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Big Sur Trail

Re: Big Sur Trail

Postby Megan Caldwell on Tue Mar 31, 2015 2:21 pm

Date Hiked: February 2, 2015
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Big Sur Trail between Pine Ridge and Coast Ridge Road is heavily overgrown with brush and has quite a few fallen trees and slides. We were able to complete the loop, but it was VERY slow progress and there were many times that we had to double back and search for the trail. Inexperienced hikers or those not in very good physical condition should not attempt this route.
Megan Caldwell

"Don't Go"

Postby HikerFriend on Sun Mar 22, 2015 10:15 am

Date Hiked: March 17, 2015
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Group of five hiked from the Sykes Hot Springs up the Pine Ridge trail until the turnoff onto the Big Sur trail. Someone had written "Don't Go" on the sign but we ignored that. We should have listened to it.
The trail is completely overgrown and easily losable. For miles I hiked with my forearms up over my face as the only way to travel was to push through six-foot tall plants with branches all over the trail. Poison oak is abundant and must be crawled/pushed through to get through obstacles. Ticks hang on the plants.
Reached Rainbow Camp after about seven grueling hours to hike around five miles. There was an extremely difficult uphill section (that might be the Devil's Staircase) that took about 2 hours to complete despite it being only about a mile long. Rainbow Camp is in good shape and is right next to the river, so that was pleasant.
The next day we pushed through the rest of the Big Sur trail to get to Cold Creek Camp, which is also in good shape. The trail was less overgrown here but several landslides have taken out sections of the trail, requiring a bit of thinking to maneuver around. Many, many logs to go over or crawl under. Less poison oak and ticks but more head-level branch obstacles.
Would not recommend this trail for anyone but very experienced and very fit hikers, preferably with machetes and a lot of Calamine lotion.

Re: Big Sur Trail

Postby pantilat on Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:34 am

Date Hiked: February 14, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

From Rainbow Camp to Cold Springs conditions are the same as my January 25th report with one exception: ticks. They are in great abundance especially on the initial climbs out of Mocho Creek and Cisco Creek (the "unnamed" drainage I referred to below) and seem to be hanging out mostly on the chamise.
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Re: Big Sur Trail

Postby christoph28 on Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:10 pm

Date Hiked: January 24, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We hiked the entire trail from Cold Springs to Pine Ridge, camping at Rainbow. As indicated in Pantilats post (we actually talked to you as you were passing by Cold Springs), the trail is certainly passable but only if you're willing to climb over many fallen trees, wade through brush, and likely lose the trail a few times. However, there were really only two places where following the trail became a bit tricky, the green flagged detour at the creek crossing before the devils staircase (heading towards mocho), and then also the section that follows mocho creek shortly before crossing. Additionally, we ended up hiking the section from the green flagged creek crossing to Rainbow in the dark without too much trouble. Rainbow was a nice camp. There was a family of mice living in the downed log next to the camp so plan accordingly (food storage). I wouldn't recommend camping at Mocho since trees have fallen across the middle of the site and the surrounding area is grassy and damp. It probably took us around 3.5 hours to get from Cold Springs to Rainbow (~5 mi).

The section of trail from Rainbow to Pine Ridge was of similar difficultly as the south portion of the trail, but with even heavier brush in a couple sections and fainter tread in other sections. There were a few tricky areas with faint tread on the gradual ascent before climbing up to the first ridge (that then descends down to the north fork big sur river), but we were not held up for long and always found the trail again shortly after losing it. On the descent from the first ridge down to the north fork big sur river the brush becomes very heavy and requires some persistence (I'd imagine going uphill would be difficult), but eventually abates near the river crossing. From there on the trail is not bad, and the final climb is enjoyable and easy to follow. Maybe we didn't see the proper Cienega camp, but we passed a small little site right at the creek crossing where it was indicated on the map. It didn't look like an ideal camping site, but would work if necessary (rainbow was certainly better). It probably took us around 4 hours to hike the section from Rainbow to Pine Ridge (~6 mi).

