Big Pines Trail

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Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by jack_glendening »

Date Hiked: May 15, 2023
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Following is extract from trail report sent to me directly, am posting here for other hikers - bottom line, based on this and other reports, hikers are unable to follow trail so resorting to bushwhacking eg along ridgelines. JG

Past the wilderness boundary things get very hairy. We were navigating via paper map and compass so we didn't have the benefits of a GPS to tell us how close we were to the trail. Because of this we almost exclusively followed the Ridgeline, using the occasional cut trees as a sign we were on the right track. We almost missed where the trail leaves the ridge, but we're saved by a fairly noticeable cairn right where the trail cuts to the left of the ridgeline.

There's a lot of bushwhacking you have to do on the ridge line, much of it riddled with poison oak. Ticks were also abundant, with each of us individually finding 5-8 of them on us throughout the 3 day trip (only 4 actual bites!) One of crew wore shorts, god rest his soul.

As 4pm rolled around we got to where big pine camp was supposed to be, but we found ourselves unable to determine if that was actually where we were despite having Danish creek as a reference point. This was where the trail becomes almost impassable, as the brush near the river gets so large that you have to force your way through many large thickets to continue. In hindsight we may have actually wound up at spaghetti camp without realizing we missed the trail junction for the ventana double cone trail. Hard to say when we never discovered any definitive trail junction of any kind.

Realizing we had no leads on the trail, and being exhausted from the day we decided to camp by one of the small streams leading into Danish Creek in a flattish area, with the idea of finding one of the trail junctions in the morning and making a decision on the rest of the trip then.

On day two we got up around 7 and started surveying the small valley we were in, trying to find either the Skinner ridge trail or double cone trail. After 3 or 4 hours of unsuccessful searching, we decided to give up on our planned trip, hang out at our camp for the day, and return to the dam tonorrow.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by evan_p »

Date Hiked: May 6, 2023
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We hiked from the Los Padres reservoir up to Big Pines camp. From the reservoir the trail is in great shape until just before the ridgeline, at which point poison oak has completely enveloped the trail for about 30 feet. Along the ridgeline until the serpentine the trail is faint but passable. After the serpentine the trail disappears, but the brush is okay to push through if you follow the ridge. The trail is briefly passable once it starts contouring into Danish Creek, but is completely overgrown once you cross the first drainage 1/4 mile from Big Pines. At that point, the easiest route is to cross the drainage a little ways uphill and forsake the trail entirely. Big Pines camp is completely overgrown, but there's a good flat spot to camp 300' uphill from it. The hike in was damp and I counted 112 tick encounters, but only 18 on the hike out the next day.

Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by dillinger »

Date Hiked: March 26, 2023
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I walked from Los Padres Reservoir parking lot to the blue rock outcropping on blue rock ridge, by way of the Carmel River trail and Big Pines trail. The stretch of the Carmel River trail bypassing the slide is in very good shape--there is evidence of recent trail maintenance. The first stretch of the Big Pines trail--where it zig zags up the side of the ridge--is also in good shape; with recent trail maintenance. But the trail gives out once you reach the top of the ridge. It's overgrown, mostly with chemise. Since chemise grows in clumps, it's not too difficult to make your own trail along the top of the ridge. But the trail up there will disappear entirely by the end of the growing season, if the chemise isn't trimmed back.

Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by PaulS »

Date Hiked: November 14, 2022
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Date Hiked: November 14, 2022
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Trip overview:
2 night / 3 day loop, starting at Los Padres Dam, following the Carmel River Trail in southern direction until Hiding Camp (1st night), then Puerto Suelo Trail uphill in western direction, then Ventana Double Cone (VDC) Trail in northern direction until Pat Springs Camp (2nd night), then Big Pines Trail in eastern direction until it hits the Carmel River Trail again near the Los Padres Reservoir. Back on the Carmel River Trail to Los Padres Dam. I hiked alone.


