Pine Ridge Trail


Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by JeffBobMarin »

Date Hiked: January 12, 2022
General Conditions:

Big Sur Station to Pine Ridge Camp: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

Pine Ridge Camp to Black Cone Trail Junction: Passable (Some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Black Cone Trail Junction to Divide Camp: Difficult (Brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Divide Camp to Church Creek Divide and Carmel River Trail Junction: Passable (Some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I did three days from Big Sur Station to Pine Valley Camp and Divide Camp - in and out on the Pine Ridge Trail. From Big Sur Station to Pine Ridge Camp the trail is very well maintained - Wilderness Freeway. On the way in, I took the Barlow Flat Camp detour (two water crossings). I spoke with a person on the trail who said they took the Barlow bypass, so on the way out on 12Jan22, I tried the bypass. It was a little steep but very passable, even with my pack. The river crossing at Sykes Camp was about knee deep when carefully selecting a path.

The condition of Pine Ridge Trail after Pine Ridge Camp is significantly worse to the peak. I would rate it as passable. Coming down from the peak to the Bear Basin Connector the trail is quite difficult - lots of overgrown brush and dead falls. Also, a fair amount of snow on the trail. I was glad I had my trekking poles. The Bear Basin Connector and the Bear Basin Trail to Pine Valley were also difficult.

Coming out, Pine Ridge Trail from Church Creek Trail to Divide Camp is Passable, but beyond to the peak is Difficult - very slow going.

[Ed.: Hikers may check flow rates in the Big Sur River at the USGS website. Any flow greater than 200 cubic feet per second will be difficult to navigate the crossings at Barlow Flat and Sykes Camp.
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Betsy M
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Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: November 23, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

Section covered: Pine Ridge Camp Trail junction to Terrace Creek Camp.

The Forest Service sponsored a professional trail crew working on the Pine Ridge Trail above Redwood Camp, and volunteer trail crew members supplemented this effort.

The trail between Terrace Creek Camp and the junction with the Pine Ridge Camp Trail is a wilderness freeway. Work has proceeded from Terrace Creek Camp 2 years ago, to Barlow and Sykes, then to Redwood Camp. This October and November the crew continued above Redwood Camp, and finished work at the junction with the Pine Ridge Camp Trail.

The crews restored slumping tread that has made the section between the Big Sur Trail junction and Pine Ridge a miserable hike for about the last 30 years. This section is a pleasure to hike - and with the clear trail, you can enjoy the wonderful views all the way to the ocean. The crew ran out of time and was not able to finish grubbing out manzanita, chamise, and scrub oak in the last half mile. However, the entire trail up to Pine Ridge has been cleared of brush, and there is a wide trail corridor for hikers.

Pine Ridge Camp had water at the spring - barely. The camp was quite overgrown and doesn't have much of a view even though it is at the top of the ridge. A camper reported a mouse living under the abandoned metal job box that rests next to the fire ring in the center of the camp. If you camp here, be sure to secure your food.

Note to hikers: if you carry a hand saw and loppers, you can really help keep the trails open. But please take the time to consider the effects of your work. Trail crews devote vast efforts to carefully pruning back the trees so they will not grow into the trail. All of this can be ruined in a moment by someone sawing off the main trunks of these trees. It was difficult to decide what to do with the numerous healthy oak trees that someone had sawed off 3 feet above the ground - apparently in the past year. This kind of thoughtless brushing results in the trees growing sideways, into the trail, rather than upwards where they would shade the trail. If you cut the oak trees all the way to the ground, they will re-sprout in all directions. If you leave a main trunk, and prune the side branches, that main trunk will eventually shade the trail and will stop re-sprouting. Please help us keep the trails passable by leaving these main trunks.

Morning fog in the South Fork drainage - it was pouring over the Coast Ridge down by Marble Peak, but there wasn't any fog farther north
Fog in the south fork drainage.jpg
Volunteers assisting the professional crew
VWA volunteers with ACE crew.jpg
Flyin Brian with manzanita - before
Brian with manzanita before.jpg
Flyin Brian taking a break before finishing grubbing out a manzanita root
Brian manzanita break.jpg
Professional crew lead bumping up to the next section
ACE crew lead bumping up.jpg
Professional crew brushing
ACE crew brushing.jpg
Professional crew before the start of work - heading up to Pine Ridge
ACE crew before start of work.jpg
Professional crew at work
ACE crew at work.jpg
Gonehiking guest

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by Gonehiking guest »

Date Hiked: November 11, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked from China Camp to Church Creek Divide. At first summit ~.6 mile, trail is overgrown with ceanothus, chest to head high. After that scrub oak and ceanothus are growing back and there is evidence of folks clipping brush at waist height which is making shrubs grow sideways, more into the trail. On the switchbacks down to the divide, scrub oak and large golden fleece bushes are growing in the trail causing people to punch out the downslope side of the trail. Last hiked 9/2019 (when it was really clear from past trailwork and the Soberanes fire) and was suprised at the amount of growth since that time even during a historic drought. Numerous ticks were found on our clothing from head to leg, after going through the trail even though we were all wearing treated clothing.
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Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by hikin_jim »

