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Lost Valley Trail

Re: Lost Valley Trail

Postby Rob on Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:50 pm

Date Hiked: January 1, 2018
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I did an overnight trip to see how far I could get on the Lost Valley Trail, post-Soberanes Fire closure and the torrential rains last winter.

From Escondido down to the Arroyo Seco River: mostly clear, except for a mid-size log across the trail shortly after the trailhead. I think this was the obligatory dirt bike-blocker :) A lot of trailwork was evident here, and mostly it was smooth sailing down to the river.

From Arroyo Seco River to saddle: starts out as clear, with treadwork and sawed logs for the first bit. As it climbed though there were various mid-sized blowdowns that the trail crews hadn't gotten to yet, and one larger one that had a detour around it. I stopped and sawed the smaller ones on my way back. There was a bit of brush in the upper section, but not bad at all.

From saddle down to Fish Camp: passable. More brush, and more blowdowns. I stopped to saw some of the smaller logs. Tread in good shape. Short section of thorny brambles between the first creek major crossing and Fish Camp. This section alone will make you want long sleeves / long pants. Lots of water in the creek, but a bit low for fish during this dry winter we're having so far.

From Fish Camp to Lost Valley: passable. Some larger blowdowns, and sections of narrow tread on steep hillsides. Stiff boots help here. Not much brush.

Lost Valley Camp didn't look much different from the last time I visited in 2012. Still tables, still lots of downed wood at the upper camp. The lower camp had better access to water. The creek crossing before the Bill Cotta Plaque was very brushy, a push-through affair, at least if I didn't want water over the tops of my boots.

From there to Higgins Creek the old tread was somewhat visible in places, but it was easy to miss in places. The trail was blocked by blowdown initially and there seemed to be a detour off to the right that went up what looked like a watercourse to join the old trail, which had become somewhat of a gully. Then a short stretch of meadow to Higgins Creek, which was choked with brush on both sides. There were several ways to cross, and the initial way I chose dropped down steeply, partially washed out, with thorny brambles on the other side (work gloves help here :) Good luck.

From this crossing I made my way up the next meadow, in which the trail was fairly braided. I only saw deer tracks by this point (no boot prints since Lost Valley). The meadow deadends at a wall of chaparral, with a narrow band of willows against Higgins Creek. I followed what was left of the trail along the creek until it apparently ended at a washout. After backtracking I decided to see if I could find a way through the chaparral - it was possible, but steep, circuitous and nasty. Most likely I was hooking together a series of deer trails. Eventually I made my way back down to what looked like the creekside trail, until I hit an area of large blowdown and thick willows. Needless to say I think this section was "impassable", but perhaps with more time and a little work ...

I backtracked through the chaparral maze to the end of the meadow, and camped atop a small knoll among some coulter pines. There was an old fire ring which I cleared off and repurposed for my alcohol stove. Higgins creek and plentiful water was a short stroll downhill, and a bit uphill I saw a few flat areas which would probably also work for camping. I saw a fox running off into the chaparral. Overnight temps dipped into the high 20's but during the afternoon it had been warm enough for the face flies to come out. This particular spot seemed to get some nice morning sun, which was welcome. I think this spot was 7.1 miles from the trailhead.
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Re: Lost Valley Trail

Postby jjjeremy on Tue May 30, 2017 1:52 pm

Date Hiked: May 29, 2017
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Section: Escondido to Lost Valley Connector Trail

I don't know why this is labeled "Wilderness Freeway" because it definitely is not. I'd call this Passable/Difficult because you can eventually figure out the path. Sometimes the tread is nonexistant through tall grass and you have to guess on the most reasonable route. My estimate is at least 15 blowdowns, and overhead brush has overtaken about 30% of the trail. A few slides, too. We only pulled out the GPS a few times for confirmation, and a few times sent one person ahead to try to find the trail before the rest of us followed suit. I think we averaged around 1mph each way.

Fish Camp is very clear, though.