Section Pat Springs Camp to Los Padres Reservoir via Big Pines trail:
The VDC trail from Pat Springs Camp down to Danish Creek is well treaded and mostly clear. Danish Creek had water. I didn’t look for the camp there or traces thereof. The trail changes once Danish Creek is crossed and it quickly turns faint. In fact, very soon after Danish Creek the trail becomes basically indistinguishable from all the deer trails in the area. Just by chance I found the signpost marking the intersection between VDC and Big Pines trail (further East than I thought) but even there the tread was almost nonexistent. This is the last signage I encountered until much later. Soon after, I got led astray several times by deer trails that looked like the actual trail and got stuck in impenetrable (for humans) thickets. I therefore gave up trying to follow the tread and instead navigated by map and GPS to reach the beginning of the ridge along which the trail runs. The terrain was somewhat difficult with steep gullies, slopes and bushes/thickets that were high and dense enough to block any path through it. However, there still remained enough open space to make cross country travel possible. Once I reached the beginning of the ridge, I found a cairn and hoped the trail would resume. That was not the case though and hiking continued what felt like basically cross-country. Following the ridge line up and down was arduous but also beautiful and rewarding. The tops are very densely vegetated with deer trails running between the bushes. I followed many of these deer trails trying to stay clear of the area with the densest vegetation. Even though on the map the Big Pines Trail seems to bypass some of the summits I strictly followed the ridge line, as the trail was absent, and any step off the ridge led into steep forested slopes. Climbing up to Blue Rock Ridge was the hardest part, after that it got a bit easier. Soon after passing the blue-green serpentinite rock outcrop the vegetation decreases in height, oak trees and grass take over and hiking continues along what looks like an old bulldozer line. A few hilltops later and walking is much easier and even remnants of the trail reappear after passing an old fire ring. By the time the trail winds its way downhill from the last hilltop, the tread is obvious again and easy to follow. At the intersection with Rattlesnake Creek Trail is a signpost and trail markings begin again. From here it’s easy to follow the trail all the way down. The last mile or so is steep and narrow and partially overgrown but very passable until it meets the Carmel River Trail again. This entire section from Pat Springs Camp took me about 6 hours and 15 minutes (including breaks) for a distance of a little more than 9 miles. About one hour and 2 and a half miles later I arrived back at my car near Los Padres Dam. To me, the Big Pines Trail is technically impassable/lost between Danish Creek crossing and the last hilltop before Rattlesnake Creek Trail intersection, but if you are prepared and equipped for cross country trekking then it is doable.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by BP22 »

Date Hiked: April 22, 2021
General Condition: passable

Day hike from Long Ridge to Big Pines camp. long ridge to Devil's peak is clear, with very recent work done on the trail up devil's peak, by VWA volunteer rangers. They did a fantastic job, as Devil's Peak trail is vastly improved I am impressed and grateful. Devil's Peak to Big Pines trail junction is clear. thew short trail to Big pines camp is difficult to follow. I quickly lost the trail, but there's not much brush, so after walking for a bit luckily ran into a trail sign. Big Pines camp is a mess. There's an old fire pit and that's the only indication that this was once a camp. Fallen, splintered trees, overgrown brush and poison oak have taken over. Danish Creek is flowing nicely though. I took the Danish creek connector to the Pat Springs trail, which has encroaching brush, but is easier to follow. Had to go slow cause of some man-sized ticks. Just another day in paradise :D

Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by dmw »

Date Hiked: January 23, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I walked this trail from the Ventana junction down to Los Padres reservoir, traveling west to east and generally downward. I'll describe it in that direction.

In the vicinity of the Big Pines/Ventana trail junction, the tread is faint and there are many deer trails. Indeed, I only happened to see a trail junction sign by chance, as I was navigating by compass at the time on what I thought was a deer trail (the Ventana tread is also random and faint in this area and I had lost it). The sign I saw is not located where my map indicated the junction, rather, farther to the east somewhere near 36.3690, -121.7504 (ish). Luckily this area is pretty open and travel is easy; just stay on the south side of the ridgetop and the trail will come in and out. I didn't look for the Big Pines camp.

