San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)


Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Post by jpdoelman »

Date Hiked: September 29, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Second trip to find the trail head near Lottie Potrero. This time we (followed the map) persevered though dense, interlocked chamis, in a direct route down to the creek. We followed the creek until we intersected the trail which proceeds from Lottie Potrero, along wagner creek and downstream to the headwaters of san corporforo creek near Davis Canyon. On following the trail back toward Lottie potrero, we noted the trail is deeply ingrained into the soil in places indicating a very old path. The tread is good in places and poor in others. This trail is not horribly brushy, but it is difficult to follow and should be taken by parties that are interested in challenging route.

NOTE: According to my observation and limited mapping abilities, the wilderness-press map and the vwa map do not properly locate the beginning 1/2 mile of this route (from lottie protrero downward). When attempting to find the beginning of the trail it is necessary to not follow the ridgeline as shown on the map, but proceed more down-slope-toward the SSE to find some cairns and a joyful water source.

We are planning to kayak the San Corporforo, putting in at davis canyon and proceeding to the ocean!
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Re: San Carpóforo Trail (Last 1/2 Mile Of)

Post by John Doe »

Date Hiked: April 18, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Note: This is for the very last section of the San Carpojo trail. The section on the valley floor once you leave the fire-jeep road to the Baldwin Ranch.

Last week I attempted to hike the end the San Carpojo trail.

Leaving the jeep road at the second "Trail" sign, you travel through a beautiful meadow to cross SC creek. The creek was knee deep & I had to go barefoot to get thru it. Perfect amount of water running thru there right now. After crossing the creek you cross another pretty meadow - the tread is not very clear with all the new grass growth but it's easy to figure out. After that, the trail goes into dense thistles (these were definitely thistles & not the fabled head-high Stinging Nettles). I had to break trail thru the thistle for about 25 yards. After that, I came to an area where I could see 100+ yards more of these dense, 6' high, uber-potent thistles. It didn't look like anyone had been thru there in some time. I broke trail thru them for about 10 yards before giving up. I had serious welts on my arms & they were beginning to burn even though I was breaking trail with my boots. I could see the gully/warn area of the trail beneath so I was pretty sure I was on the "trail".

In my opinion you would need a straight shaft gas-powered weed whacker, with a the metal brush blade, leather chaps and a face mask to get thru these thistles. I couldn't find any alternative route that wasn't overgrown & had significant P.O.. I did not make it to Carpojo camp. Plenty of water along the way & it was beautiful :D

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Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Post by jack_glendening »

Date Hiked: December 11, 2011
General Condition: Passable

Re John LeBlanc's excellent Trail Report below, the Google Earth image of Oct 2007 clearly shows the trail going on the north side of the brush, i.e. along the USFS route - so the re-routing occurred at some later date. I've included both the current route and the USFS route in the trail route on my Ventana Trailmap (the latter having a break in the middle to distinguish it).
Big Sur Trailmap:
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Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Post by jbl »


Jack Glendening and I took this trail to get an accurate GPS read of it. The only apparent damage from the recent wind event was a small tree down (and easy to get over) about 1/8 mile from where the trail begins at the Salmon Creek Trail [I believe the large pine(?) that's down in this pic has been here a while; it is easy to walk under]:
1. SECTION: SALMON CREEK TRAIL JUNCTION TO SPRUCE/DUTRA SADDLE: Clear to Wilderness Freeway. This is in about the best condition I've seen it in for many years. There is very little of the usual encroaching (at all levels) poison oak than I've seen in the past.

