the trail. This was slow going here, I consider myself a very quick hiker and did about 2 miles/hour which was a bit slower than I had planned. That said, this is a special stretch of trail with that amazing eery yet peaceful sense that makes Ventana so special. Mother nature is the boss...
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Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2014 1:16 pm

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by pantilat »

Date Hiked: October 20, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The South Fork Trail is fairly close to being being a relatively clear (for these remote parts) trail from bottom to top.

The blowdown mentioned in the prior report is at the second to last crossing of the creek moving up to Strawberry and the last crossing that currently has water flowing. There's actually a half dozen creek crossings after South Fork Camp and they all have flowing water except the uppermost and they are easy to capture water if needed. There are also a couple other new downed trees between Rainbow and South Fork Camps.

In the upper part there is some encroaching brush and some tread issues in spots near riparian areas, but the way is always obvious and aside from the one complex blowdown mentioned above, there are no real substantial impediments. The South Fork Trail should be marked "yellow" from South Fork Camp all the way to Strawberry Camp on the wilderness conditions camp.

From Strawberry Camp to the junction with the Marble Peak Trail the conditions are passable, largely owing to the encroaching wild rose.

As I've described previously, this trail has excellent biodiversity. It's almost like an ecological staircase moving through the various forest communities as one ascends the canyon. Three pine species (ponderosa, coulter, knobcone), Santa Lucia Fir, Redwood and Incense Cedar were the conifers observed along the trail. I was very happy to see that the Soberanes Fire did little damage to this amazing forest.
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Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2019 7:53 am

Re: South Fork Trail (rainbow to strawberry)

Post by mkellman »

Date Hiked: October 5, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Passable to difficult.

Rainbow camp to South Fork camp is easy going and clear. South fork camp is beautiful.

South Fork camp to Strawberry camp is difficult. There is downed tree at river crossing approximately halfway between these two camps. Easiest way to pass is to climb under trees going up stream bed five meters and cutting back climbing over fallen tree. Took 20 minutes or so to figure out. Pink tags were unbelievably helpful in finding trail.

No water second half of this trail. Easiest fill up is at South Fork camp.

There is water at Strawberry camp. If you hike five meters up black cone trail there is a running creek to your right in the brush. :D
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Joined: Tue May 07, 2019 5:07 pm

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by Firefly »

Date Hiked: September 22, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked this South Fork trail from Rainbow to Marble Peak junction. From Rainbow to South Fork Camp, the trail is easy to follow, with clear flagging at creek crossings. South Fork camp is beautiful.

From South Fork to Strawberry, there are a couple sections that could be misleading due to tread going off trail, in particular at the area where the South Fork trail splits from the river to follow another tributary. The maps on your GPS for most of South Fork trail are precisely wrong [unless using a BigSurTrailmap Garmin/PDF map - ed]. This part of the trail map accurately shows only a general direction of travel (along the river, crossing it several times). Do not seek the trail where the trail is supposed to be according to your electronic device: you will be led astray. If you find yourself thrashing around in brush and/or scrambling up a precipitous vertical slope where you suspect no other person would intentionally put themself, you have lost the trail. Go back to where you last definitely knew you were on the trail, and look around more carefully for another way.

Strawberry camp was rather uninviting this time of year, surrounded by dry grasses and with no water available. It took about 10 minutes to find the trail that leads from Strawberry camp toward Marble Peak trail, as it was obscured by grasses. The trail, once found, was very brushy and flagging helped to find the way. I found 2 different bear scat on the trail in this section.

There are a few spots between Strawberry camp and Tan Oak camp where small amounts of standing water or small trickles of water can be found.
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