Miller Canyon Trail

pauldan

Re: Miller Canyon Trail

Post by pauldan »

Date Hiked: June 2, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

As a followup (see previous trail report), I hiked up the Miller Canyon Trail from the bottom. I was able to put in ample pink flagging to make this route easier to follow, especially for the uphill hiker. I got as far as approx. 0.3 mile from Miller Canyon Camp. What I found on this hike was the following:

1. From the lower trailhead at the Carmel River to approx the 0.8 mile point: Passable --- with clear wide tread most of the way and two nasty deadfalls disposed of. This is due to the fine work of Steve Benoit and his trail crew earlier this year.

2. From that point to Clover Basin Camp: Difficult to Impassable --- with stretches of facehigh poison oak completely overgrowing the invisible trail tread.

3. From Clover Basin Camp to my stopping point 0.3 miles from Miller Canyon Camp: Difficult to Impassable --- similar to #2 above.

Bottom line: It is now possible to follow a line of pink flags almost to Miller Canyon Camp. But be prepared for slow going as you pick your way along faded overgrown tread and thickets of vegetation.

Hopefully, someone will flag the remaining 0.3 mile to Miller Canyon Camp.
pauldan

Re: Miller Canyon Trail

Post by pauldan »

Date Hiked: May 2, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Due to this past report, took upon myself to put in extra pink flagging between the upper trailhead down to a point just below the old Tin House Camp signed intersection. The route should be much clearer now in both directions. As far as the section past Miller Canyon Camp to the Carmel River Trail: --- well, that still is relatively unmarked. Good luck!
cshack_21

Re: Miller Canyon Trail

Post by cshack_21 »

Date Hiked: April 4, 2012
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

We are regular backpackers in the Ansel and Miur Wilderness and because of late snow falls this year we decided to do something different.

Miller Canyon Trail was to be third day of a three day backpacking trip my wife and I took this past week. We started the trip from China Camp through Pine Valley to stay at Hidden Valley Camp. This trail was as expected, lightly used with decent tread. The only problems we had on this trail was a one to one-and-a-half mile stretch of trail that was heavily overgrown as you start to make your way down the beginnings of the Carmel River Trail in Hiding Canyon. Would still be considered Passable by all standards.

Second day of the trip took us from Hidding Canyon Camp to Carmel River Camp along the Carmel River Trail. Passable with exceptions - this trail should not be attempted during wet months as it does at least 15 river crosses that are knee to waist high in very swift, almost rapid conditions. Poor planning on our part, but the trail was easily found at each crossing and with only minimum poison oak and overgrowth. We found the camps along the Carmel River trail to be beautifully placed and well taken care of by other users. After this leg of our trip things went very wrong.

Day three was to be our Miller Canyon Trail day. From Carmel River Camp up Miller Canyon the trail was Passable at best. Pink trail markers were very helpful in finding the crossings and keeping us some what on course. It was completely overgrown with only 20% to 30% of the tread showing from Carmel River Camp to Clover Basin Camp. At Clover Basin Camp we should have figured it was time to turn around. The camp was overgrown and looked as though it had not been used in many years. We continued on only to find the situation declining very rapidly. There was little evidence of any trail tread from Clover Basin to Miller Canyon Camp, only occasional pink trail markers. At this point we became very reliant on these markers.

After Miller Canyon Camp we were pleased to see decent tread as we headed up the switchbacks to higher ground. But this is where everything goes wrong. At the crest of these switchbacks we came to a large open grassy saddle where the tread disappeared into numerous animal trails going in every direction. We spent a twenty or so minutes trying to connect the trail. Lucky for us we had an Iphone with satellite gps, topo app and a solar panel. We started to charge it up, while we were exploring the many trails found a pink marker for a trail that had long lost its tread. It is amazing anyone going this direction has ever found this trail connection. After an hour of wasted time we continued on as the tread came and went with every ten to twenty feet. A mile later as we noticed there hadn't been any trail markers for a while we fired up the gps and topo maps to find that we had been following a cattle or deer trail in the opposite direction than we should have. It was late so we camped out along the Miller Fork. In the morning we charged the Iphone and used the GPS to find what was left of the tread where we had last seen a trail marker. We made it to Nason Cabin Camp only after using our GPS several times to make it back to a trail that had less tread than the deer trails we mistakenly ended up on, and only realizing the fact after we hadn't seen a pink trail marker for a while. Yes we did make it out without major disaster (other than it taking two days rather than one), and yes our family knowing our itinerary had made arrangements to call Search and Rescue thirty minutes after we confirmed that we had arrived back. We almost became a statistic ourselves.

