Church Creek Trail


Re: Church Creek Trail Pine Ridge-Church Creek Road

Post by Kyle »

Date Hiked: May 5, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

There are several reports this season for the southern stretch of this trail, I don't see any for the northern part, which we did out and back. Trail down from Divide with Pine Ridge quickly disappears in brush - mostly buckbrush - up to 8' high at times - and proceeds to wind its way - faintly - downhill playing hide-and-seek. Its a little tricky to follow some of it - the brush is thick and tall in stretches, and the trail thin and faint - plus there are several dead end side trails left from lost hikers which look to all the world as valid and well-worn as the trail itself. This seems to happen esp. in the grass, where there are section where tread disappears and you follow only the path of beaten grass footsteps. We got lost twice, both on the way back. Trail winds back and forth through brush and sloping meadows, until finally getting more defined for the bottom half or so as it drops down towards the Caves/Church Creek Road. Side creeks had some water in it - Church Creek was wonderfully verdant and high - spotted 5 California newts in one pool alone. Side trail to the Caves was ultra rewarding, in fine shape for a use trail. Ticks and poison oak to be expected.
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Post by RSIBryce »

Date Hiked: April 10, 2013
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Section: Tassajara Road via Horse Pasture Trail to Church Ranch Road

Good signage at the intersection of the road lets you know to go left, south west along the road to find the beginning of the Church Creek Trail. Encroaching brush, poor tread and deadfalls across the trail in several spots, but well flagged and followable. We made it to Wildcat for the night just as it got dark, having started our day at the Arroyo Seco Gorge parking lot, and were a bit spooked by all the standing dead alders around camp. Crossing our fingers as we went to bed after a hearty dinner, we hoped we wouldn't wake to one falling on us in the middle of the night in the gusty winds. Probably not a smart place to camp at this point due the possible falling hazard.

We woke and hiked on to the Church Ranch road. Passable trail though a little brushy (as much of it is especially now the spring) and some deadfall along the trail, but nothing too inhibiting and flagging along the way. Absolutely gorgeous rolling oak meadowlands in the valley. Saw two golden eagles overhead when we reached the Church Road!

Amazing area, we continued on to the Church Creek Divide after some exploration. The trail follows along the oak woodland meadowlands and flagged as it begins to climb towards the Divide from the ranch, some meandering use trails exist, and in the midday heat we missed a flag and ended up doing a little bushwhack to re-find the trail towards the Divide through a not-so-fun section of chaparral. At the Divide we ate lunch, afterwards we witnessed a fox running up the trail from Pine Valley and take a left east onto the Pine Ridge trail with a lunch of its own hanging from the mouth.

Re: Church Creek Trail

Post by bigsurnut »

Date Hiked: March 23, 2013
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

This is a clear and gorgeous trail. There were just one or two spots near a river where the trail was a bit unclear, but it's easy to find if you look around.
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Post by Rob »

Date Hiked: November 23, 2012
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Some brush here and there. The tread has greatly improved, thanks to all who worked on this trail ! The sandstone formations are always a treat.

The gully that had washed out the trail seemed to have been filled in with sticks and large branches. That works too :)

Wildcat Camp had a new metal sign, with plentiful water nearby.
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Post by jack_glendening »

Date Hiked: November 3, 2012
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

For the section from Church Ranch Road south to Tassajara Road trailhead:

It is a pleasure to hike this trail now, when the tread is evident, in contrast to my last hike along this trail. I went both ways and found a few places where there were Ys with two tread choices, possibly some deer trails, so flagged the correct choices. The most curious was one where the straight-ahead path through the grass looked to be the correct route (left in photo below), not the route going upslope (to right in photo) - but a branch lay across the straight-ahead route, often a sign that the path should _not_ be taken. After determining that the straight-ahead route was indeed correct, I moved the branch over to block the upslope route.

My thanks to all who worked to make the trail more enjoyable.

Y with branch blocking correct route
Y with branch blocking correct route
Big Sur Trailmap:
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Betsy M
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: October 8, 2012
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Section: Tassajara Road to Church Ranch Road

The major issues described by several posters have been resolved and the difficult sections flagged. There is still an odd section of trail that goes straight up (or down, depending on your direction of travel) a knife-edge ridge. But the continuing section that appeared to be the real trail has become overgrown so at least the choice at this junction will not lead you astray. Much effort has gone into repair of this trail, with brush cut back, fallen trees removed, and questionable sections flagged. However, there are still many brushy sections and hikers would be well advised to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.

When we hiked this trail there was water at Wildcat Camp, and also the small stream midway between Wildcat and the Ranch Road was flowing well. The sandstone outcrops are as beautiful as ever.

