Manuel Peak Trail

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Manuel Peak Trail-Upgrade from Difficult to Passable

Post by jbl »

Date Hiked: October 1, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)


This report covers the section of trail as far as the viewpoint.

See below map:

The downed trees previously reported were all on the north-facing slopes in the two areas indicated and were removed (other than an easy stepover) and the tread around them was repaired on 10/1/11.

The section between points A-B is the hardest, with a bit of slumping and sliding and other trail diversion (forcing up- and downhill scrambling of up to 8' in places) and on and off brush encroachment.

The section between points C-D also has many pockets of brush encroachment, some of which was cleared on 10/1/11, but a lot remains to be done.

None of the brush encroachment blocks passage, it just gets a bit tight sometimes.

Contact with poison oak is virtually inevitable on the upper reaches of the trail, as it is growing up to face high mixed in with the other brush (and there's plenty of it at thigh and below level in the first 4 miles of trail as well, but you can generally dodge that).

Manuel Peak Trail 10/1/11
Manuel Peak Trail 10/1/11
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Re: Manuel Peak Trail

Post by dhodun »

Date Hiked: August 14, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Hiked Pfeifer to Manuel Peak and back

As state before, the lower section of the trail is well maintained and provides a nice view, and steady climb.

Starting at the first wooded section (maybe a third of the way up), there is plenty of scrambling, unstable trail, and it is incredibly overgrown much of the way to the peak. At least half the trail it seemed we were pushing through brush, though we lost the trail only once. I hiked this three years ago and it was in much better shape. Two people in our group this were in shorts and their legs are very cut up now. It's a great, challenging hike, but with all the brush, we regretted taking the hike. Hiking Manuel is tough and we were ready for that, but we spent LOTS of time ducking, scrambling, and pushing our way through overgrowth.

If you're up for the challenge, it is essential to wear pants... I wish I had read these trail reports.
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Re: Manuel Peak Trail

Post by mikesplain »

Date Hiked: June 6, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Oak Grove Trail (Pfeiffer SP) to Wilderness Boundary- Wilderness Freeway
The Big Sur Engine Crew (LPNF) crew cleared brush off of this stretch of trail (apparently with weed whips)
& did an excellent job of rehabilitating the tread as well (image attached).

Wilderness Boundary to Manuel Peak- Difficult
Post-fire deadfall and a few minor slides make parts of this stretch challenging,
but these are generally short, most of the walking is pleasant & the summit is well worth the trouble.
Keep in mind that there is a bit of scrambling involved and progress with a heavy pack would be slow.

Manuel Peak to trail / fire break fork on Cabezo Prieto- Passable to Wilderness Freeway
We were surprised at the brushiness of the southern leg of this stretch.
Ceanothus and oaks were well overhead,
perhaps regrowth following fuel treatments from the 1999 Kirk Complex fires,
as evidenced by a fire ring with 8' tall Ceanothus growing out of it (image attached).
Bulldozers reached the prominent saddle south of Cabezo,
so from this point, this section is wide open country (image attached).
"Trail" signs denote the Manuel trail's departure into the South Fork Little Sur drainage.

Recent trail reports indicate that this stretch is essentially impassible;
we continued on the fire break towards Post Summit / Molera Ridge, which was an easy walk through open country.
Los Padres NF Big Sur Engine Crew tread work
Los Padres NF Big Sur Engine Crew tread work
no one has camped here in a while
no one has camped here in a while
south end of dozer cut
south end of dozer cut
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Re: Manuel Peak Trail

Post by jack_glendening »

Date Hiked: February 11, 2011
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Litte Sur Trail to Launtz Camp = Impassable

Paul Danielson and I tried to hike from the Little Sur Trail to Launtz Camp. From the Little Sur junction (signed) the first 0.15 miles was readily passable along the ridge with several yellow flag markers for guidance. Thereafter the trail contoured at a lower level and we only went an additional 0.7 miles before turning back. Trying to contour through brush, vines, etc. along the very steep slope was very tiring - our average speed was 0.4 mph. We generally tried to follow Schaffer's georeferenced trail outbound (with some side explorations) but returned along a different route. The only unequivocal evidence of a trail along this 0.7 mile section was one cut branch, a small stone retaining wall, and a USFS boundary sign. There were several short stretches of apparent tread, but each petered out and some might have been animal tracks.