Re: Lost Valley Trail

Postby Betsy M on Wed Jun 15, 2016 7:37 am

Date Hiked: June 12, 2016
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Section: Marble Peak Trail to the Indian Valley Connector Trail.

VWA Trail Crew trips have been nibbling away at the first section of the Lost Valley Trail starting from the North end at the Marble Peak Trail junction. This section includes beautiful open meadows and gnarly streamside sections. Progress has been slow due to the difficulty of even finding the trail underneath the vines, brush, and fallen trees. Technically using a GPS you can see that where you are standing is the trail - it's just that it doesn't particularly resemble a trail and often the easiest way to make any progress is to walk somewhere else, like the other side of the creek in some spots. Which is where hikers have apparently been walking. Thanks to Jack Glendening's GPS track we were able to clear this small (less than a mile) section just to the junction with the Indian Valley Connector Trail. In case you're thinking of making a loop, the Indian Valley Trail is NOT clear at the junction. Our work trip last Sunday was more pleasant than the previous trip - for whatever reason the biting flies were mostly absent and temperatures were reasonable. Thanks to all the Trail Crew volunteers for working on this section.
LVT Sign.jpeg
The waterfall just before the Indian Valley Camp Trail junction still had water and Higgins Creek was flowing well.
We were able to camp Saturday night June 11th at Marble Peak, making our one day work trip a pleasant and efficient way to tackle this section of trail.
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Re: Lost Valley Trail

Postby pantilat on Mon May 23, 2016 3:32 pm

Date Hiked: May 21, 2016
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Overall from Escondido Camp to Lost Valley the trail is passable with some sections of light brush and poison oak and several blowdowns that are easy to negotiate. Beyond Lost Valley the "trail" is difficult.

On the initial climb up from the Arroyo Seco River to the 2,852 ft saddle there is encroaching poison oak and spring grass/brush growth alongside the trail. The switchbacks up to the saddle are clear. From the saddle down to Fish Camp there is some chaparral brush starting to encroach onto the trail. Two years ago this was wide and clear so more evidence of the aggressive and tenacious growth habits of chaparral. From Fish Camp to Lost Valley is mostly clear with the occasional log over the trail and some poison oak whenever the trail traverses into a riparian/stream corridor.

A clear path continues from Lost Valley camp to the Higgins Creek crossing. There are several ways to cross Higgins Creek. The most straightforward seems to be going down a steep streambank and then taking a short willow tunnel upstream that opens into a rocky flood channel. A clear path to the meadows exits right shortly thereafter (i.e. no brush). The trail has largely disappeared in the grassy meadows but travel is easy enough. At the west end of the meadows the tread becomes somewhat more defined as it descends back to Higgins Creek. From here, the most efficient route initially sticks to the north side of the stream on the edge of the willow greenbelt (resist temptation to cross or walk in the stream). While there is some evidence of the original trail, the slope is erosive and it's effectively a usepath. The path crosses Higgins Creek three times (with abundant poison oak and some brush/blowdowns) before making an ascent above the stream on its south side and traversing to Pelon Camp. I didn't see any flagging or trail markers for any of the crossings or brushy spots. I was heading for the Higgins Creek Falls so I stayed in the stream corridor utilizing use paths and rocky flood channels to get to the falls so I cannot comment on the condition of the final section of the trail to Pelon but travel alongside the stream was reasonable.
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Re: Lost Valley Trail

Postby Jim Ringland on Sun May 15, 2016 7:14 pm

Date Hiked: May 13, 2016
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I hiked from the Lost Valley Connector out to Escondido. I suspect many would rate this “clear”. The trail is in very good shape. Two duck-unders and a bit of encroaching brush, mostly between Fish Camp and the divide between the Lost Valley and Arroyo Seco sides seem enough to make “passable” seem more appropriate. But it’s definitely on the very highest end of passable.
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Re: Lost Valley Trail

Postby Hillary on Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:11 am

Date Hiked: April 17, 2016
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

From Escondito through Lost Valley to Higgins Creek is darn near a wilderness freeway. That was great.