Re: Church Creek Trail

Post by Organicfarmgirl »

Date Hiked: July 9, 2012
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Parked on S. Tassajara Rd.
Entered Church creek trail to Bruce Church Ranch. rd.
after wind caves, about 1/2 mile or so the trail becomes more difficult to follow we lost it twice then relocated, upon crossing a small creek ( trickle ) the trail was gone we could see the road at one point off in the distance , and headed by sight navigation toward it. due to extreme heat and no trail this accent was very difficult. with out a map and compass this would have been pretty bleak. it was 98 in the shade I was thinking 104-110F with full exposure. When I read a previous post referring to this part trail as the Bermuda Tiangle I agree completely! TOPO map looks like 3.5 miles turned to be 6.6 What we thought was going to be a fun little hike turned into 8 hours tell someone where your going if your heading in this way bring lots water head lamp layers you may be spending longer than you think. when we got to,Tassajara two of the Monks said they got lost in there as well. the trail has not been used much since the fires and is over grown.
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Jim Ringland
Posts: 124
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Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Church Creek Trail

Post by Jim Ringland »

Date Hiked: May 5, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Section: Tassajara Road to Church Creek Ranch Road

The trail is essentially clear from Tassajara Road north to Wildcat Camp. The biggest problem is a washout just south of camp where one has jump 3-4 feet down into a dry gully and then climb back out. On this first section, I met two folks from the Zen Center who told me that the section from Wind Caves to the Church Creek Ranch Road was pretty bad. They told me that two of their folks had gotten lost there in April. Read on. The route finding issues that others have written about here – and that Schaffer described in his 1987 book – are still here.

Wildcat camp has a fire ring, a stove, a nice bedsite, plus lot of big logs to sit on where one can listen to the multitudes of sounds the stream makes as it runs by. The only down check is that many of the trees overhead have burned.

Immediately north from Wildcat, the trail remains good, but there's more brush to push aside than south of camp. Then the trail hits its first grassy meadow. Here, as was to be the case for the rest of this segment, the trail was either faint or invisible in the grass. Early on, the grassy sections are small and one can find the trail again pretty easily when it ducks back into the chaparral. About a half mile out from Wildcat, there's a chaparral-covered saddle with sandstone rising on each side – is this the Wind Caves? – which gives a view ahead to some much larger meadows and the Church Creek Ranch area. The next half mile is OK but then the route finding gets harder. There are deadfalls in generally grassy sections where it is hard to find the trail on the far side. I got sufficiently off the trail at one point that I pulled out the GPS (loaded with Jack Glendening's map) to find it again – not something I expect to do much. There was one creek crossing / deadfall combination that was a real mess. About 1-1/4 miles out from Wildcat, there was a dry stream bed where the trail is reassuringly marked by ducks, but then it was back to the grass-and-chaparral mix. After about 1/4 miles of that, I came to a quite large grassy meadow rising to another saddle. There was no trail I could see. I just headed up. From the top I could see over to the next big meadow where the Church Creek Road was. From here, the trail is mostly in grass over open ground or in scattered trees. There is one stream basin to cross, with some steep descents along the way. Then the fun concludes with the last ascent to the road, including one short but ridiculously steep pitch. My GPS recorded only about a mile of walking from that last grassy saddle to the Road, but it took an hour – 40 minutes if walking and a 20 minute break in the beautiful grassy/oakey stream basin bottom. I pulled out my GPS for guidance several times – a reliance on technology that I found a little disquieting – but it would probably have been quite possible to treat the section (heading northbound) as a cross-country traverse and not take a whole lot longer. Widely spaced flags help in spots. GPS in hand, my overall experience hiking this section was closer to "Passable" than "Difficult", but absent that guidance, the latter would definitely apply.

I then zoomed up the Church Creek Ranch Road and down Tassajara Road to my car at China Camp. That last 4+ miles, with just under 2000' of climbing, took just about the same amount of time – 2-1/2 hours (including breaks) – as it took to get from Wildcat to the Church Creek Ranch Road.
Salty fly
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Re: Church Creek Trail

Post by Salty fly »

Date Hiked: March 3, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Church creek trail is in good shape from the four way with Carmel river trail and pine ridge trail, down to the ranch.From church ranch road, the trail becomes hard to find.not to far after church ranch road turns away from church creek there is an old burned 4x4 post with some hunters tape tied on it,we missed it the first time had to back track a little to find the trail.Once we were back on the trail the tread was faint to gone, it was hard to tell the trail from deer trails.The pink hunters tape lead the way. The tail was this condition all the way to wild cat camp. the trail improved some what from wild camp to Tassajara road.the trail was still fun, not to bad.This part of the trail was really ripped up by the fire,lots of dead falls but not that hard to get around.All in all it is still great country,if we dont use it we lose it.

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Re: Church Creek Trail. Tassajara rd to the Wind Caves

Post by Akaleek »

Date Hiked: February 4, 2012
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Parked on Tassajara road and walked a couple of miles down to the trailhead heading North to the Wind Caves. Within a few minutes I came across a cluster of deadfalls which I was able to scramble over after breaking off a few of the burned branches. The remainder of the trail was ok with a little encroaching brush in some places and a couple of spots where the tread was faint or washed out. This end of the trail doesn't appear to have had much use in recent months. Crossed 2 or 3 creeks that were flowing and a couple that were totally dry. A beautiful day to be out on the trail :D
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