Manuel Peak Trail

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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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Manuel Peak

Post by jbl »

Date Hiked: July 8, 2009
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I had come over to Manuel Peak from the East Molera Trail via Post Summit (see my East Molera Trail report for the segment to the Manuel Peak overlook spot) and then headed down on the Manuel Peak trail. All in all, the trail was not as bad as I expected from the prior report, but the top section is pretty tough.

Overall, the tread is relatively evident all the way down from the overlook spot (it's a little grassy from there over to Manuel Peak and not as easy to follow in that direction).

The upper 2.5 miles of the trail reflect the most fire-related damage, which consists for the most part of (1) downed trees that sometimes require a bit of work to get around (there's a particularly nasty group of deadfalls on a steep, loose dirt-covered hillside about 1.5 from the top that is tricky to work across), (2) lots of small slides (all of them passable, though), and (3) lots of burned brush that now has seemingly case-hardened branches sticking out ready to attack your arms, neck, face, pack etc. (my hat was pulled of several times and my sunglasses were also grabbed once). Once you get about halfway down you are in the open for the most part and the trail is in pretty good shape.
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Manuel Peak Trail

Post by mikesplain »

Date Hiked: May 30, 2009
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Reported by dhuff:

We hiked East Molera Trail to Mount Manuel. We descended via the Mount Manuel Trail. East Molera trail was in good condition up to the fire break. From there heavy low grass completely covered our socks and shoes with foxtails. Socks had to be discarded and shoes took hours to clean. A good pair of Gators are advisable. Ticks were plentiful and care had to be taken to remove them.

The Mount Manuel trail was nearly impassable. Shoulder high grass and heavy brush covered what was left of the trail. In many places near the top the trail was washed out and covered with numerous tree falls. A new invasive species of weed at waist height and covered with painful stickers was everywhere. I suspect that the fires have allow this plant to flourish. I've hiked this trail numerous times over the
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Trail Conditions History 1999-2007

Post by Site Administrator »

Date Hiked: December 20, 2007
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Conditions reported by: Josh Brett
Survey date: 20-DECEMBER-2007

Section: Big Sur Station to Manuel Peak - Clear

The trail was very good from the Big Sur campgrounds to the summit of Manuel Peak.

Section: Manuel Peak to - Impassable

However, about one mile after the summit the trail became increasingly sketchy and eventually disappeared. We wandered around the dense underbrush for at least an hour before the trail appeared again. Unfortunately, within a mile or two, the trail became indistinguishable, leading us to wander through bushes for several more hours and eventually descending into the riverbed and then ascending the other side, finding the trail only after climbing through the most intense brambles I have ever witnessed. We eventually made it to Bottcher's Gap, but after nearly twelve hours on trail. All in all, I would not recommend the Manuel Peak Trail unless you are down for some haggard off-trailing.
Conditions reported by: Carl A. Mounteer
Survey date: 11-DECEMBER-2007


First, there was no water on this trail for the entire 5.4 mile interval between the trailhead at the parking lot (near the softball field) at Pfeiffer Big Sur and Manuel Peak.

Second, this trail has a mostly unforgiving, southerly exposure for the first approximately 4 miles. In warm weather this would make this trail extremely hot and very undesirable. The current total lack of water only compounds these adversities.


This trail is wilderness freeway for the first approximately 2.25 miles. In fact, it defines what a wilderness freeway should look like: well-maintained, clear tread, and no obstructions.

After that first 2.25 miles you turn into a shady gully with a stand of pine, oak, and California bay. From here on the trail deteriorates noticably. Starting at this point to Manuel Peak I counted 31 downed trees. 10 of these required climbing over or crawling under. Also the tread has collapsed in at least 7 places. The tread remains clear, however.

Schaeffer said this hike isn't worth the effort. I disagree. For the first 4 miles, you are rewarded with stunning views of the Big Sur River gorge and some ocean views. At about mile 4 you turn a corner and are surprised with a breathtaking view of the rugged, eastern Santa Lucia range. Once on Manuel Peak these views improve spectacularly. The ocean is spread in a 180 degree vista to the west with the Santa Lucia range to the east and south, visible to Cone Peak.

