South Fork Trail

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Joined: Sat Nov 28, 2020 10:49 pm

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by zacdalton »

Date Hiked: February 23, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp:

This was my first time on the South Fork Trail and it was was an amazing experience! Kind of reminds me of the Upper Sisquoc in the southern Los Padres. Tread was evident for much of the way, losing the trail a couple times briefly. A little over halfway to South Fork Camp, I lost the trail pretty badly and opted for the river. Found the trail on the opposite bank about 10 minutes later. Downed manzanita shortly after Rainbow I had to go up and over, but everything else was expected. Thanks to the people who have flagged the trail, helped me quite a bit! Will carry some tape on me from here on out.

Attempted to go up to Pick Creek Falls, but that creek is pretty gnarly! Much respect for those who have gone up or down it. I bypassed the first narrows section on a steep slope on the north side of the creek. Hiking solo, I decided not to push my luck and turned around when I hit a pretty deep pool. Probably could have been passed through some thick stuff on the south side of the creek. Felt like the falls may have been just past this part, as the creek took a 90-degree turn.

Thanks to everyone who has worked on this trail! It was such a great experience. There are some healthy Santa Lucia firs down in here. Rainbow Camp was a magical place — very lush. South Fork Camp was very peaceful amongst large oaks and Santa Lucia firs.
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Joined: Sun Feb 09, 2020 11:57 am

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by georged »

Date Hiked: February 8, 2020
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Considerably more difficult than the section of Big Sur Trail between Cold Spring Camp and Rainbow Camp. The river crossings were no joke, there being about 6-8 crossings of the Big Sur River where stepping on logs or rocks was not an option. This requires a skillful juggling and drying of socks (at least that's how I deal with it!) to avoid blisters but it ended up alright. Hiking alone and with a broken trekking pole, this was unideal. There were also some downfalls which made room for some creativity on the trail. This was slow going here, I consider myself a very quick hiker and did about 2 miles/hour which was a bit slower than I had planned. That said, this is a special stretch of trail with that amazing eery yet peaceful sense that makes Ventana so special. Mother nature is the boss...
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Re: South Fork Trail

Post by pantilat »

Date Hiked: October 20, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The South Fork Trail is fairly close to being being a relatively clear (for these remote parts) trail from bottom to top.

The blowdown mentioned in the prior report is at the second to last crossing of the creek moving up to Strawberry and the last crossing that currently has water flowing. There's actually a half dozen creek crossings after South Fork Camp and they all have flowing water except the uppermost and they are easy to capture water if needed. There are also a couple other new downed trees between Rainbow and South Fork Camps.

In the upper part there is some encroaching brush and some tread issues in spots near riparian areas, but the way is always obvious and aside from the one complex blowdown mentioned above, there are no real substantial impediments. The South Fork Trail should be marked "yellow" from South Fork Camp all the way to Strawberry Camp on the wilderness conditions camp.

From Strawberry Camp to the junction with the Marble Peak Trail the conditions are passable, largely owing to the encroaching wild rose.

As I've described previously, this trail has excellent biodiversity. It's almost like an ecological staircase moving through the various forest communities as one ascends the canyon. Three pine species (ponderosa, coulter, knobcone), Santa Lucia Fir, Redwood and Incense Cedar were the conifers observed along the trail. I was very happy to see that the Soberanes Fire did little damage to this amazing forest.
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Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2019 7:53 am

Re: South Fork Trail (rainbow to strawberry)

Post by mkellman »

Date Hiked: October 5, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Passable to difficult.

Rainbow camp to South Fork camp is easy going and clear. South fork camp is beautiful.

South Fork camp to Strawberry camp is difficult. There is downed tree at river crossing approximately halfway between these two camps. Easiest way to pass is to climb under trees going up stream bed five meters and cutting back climbing over fallen tree. Took 20 minutes or so to figure out. Pink tags were unbelievably helpful in finding trail.

No water second half of this trail. Easiest fill up is at South Fork camp.

There is water at Strawberry camp. If you hike five meters up black cone trail there is a running creek to your right in the brush. :D
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Joined: Tue May 07, 2019 5:07 pm

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by Firefly »

Date Hiked: September 22, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked this South Fork trail from Rainbow to Marble Peak junction. From Rainbow to South Fork Camp, the trail is easy to follow, with clear flagging at creek crossings. South Fork camp is beautiful.

From South Fork to Strawberry, there are a couple sections that could be misleading due to tread going off trail, in particular at the area where the South Fork trail splits from the river to follow another tributary. The maps on your GPS for most of South Fork trail are precisely wrong [unless using a BigSurTrailmap Garmin/PDF map - ed]. This part of the trail map accurately shows only a general direction of travel (along the river, crossing it several times). Do not seek the trail where the trail is supposed to be according to your electronic device: you will be led astray. If you find yourself thrashing around in brush and/or scrambling up a precipitous vertical slope where you suspect no other person would intentionally put themself, you have lost the trail. Go back to where you last definitely knew you were on the trail, and look around more carefully for another way.

Strawberry camp was rather uninviting this time of year, surrounded by dry grasses and with no water available. It took about 10 minutes to find the trail that leads from Strawberry camp toward Marble Peak trail, as it was obscured by grasses. The trail, once found, was very brushy and flagging helped to find the way. I found 2 different bear scat on the trail in this section.

