Ventana Wilderness Forums • View topic - Big Pines Trail
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Re: Big Pines Trail

PostPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2012 6:27 pm
by Guest
Date Hiked: August 17, 2012
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked Big Pines trail from Los Padres Reservoir to intersection with Ventana Double Cone trail (and back). Trail is easily passable where it passes through shade (i.e., on the north side of the ridge) although there are patches of poison oak and a couple of downed trees. The trail on the ridge top and south side of the ridge is overgrown but passable. I strung some pink ribbon on the most baffling stretches.

Re: Big Pines Trail

PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2012 8:23 pm
by Road Runner
Date Hiked: May 26, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I took this trail on the basis of the April 1st posting by Piero. We hiked into Pat Springs from Botchers Gap and were going to hike out along the Big Pines trail to Los Padres where my friend left the car.

Coming down from Pat Springs, taking the trail off to the right or east to Big Pines Camp, starts out fine but as you go down switchbacks, the bracken is overgrown, the trail eventually petered out to nothing.

The idea the Big Pine trail being a "Freeway all the way" is a joke. The fire break is overgrown and every once in a while we saw the trail off to the left or right. When we did take the trail on the wet side through oaks there was poison oak all over the place. The one time we took in on the Danish Creek side, the dry side, the brush in parts was 5 feet tall and blocking the trail. We just got back today, May 26th and the brush was wet, so our pants and boots were soaked. I have never been so miserable on a trail.

We missed the jeep trail off to the right toward Los Padres (how someone is to know where to turn coming from Pat Springs is a mystery to me). We proceeded along what we thought was the fire break but came to the end on a knoll looking down on Cachagua. We thought we might have to spend the night on the hill, but as we back tracked we saw an old jeep trail that brought us down by Cachagua Road a mile from Los Padres.

[EDITOR'S NOTE - sounds like you may have taken the old horse trail which heads NE from the trail along Blue Rock RIdge instead of following along the actual trail, which heads SE at that point towards Los Padres Reservoir.]

If I had known the true condition of this trail we would not have taken this hike. I feel the post of April 1st totally mischaracterized this trail. We're experienced backpackers and will never take this trail again.

Re: Big Pines Trail

PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 8:56 pm
by piero scaruffi
Date Hiked: April 1, 2012
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

I hesitate to file this report after reading the March 25 report at it almost feels like we're talking about two different trails. We did a roundtrip to Double Cone from Los Padres Dam.
First of all, there are two ways to start the Big Pines trail. After crossing the dam, there is an unmarked fire road on the right. Next to it there is a sign TRAIL that sends hikers further left to the marked trailhead. The trailhead joins the fire road after about one hour up the hill. We went up the hikers trail and down the fire road. The hikers trail has poison oak, but nothing too devastating if you are wearing long pants. The fire road, is poison oak-free (if there is any, it is not where you are walking). Once the hikers trail joins the fire road, there is absolutely no obstacle. Wilderness freeway except for places where the dead leaves cover the trail, but it doesn't take more than a few seconds to find the trail again. The only problem is when you reach Big Pines Camp: you get to an unmarked fork. Go right if you are heading for Bottcher's Gap, go left if your destination is Double Cone. If the latter, you will get to an infamous five-way junction with no signs. Counterclockwise from where you are standing: a trail that comes from Bottcher's Gap, a trail that leads to the campsites uphill, the trail to Pat's Spring, and the trail to Double Cone (alas, the faintest of them all).

I guess this second part of the report should be filed under "Double Cone trail". Anyways:

From Big Pines to what used to be Lone Pine camp (N36.33356/W121.71397) the trail is certainly passable and mostly clear with a few deadfalls and a few places where it is collapsing. Nothing too serious though.
When the trail starts going up (hopefully what i think used to be Lone Pine camp, see coordinates above) the bushwhacking can be intense: there is a first stretch of about 50 meters during which you don't see the trail at all (have faith and walk straight: the brush is soft and won't harm you) and then another one a bit shorter (but equally thick). Then several deadfalls of various degree of annoyance. Further uphill the trail clears up and the last hour is almost wilderness freeway.
Compared with last year, this part took a lot longer. My guess is that in two years that overgrown section will be impassable.

Pictures of both sections:

Big Pines Trail

PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:36 pm
by Backpacker
Date Hiked: March 25, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

This trail is covered in poison oak! Luckily it was still early in the season when I hiked it, but give it 3 more weeks or so and it will be totally covered in serious poison oak. When there was not poison oak there was thick brush that will try to tear up your legs. Pants are a must. There is really no water until the end of this trail because you are hiking on a ridge for most of it. The views are incredible, but would still not recommend this trail to someone who is worried about poison oak or thick bushes that of course are covered in ticks.

