Ventana Wilderness Forums • South Fork Trail
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Re: South Fork Trail

Posted: Tue May 28, 2024 10:04 pm
by kovarpa
Date Hiked: May 26, 2024
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked as part of a Boronda-Cold Springs-Rainbow Camp-South Fork-Marble Peak-North Coast Ridge Road-down Boronda loop.
South Fork Trail between Rainbow Camp all the way to approx. Tan Oak Camp has long sections with poison oak in the trail and hanging into the trail making passage unpleasant. I beat what I could out of the way but still ended up with exposure. We cut down three to five smaller trees blocking blocking the trail. But I wish I brought a sickle instead of the handsaw.

In a few spots we lost the trail and were thankful for the red flagging.

Also a lot of ticks.

Re: South Fork Trail

Posted: Sun Mar 17, 2024 9:03 pm
by sfrake
Date Hiked: March 16, 2024
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

My son and I hiked the Big Sur/S. Fork/Marble Peak/Coast Ridge loop on 3/16 via the Boronda Trail. I’m writing updates on the trails we used except for Boronda (freeway and motor inn with 20 or so tents from Timber Top on down) and Coast Ridge Rd. (driveable). The common theme is that the trails, particularly S. Fork, have lots of trees down, but on the positive side there is almost no brush to push through. I’ve never done a Ventana hike before with basically no chaparral to deal with. Many thanks to all the hard work done last year by Betsy et al.

We feared there’d be much downfall along the S. Fork, and we weren’t disappointed. We made it through so by definition it was PASSABLE, but slow and taxing (at least for this old man). Most trees weren’t a big deal, but the one area that slowed us down the most was at the first crossing coming from Rainbow Camp (a little less than a mile away). The trail crosses the river, but the other side was just a huge tangle of branches with nowhere to go. The near side was a cliff. Despite having its own collection of deadfall across it, going up the river itself seemed the best route, and it eventually worked. Generally the remainder of the downfall was not particularly challenging to get through, but if you were carrying a heavy pack all the climbing and ducking/crawling would be more difficult.

The trail has sections that traverse near-vertical slopes above the creek. Some of these areas seem quite precarious now, on the verge of sliding towards the river. If that were to happen the trail would be impassable. There was a spot where the trail had actually started to slide away but it was so short it was OK to get through. Along one other section the trail was fine but there was a big slide beneath it, making me fear what might happen after another winter.

Between Strawberry Camp and the Marble Peak Trail there were no trees down but a very annoying thorny plant is ubiquitous here and scraping against it is unavoidable.

Re: South Fork Trail

Posted: Mon Dec 11, 2023 11:08 am
by Rob
Date Hiked: December 10, 2023
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

I hiked from Rainbow to South Fork Camp on Saturday, and back out on Sunday. It was my first time on this trail, and I was very impressed at all the work that had gone into clearing this route.

There were several crossings, and with the fallen leaves the marking tape was highly appreciated. I brought water shoes, but never needed them.

The camp was pleasant, with a table, a fire ring, and log seats. It gets chilly in these river canyons this time of year, but being able to camp under the trees made for minimal condensation.

Re: South Fork Trail

Posted: Wed Nov 29, 2023 10:33 pm
by Betsy M
Date Hiked: November 13, 2023
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

The entire South Fork Trail is CLEAR. After a long weekend of sawing trees and removing brush, the volunteer VWA trail crew was able to connect the section coming down from Strawberry with the section coming up from South Fork Camp. We have worked hard to restore this trail to the good condition it was in after an ACE crew opened it up several years ago. The slip outs mentioned in the previous report are still there, and they remain passable. The first creek crossing coming up from Rainbow Camp remains challenging. This is where the original crossing washed out, and a new crossing was established. But it is easier to cross upstream and climb a steep bank to get to the trail.

We camped at South Fork Camp. An oasis with Santa Lucia Fir trees and all kinds of wildlife. We saw fresh pig wallows and bear scat, and heard mountain lion chirps at night.

SFT messy tree before.jpeg
sft messy tree after.jpeg
group on sft.jpeg

Re: South Fork Trail

Posted: Thu Jun 22, 2023 7:58 pm
by Betsy M
Date Hiked: June 18, 2023
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Section: Rainbow to South Fork Camp - Clear
Section: South Fork Camp to 1 mile before Strawberry Camp: Difficult
Section: 1 mile before Strawberry Camp to the Marble Peak Trail: Clear

A VWA volunteer trail crew worked on the South Fork Trail June 17-19th. We came down from Cold Spring and camped at Rainbow. We had also worked on the trail the previous weekend, from Rainbow, and the weekend before that from Strawberry Camp.

The trail from Rainbow is clear to South Fork Camp. After that it is brushy, but passable, for about a mile. Then it is very brushy for another mile until it starts up the hill towards Strawberry. We cleared both brush and trees about a mile down from Strawberry, and from Strawberry to the junction with the Marble Peak Trail.

We flagged several difficult places in that 1.2-mile brushy section above South Fork Camp. The trail turns suddenly at some of the creek crossings and it looks like hikers have continued straight. Just backtrack, and watch for the flagging, if you lose the trail. The brush is mostly ceanothus in your face and above your head, plus poison oak jungles with strands swatting you in the face. There are about 15 fallen trees, but nothing too difficult to climb over.

Looks like someone came through here lopping brush so you can also tell you are on the trail by all the cut brush left right in the trail. This was helpful for finding the trail - but it is hard to hike through dead brush so we will try to remove it as we get back to this trail.

There were a couple of slip outs. Passable for now. Hopefully they stay small.

Also, at the first crossing of the South Fork above Rainbow Camp, the previous crossing is difficult to reach and the waer is deeper, so we walked across the River about 50 feet upstream. Flags lead to the trail on a bench above the River.

We were able to rock-hop all of the crossings without difficulty.

Re: South Fork Trail

Posted: Fri Jun 02, 2023 8:21 am
by Tony Hoffman
Date Hiked: May 30, 2023
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I tried to go from Rainbow Camp to Tony’s trail. Although there’s evidence of trail work from last year, I could barely find the trail past two miles. Storms damage, much overgrown brush? Tree falls. Had to turn back after approximately three miles.

Re: South Fork Trail

Posted: Wed Nov 30, 2022 8:58 pm
by karst
Date Hiked: November 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.

Re: South Fork Trail

Posted: Thu Jul 21, 2022 1:18 pm
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.

Re: South Fork Trail

Posted: Mon Mar 14, 2022 12:24 pm
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 https://bigsurtrailmap.net/. 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.

Re: South Fork Trail

Posted: Tue Apr 20, 2021 8:22 am
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.