This trail is definitely passable (our group of 3 did it as planned with full packs), but you have to know what you're in for, otherwise you might be miserable. But it is beautiful and you probably won't see anyone (except maybe Pantilat). Also, I found the interactive map to be very useful for this trail (I printed out the fully zoomed in map and brought it along to supplement the Nat Geo map, which has a much lower resolution).
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Re: Big Sur Trail

Postby pantilat on Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:51 pm

Date Hiked: January 25, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

The Big Sur Trail from Rainbow Camp to Cold Springs is passable with some difficult sections (hence the "Difficult" rating). It looks like some brushing and downfall-removing work was done in the last mile or so to Cold Springs but there were a few new blowdowns from the December storms. Bright green flagging marks the tricky spots in the unnamed drainage west of Mocho Creek that the trail traverses through. Above Mocho Creek where the trail begins to switchback there are some large blowdowns and use paths have developed around them. The trail is brushy and there are a number of blowdows, but progress is reasonable. It took me 1.5 hours to go 4.4 miles up the Devils Staircase from Rainbow Camp to Cold Springs with a daypack so it's certainly not "impassable" and I'd estimate this section of trail would take 3-4 hours for the average group of backpackers.
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Re: Big Sur Trail

Postby BigSurStation on Mon Jan 19, 2015 3:16 pm

Date Hiked: January 18, 2015
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

I received a report at the Big Sur Ranger Station on Jan 19, 2015 from hikers who had just come back from backpacking the Big Sur Trail and they said that around the river crossing before Mocho camp the trail is not well maintained, heavily overgrown and slides. They were not able to even reach Mocho camp due to the obstacles.

Re: Big Sur Trail

Postby hiking yorkie on Mon Nov 24, 2014 3:51 pm

Date Hiked: November 19, 2014
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We hiked the Big Sur Trail from Pine Ridge Trail (coming from Sykes hot springs) to Coast Ridge Road. Spent the night at Rainbow Camp, then continued to Coast Ridge Road the next day.

From Pine Ridge Trail down to Cienega Camp was severely overgrown and required lots of pushing through over-head brush. The tread was mostly defined, but disappeared in some of the open areas where it was criss-crossed with game trails. Faded pink flagging helped, but we could have easily missed the trail -- I attribute our success to luckily finding some of those flaggings.

At Cienega Camp, we struggled to find the trail again, and finally located it across the creek. After Cienega, more bushwhacking for a few miles, then clearer trail near Rainbow Camp.

Rainbow Camp was really nice. The Big Sur trail continues out of the west side of the camp toward Mocho Camp. The trail is overgrown through lots of areas, but other sections of switchbacks are OK. The tread was good, until Mocho Camp.

Multiple trees had fallen on Mocho Camp, laying over the firepit and leaving nowhere to place a tent. The trail was very hard to locate at on the other side of the creek. Our NatGeo map helped, barely. After crossing over the creek from Mocho Camp, the real trail heads upstream along the creek for a short while. Many piles of deadfalls block and hide it, but either scrambling around them or uphill always took us to the next switchback. Green flagging helped in some areas between Mocho and Coast Ridge Road.

The very last mile of the trail to Cold Spring Camp was open and easy along the ridge.
hiking yorkie

Re: Big Sur Trail

Postby Solid Snake on Mon Oct 13, 2014 6:06 pm

Date Hiked: October 10, 2014
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I had an awesome time on this trail! I hiked it from Cold Spring Camp to the intersection with the Pine Ridge Trail and I camped out at Cienega. The first half mile, or so, of this trail is WILDERNESS FREEWAY. (thank you VWA) Some very recent trail maintenance has cleared away all the encroaching brush and sawed through deadfalls.