We attempted to get to from Higgins Creek to Pelon Camp and decided it just wasn't going to happen. We set off from Lost Valley Camp fairly early and came across the Bill Cotta marker and followed the tread across the valleys to Higgins Creek. Easy - and beautiful.

We had our Oregan GPS so as we approached Higgins Creek we knew we were following the GPS line pretty spot on, but there was little tread and lots of brush and deadfall to climb over. And there was no flagging that we could find. We decided to push into the brush where the GPS had the creek crossing and we miraculously made it to the creek after crawling through the brush (and poison oak). The creek crossing was easy and it was clearly the best spot to cross the creek (without wading across wide rock-less pools). Once across the creek it was a wall of thickness. We dropped our packs and began poking into the thickness to see if we could make our way through. We did poke out the other side of the brush and trees and walked along the trail a bit through the meadows. But that short distance of creek crossing took over an hour and we could tell that the future trek wasn't going to get any easier. So, we sat, enjoyed the view, and returned to our packs to push back through.

The entire day was 2.86 miles and 4 hours 41 minutes. Maybe if it hadn't been so warm we would have put on our long sleeves and just plowed through it all. But that would have meant doing it again in the other direction on our way back out. Needless to say, we enjoyed a very thorough scrub down to wash off the poison oak. I usually get PO pretty bad so I was worried about how much we had encountered and crawled through (literally and on purpose!). But the scrub down did me well and I ended up with just 3 spider bites (did I mention the hundreds of spiders in the brush???).

Good luck getting to Pelon Camp. Maybe there is another way, but reading the historical trip reports makes me think that this is quickly becoming impassable. I'm probably going to give this another go late this fall and attempt it as a day hike from Lost Valley so I don't have to squeeze my pack through all this brush.

Day 2 Jack's GPS.png
This is Jack's GPS path we tried to follow... it looks so easy, right?

Day 2 GPS.png
This is our GPS path we forged. You can see we made it across the creek but set our pack down so we didn't capture our emergence from the brush.

Looking back at the "path" we took to get to Higgins Creek. Who cares about Poison Oak? Let's talk about SPIDERS. Can't figure out how to rotate this, so tilt your head left so the bit of sky is on top... sorry.

When we weren't in the brush the views were astounding.

It took us an hour to go from the near yellow patch to the far yellow patch.
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Re: Lost Valley Trail

Postby kgiudici on Mon Apr 11, 2016 8:10 pm

Date Hiked: April 9, 2016
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

We hiked from Escondido to Lost Valley. There was rain in the forecast, but we lucked out and only experienced a couple light showers. The wildflowers were in full bloom along the trail and in the valley. Water was flowing out of almost every nook and cranny. The Arroyo Seco, Lost Valley Creek, and Higgins Creek were running clear and cold. The trail is passable, but there are multiple deadfalls, encroaching brush, and thick PO in shady areas near water. We cleared about a dozen small deadfalls-there are some larger ones that would require a saw(which we did not have). Tread is evident along the majority of the trail. Marking tape was present in some of the faint tread areas. We were disappointed to find that Lost Valley Public Camp was littered with huge deadfall, and seemed an unsafe area to spend much time as there are still some large standing trees looming above it. This was the first trip into the Ventana Wilderness for our group and we are hooked.

Re: Lost Valley Trail

Postby MarkMoeh on Fri Jul 17, 2015 2:52 pm

Date Hiked: July 12, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked from the Marble Peak trail to Escondido last weekend. There were two very distinct segments of this trail: from Marble Peak trail junction to Lost Valley there is essentially no trail. From Lost Valley to Escondido? Wilderness freeway.