Jack Glendening
Big Sur Trailmap:

Re: Manuel Peak Trail

Post by radioshack72 »

Date Hiked: January 23, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

The trail to Mount Manuel from the Homestead is pretty beat up. There are several trail washouts and the sections are almost impassable. There are also many downed tree's on the Trail. Once you make it to the top of the first climb the trail to Cabezo Prieto Ridge is really brushy in some parts but passable. The trail to the Tin house is gone. The rocky sections on Cabezo Prieto Ridge to Post summit are in great condition.

We made it to Manuel Peak but I would not take the trail again until it is fixed as it is just too dangerous. The washouts toward the top of the trail drop off in some places for 100+ feet. I got through the washouts just by going very slow and ensured that the ground would hold long enough for me to make it to the other side.

Re: Manuel Peak Trail

Post by A_Craig »

Date Hiked: January 22, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

All other reports are still true, except that the poison oak was green again despite it being red at this time other areas.

First 2 miles were fairly clear with only a few switchbacks washed out, but passable. The remainder was overgrown and had quite a few deadfalls. traffic around most deadfalls has made clear detours. One deadfall at the second point that the trail switches back on the north slope is climbed over using the still intact limbs as a hand rail.
There is a lot of cougar sign and I had a rare glimpse of one at the first north slope switch back. Upon returning I reflected on the Mountain Lion sign and thought of how I probbaly shouldn't have ran the trail alone at dawn, oh well. This trail is still worth the sheer amount of consistent climbing and despite my rating of difficult I was able to run most of the trail up and down. There is still a fair amount of traffic on this trail even though there wasn't the day I went, there were shoe prints up most of it, and the traffic keeps the trail fairly safe. I also found that the summit trail wasn't too overgrown probably due to traffic and the recent dry warm weather.
Gilles Giudicelli

Re: Manuel Peak Trail

Post by Gilles Giudicelli »

Date Hiked: October 8, 2010
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Same as K Vandevere: dead trees are difficult and sometimes dangerous to get past. Parts of the trail have become extremely unstable (even early in the trail), so beware.

As poison oak has become red at this season, it has become easier to spot.

I'd also suggest that you wear long pants, as the brushes have grown a lot is several parts. I made the mistake of wearing shorts today, and I have scratches all over my legs (not bas, but made the hike less enjoyable).
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Re: Manuel Peak Trail

Post by K Vandevere »

Date Hiked: September 19, 2010
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Pfeiffer to Mt. Manuel:

I'm going to call this section of the trail "Passable" because, although there is some encroaching brush and there are deadfalls, the trail is heavily used, the tread is quite evident, and no one is likely to have any difficulty following it. The lower portions of the trail have seen recent work and are in excellent condition. It's the upper portion where the problems lie. Most of the deadfalls are concentrated in a small area and none are particularly difficult or dangerous to surmount or circumvent (as far as I could see). The tread is slipping away in places (primarily due to people walking on the outside edge of the trail to avoid encroaching deerweed) and brush is encroaching in others. If it were not for the heavy use this trail gets it would doubtless soon be gone. Beyond the Mt. Manuel summit traffic drops off considerably and the tread becomes much fainter and more difficult to follow.