Here's the view of the Big Sur Drainage from the top of Logwood Ridge:


The rest of the trail is a different story entirely. From the time when the trail drops down from Logwood Ridge you're basically swimming through brush. The tread is well defined, except for a few tricky spots, but it disappears entirely at the first creek crossing. (the one just before Mocho Creek) Here the tread has been completely obliterated by repeated landslides and deadfalls. Fortunately some considerate person has flagged this section with green tape, making it easily navigable, otherwise it would be off trail navigation through this 1/4 mile section. Mocho Camp is a cute little one tent camp site, and Rainbow Camp is absolutely lovely.


I had lunch here before continuing across the south fork of the Big Sur River. The tread gets a bit faint at this point, and I did manage to lose the trail here for a brief moment. I followed a game trail (or perhaps a use trail from some other lost hikers?) and picked it up again in short order. From the top of the ridge back down into the north fork the tread is again well defined, though quite brushy. There isn't much poison oak up to this point and what little there is is easily avoidable, but keep your eyes out for it this time of year as all the leaves have fallen off and it blends in pretty well with the rest of the encroaching brush. From Cienega Camp up to The Pine Ridge Trail the tread becomes faint once again and there are many crisscrossing game trails to trip up the unwary traveler. There's quite a bit of poison oak through this section, some patches of which are completely unavoidable. Here's the view looking back across the drainage from the top of the saddle ner the junction with the Pine Ridge Trail:


And here's the sign at the intersection:


I kind of got a kick out of all the disparaging notes scrawled on the sign regarding the trail I had just come up, but really people should not be writing messages on these signs. (that's what these forums are for) All in all it was a challenging trail, but very rewarding as well. If you're the type of weirdo who, like me, actually enjoys the sort of conditions I just described, I highly recommend this trail!

Ed: jg is happy to hear that his green flags proved useful
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Solid Snake
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Re: Big Sur Trail

Postby Alan Blank on Sun Oct 05, 2014 11:08 pm

Date Hiked: October 1, 2014
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Having done the Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes Hotsprings multiple times before, I wanted to try something different. We backpacked up the Deangulo trail and then caught up with the Big Sur Trail at Cold Springs Camp. We took the Big Sur Trail down to Mocho Camp and spent the night there. Although we clearly made it to Mocho Camp, there are several reasons I'm rating this impassable in its present state. First, the brush is so heavy through much of the trail that a machete is a necessity (unless you don't mind getting scraped by prickly bushes and heavy poison oak). Second, there are numerous downed trees across the trail (dozens), and some of them are so massive that it takes some serious acrobatics to make it over. Third, with all of the brush and the prevalent ticks, getting a bite is a strong possibility (I pulled one off of me). Lastly, the trail is extremely hard to follow. The "right" way to go has you climbing through thick brush, up steep embankments, and zigzagging through stream crossings. If you do it, keep an eye out for the neon green and pink strips of tape, which are the only things that allowed us to get through a stretch of the trail. We did not see a single other human being in our 2 days on the trail.
Alan Blank

Re: Big Sur Trail

Postby arcticTaco on Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:49 pm

Date Hiked: April 24, 2014
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked this solo from Pine Ridge to Cold Springs. I would not recommend it solo, the trail disappears and it can get tricky - I sprained an ankle! Some passionate hikers from March left notes calling the trail "closed", and I tend to agree with them - though I don't think they should have scratched the wood signposts.

At every creek crossing, you should budget significant time for finding the trail. Solo, I got 2-4 miles an hour. Poison Oak was avoidable on 90% of the trail, but that last 10% can be tough to avoid! You'll want a machete, anyway.

Some truly enormous trees have fallen throughout. Some sections required over, under, or through maneuvers 3-4 times a mile. Pretty exhausting.

Compass navigation was needed for a mile stretch because I couldn't find the trail after the north fork - I navigated to Rainbow on compass. It was needed again later to safely go around a massive patch of poison oak that had engulfed the trail. "Finding the trail" became a point of constant anxiety, after the injury. The Devil's Staircase wasn't pleasant in my condition, either - though the trail was more obvious from this region to Cold Springs.

Lots of ticks. Zero people. Water sources were running.

Beautiful, where you can enjoy it. I think PO will take over soon, though.


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