On the Peak, I was treated to a sight of two gigantic birds. The first glided in so close to me, maybe 15-20 feet overhead, that it startled me. His/her companion followed doing a double swoop over me. The second time she eyed me very closely and came so close I could see the orange tags on her wings. That and the white triangles under its wings made me conclude it was a California Condor. Then they both drifted off serenely over the Big Sur River gorge.
Conditions reported by: jdoelman Survey date: 22-MAY-2007

Going North/northwest, lost the trail just prior to Vado Camp. We were able to follow the trail (we believe) until the switchbacks immediately above Vado Camp. At the point where we likely should have done a switch back, we instead went straight down to the Little Sur River. Thinking we were upstream of Vado, we went downstream and looked for it. We continued downstream, passing an unofficial camp (apparent remains of a refrigerator stove below Doveneck) and obtained salvation at Pico Blanco Camp.

All in all the trail towards Vado was very pleasant even if it is difficult to follow. The trek down the Little Sur from Vado to Little Sur was nice.
Conditions reported by: bigsurbob1
Survey date: 18-MARCH-2007
General: CLEAR

All of the trail that you can see from Highway 1 is very clear thanks to LPF Engine 18. Once you go around the corner, it becomes a bit brushy but still in fine shape to the top. Check for ticks every 10-15 minutes or so.
Conditions reported by: Adam W
Survey date: 3-JANUARY-2007

The first 2 miles past the Big Sur Trailhead are in excellent condition- a wilderness freeway. The brush was been cleared well away from the trail, and the trail is well graded.

After those first 2 miles the trail is light to moderately encroached with brush for about .3 miles until reaching the grove of Redwood, Oak, and Laurel. The trail through the grove would normally be clear except for several deadfalls.

After the grove the trail becomes more uneven with light to moderate encroachment to Manuel Peak.

About .5 miles past Manuel Peak there is moderate to heavy encroachment.

There were about 4 recent deadfalls, but the first one, which was at the beginning of the grove, seems to have been cleared recently and I was able to clear 2 others, one in the grove and another within a mile from the peak.

In total, there are about a dozen deadfalls.
Conditions reported by: John Fedak
Survey date: 14-OCTOBER-2006

Section: Big Sur to Oak Grove - Wilderness Freeway

Section: Oak Grove to the 1st north facing slope (about 2-3 miles in) - Clear

Section: 1st north slope and next 1/2 mile - Difficult

There are numerous deadfalls on the 1st north facing slope (nothing new, these are mentioned in prior reports) and there are numerous washed out areas of the trail just past this point (also nothing new). Both sections would be difficult with packs.

Section: Last 1-2 miles to Manuel Peak - Clear

Encroachment has been well maintained, a few deadfalls to navigate.

Section: Manuel Peak to Post Summit Junction - Passable

Much fainter tread in places past Manuel Peak, but the route is generally easy to follow. Past the junction, the route Post Summit itself is in similar condition. Trip Report/Pictures
Conditions reported by: Zack Wohl
Survey date: 16-APRIL-2006

Section: Pfeiffer Big Sur Trail Head to Manuel Peak - Clear/Passable

Well beaten and clear except for a section of about 1/4 mile of fallen trees that require some ducking/dodging/crawling, it appears to be from a number of cases of SOD.

Section: Manuel Peak to Vado Camp - Impassable

Not bad until the first stream crossing. After that the trail has mostly eroded into non-existence. There are huge down trees at regular intervals and many sections that require serious cross country bushwacking off of the trail to pass. Also there are several seasonal streams and creeks which require crossing that have popped up. Just after the South Bend before Vado Camp the trail becomes completely impassable due to down trees. We set up camp just before there in a relatively flat spot, we could not make it to Vado Camp.

I have done a fair bit of hiking/backpacking and can honestly say that the insane weather this spring has brought some of the worst trail conditions I have ever seen to Manuel Peak. ONLY FOR THE TRUELY DERANGED.
Conditions reported by: Matt Fiori
Survey date: 24-SEPTEMBER-2005

Section: Little Sur Trail to Launtz Creek Camp - Difficult

We took about 20 clean steps off of the Little Sur Trail and then ran into some thick poison oak. We shrugged it off as part of the backcountry experience, but the trail soon turned into a heap of brush. There were hundreds of feet at a time where the trail was completely overgrown with chamise and the like. Some of the woodier brush caused us to go down on our hands and knees and at one point down on our bellies. Overall, the stretch to Launtz Creek Camp was just in really bad shape. It would take a small crew one day of hard work and it would be passable.