Date Hiked: November 11, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

I hiked the PRT Thursday 11/11/2021 to Sunday 11/14/2021 as follows:
  • Thursday - Big Sur Station to Terrace Creek Camp
  • Friday - Terrace Creek to Sykes Camp
  • Saturday - Sykes to Terrace Creek
  • Sunday - Terrace Creek to Big Sur Station (PRT trailhead)
Generally, the trail was in excellent shape.
There was a kind of re-route/washout between the trailhead and Bad Gulch. I think it's one major gully west of Bad Gulch, but my placement is inexact. It looks like it's been this way for a while, and, short of blasting out a channel in the rock wall on the east bank, I don't think there's any good way to restore the original tread. I saw families with children negotiate the bypass, so I don't think it's a huge deal. I report it here for the sake of completeness and so that others have a good idea of what to expect.
Wash out/re-route in first part of trail (before Bad Gulch)
Wash out/re-route in first part of trail (before Bad Gulch)
Speaking of expectations, expect steepness. There's a good pull after you leave the campground area at the trail head, and there are steep sections interspersed throughout. I've had friends comment that hiking in Ventana is harder than hiking in the Sierra because of all the up and down.
Steep section of the PRT (pulling out of Terrace Creek)
Steep section of the PRT (pulling out of Terrace Creek)
We stopped on the way in and the way out at Terrace Creek Camp. It made a lot of sense to stop there on the way in and on the way out because we were driving up from LA, and we didn't get on the trail until 1:45 PM PST on Thursday despite leaving at 6:00 AM. It was just getting dark as we strode into eminently worthwhile Terrace Creek Camp. On the way out, being positioned at Terrace Creek got us out before noon which got us home at a reasonable hour. I found Terrace Creek Camp to be particularly lovely, an under-appreciated gem. We noted a number of people camped at Terrace Creek that used Terrace Creek as a base camp; they hiked in to Barlow, Sykes, or Redwood Camps using day packs thereby avoiding having to carry full weight the length of the trail (and avoiding potential crowds at Sykes).
Terrace Creek Camp.  Exceptionally lovely.
Terrace Creek Camp. Exceptionally lovely.
The signage for the bypass near Barlow Flats is good on both ends. It's just a 3"x3" wooden post with a matching wooden sign on either end. I saw some comments somewhere about an orange bucket or something, but I didn't see anything like that. I also saw comments that the eastern end (further into the wilderness) wasn't clearly marked, but I found both ends to be clearly marked.
Sign marking the bypassed section near Barlow Flats
Sign marking the bypassed section near Barlow Flats
Water crossings were no big deal even at the Big Sur River this trip although you should expect that you cannot have a dry crossing at the river; you're going to get your feet wet. Conditions will change, particularly during or immediately after a rain.
Crossing Logwood Creek en route to Barlow Flats
Crossing Logwood Creek en route to Barlow Flats
Water was running at all named creeks. There was even a little dribble of water at Bad Gulch, but I wouldn't count on that. Dolores Creek was particularly lovely in my estimation.
Dolores Creek (to the best of my recall)
Dolores Creek (to the best of my recall)
Camp sites at Sykes were harder to come by and weren't, in my opinion, quite as nice as those at Terrace Creek. Of course, you are camped near the Big Sur river, which is pretty darned cool, so there's that. There are still flows of warm water at Sykes "Hot" Springs (it's not all that hot compared to other wild springs I've visited like in the Mammoth, California area), but there's not much in the way of pools anymore. My friend who accompanied me has been there many times was quite disappointed that one could no longer truly soak. I suppose I can see both sides of the argument for removing the pools. I will express no opinion here but only report my observations.
Wedged into a fairly small spot on the banks of the Big Sur River at Sykes.
Wedged into a fairly small spot on the banks of the Big Sur River at Sykes.
I saw no ticks this trip. However, note that I freshly treated my clothes with permethrin the week before the trip.

Poison oak on the other hand was much in evidence. Some still had the classic "leaves of three" sporting fall color (which would be an oily, verdant green in the spring).
Poison oak in fall color.  Lovely to look at, but do not touch.  "Leaves of three, let it be."
Poison oak in fall color. Lovely to look at, but do not touch. "Leaves of three, let it be."
Of course poison oak is often completely leafless in fall and winter. Another way to spot it is via its distinctive white berries.
The distinctive white berries of poison oak.  Beware!
The distinctive white berries of poison oak. Beware!
The only bad part of the trail is that I had to leave on Sunday and go home. :(
Views on the way out
Views on the way out
In short: If you're headed out on the Pine Ridge Trail, expect good or better trail conditions, but don't (because of the steep sections and all the up and down) expect it to be easy. However, WARNING, you may suffer from acute VWDS after your hike (Ventana Wilderness Deficit Syndrome). The only cure... is to come back. Ask your doctor if the Ventana Wilderness is right for you. :)
A final look at the Ventana Wilderness.
A final look at the Ventana Wilderness.