Other problems with Miller Canyon Trail, countless deadfalls, multiple major tread washouts, some of the worst tick infestation I have ever seen (me and my wife did tick checks every 100 yards or so) - and these are problems with the actual trail that we were probably only on 40% of the time.

This Trail is completely Impassable other than the presence of pink trail markers, as it is no longer a trail, only remnants of tread. GPS is mandatory if attempting.

Thank you to the person that put up the Pink Trail Markers, your work was very appreciated.
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jack_glendening
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Re: Miller Canyon Trail

Post by jack_glendening »

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

Paul Danielson, Esperanza Hernandez and myself reprised our hike of last December, from China Camp to Los Padres Dam, to see how this trail had changed in the interim (during this time a pair of hikers became lost on this trail). We were joined by Robert Barringer and since he had not hiked the trail previously, he went in front to evaluate how the trail is handled by someone unfamiliar with it.

The trail has obviously deteriorated since December. Whereas previously we could generally follow tread except on the grassy saddles (where trail hunting was needed), this time we also lost the trail a few times in non-grassy gullies. Our worst case: we spent 6 minutes off-trail searching and ended up missing/bypassing a 300 ft section of the path (that was the only place I used my GPS, which had the trail data loaded into it, to save some time). There were 4 other places were we got off-trail "significantly", i.e. missing over 100 ft of tread before picking it up again, but those did not require as much searching as our worst case. We did find and follow the flags we had left from our previous hike, which provided good guidance on the grassy saddles and other critical spots such that we encountered no difficulty at the two major problem points of our last hike. We also added quite a few new flags. [FYI our two "major" route-finding problems on our December hike took 20 minutes and 11 minutes of searching to resolve, so having those spots flagged definitely helped on this hike.]

The deterioration was mainly due to vegetation growth, which often obscured the tread, forcing us to pause and look for tread before continuing. And we were occasionally swimming through poison oak. Although we needed less "trail-searching" time on this hike, due to the flagging, our hiking time along the Miller Canyon Trail was still longer than on our first hike (excluding "stopping" times such as lunch, sawing, explorations, etc, to make the comparison fair), a result of having to deal with the encroaching vegetation. While our first hike was rather enjoyable, this hike was more of a slog.

For the "lower" (northern) section, the tread gets progressively less distinct as one goes south from the Carmel River Trail junction, but since that section of the trail largely follows the Miller Fork it's difficult to get "lost" even if one does not see a definite trail. Route-finding problems occur primarily on the "upper" section of the trail, south of Miller Canyon Camp, where the trail leaves Miller Fork and ascends over the saddles and sidewalls of the gullies which drain into the Miller Fork, to eventually reach Jeffery Road.

Two "use trail" notes: [1] the usetrail through the narrow Miller-Fork-tributary canyon immediately south of Miller Canyon Camp is is currently a better choice than the wider-benched "main trail" (shorter and less overgrown, also more picturesque) [2] I recommend taking the switchbacked main trail which climbs above the stream between 0.6 and 1.0 miles from the northern end of the trail instead of taking the usetrail which follows the stream there (less vegetation and a better view).

At one point on the southern section, erosion (new since our first hike) has now erased about 3 feet of tread along a steep slope, at a point where one would slide a considerable ways downslope upon slipping with possible injury. That was difficult for us to traverse with daypacks and with a backpack I personally would want to avoid that point by climbing to the top of the slope there and traversing there, even though there is no trail [I've noted that point on the gpx file I provide via the on-line Ventana Trailmap: http://ventanahiking.net/ventana_trailmap.html ]. At other places the tread along the slope becomes very thin and could be tricky to traverse with a backpack.


Jack Glendening
Big Sur Trailmap: https://bigsurtrailmap.net
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Farley
Posts: 32
Joined: Mon Aug 09, 2010 12:54 pm

Re: Miller Canyon Trail

Post by Farley »

Date Hiked: June 9, 2011
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

BASICALLY, PLANNING TO HIKE THIS TRIAL IS A BAD IDEA AT THIS POINT IN TIME. Due to the number of rescues Monterey County Search and Rescue has had to deal with on this trail over the last few years, they have asked that we get the word out to not plan on taking this trail (especially if you are new to exploring the Santa Lucia Mountains or have not walked in the Ventana Wilderness).
See posts regarding previous incidents, on the VWA Forum:
http://www.ventanawild.org/forums/viewt ... nyon#p2327
http://www.ventanawild.org/forums/viewt ... nyon#p2190

The Carmel River Trail to Hiding Canyon and the Pine Ridge Trail to Pine Valley both provide good alternatives to this trail. Please leave an itinerary with someone at home each time you travel into the backcountry.