Section: Launtz Creek Camp to Vado Camp - Passable

There was an decent trickle running through Launtz Creek Camp, but we were pushing on to Vado. The trail was pretty hard to read after Launtz, but the Forest Service was kind enough to string up some pink tape here and there to mark it. There were several crossings of the South Fork, which had all but dried up, and by the time we reached Vado, had completely vanished.

Section: Vado Camp to Manuel Peak - Difficult

We backtracked down a few hundred yards to where it was flowing a bit, but the next day, when we headed out (the wrong way) up the South Fork, quickly ran into a nice flow of water, probably springing up from underneath the creek. Basically, we found ourselves lost. The trail up to Vado was hard to stay on, and we basically lost it going out of Vado. Just make sure that you go up the western slope of the South Fork Valley, and you'll be fine. We headed up the east slope for about a mile, then came crashing down it and up a ravine on the west slope emerging just east of Post Summit, before continuing on to Manuel Peak.

Section: Manuel Peak to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park - Wilderness Freeway

a Wilderness Freeway with the exception of several deadfalls.
Conditions reported by: NKarl Fieberling
Survey date: 4-SEPTEMBER-2005

Section: Little Sur Trail Junction to Vado Camp - Difficult to Impassable

Same as previously described - lots of poison oak and brush.

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.
Conditions reported by: John Fedak
Survey date: 3-MARCH-2005

Section: Little Sur Trail Junction to Vado Camp (Difficult to Impassable)

Nothing much has changed since Boon's update at the bottom of this page.

- there are enormous amounts of poison oak that are more or less unavoidable.
- the trail has partially or completely disappeared into the sidehill in many places.
- there is a section of chapparal on the decent into the Launtz Creek basin that is very overgrown and requires some crouching/crawling.
- The Launtz Creek crossing was hoppable, but the South Fork crossings of the Little Sur river were not.
- I didn't make it all the way to Vado Camp, but Launtz Creek Camp was in good shape. Trip Pictures
Conditions reported by: John Fedak
Survey date: 1-JANUARY-2005

Section: Pfeiffer SP trailhead to Manuel Peak (Clear to Passable)

Trail appears to be little changed from the earlier reports. The early sections of the trail are in excellent shape with no deadfalls. The canyonside section climbing the Big Sur River Canyon is heavily washed out in a number of places. Once into the oaks, there are a good number of downed trees to navigate. Trip Pictures
Conditions reported by: Steven T.
Survey date: 10-OCT-2004

Section: Pfeiffer SP trailhead to Manuel Peak

I set out to run to the top of Mt Manuel but I found out that the section between the first and second forested section was really a speed hike.

I found the first part of the trail from the junction with Oak Grove trail to the first forested section in good condition. Though I could see, intertwined in the chaparral, the ubiquitous poison oak leaves, I could easily avoid them. The first forested section had several downed trees and one washout, all easily traversed. After the first forested section, the trail degraded. Though I never felt in danger of falling, I had to be careful of footing. I did feel like a mountain goat a few times as the trail was narrow and perched on the side of some very beautiful but steep terrain. Overgrowned bushes scratched my arms and legs...I suggest not wearing shorts and short sleeves as I did. The second forested section (i.e. the oak forest section) had little undergrowth and only a few downed trees.

All in all, a nice run/hike. Bring water!
Conditions reported by: David L.
Survey date: 26-JULY-2004

Section: Big Sur Station toward Vado Camp

Our intention was to hike from Big Sur Station to Bottcher's Gap or one of the camps close to Bottcher's such as Launtz Creek or Vado. Unfortunately, conditions prevented us from reaching our destination.

The first section, the ascent from Big Sur Station, was passable with some areas where the tread is deteriorated and some overgrown brush. As noted by other reports, there are some down trees across the trail. These are annoying at best with several that were very difficult to safely navigate with a reasonable sized pack, requiring me to remove my pack, pass it through or over the obstruction to my hiking companion and then maneuver through without the pack.