2. SECTION: SPRUCE/DUTRA SADDLE TO DUTRA FLAT CAMP: Wilderness Freeway. The trail is easy to follow right now (on other occasions I've found the trail hard to find because of how grassy it is and the fact that there may be confusing cow trails). There was a group of cows grazing in the big meadow before where the trail drops down a small gully to the level where Dutra Flat is:
The pipe was flowing at Dutra Flat camp:
I've noticed an evolution of the enclosure at Dutra Flat Camp--it is now much bigger (having been extended (by about double) to the east (left in this picture) and also a bit to the south (the back in this picture)):
3. SECTION: DUTRA FLAT CAMP TO TURKEY SPRINGS CAMP: Passable (due to trail-finding issues; no issues with brush) to Clear. As noted by others, there tend to be some confusing cow trails and use trails (usually to viewpoints) that can take you off track. Jack and I were following the USFS GPS track (which was accurate for this section) and therefore were able to stay on track, but we saw a few spots where hikers might have been led astray. There was a herd of cows grazing on one of the meadows in this section, and we passed closely under the watchful eye of one of them:
Turkey Springs Camp was in good shape but clearly the picnic table is getting into its golden years:
4. SECTION: TURKEY SPRINGS CAMP TO JUNCTION WITH BALDWIN RANCH ROAD: Passable (due to trail-finding issues; no issues with brush): In this section, there are a number of flags and cairns along the way and it pays to look for them. There was one particularly troublesome spot in a meadow about 2/3 mile before the Baldwin Ranch Road junction. As you drop (on a contour going slightly to your right) into a medium sized meadow the track you are on goes straight across the meadow to another meadow you can see ahead but seems to then peter out in the grass (I'll call this the Straight Track); the USFS GPS track shows the trail veering left at this point and wrapping around a brushy section that's below you to the left and then continuing in the same general direction as the Straight Track, and we found clear evidence of a trail with a nice bench in places along this route but with gaps in the grassy parts, and we followed it as it curved around the brush and crossed a creek and we continued to follow this but we soon (about 1/8 mile further along) reached a spot where a more prominent trail came in from the right, and we walked this backwards and confirmed that this was in fact the continuation of the Straight Track (which we found was partially flagged and cairned, so it appears that at some point the trail was rerouted slightly from the USFS-mapped route). The below shows the detail for this section (with the USFS GPS alternative shown in red and the Straight Track shown in blue):
[I apologize for the fact that the countour lines on the map shown above don't appear to align properly with the track as recorded on my GPS; if you look closely you'll see that the track should be slightly to the right relative to the contour lines]

The below is essentially the same map, with the tracks overlaid onto Google Earth (and with the view having been zoomed in) so that you can see where the brush is and how the two alternative routes get around it:
We added some more flagging in this area to make the current use track (Blue) more obvious.

Once the two alternative tracks reconnect on the east, the trail begins to descend down to the junction with the Baldwin Ranch Road, and is relatively easy to follow for the rest of the way (with a flag or two to guide you through one of the drainages that you cross shortly after the tracks reconnect).

Happy Trails!
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Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Post by gfelsman »

Date Hiked: June 18, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

22 of us hiked this trail on Saturday to Dutra Flat and back. The weather was perfect as the skies cleared just before we hit the first saddle. There were no bugs or ticks to speak of as we hiked this trail. It was cool though.

The trail itself is passable to clear. As one turned onto this trail from Salmon Creek Trail, the tread was easy to follow with lots of encroaching poison oak on the first mile and a half of this trail. The large tree that has been across this trail for years has poison oak growing on top and along the back side. We cleared some of it. At the time of this writing there are no deadfalls across the trail. The trail is beginning to close it and could use some work.

The trail at Spruce Creek Slide is reasonable shape. Not covered in brush.

All and all it was a pleasant hike with lots of flowers. Grass is still realatively green at Dutra Flat.

Shorts are not recommended on this trail, lots of knee high PO in many places.


Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Post by Guest »

Date Hiked: April 11, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

i started at salmon creek and hiked to the junction to dutra flats from there until dutra not the most scenic hike along highway one once i arrived at dutra flats campsite wich was nice i decided to go to turkey springs camp site. the trail was hard to find to immpossible but thanks to the pink ribbons and stacked rocks i made it to turkey. didnt like the campsite despite the pit grill and running water so headed to carpojo camp. the trail continues to be hard to find thanks to whoever put up ribbons!!! finally made it to first creek crossing shortley after the stinging nettles came not as bad as i have read about. crossed second river and camped in field above creek. there was evidence of former fire ring but didnt really look like a camp ground compared to turkey and dutra. over all i had fun but wouldnt recomend it unless you are like me and trying to explore every trail out there. wont do it again
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Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Post by Herb Stroh »

Date Hiked: November 12, 2010
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

On November 12 I hiked the Forest Road near Ragged Point Inn to San Carporforo Camp. The trail head is about 100 yards south of the Inn.

The road climbs fairly steeply to reach a saddle in about 2 miles and 2200 feet elevation gain. The map does not show a side road at the saddle, but there is a defined dozer cut going to the right. Say on the main road, and in a short distance it will split—to the left the road/dozer cut follows the ridge line providing fine views of the coast south of Ragged. Eventually this road turns down and makes an exceptionally steep descent to Highway 1 (a stone’s throw from the Monterey and SLO County border line).

At the split turn right and the road will begin to head down into the valley toward Baldwin Ranch. The road first reaches water (seasonal) at 35, 48, 11.005 N, 121, 18, 1.440 W, and shortly thereafter crosses San Carporforo Creek. There is greater likelihood of finding water where the road crosses the creek. Continuing on, you will eventually come to a sign marking the very faint Spruce Creek Trail from Turkey Springs (35, 48, 10.818 N, 121, 17, 9.816). Within minutes the trail to San Carporforo appears to the right, marked by a small “trail” sign (35, 48, 8.010 N, 121, 17, 0.175 W). The sign is visible, but the trail is faint as viewed from the road, winding into the brush.