There are a few spots between Strawberry camp and Tan Oak camp where small amounts of standing water or small trickles of water can be found.
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Joined: Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:32 pm

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by mattes »

Date Hiked: July 6, 2019
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Thanks to all the folks who helped to cleanup/maintain South Fork. Had an epic time on my first BigSur thru-hike (Arroyo Seco -> Boronda). Pretty much free cruising. Just be prepared for wet feet. Lots of creek crossing, some of them with little/no chance of dry rock hopping.
This trail is in better shape than (middle part of) Marble Peak trail.

On Marble Peak past Tassajara Tony Trail some sections are grown over badly with PO and required lots of bushwacking.
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Betsy M
Posts: 433
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:35 pm

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by Betsy M »

Date Hiked: May 26, 2019
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp is Clear. A VWA volunteer trail crew worked to remove all the fallen trees starting at Rainbow Camp, ending at the first crossing upstream of South Fork Camp. Thank you to the volunteers who reported sizes and locations of fallen trees. Thank you to the volunteers who came out on Memorial Day weekend to saw trees in the rain. We have a trip scheduled June 21st to come in from the Strawberry side and work on the remaining large trees.

Update: on the June 21st outing, we cleared the remaining trees, between Strawberry Camp and where we stopped on this trip. Including a huge oak that had fallen shortly before our trip. There are a couple of brushy sections coming down the hill from Strawberry, but all major obstacles are clear.
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Joined: Thu May 30, 2019 12:54 pm

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by kevin »

Date Hiked: May 26, 2019
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Three of us hiked from Strawberry Camp to Rainbow camp on the South Fork Trail, continuing on the Big Sur trial to the North Coast Ridge Road.
One madrone towards the start of the descent from Strawberry Camp caused us to lose the trail for about half a minute, as we ended up on the wrong side of a rise after climbing over. Besides that it was pretty smooth sailing with the only impediments being the numerous creek/river crossings and occasional poison oak which was generally easy to avoid.

We ran into Betsy & numerous other volunteers doing trail maintenance past South Fork Camp and onwards--we sure were glad for the work they were doing seeing how many deadfalls had been cleared recently on the trail! Thank you!

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by seagoat »

Date Hiked: May 12, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

South Fork Trail and Marble Peak Trail, between Strawberry Camp and Tanoak Camp
Trail: Clear. Easy to follow but flagged anyways. Some encroaching Wild Rose.

South Fork Trail, between Strawberry Camp and Rainbow Camp
Trail: Passable. Some blow-downs and lush brush. Easy to follow. Many parts wilderness freeway. Numerous river crossings. Blue raspberry between last crossing and Rainbow Camp. Two rattlesnakes encountered in tall lush ferns where gopher mounds present. Also wild boar rutting was profuse along trail and on every bank until creek crossing where the giant landslide causes trail to cross creek a final time.
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Jim Ringland
Posts: 133
Joined: Sat May 07, 2011 12:02 pm
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: South Fork Trail

Post by Jim Ringland »

Date Hiked: May 4, 2019
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I came in from the Marble Peak Trail on the 3rd, spent two nights at Strawberry Valley, dayhiked from Strawberry to Rainbow on the 4th, and exited to the Marble Peak Trail on the 5th.

Marble Peak Trail junction to Strawberry Valley Camp: Clear.
Thank your Betsy. The path though the wild roses is holding up well. There is some willow growth filling in at the creek crossings, the I don’t think it's enough to the change the general sense that this is a clear path. The campsite at Strawberry remains nice, but it’s still a shock to look out at the fire’s devastation in this once more verdant valley.

Strawberry Valley Camp to Rainbow Camp: Difficult. As Wilderwill2 reported, the big issue here is the collection of deadfalls. Many are simple step-overs or have easy enough routes around, but some require more. One, at about 2600 feet on the first descent from Strawberry is on a steep slope and is a mess to go around (tried that westbound) or through (tried that on the eastbound return). Another, a bit lower down but not all the way to where the side stream meets the South Fork, has some pointy broken-off branches, one of which managed to give me rather nice scrape that required some minor first aid. While I remember the downed tree at the river crossing Wilderwill2 mentions, I recall finding the way out pretty fast. Then after a less-difficult stretch, there is a cluster of several, sometimes messy, deadfalls in the last 1/3 mile before Rainbow. With my little daypack, all this seemed on the line between Passable and Difficult. With a full backpack, Difficult would be the call. It’s not some much any one deadfall is awful as that they just keep coming.

Other than that, this section is in good shape. Very clear at the top: much more so than when I was here last year. Only a little sketchy below that until reaching the South Fork, and less than fully obvious places are well flagged. Quite good along the South Fork corridor, although I was amused at one point that I was on a recently-bashed path through 9’ high elk clover, followed in short session through 6’ bracken fern. I was waiting to see a dinosaur when I emerged.

South Fork Camp is in good shape: under trees by the river with a fire pit with grate and seats around, a good bedding area, and a table with no seats. The ancient signs remain. There's been a little bit of pig activity in the vicinity though. Rainbow is it’s usual nice self too under bays, oaks, and madrones.
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