The final stretch up to the initial summit is a pleasant traverse with a final set of steep ascent switch backs that we actually found rather pleasant because of the views and the opportunity to spot a pair of the local condors!!

Once we reached the initial summit, conditions deteriorated dramatically. As noted, the fire break work some years ago has nearly obliterated any sense of where the trail is along the remains of the fire break. In some places we were crashing through shoulder high brush and the ever present poison oak. One should be aware that some of the areas where the "trail" is simply the fire break, mean that there are very steep ascent or descent challenges.

Finding the trail intersection that would lead us to Vado camp was extremely difficult. There is a section of the old trail with a marker at the beginning (as you come from the Big Sur station) that should not be confused with the actual intersection for the trail to Tin House!

We eventually found what we believe to be the turn to proceed to Vado camp. This portion of the trail was passable with little overgrowth of brush as we proceeded down the switchback section. There are a couple of the turns that have clear stone turning marks that helped assure that we were on the right track. However, once we began the traverse section that should have lead us to Vado, conditions deteriorated once again. There are several places where the trail is very faint and a number of difficult to pass fallen trees and / or large bushes. In one instance we were forced to divert across a ravine below where the trail apparently went and picked the trail up on the other side.

As we neared Vado camp (we never got there...) the trail disappeared altogether in a tangle of recent growth and several fallen trees that were impossible to work around. At that point, as we could hear the river below us, we choose to drop down one of the dry ravines (yes, even in late July we found a few that has some running springs). We then proceeded along the river, eventually coming out at the waterfall that is just above the public Pico Blanco camp. While we looked for signs of the trail crossing that would have allowed us to get back on the intended trail, it was not obvious.

While we enjoyed the challenge of this hike, the difficulty with poor trail conditions and brush were very disappointing. A suggestion for anyone contemplating this route is to be sure to have some means of cutting back some of the worst of the brush and poison oak. Perhaps someone more familiar with the trail and coming from Vado back up to the peak would have better luck staying on the lower portion of the trail. I would have rated the trail impassable, except that the early portion to the initial summit was difficult in spots, but definitely not impassable.
Conditions reported by: Scott Trauner
Survey date: 19-JULY-2004

Section: Mt. Manuel trailhead (in Pfeiffer S.P.) to Mt. Manuel

I really enjoyed Mt. Manuel Peak Trail. Coming from New England, I really hadn't seen any views like the ones I saw in Big Sur and this hike provided some great ones. The trail itself, as a ranger had warned me, was exposed and hot in the July sun, despite heading out around 9:00 in the morning. I brought way too little water, but was determined to reach the peak and get back with the little I had. As for the trail conditions, I thought they were fine- until I approached the peak, where I was squeezing myself through bushes that crowd the trail on either side. These close quarters were a little freaky at times, as I heard animals (large mammals from what my imagination told me!) wrestled through the dense brush right beside me. At one point, I saw a group of animals (either deer or coyote- if they exist here) walking from a distance. I didn't see any snakes, but plenty of lizards, which keep your senses awake as they suddenly skitter in the dry growth.

The trails themselves were very smooth with few rocks. With the many switchbacks, you rarely come across anything too steep, but the heat can be a challenge in itself- the lesson I learned and would pass on is to be prepared with lots of water. In all, it was about a four hour hike (from Pfeiffer State Park and back) and a great way to experience Big Sur. Highly recommend this trail.
Conditions reported by: Bill Eilfort
Survey date: 09-MAY-2004

Section: State Park to Manuel Peak(s)

Having just read the previous trail reports, I would hazard a guess that no maintenance has taken place in the meantime. I survived in spite of being somewhat "faint of heart", mostly because my companion was "light of foot" and neither of us proved "sensitive of skin". The poison oak didn't seem quite as ferocious as described in the other reports, but there might have been places where I was so busy bushwhacking that I failed to see it.

I also mentally divided the trail into four phases: the initial ascent above the Big Sur River (including a pleasant forest interlude); a particularly difficult phase transporting the hiker to the other side of the mountain, an oak forest ascent up the other side of the mountain, and the final ascent to the peak(s). At the best of times, the tread is about 2 feet wide, but often narrower, and it clings to the side of a fairly steep slope. There is pretty good elevation gain during the first phase.