That said, the trail to San Carporforo Camp is not difficult to follow. There is poison oak and stinging nettles along this section, but it is not terribly overgrown by Central Coast standards. It appears other hikes have beaten down the brush as they passed, and I contributed to the cause where needed. From road to Camp is about a half mile. San Carporforo Camp (35, 47, 46248 N, 121, 16, 47.856 W) has two sites with fire pits and no tables. The sites are under large trees along what was a dry creek bed. But if you head through camp roughly parallel to the dry bed you will reach water in about 100+ yards.

My goal was to either reach Elk Camp or find the trail leading there. After searching around San Carporforo for promising leads, I headed back down to where I found water and crossed the creek (35, 47, 43.033 N, 121, 16, 45.282). There I found a faint but definite trail leading away from the water. This seemed to have some promise, as it was generally headed in the right direction for Elk. However, the trail splits often and the following the more ‘defined’ trail took me away from the direction of Elk Camp. My sense is that the best way to find Elk is to create a GPS route leaving San Carporforo, and anticipate cross-county travel most of the way. It would best be done as an overnight trip, to allow time to sniff it out.

I did follow what appeared to be the most defined version of the trail to a dry hunter’s camp (35, 47, 51.443 N, 121, 16, 20.773 W) about a half-mile from San Carporforo. I flushed some nice size deer from a near-by draw as I searched in vain for a distinct trail leaving the camp.

Retracing my steps I headed back to San Carporforo Camp and then reached the road. After about 1 ¾ miles on the road I noticed a fairly visible unsigned side trail (35, 48, 14.858 N, 121, 18, 27.642 W) that looked like it would serve as a nice shortcut to reconnect to the road above. I headed up this side trail, and it did regain the road at the ridge (35, 47, 45.982 N, 121, 18, 47.678 W), cutting the distance by over ½ mile. This side trail continued on the west side of the road heading in a general north-west direction, an enticing subject for future exploration. In the absence of an official name, I am referring to the side trail I hiked up as Baldwin Trail East and the trail heading north-west as Baldwin Trail West. Baldwin Trail East is not difficult to follow, but is a very steep climb heading west. For those who want to get off the road, it provides a scenic “short cut”.

The round trip to San Carporforo Camp is just under 13 miles with an elevation gain of 4,654. Except for the short section from the road to San Carporforo, the hiker can easily stay out of poison oak and stinging nettles. I look forward to finding the way to Elk Camp, and exploring that area in some detail. I also wonder if there are hunters trails from Elk to Jones or that would eventually connect to the South Coast Road.
William Salmon and Alan Robertson

Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Post by William Salmon and Alan Robertson »

Date Hiked: May 11, 2010
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Spruce Creek & San Carpoforo trail
Tuesday May 11 – to Friday May 14.

Trip Outline:
Drive up Los Burros, Willow Creek Rd, one mile north of Gorda.
Start Coast Ridge Road near “Lions Den”
Down Salmon Creek Trail (61),
Turn south on Spruce Creek (63),
and San Carpoforo trail (64),
then explore Elk Camp trail (66),
Back to San Carpoforo camp (64),
Climb back up Three Peaks trail(65),
Coast Ridge Rd. back to the car.
(Refer to the VWA website map for numbers)

Photos on Picasa: ... Ssn4PXxAE# ... TIo4r-nAE#

We used the trail guide and map from 'Big Sur and Ventana Wilderness' and Analise Elliot's Hiking and Backpacking Big Sur. I drove my Nissan 4x4 to climb the dirt roads up to the Coast Ridge Road. The County was still smoothing out some of the upper road.
Day 1 – Side trip to Lion’s Den, trail is passable with some brush across the trail. Water available, with wide camping spaces and a campfire area over-looking the view to the south–west.
Salmon Creek Trail – Passable. Top part of trail from Coast Ridge Road is not used as much and is brushy. Mostly good tread, some wash-outs, lots of poison oak. The loose soil under defoliated rock outcrops has been stabilized with flat rocks to provide a tread, thanks, to whoever took the time to do this; the trail gets better at Estrella Camp. We started up Spruce Creek trail, more poison oak, but the tread is good. After about a mile and one-half we pass through a wire cattle gate and open grass lands with Grey Pine and Oaks on a saddle formation. Followed a trail (it gets confusing with the cattle trails) over the rise to Dutra Flats camp area. The cattle have trampled the soft ground where there is water, and I filled up my hiking shoes with muddy water. Camped at Dutra Flats with potable spring water from a pipe. We found the original fruit trees of the ranch, far to the East of the Cypress trees.

