South Fork Trail

Rob
Posts: 117
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:21 pm
Location: SJC

Re: South Fork Trail

Post 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.
User avatar
Betsy M
Posts: 432
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:35 pm

Re: South Fork Trail

Post 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
User avatar
Betsy M
Posts: 432
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:35 pm

Re: South Fork Trail

Post 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.
Attachments
PXL_20230618_180020744.jpg
PXL_20230618_134955988.jpg
PXL_20230617_153228892.jpg
PXL_20230602_224148069.jpg
Tony Hoffman

Re: South Fork Trail

Post 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.
karst

Re: South Fork Trail

Post 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.
BP22
Posts: 29
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.
pantilat
Posts: 121
Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2014 1:16 pm

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 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.
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.
sfrake

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 bigsurtrailmap.net 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 bigsurtrailmap.net 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?
zacdalton
Posts: 2
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.
New Report