P.S. Very nice to meet Betsy and VWA trail maintenance crew on Saturday. Thanks for all you do.

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by Tommy »

Date Hiked: November 6, 2021
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Hiked between China Camp and Carmel River Trail. Tread is great, however there are several areas of heavy, stiff brush overgrowth across the trail. Confused about recent claims of "wilderness freeway."

Ed: poster refers to immediately preceding report for same section of trail
BG Rich
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Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by BG Rich »

Date Hiked: November 1, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

We hiked this trail November 1-3 as part of our trip from China Camp to Ventana Double Cone and covered the section from China Camp to Pine Valley Camp. It is truly a wilderness freeway. The trail was clear, well-defined and easy to follow. No problems whatsoever.
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Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by lylegordon »

Date Hiked: October 26, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

Pine Ridge Trail from Big Sur Station to Big Sur Trail Junction
Excellent trail conditions - wilderness freeway

Our group the previous pre-fire/restoration route above Barlow camp where there was a large fallen tree and a couple small rock slides that you need to carefully go over but weren't major issues, even with backpacking gear.

The route to the hot springs required a few back and forth crossings of the Big Sur River (knee high in places) and the tread wasn't always evident, minor route finding was required.

Water was available at Terrace Creek, Sykes and Redwood Camp as well as some other small creeks. Logwood creek had water further up on Big Sur Trail and likely where it intersected the Pine Ridge trail but I can't recall for sure.

Minor issues with annoying flies that didn't bite but no other bugs were encountered.

Big Sur to Redwoods Campsite

Post by Harrison96 »

Date Hiked: October 10, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

Water available at Redwoods Camp 10 October 2021
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Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2021 10:37 am

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by tedmerrill »

Date Hiked: September 29, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

VWA Moderator Note: The "detour" referred to in the post below is an official reroute of the Pine Ridge Trail that was necessitated by the failure of a section of the original route. The US Forest Service determined that the reroute was necessary for public safety. Of course what is "safe" or "dangerous" is in the eye of the beholder. But as the managing agency for these public lands it is their call. They funded the contract crews that completed the reroute. Note: VWA volunteers were instrumental in making key access points on the PRT pack stock accessible to enable the contract crews to work more efficiently. Plus, volunteers completed hundreds of hours of work just making the trail better in general. Thank you!
As for the original route, there is a plan in place to eventually reopen it allowing for continued travel on the PRT without having to deal with the crossings down by Barlow Flat Camp. But for now it is reckless to suggest that the original route be used (or to actually use it). What may seem like an easy "scramble" today when dry could be a life threatening maneuver tomorrow. The slightest bit of rain could again make that whole section susceptible to slides. Do not use the old original route above Barlow Flat until it is officially reopened. And if you are visiting during times when the Big Sur River flows are high, don't try to cross it. Visitors are not owed the right to continue on a trail when natural conditions dictate otherwise. Accept Wilderness on its terms and stay alive.

Trail is excellent from Big Sur Ranger Station to Sykes, with one exception.
Many thanks to all the volunteers who cleaned up the trail!

The exception is where the trail is officially re-routed at Barlow Camp.
This detour requires two crossings of the Big Sur River and should not be attempted by most people during the high flows of a normal winter.

Fortunately there is a solution for those with minimal scrambling skills, which is to follow the original trail!

There is, on the original trail, a single slide where ground water undermined the trail.
The width of the slide is only about 20 feet.
On the west side is a drop-off of about 10 feet.
On the east side has a drop-off of about 5 feet (the east side is lower than the west side).
The natural slope of the hillside is steep enough to make traction difficult, but not enough to pose any danger to sliding in an unsafe way IMO.
There is, currently at least, a use trail just above the slide... this trail ascends easily 5 feet, traverses, descends easily 5 feet and then the last 5 feet to the east side is steep enough that traction is difficult (but there is currently a tree to hang on to).
I repeat that for someone with minimal scrambling skills, there is no danger even if you lose your footing.
IMO with a very small amount of work this use trail could be made to have a suitable gradient... if I had had a pulaski with me I would have done so.
It is possible that the trail above the slide will become, over time, unsuitable for a trail, in which case IMO filling in the slide with well-placed rocks would be an easily manageable project that several volunteers could accomplish in several days.
As to why the Forest Service decided a reroute with two river crossings would be required... unfathomable to me.
But since the new trail is there, it could come in handy some day.

Attached, I hope, is a picture of the slide and use trail around the slide, taken from the east side.
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Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Post by Eric-ventana »

Thanks for the thorough report!!

Is there anything left of the hot springs? I know they busted them out due to heavy traffic and a lot of misuse. Has there been any effort or evidense of building a pool back up again?

Thanks again!!
New Report