If you are interested in helping restore this or other trails in dire need to maintenance, please contact us at or 831-423-3191. We have a number of organized trips heading out in the wilds for work throughout the year, and the trails of the Ventana and Silver Peak wilderness can always use more active friends.
Thanks, Paul McFarland
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jack_glendening
Posts: 703
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2009 12:03 am

Re: Miller Canyon Trail

Post by jack_glendening »

Date Hiked: December 10, 2010
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I wondered why the previous post stated "This trail DESPERATELY needs to be flagged ...", since many flags had been hung during my hike of last December, then realized that the post was for a hike way back in September. While often difficult to follow, I do not feel that the trail is _currently_ as difficult as the preceeding post suggests. Personally, I found the narrowness of the trail along some steep slopes to be more of a concern than encroaching brush and poison oak (though there was definitely much PO). Do note the post's recommendation for a navigation aid (particularly a GPS containing the actual trail track) for anyone unfamiliar with the trail.

Jack Glendening
Big Sur Trailmap: https://bigsurtrailmap.net
Chuck

Miller Canyon Trail

Post by Chuck »

Date Hiked: September 5, 2010
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Hiked this last September (2010) from China Camp to the Carmel River. From China Camp to the Nason Cabin site it's a breeze. After that though, it's a nightmare. It goes from passable to nearly impassable. Trail dissapeared at Nason Cabin site. Took us 45 minutes to find the trail on the other side of the clearing there (it's on the northern side of the dry creek, roughly 45 degrees to the right and uphill from the abandoned campsite). Once that trail was found, the nightmare kept going. The trail could be consistently followed only for a maximum of ~200 yards at a time before it faded away. In typical Ventana style, we had to pass through groves of poison oak (impossible to bypass). At points, those groves were 8 feet tall and covered much of the trail, leaving only a 1.5 foot wide 'tunnel' to pass through. Roughly 1/2 mile before the Miller Canyon campsite, we finally and totally lost the trail. Without a compass, we had to pass navigate only based on topographical features. Descended into a dry creekbed that fed into Miller Creek, only to find a ~20 foot drop off (waterfall if the creek was flowing). Required us to climb up and around it, which was a harrowing experience. Instead of making it to our planned campsite at the Carmel River, we stopped at the Miller Canyon camp & called it a day. Past Miller Canyon camp, the trail is still difficult to follow, but better than the preceeding few miles.

Part of our misfortune was undoubtedly caused by our lack of a compass or GPS, a foolhardy mistake on my part. None the less, think twice about taking this trail. Some sort of navigational aid is a must, as is a good machete. Make sure you give yourself extra time when traveling this area unless you know it well. Combining this trail (if cleared) with the Carmel River trail, as well as the Pine Valley/Pine Ridge trail makes a good 3 day/25 mile loop originating at China Camp.

To those at Ventanawild & USFS: This trail DESPERATELY needs to be flagged & cleared. The area is BEAUTIFUL and it's a tragedy that much of it is obliterated.
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jack_glendening
Posts: 703
Joined: Thu Oct 29, 2009 12:03 am

Re: Miller Canyon Trail

Post by jack_glendening »

Date Hiked: December 10, 2010
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

If you want to hike along a well-defined track then the Miller Canyon Trail (MCT) is not for you! People have been reporting difficulties on this trail for years, so last Friday three of us -- Paul Danielson, Esperanza Hernandez, and myself -- hiked its entire length, giving us more eyes and bodies to explore around the many trail puzzles. Then on Monday I did an in-and-out hike of the more problematical southern section, from China Camp to Miller Canyon Camp, allowing me to experience that section of the trail in both directions. In addition to trail location problems resulting from fading or multiple tracks, as was expected for this infrequently used trail, to our surprise we discovered that there are two sections which can be, and often are, bypassed by "use trails". Moreover, the guidebooks differ on their reported trails at those spots! On an upstream section Schaffer follows a use trail whereas the Sierra Club Guide (SCTG) describes the "main" (better bench) trail there - then, further downstream, the SCTG follows a use trail whereas Schaffer follows the "main" trail there.

Describing the "main" trail heading south to north, as do both Schaffer and the SCTG, the southern (upstream) use trail departs near the waterfall 6.3 miles from China Camp (3.4 miles from the northern end of the MCT), following "waterfall creek" 0.25 miles through a very narrow canyon to its confluence with Miller fork of the Carmel River where Miller Canyon Camp is located - whereas the benched trail switches back above the creek, contours back to above the Miller fork, then descends in switchbacks to reach the river at 0.30 miles and follows Miller fork 0.07 miles downstram to reach the camp.