The second phase is flat but particularly scary to those who don't like clinging to the side of a steep slope on about a foot's worth of dirt, some of which has been washed away, and all of which slopes downward. There are plenty of plants by the side of the trail, but a large number of them, with attractive blue flowers, are also attractive to bees. This part of the hike is also directly exposed to the sun.

The third, oak forest, phase is shadier, but is badly overgrown with a variety of shrubs (some thornier than others) and a number of fallen trees block the path. There are also some unpleasantly narrow/eroded stretches here.

The last phase isn't too bad, although the tread is particularly narrow and the slope particularly steep. The first summit is a rock outcropping that you are climbing in the last phase. It has panoramic 360-degree views of the surrounding areas.

We didn't find the views from the second peak any better, so we headed back down after that, especially since it was 3:30 by then and I was concerned about how long it would take me to negotiate the bad parts of the trail. As it turns out, it took about 3 hours on the way up and about 2.5 hours on the way down. The trail actually seemed more pleasant on the way down (even though I knew it was the same trail). Protective leggings and sleeves definitely recommended!
Conditions reported by: Larry Witham
Survey date: 14-FEB-2004

Section: Pico Blanco BS Camp to Big Sur Station

From Pico Blanco BS Camp up to the junction of Launtz Creek and Pico Blanco camp trails, the trail was vertically challenging though passable with only a couple of large fallen trees.

From that saddle to Launtz Creek camp the views of Pico Blanco and Post Summit were spectacular secondly only to the failure of the forest service's ability to maintain the trail! The brush was nearly impassible in a couple of places. The weathering of cut brush shows no maintenance in the past decade, at least! In fact the only sign of forest service presence I discovered was a survey tag dated 1981.

At Launtz Creek camp there was a stove but no table (long since rotted away).

From Launtz to Vado the trail was a bit better (but then again it was only a 45 minute hike).

Camp Vado had recently sustained a severe tree fall near its center but it was possible to clean up the site, reclaim the stove and to cobble the rotten table parts and, using large rocks as supports, make a new table. The camp was just as beautiful as when I last saw it in the early and mid 1970's.

From Vado on to Post Summit we encountered numerous fallen trees and brush, and with a rain storm in full swing, backpacking became rather difficult.

At the summit of Manuel we lost the foot trail as it morphed into a long and winding fire break. Eventually we found a small steel fence post with a trail marker pointing us in the correct direction.

From the peak of Mt. Manuel (elevation 3300+ feet) to about 1700 feet I cursed the US Forest Service every step of the way as there were no less than 30 trees in the way, multiple wash-outs and numerous brush gauntlets to walk.

From 1700 feet on down to the Big Sur station the trail was excellent, well maintained and showed recent signs of maintenance. Good work!!

Trail Synopsis - In the future, every backpacker should take his or her own pair of pruning shears or bow/pruning saws and repair the trail as necessary. There is no substitute for the end users of the forest getting out there and making the trails what they were meant to be (or at least what they used to be!). If we wait for someone else to do it we can forget about hiking the trails that are special beyond words.
Conditions reported by: David C. Laredo
Survey date: 7-MAY-2003

Section: Pico Blanco BS Camp to Vado Camp

Proceeded only on that portion from Pico Blanco Scout Camp, up Cardiac Hill first to Pico Blanco (Pico Public) and then backtracked to Launtz and Vado Camps. Spent the night at Launtz Creek and returned to Pico Blanco Scout Reservation.

The path from the Scout Camp to Pico Blanco (Pico Public) is truly a Wilderness Freeway. No obstacles.

The leg from the crest of Cardiac Hill (above the Scout camp) to Launtz Creek is choked with chaparral and MASSIVE amounts of poison oak. As the a prior comment noted, you need body armor --pants and long sleeves.

Quite a bit of large deadfall on the trail making it difficult to clamor around; trail falls away at several points due to severe erosion and eroded tread but is passable with care.

