Carmel River Trail

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Joined: Sun May 30, 2021 5:33 pm

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by DorianVR »

Date Hiked: May 30, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Unavoidable poison oak overgrowth on trail, starting about 1/2 mile in from Pine Valley Camp. Many small deadfall trees and washed-out/fallen portions of trail. Trail condition would be near passable if a brush clearing job were done to clear the poison oak.
VWA Admin
Posts: 115
Joined: Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:10 pm

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by VWA Admin »

Date Hiked: May 20, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Thanks for the report. Please note that access to the Los Padres Dam trailhead remains closed by the property owner CalAm pending a collaborative solution.
- The "official trail" is only a rough track scratched out in order to present a GPS proposal to the county, CalAm and the USFS.
- Work is tentatively scheduled for October(barring red tape snafus) to bring the trail up to standard without any slippery sections.
- The old trail is too steep to maintain over time.
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Joined: Tue May 11, 2021 11:22 am

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by Eric-ventana »

Date Hiked: May 8, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked the Carmel River Trail (in and out) from the Los Padres Dam trailhead on Saturday, May 8th. I wanted to report on the slide by-pass near the dam. On the way in (from the dam) we skipped the "official"/first/flagged by-pass and took the second one, then on the way out we took the flagged route. The unofficial trail, it turns out, is significantly shorter than the marked one; the dam side of it is pretty easy, but the wilderness side is steep and slippery. Taking the flagged trail on the way out was a challenge. Not only is it three or four times longer (more than half a mile in total length, but not the two miles reported earlier), but the north/east/dam side of it is almost impassible. In many places the nominal 18" width of the trail differs in elevation from one side to the other by six feet. We were going down so this was merely difficult and sometimes dangerous, but trying to go up it would not be a hike, it would be a climb. Based on my experience I would suggest the dam side of the unofficial trail be connected to the wilderness side of the flagged trail -- this would result in a much better experience that either of the two existing alternatives.

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by Addison »

Date Hiked: May 1, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Day hiked from Pine Valley to Round Rock. Trail is fine from camp to the saddle separating pine valley and the next drainage, then gets rough pretty quick. Moderate overgrowth with many downed trees and avoidable poison oak the first mile but by the first creek crossing there is an unavoidable head high poison oak patch on trail and around it. Best to be immune to poison oak from here until the the trail climbs out of the drainage again. Path is flagged in parts but the whole area is still fire-scared and the creek completely choked by blackberry and poison oak (the flags in this section were easier to follow in the opposite direction). The high section the last mile or so before the Round Rock junction has barely visible tread as you hack your way through scrub oak, chamise and black sage (at least it smelled nice). There is one very confusing flag that could be hinting at a new trail on the north instead of south side of the ridge the high section is on? I followed it a few hundred feet but then stuck with the old south side trail (on map and gps). On section about 1/2 mile above the junction is washed out making for a pretty dangerous scamper across a steep, sandy chute. Will likely be gone after the next rain or couple of crossings. The tread for this whole high section is lacking on the downslope side and a few sections one could easily step off trail under cover of sage and slide down the hill a bit. Whole trail from saddle to junction needs work but this last high section was actually a bit dangerous instead did just spikey and poison oak-filled. Large downed tree a few hundred feet further towards Hiding Canyon Camp from junction.

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by mgeggie »

Date Hiked: May 1, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Tried to hike from Los Padres Dam Trailhead to Carmel River Camp.
There is a fence up on the trail just as it turns left from the dam to follow the perimeter of the reservoir. Skirting the fence is easy, but not far up the trail there's a landslide that has taken out about 500' of the trail. There is a detour trail, but it is very narrow, steep, loose, off camber and dusty. This trail seems to take nearly 2 miles and nearly 500' of elevation to circle around the landslide.
We gave up our hike when we reached the peak of the trail due to running out of daylight and not being confident of the condition of the trail ahead.
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Jim Ringland
Posts: 133
Joined: Sat May 07, 2011 12:02 pm
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by Jim Ringland »

Date Hiked: April 12, 2021
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Section: Church Creek Divide Junction to Pine Valley -- Clear

Were it not for a few low shrubs brushing against the knees and thighs, plus the one duck-under deadfall, I’d have rated this as Wilderness Freeway. Fine trail for making good time if dinner is calling.

Pine Valley has loud owls.
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Joined: Tue Oct 01, 2019 9:19 pm

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by rcmd8418 »

Date Hiked: March 25, 2021
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Hiked from the Church Creek Divide to Pine Valley. The trail was extremely easy to follow, but there is brushy overgrowth at places and one deadfall you can easily walk around. We surprisingly didn't see any poison oak on/around the trail.

We camped at a DELUXE site in the meadow before you reach the cabin. We also attempted the trail to the falls, but turned around after 25 minutes when the washed out trail got pretty thin and the GPS showed we still had a bit to go.
Hiking Metal Maniac
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Mar 30, 2021 1:32 pm

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by Hiking Metal Maniac »

Date Hiked: March 26, 2021
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

From Church Creek Divide to Pine Valley Camp is very clear with only minor brush encroaching on the sides in a some locations
Alan Harder

Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by Alan Harder »

Date Hiked: March 25, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked from Los Padres to Hiding Camp.
After the detour trail near the dam the trail is in good shape all the way to Hiding Camp.
Just a few logs to climb over. Most river crossings are flagged.

There are two places with significant deadfall; one is easy to bypass by descending and walking on the rocky shore of the river. You can see the trail under the fallen trees and just parallel it until you rejoin the trail.
The other is at the second-to-last river crossing before Hiding Camp. The deadfall is before the river crossing when hiking up river and prevents you from getting to the direct crossing. Flag markers offer a path down to the river sooner where you go up stream 40 yards or so to where another flag shows the trail on the other side.
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Re: Carmel River Trail

Post by VWA_Ranger »

Date Hiked: March 19, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

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

Forest/Trail Status: PARTIALLY OPEN, per Los Padres Monterey Ranger District Forest Order 05-07-51-21-02
Current Fire Restrictions: Campfires and Stoves are permitted in the backcountry with a valid Campfire/Stove Permit.

The Monterey Ranger District Forest has partially reopened, VWA/USFS Volunteer Rangers continue to prepare opening other parts of the closed forest and are continuing their regular patrols. Today volunteer Rangers patrolled from the trailhead to Bluff Camp. They did minor spot brushing and some tread repair. The trail continues to deteriorate from lack of use.

Trail conditions are as follows:

Los Padres Dam Trailhead to Bluff Camp - Passable with lots of encroaching brush.
Bluff Camp to Hiding Camp - The trail is in poor condition with numerous trees across trail, numerous areas that need tread work, places where trail is overgrown and river crossings that are difficult to locate on both sides of crossing (lack of flagging).
DISCLAIMER: This report is for informational purposes only. Trail conditions may change at any time. The Ventana Wilderness Alliance assumes no liability for the use of this information.
The Los Padres National Forest Website can be found here:
To learn more about the Volunteer VWA/USFS Ranger and Trail Crew Programs visit
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