The northern (downstream) use trail departs 8.4 miles from China Camp (1.3 miles from the northern end of the MCT), remaining along the Miller fork for 0.24 miles (with 4 river crossings) - whereas the benched trail gradually moves away from the river to ascend 150 ft vertically up the slope and then descend in switchbacks back to the river after 0.46 miles.

Note that both use trails are significantly shorter than the benched "main" trail and not very difficult to follow, so there are reasons to purposely take them. But the "main" trail moves in a unexpected direction at both locations, leaving the stream/canyon in which one is located, so the use trails are easily followed by hikers who do not intend to, or realize they have, left the "main" trail. At the southern use trail, the "main" trail is easily missed in both directions (Schaffer missed it, we missed it on the first go around, Paul and a friend had separately missed it on a previous hike, etc.). At the northern use trail, the "main" trail is easily missed going northward, as one does not expect to veer away from the river, whereas coming south the switchback leading to the main trail ascent is apparent.

Faint or multiple crossing paths (animal tracks fading out after awhile) are not encountered on the northern section, where one can in any case get through by simply following the river. But south of the waterfall, where one has departed from the river to contour along the slopes, such problems abound, particularly at the grassy tops of the seven ridge saddles along the route. Our group often split up to find the proper track, a luxury not available to the solo hiker. We flagged intermittently along this section, focusing on the more problematical spots. In many places the soil along the slopes is friable, the bench thin and unstable. In several places more than one path traverses such a slope (as can be seen in Google Earth) and we generally found it best to take the path higher up the slope, where the slope angle was less and the bench firmer. Still, the bench could use much shovel work along many stretches!

Also note that the Miller fork must be crossed 22 times north of the waterfall (26 times if one takes the northern use trail), which can be difficult with high water.

I have put the GPS'd Miller Canyon Trail (which differs from the USFS track by up to 1/4 mile), the two use trails, and the Jeffery Road connector to China Camp into my on-line Ventana Trailmap, so they can be viewed in Google Earth or in a browser: http://www.ventanahiking.net/ventana_trailmap.html In a few places I have placed "stub pairs" to indicate a prominent alternative, but not recommended, path. By clicking on the Miller Canyon Trail line on the trailmap you can bring up an information bubble which includes links to download a kml file which can be displayed in Google Earth (or a gpx file which can be loaded into a GPS) displaying locations such as the waterfall, Nason Cabin site, the most treacherous slope, a few locations where it is especially easy to get off track, etc.

Hopefully this information will prove useful to a hiker of this trail,which definitely makes for a route-following challenge. On my second hike, on the upper half of a trail I had just come down three days previously, and with flagging added, I still found myself off-trail twice on the descent and three times on the return. As an example, at one place on the return trip after losing my way I returned to the point I had gone off-trail and in bright sunshine saw the contour-following path I had followed (but which faded out after 200 feet) and to me it still looked like the proper path - but then looking around more closely, somewhat up-slope, in shade, I saw a fallen tree along the path I had come out on, making it not very visible. Going downstream following the correct track was not a problem, going upstream it was. I put a ribbon on that tree to lead someone up there, but it's not very visible in the shade and I'm sure that sunny false path will continue to seduce more hikers coming upward at that point.


Jack Glendening
Big Sur Trailmap: https://bigsurtrailmap.net
PMH

Re: Miller Canyon Trail

Post by PMH »

Date Hiked: September 18, 2010
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

The trail is well marked from China Camp to the end of the Tanbark Association property. Once leaving this property, the trail becomes faint, overgrown and filled with false leads. Many down trees contine to fall from recent fires. Poison oak and face flies abound. The trail is beautiful, but rugged. Lots of rocks and tall grass this time of year. Be sure to take adequate supplies and do not attempt if unfamiliar with this area.
Nature Nate

Re: Miller Canyon Trail

Post by Nature Nate »

Date Hiked: August 4, 2010
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

I hiked the Miller Canyon Trail from Carmel River campsite to about 2 or 3 miles past Miller Canyon Campsite.

The trail has been worked on a bit for the first couple miles from Carmel River heading East, but is still chest deep in poison oak and stinging nettle. Once past Miller Canyon the trail becomes virtually impossible to track. Multiple false leads, downed trees and shrubs, terrible poison oak. At a couple spots you can follow deer trails, but they split in so many directions, it's difficult to stay on track. I tried to bushwhack to China Camp for the last 5 or so miles of the trail, but became too exhausted and had to turn around and bail out at Carmel River. I came out of the wilderness a day late and search and rescue was called.

I do not recommend this trail unless you don't mind going cross country or following the Miller fork of the river the whole way.

Peace,
Nature Nate
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