Launtz Creek camp is in good shape. The crossing at the Little Sur was a bit treacherous due to high flow (recent rains had swollen the stream.)
Conditions reported by: Stephen Collier
Survey date: MARCH-2003
Section: Manuel Peak to Bottchers Gap

Specific = Simon Bertrang and I hiked from Manuel Peak to Botchers in late March 2003. As noted in previous reports, this is a punishing stretch of trail, and the track is easy to lose at times. That said it is entirely manageable if you need to make the last leg of a loop from Botchers, though you want to make sure you have full chaparral body armor (long tear-proof nylon pants at the minimum, and possibly a tear-proof nylon jacket as well). We came through from Manuel Peak to the Boy Scout Camp in about six hours, only slightly torn and bruised.

The major change in this trail since the last time we passed through (which was sometime in the late 1990s) and since the last extensive report on this site (which seems to be Boon Hughey from 1999) is that the ridge from Manuel Peak to the beginning of the grassy switchback descent off the ridge to the northeast appears to have been cleared by a fire crew. We followed the cut of the fire break along the ridgeline (the trail itself traverses around the side of minor peaks along the ridge but seemed to be much more overgrown) and the going was very easy.

Once you begin the switchbacking descent the trail is sometimes poorly marked and badly eroded but was not generally difficult to follow. Things get more exciting as the switchbacks end and you begin to traverse in and out of minor creek valleys. Major falls block the trail and in places have almost totally wiped it out. We lost the trail on the final descent to Vado Camp and were forced to cut directly to the river off trail but then quickly picked it up as it ascended out of Vado on the opposite bank. After Vado the trail is characterized by: badly eroded tread; multiple tree falls; a couple spots with heavily overgrown chaparral that forces burrowing (quite challenging with heavy packs); MASSIVE amounts of poison oak so bring those long pants and sleeves!
Conditions reported by: Rita Dalessio
Survey date: 17-JULY-2002
Section: PBSSP to Viewpoint

The climb is steady with lots of switchbacks. Much of it is very exposed with mostly brush, chaparral, monkey flower, black sage, etc. This time of year, we also saw Turkish rugging and coyote mint, a century plant with a large candelabra of blossoms, some buckwheat, one sticky snapdragon, several bushes with fading virgin¹s bower or California clematis and clarkia.

At 900 feet, there is some ocean view. We had a great day for the view! There are also good views of the Big Sur River. As you keep going up you can look across to the Pine Ridge Trail and see some areas of tanbarks which have been hit hard by sudden oak death. The trail has been cleared to above this point but then it becomes fairly overgrown. There is also a lot of poison oak so long pants are advised. As the trail goes up, there are a few shady areas of bay laurels and oaks but it is mostly very open. About half way up you head into forest, first live-oak/madrone and then redwood/tanbark. These are lovely and cool. Beyond this, there are some tanbarks downed from a storm 2 years ago and it is slow climbing over the branches. Keep going, out of the shade and up until you come to a clearing where you can see Ventana Cone and the other peaks of the Ventana Wilderness. Ahead of you is an obvious peak that has a gradual switchbacked trail that is in full sun. Go up that and at the top, walk ahead along the ridge to a cluster of rock outcroppings near a large old black sign.

We arrived here at the Mt. Manuel (3379 feet) look-out about noon. There are coulter pines up there and a lot of yerba santa. We sat in the oak-shaded area next to the rocks for a cool lunch. A few bugs came around us but not too many. The ridge is not very wide and the views were spectacular in both directions. The coastal views were of Pfeiffer Ridge, Coastlands and Castellet-Rico Ranch and on the other side, the peaks of the Ventana Wilderness. We left the top about 1:30. As you leave the ridge, the trail down is on the right. We arrived back in the parking lot at 3:45.

This is a very exposed hike for a warm day and there is no water on the trail. Some went back but those of us who completed the hike felt it was a great workout and the views were well worth it!