Pfeiffer to Bottchers Gap via Manuel Peak Trail

Post by scaruffi »

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

Pfeiffer to Mt Manuel: Passable
Several deadfalls, some of them in scary locations (one mistake and you roll down the ravine).
Someone cleared the tall vegetation (thank you) that was there last month, so at least you can see where you are putting your foot.
The worst section (not recommended for the faint of heart) is the penultimate canyon before the first view of the ocean: four major deadfalls, and two of them require dangerous moves.
The trail has collapsed in several places, although not completely (you can still walk around the collapsed
sections). The trail is faint at best near the "billboard" at the top.

Mt Manuel to Post Summit: Passable
This is actually an easier section, although the trail is covered with tall grass and widlflowers. Just follow the ridge north. Eventually you'll pick up the very visible "road" (it must have been a fire road). This goes all the way to the top of Post Summit. The "trail" is very visible but i am reluctant to call it "clear" because it is not clear at all: you are constantly walking on vegetation.
There's a helicopter landing just before the summit.
Anyway, if you got there, you went too far.

Mt Manuel to Vado/Launtz: Difficult
As you follow the ridge right after the last Cabezo Prieto peak (before the saddle that connects to Summit Post), you find a surreal sign that reads "Trail" surrounded by tall grass. There is no trail left, but i followed the general direction and my map. I never found the trail again. I just followed the west side of the canyon that goes down towards Launtz Camp, where the trail should be. Unless someone else has seen that trail, i suspect it has been mostly obliterated. Launtz is located near the junction of the two creeks (South Fork and Launtz) so not difficult to locate. However, my GPS (admittedly very old) gave me coordinates that are different from the ones i found on Topoquest and on the ever unreliable Wikipedia. If you use a GPS, beware.

Launtz Camp to Junction with Pico Blanco trail: Impassable
The faintest of trail ascends the Launtz ridge from Launtz camp. Very tall and nasty vegetation (some kind of vine plus poison oak plus dead manzanitas). Either i lost the trail again or the trail is just impassable.
I voted for the latter and just climbed straight up to the ridge. It was easier than trying to find the trail.
Once at the ridge, just head west towards Pico Blanco and the trail reappears (whether man-made or animal-made). Eventually one gets to the well-marked fork for Pico Blanco Camp. From this point on it's a real trail. Back to civilization.

Pico Blanco Camp trail to Lodge/Little Sur river: Passable
Compared with the previous sections, this is a highway (at least it is a well-trodden trail), but it still has six major deadfalls, two of which require major detours.

Little Sur river to Bottcher's Gap: freeway
It's a road with occasional traffic.

General notes
Water: count on water both at Launtz creek and at Little Sur river (the lodge has filtered water, of course)
Insects: count on any insect that can make your life miserable when you are desperately looking for the route

If you want to see the pictures, go to

Re: Manuel Peak Trail

Post by jpdoelman »

Date Hiked: March 27, 2010
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated) ... 8482719554

I followed the Manuel peak trail from the Tin-House trail Junction (or somewhere near it) to the Vado Public Camp. For me to rate this as "difficult" would be an understatement. The tread is obliterated for 100's of feet at a time. There are numerous deadfalls, and a lot of encroaching dead scratchy brush(ceonothus). When following this trail, keep in mind that there are no switchbacks (until you reach the vicinity of Vado) and the tread follows a very steady gradient, not steep.
In the vicinity of Vado, I lost the trail for good and descended straight down the minor ridgeline which goes from cabezo prieto directly toward Vado.
On the way to East Molera from Vado, I ascended this ridgeline rather than undergo the scratchy Manuel trail again. I believe this ridgeline is the Fieberling route. He describes this route in his Mt Manuel trail report of september 4, 2005,

Section: South of Vado Camp - Impassable

After Vado Camp I lost the trail and bushwacked up to Post Summit [Ed: the Mt. Manuel Trail continues south below Post Summit en route to Mt. Manuel]. If you stick to a narrow, nearly vertical meadow section it was't too bad. My dog was attacked by yellow jackets, and picking them out of her eyes and ears they stung my fingers. It got extremely hot, I had 3 liters of water from the last water at Vado Camp, and ran out."
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