Farther east, where the ridgetop gets narrow, I found what I believe was the trail contouring east-west along a relatively steep slope south and below the ridge. That said, the satellite photo indicates some lines along the ridgetop in the old dozer line that would probably also work. There were a few cairns where I was, and it was possible to see the tread because of the steepness.

At some point, whether you find the remnant of the official trail or not, you'll be on the ridgetop/old dozer line winding your way through chamise brush, which is reclaiming the ridge. Travel in the old dozer line is relatively easy; though you'll never be sure you're on the real trail, it works to just stay on the ridgetop. I believe the old trail occasionally contoured around steeper areas, but the dozer line does not. I didn't catch the trail in these places, though it was dusk when I was there. Be careful, when the ridge splits, to follow the correct line - use your map and compass.

In the lower sections, they have recently bulldozed the ridgetop, so you will be walking in a shiny new dozer line with no brush at all. It's open and nice.

If you're descending like I was, be careful when you need to turn off the dozer line southeast down the smaller ridge to the reservoir, because the turn is hard to identify. There is no sign. The junction is northeast of the little ridge 100 yards or so, and you can see an old grade cut. The new dozer line does not take you to the reservoir, but continues NE along Blue Rock ridge into private land. If you're coming up, you won't have this problem.

The lower section is also quite faint. I climbed up it in the morning to Danish Creek trail, and was able to follow the tread; however, descending at night in the dark with a headlamp, I was unable to find it consistently and eventually ended up dropping straight down a spur in the lower section (where it is nice open forest).

The junction with Carmel River trail is marked with a signpost, which is good, because the tread is faint. The Danish Creek junction also has a signpost.

Summary: you're mostly following a dozer line and it's mostly easy walking, but the tread is faint enough that you're rarely certain you're on the correct line. Bring a map and compass and stay "on the map" (aware of where you are).

Finally, the lower sections have poison oak growing across the trail in many places. You will almost certainly be exposed, more so between February and late summer when it's in leaf.

Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by dillinger »

Date Hiked: March 13, 2020
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked from reservoir to the blue rock. The bypass trail around slide is steep but passable. Skirts top of slide by a wide margin. The rest of the trail is in OK shape.

Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by akirmse »

Date Hiked: February 20, 2020
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

While the massive slide is still there not far above the dam, there are no signs warning people away, at the easily-bypassed fence by the dam, or elsewhere. There is a red-flagged use trail going uphill shortly before the slide that is narrow and loose but goes well above the top of the slide. I met a couple backpacking on this bypass, and they said they had called the ranger station before their trip, and the rangers didn't know of any closure.

The slide itself looks exceedingly dangerous. The bypass is moderately difficult, but other than that, the trail is easy to follow and only somewhat overgrown up to the top of Blue Rock Ridge, where I turned around.
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Re: Big Pines Trail

Post by seagoat1724 »

Date Hiked: October 24, 2018
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

Editor's Note: this report describes conditions from October, 2018.

Between Carmel River Trail Junction and Danish Creek Trail Junction
Trail is wilderness freeway. Steep... around 900 ft in one mile.
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Betsy M
Posts: 432
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Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: May 15, 2019
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

On May 15th, three Ventana Wilderness Rangers surveyed the approach to the Carmel River Trail (and the Big Pines Trail) on the Cal-Am access road just past Los Padres Dam, and indeed: the road has been obliterated by a landslide--with more slides to come, by the looks of the fissures within fifty yards of the main slide. The trail is impassable--very dangerous. The road at the dam end is blocked by a cyclone fence, and further up, by orange netting and a sign stating "Notice: Active Landslide--Extreme Danger--Do Not Enter!" We also posted a sign at the China Camp trailhead indicating that the trail to the dam is impassable.

The trail itself is probably fine, as indicated in the last report. You could use it to do a loop hike. There just isn't access through Los Padres Dam.
Dam slide.jpg
Dam face of slide.jpg
New Report