Dogs are discouraged as the State Park Rangers give tickets and there is no water.
Conditions reported by: Rick Bravo
Survey date: 17-APRIL-01

The trail tread is average to good especially along the first one and one half miles of trail. Further up, in the oak and Madrone forest, several trees were noted to have recently fallen across the trail adding to the gymnastics required to traverse them. Approximately 3/4's mile from the summit, a large band of trees have fallen across the trail, requiring scampering above and crawling below the fallen trunks for about 100 feet of the trail. There are several areas that have washed out at the higher elevations (around 2500 foot level according to my GPS), but you can follow the trail easily. The brush in neck high in several areas, and of course voluminous ticks abound, especially on the chemise that covers the hillside in the early portion of the trail. The views on this magnificently clear and mild day were magnificent. Worth the effort.
Conditions reported by: Joan and Lew Distefano
Survey date: 7-MAY-2000

The surface of the trail is in good condition most of the way. A trail crew has done maintance on about a one mile stretch where there had been erosion and a slide. They also cleared the brush. However, most of the sides of the trail are over grown with waist high brush, including alot of poison oak. If it has been damp or wet one will get very wet from the bushes, we were soaked!
Conditions reported by: Thom Carson
Survey date: 30-AUGUST-99
General: DIFFICULT (but worth it)

I parked at Big Sur Station and made the mistake of asking the ranger on duty where to find the trailhead to Mt Manuel. He told me I was in the wrong place and to go back to Big Sur State Park and ask them. Ignoring his advice, I started off along the Pine Ridge Trail for about 200 yards to the junction of a trail leading down to the river. The sign said to stay on the trail to the right so naturally, I went down the trail to the left. It lead to a bridge over the river and on to the softball field and the trailhead I needed beyond the softball field. The trail is labelled "Oak Grove Trail" at this point and I followed it for about half a mile to the junction with the trail to Mt Manuel. The bottom third of the trail was mostly grassland with the trail in very good shape. A little overgrown but the tread was fairly wide and easy to follow. The middle third of the trail was steep and very overgrown. Be careful to watch your footfalls here, one could easily fall 100 feet if they slip. Don't be fooled by the heavy brush growing on both sides. The brush growing on the downhill side is hanging on to the edge in many places. The top third of the trail was quite pleasant. It is also pretty overgrown but shady in many places and much cooler than the trail below. Once I gained the top of the ridge, near the reflector, the trail all but disappears. By continuing to follow the ridge, I was able to gain the highpoint. There are several "highpoints" along the ridge but with the aid of a level to site over, I discovered the summit to be a rounded highpoint with lots of brush. It was the next to last highpoint heading north. The last highpoint heading north was much better to view the coast and have a summit meal as it was mostly clear of brush. Beyond that point, the "trail" is pretty much gone. One can follow along the ridge to the next mountain with the aid of an old fire break but the tread is non-existent.
Conditions reported by: Rocky Morris
Survey date: 6-MAY-99

Hiked to the top of Mt Manuel and back to Big Sur Park softball field. Trail is very overgrown. It is very difficult to avoid poison oak and had numerous encounters with rattlesnakes. The weather was in the mid 70's and had a very good time and enjoyed the fantastic views.
Conditions reported by: Anne Schoeneborn
Survey date: 31-MARCH-2002

My friend and I left from bottcher's gap hoping to climb mount manuel and end up at the big sur station. Once we reached vado camp, though, the trail to mount manuel basically disappeared. i would not recommend climbing mount manuel from this direction, it was one of the worst trails i've ever seen. plus, there was tons of fallen down trees that were diffficult to get over with a heavy pack.
Conditions reported by: Boon Hughey
Survey date: 5-JUNE-99

This stretch of the Manuel Peak Trail hasn't been seriously worked in decades, and as a result it is tending toward nothing in places. For starters, poison oak is almost everpresent and often unavoidable. It overarches the trail in places and grows as a thicket right *in* the trail in others. Those sensitive to its oils should certainly steer clear of this route.

The route is also plagued with heavily encroaching brush that is interlaced across the trail in many places, as well as numerous fallen ceanothus treelets that force hikers to actually get down on their knees to pass beneath them, putting one's face right in the poison oak. Its tough. Fallen trees are also commonplace requiring some serious gymnastics to get past with a pack on, and the trail tread has totally disappeared into the steep sidehill environment in many places leaving hikers to scramble foward as best they can.

This trail is not for the faint of heart, week of knee, or sensitive of skin. If you do decide to give it a go expect to come through (if you make it) with torn clothing, scratched flesh, and a vexing rash on a good day.
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