Re: Big Pines Trail

PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2011 9:52 am
by Steve B
Date Hiked: November 18, 2011
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

November 23, 2011 – The Big Pines Trail has been repaired by the Ventana Wilderness Alliance and the American Conservation Experience (ACE) Trail Crew through a grant from the Regional Park District. The Big Pines Trail is in good condition and easy to follow from the junction of the Double Cone Trail at the top down to the dozer line on Blue Rock Ridge. The trail from Los Padres Dam to Blue Rock Ridge was worked in 2010 and is in fair condition, watch for red and yellow flagging where the trail leaves the dozer line on Blue Rock Ridge. The forest around Big Pines Camp burned very hot in the 2008 Basin Fire and there are many standing dead trees that would make this trail dangerous to hike during a storm. Big Pines Camp is completely over grown and is no longer a good campsite; the many dead trees around the camp will make this site unsafe for camping for many years. We did not clear the trail to Big Pines camp but I placed some pink flagging at the top of the Big Pines Camp Trail so I can come back later and put the camp and trail on GPS. The connector trail from Big Pines to Pat Springs was also repaired and in good condition. The trail signs at all the junctions burned in 2008 and need to be replaced so be sure to hike with a map. We left about eighteen trees across the Big Pines Trail that are mostly ‘step over’ trees but two are large, I am planning a VWA crosscut saw trip in the future.
Below are two photos of Big Pines Camp, one just after the Basin Fire and Big Pines Camp as it looks today.

Re: Big Pines Trail

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 2:21 pm
by Steve Davis
Date Hiked: August 5, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I would rate this trail difficult to impassable at this time. I hiked in from Botchers gap with an overnight at Pat Spring. I tried again without success to follow the "cut-off" trail to Big Pines trail. The cut-off trail is obliterated with overgrowth above Danish Creek more so than it was in June when I tried this. I went back up to the VDC trail up to Skinner Ridge Trail/Big Pines Trail junction which is marked with two burned sign posts on either side of the VDC trail. This section of Big Pines is completely burned with all trails obliterated and blocked by downed trees. I followed a rock-pile pointer and a few flaggings (no tread or footfalls could be seen) down the slope and over the stream to my west. Using a compass and USFS map I bushwhacked on a path to Los Padres Dam which should have placed me, eventually, on the Big Pines trail. Brush was head high in most places. Several very steep streams come west to east down the slope to Danish Creek. Each provided a challenge to cross due to the sheer drop.

At about 2 miles, based on my map, the Danish Creek and the Big Pines trail come closer together at a steep incline. As I descended the mountain I found a section of rocks layed in a straight line to shore up a trail. This was where I connected to Big Pines trail. From here west the trail was overgrown and/or nearly obliterated. It was slow going to carefully deduce and pick the trail out of the brush but it was discernable, barely. There are no more streams to cross and therefore no easy water until you near the dam.

In sections approaching Blue Rock Ridge the trail winds alternately through forest on the north side of the mountain and out to clearings on the ridge lines or saddles. It would be very easy to lose the trail in these in/out sections. At this time most of the forest sections of trail are buried in 3 to 6 inches of leaves making them a little hard to see and a lot slippery. Fortunately MOST of the entries into the forest are marked by flaggings. For the few that aren't, if you look long enough you'll find the trail into the forest again. As another poster mentioned, if you somehow failed to find the trail you could just ascend/descend the ridge to the next clearing and forest section and eventually you'd find a flagging.

At Blue Rock you follow a path through the forest that eventually widens into Blue Rock Ridge Road, an ancient, overgrown "jeep trail". Some flaggings exist along this "road". Primarily you look for dozer cut roadsides and/or faint wheel treads still discernible through the brush (in the clearings). Proceeding down towards Los Padres Dam the road heads to a slight right and the "foot path" goes left around a tree. Bearing right, about 100 yards up the road another dozer cut road runs left and right with several flaggings in the trees. To the left, down the hill, this road connects to another road almost parallel to the one I was on. This parallel road goes not to the dam but farther down to Cachaugua road. I continued on up the same road I was on, out into a clearing and then down the other side of the ridge in a series of switchbacks.