Day 2 – Good signage at Dutra Camp, we hiked a Clear San Carpoforo trail through grassy, rolling terrain but missed Turkey Springs because of a detour on a cattle trail. The trail was marked with a few cairns and some flagging, and we hiked around the herd of grazing cattle. We missed Turkey Springs because of the confusing trail markers, if we had stayed in the trees, there was ample water at Turkey Springs. We came across the freshly graded road to the Baldwin Ranch, and followed ‘trail’ signs to San Carpoforo camp. The River bed is covered with 6 – 7 ft. high vegetation, willows, etc. We waded across the 30 foot wide stream and camped in the meadow rather than under the Oak trees. We explored two trails leading to private property at the San Luis Obispo County line and the other leading to Elk Camp. The trail to Elk Camp is completely overgrown and impassable due to poison oak.

Day 3 – Because of the unsure status of the right-of-way at the Baldwin Ranch, a Buddhist colony. The gate was unlocked and the way was passable with a new ‘trail’ sign but also some no trespassing signs, (a mixed message) so we decided not to hike out the Lottie Potrero trail to the Coast Road. Mary Alice Baldwin was the last remaining family member who passed a few years ago, leaving the quiet ranch to the Buddhist Monks. Also the Potrero trail is reported to be overgrown and hard to follow so we went back for another night at Dutra Flats. Going back to Dutra we hiked past Turkey Springs camp, which we had missed the day before. The Camp is spacious with running water and shade. (Note that we filtered water at all locations because of the ranging cattle, only Dutra Flats had potable water coming out of a piped spring-water source).

Day 4 – Next morning at Dutra we got up early and made a quick breakfast to start on the 2.6 mile, and waterless, Three Peaks Trail. The trail is not long but climbs 1200 feet to the Coast Ridge Road on a south facing slope and we were not about to hike that trail in the hot afternoon sun. The trail is easy to follow as it started as a wide tractor trail and skirts the West side rim of the Davis Canyon. There were lots of outcroppings of green Serpentine rock and we did some easy bush- whacking, but we were out before noon, passing through a cattle gate we hiked back to the car on the Coast Ridge Road.

San Carpóforo Camp

Post by Meghan »

Date Hiked: June 30, 2010
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We made it! It was a rough day of hiking but we actually made it to San Carpoforo Camp after over 6 hours. We lost the trail somewhere between Dutra Flats and Turkey Springs. Thanks to our altimeter and an awesome map, we made it to the dozer trail after about 4 hours of heading in the right direction. From there, we found a sign that said "San Carpojo Camp 1/2 mile. (This is not a typo on my part it actually said Carpojo not Caropforo). This was the worst 1/2 mile of "trail" I have EVER hiked. Using hiking poles and our bodies, we got through the oak and stinging nettles. By this point, there was no turning back. After crossing the low flowing river, we came upon a little meadow that was fenced in and then headed up river for about 5 minutes. There, on the far side of the river bed, we found one campsite. The site itself was nice, but I was too tired to truly enjoy it. I fell asleep within an hour of arriving. On the way back, we retraced our footsteps through the 1/2 mile "trail". Once again, I was stung by tons of nettle. After crossing the dozer road, we saw a sign that said trail. We took this trail and it actually led us all the way back to Dutra Flats. It was NOT the way we came for at least the first 2 hours on the way back. This time around we passed Turkey Springs, which was a very nice little camp. I think we got lost because somewhere between Dutra Flats and Turkey Spring (closer to Turkey Springs) there is a pretty obvious trail, but if you look left you will see a small pile of rocks pointing to the correct trail. We did not see this because the trail we were on was such an obvious one that we weren't looking for a trail at this point. It wasn't for probably another 45 minutes that the trail we were one dead ended at an overlook. All in all, it was a good experience. Although, we already decided that next time we want to camp at Dutra and enjoy the site rather than hiking ALL day (granted we didn't start until 2pm). I am covered with poison oak from my calves to my face. So, my suggestion is only hike to San Carpoforo if you enjoy bushwacking, finding trails that disappear, and don't mind poison oak and nettles. And if you do it, write a review. I'm curious to hear about other people's experiences out there. We did not run into any other backpackers.

Re: San Carpóforo Trail (aka Spruce Creek, Dutra Flats)

Post by bshank »

Date Hiked: June 12, 2010
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

We camped at Spruce Creek the night before and headed towards Dutra Flats the next day. Lots of poison oak on the climb from the Spruce Creek junction. Trail was passable, no downed trees. Arrived at open meadow about two hours later. Trail disappears into tall grass. The dog was picking up fox tails left and right, and hoping that the trail would clear up, I walked ahead about 10 minutes hoping to find the Dutra Flats camp. The trail got worse, and I turned around. We ended up going back down to Spruce camp for a second night.
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