At one point I could see the dam and water below. As the road winds down there is a road to the left that is pretty clearly defined and it takes you nearer the dam (the route I took). The other road also goes to the reservoir but a bit further south. The remainder of this road was clear with horse hooves and even some ATV tire tracks evident. Some parts were muddy as springs on the south side weep onto the road.

At the bottom the road ends at the Carmel River Trail with a fence post on the southwest corner and another post with the word TRAIL pointing south along the Carmel River Trail. I turned north. At this point the Carmel River Trail is a wide well groomed dirt road which takes you up and over the Los Padres Dam and eventually to the parking lot. The trip from the Skinner Ridge-VDC/Big Pines Trail junction to the Los Padres Dam took from about 8:15am to 3:00pm.

Re: Big Pines Trail

PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:06 am
by acrews
Date Hiked: July 8, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We parked at Los Padres Dam, and hiked to Pat Springs for the first day of a 3 day camping trip. It was my first time on this trail. The trail was surprisingly shaded: maybe 60% shade, given that it is a ridge trail, but it stays just to the North of the ridge and there are lots of trees on that side. However, the shady parts of the trail are thick with poison oak. The trail was mostly easy to find: when it stays near the ridge, it's fairly obvious where it should go, but it's almost impossible not to touch poison oak here or there. One time around Blue Ridge Rock, we lost the trail which must have gone to the North side of the ridge in the trees again, but we managed to pick it up again but just charging down the hill.
There is about 3000 feet elevation gain on this trail, and there is no water from the Dam until just before Big Pines Camp. We were very thirsty. You can hear Danish Creek at times in the valley, and eventually near the top we foraged 100Yards down the hill side for water. There was a small creek just up the hill, too (with a tasty rattlesnake). The trail through Big Pines Camp seemed obliterated. Someone had very nicely flagged a route through it, but between flags, we just picked whatever looked best. Much less poison oak here. Without GPS coordinates of Big Pines, we would not have known we were there. We crossed cut-off up to Ventana Double Cone trail, and as other reports said, the trail was totally obliterated. Again, we picked up water at Danish Creek, and charged up the hill until we hit Ventana Double Cone trail and Pat Springs (again, thick with growth but much less poison oak at this altitude). Pat Springs camp was like heaven. At least 3 excellent camp sites (one was hidden behind the one we stayed at).
So in the end, we hike from 11am to 7pm on Big Pines + cutoff--probably averaging 1mph due to 3000+ foot climb and trail conditions at the top. Quite an adventure!

Re: Big Pines Trail

PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:17 am
by Steve Davis
Date Hiked: June 14, 2011
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Hiking in from Botchers Gap I was unable to find the junction of Skinner ridge / VDC trail and Big Pines trail. Continuing on to Pats Spring I did find the "cutoff" marked by a small stack of rocks with a single ribbon flagging. I followed (very light tread) the cutoff down to and across Danish Creek and then up about 50 years to a large dead fall. There was no evidence that anyone had circumnavigated the deadfall. I climbed another tree and could not pick out where the trail continued up the hill to Big Pines. Perhaps I lost the trail earlier?

Re: Big Pines Trail

PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:48 am
by jack_glendening
This report only covers the northern-most 3/4 mile of Big Pines Trail, from its intersection with the VDC Trail down to its intersection of the "cutoff" trail to Pat Spring Camp.

In my last report I considered this section "impassible" due to my inability to find any path leading out from the intersection of the "cutoff" and Big Pines trails. However Paul Danielson and I recently came down that section from the opposite direction and found it followable due to some flagging, with some additional help from my GPS. So that section is now merely "difficult".

Jack Glendening

Re: Big Pines Trail

PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2010 1:47 pm
by jack_glendening
Date Hiked: October 27, 2010
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

This late in the season I found the tread generally well defined, with yellow/red ribbons helping to ensure that one was on-track. My only difficulty was once missing a turnoff from the firebreak to the contouring trail. However, just above Big Pines Camp there is a junction, marked by a blackened pole wrapped with ribbons, with one trail (officially, according to the USFS, the VDC Trail - I've also heard this called "the cutoff") heading South and the official Big Pines Trail continuing West (past historic Spaghetti Camp), both ending up on the Skinner Ridge Trail. That location had much vegetation and tread was obscured. I found two different flaggings which both led to the "cutoff" trail, which once found was easy to follow. I could not find a tread for the Westward official Big Pines Trail in the surrounding open area, despite wandering back and forth over its official location using a GPS - perhaps it is better marked on the upper end, where it meets the Skinner Ridge Trail. There was a good flow in the creek above that junction. As reported previously, there is much poison oak on the trail.

Jack Glendening