For the first section from Marble Peak trail to LV, I had to invent my own trail the whole way. There is some flagging for the first half-mile or so, but there was no associated footpath. Had to push my way through overgrowth, PO, thick willow trees, etc. Eventually I just started following the dry creekbed, since I knew that would lead me down the valley. It would be hard to get totally "lost" here, since the valley is so steep that there are really only two ways to go: upstream or downstream. So I ended up following Higgins Creek instead of the trail. The creek was dry for about a mile, then there were some periodic pools, a welcome occasion for cooling off and refilling water bottles. Had to do lots of rock-hopping and a little downclimbing to get through this upper section. I never saw Upper Higgins camp, but there is a 10-15' waterfall just upstream from its labeled location. It wasn't flowing, but it's such a narrow valley there that I had to downclimb with my pack and splash my way through the pool of water below!

The creek starts out steep and gradually gets flatter, which makes for easier travel. Eventually I found Pelon Camp, only because of a cairn sitting on a boulder in the creek. It was pretty overgrown, and I still didn't find the trail. I continued down the creek, stopping occasionally to pick a few wild raspberries along the way. For the last mile I got fed up with rock-hopping and just started trudging through the creek, anywhere from ankle to hip-deep. Somewhere around here (about 1-2 miles from Lost Valley camp), the trail emerges into the grass meadows. I missed that and kept charging through the river, which got me in trouble because eventually the willows start to grow as thick as mangroves, all around and in the river. But once I found my way out, the beauty of Lost Valley was immediately apparent. It's very secluded and feels like an oasis after the steep hills and rough trails of the rest of the day. The meadows are beautiful to wander in, but make sure to stay on the trail when crossing Higgins Creek and Lost Valley Creek, since the only clear river crossings are along the trail (the rest is still clogged up by the "mangrove" forest). Took me about 6 hours to go these 6 miles.

Lost Valley camp is nice, great sunsets and sunrises. Had to walk about 200 yards back to the river to get water.

Not much to say about the next section from Lost Valley to Escondido other than that it is an excellent trail with some healthy climbs. I was very glad to get to the Arroyo Seco and go for a swim! Being on my own and having the whole Lost Valley to myself was a glorious feeling. I will definitely be returning to this section of trail to stay at Fish Camp and explore the area in more detail!

Oh and Thanks to the VWA crews for their excellent work on these trails. The quality of Marble Peak trail and (most of) Lost Valley trail were the most pleasant surprises I've had while hiking in the Ventana backcountry.
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Re: Lost Valley Trail

Postby Betsy M on Wed Jun 03, 2015 1:13 pm

Date Hiked: March 15, 2015
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

I'll just say as a VWA Trail Crew leader, we could not do what we do without horses and mules and the support of the Forest Service. Particularly the trails that are far back in the wilderness need stock access to pack in hired crews. True, the trails must be cleared to a higher standard for stock access, but in the Ventana the brush grows so quickly that we pretty much want to be clearing to a high standard anyway. And we always always always try to make sure the trails are safe for stock. The Forest Service was instrumental in packing us in to Strawberry Camp this year and last year. As a consequence, the Black Cone Trail is clear to Turnaround Ridge.

It is really unfortunate that the trails are so degraded. I'd also like to invite anyone who has complaints to join the trail crew. Upcoming outings are posted on our Meetup site. Or donate to help hire crews.

Having stock use the trail is an excellent way to firm up the tread. Our goal (admittedly unlikely) is to have all the trails stock-passable.
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Re: Lost Valley Trail

Postby Huntnfool831 on Tue Jun 02, 2015 9:07 pm

Date Hiked: May 3, 2015
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

So a little rebuttal since I'm one of horse guys complained about in the previous post. Trail was clear but a lot of trees/logs across the trail we cleared before Hikers went in. First of all I could understand a complaint if there was a lot of horse traffic. According to several leading trail makers in the US "Poor trail design, such as steep trails without water bars, causes erosion more than Horses but horses should avoid travel when trails are wet." These trails were originally built with horses and mules back in the 1940's.....By my father who was a Forest Ranger there. The trails used to be used a lot by horse packers a long time ago. That's how the campstoves, tables & fence material got in there and what do you think that big horse pasture & hitching post at Escondido Campground are for? In fact the fences that are in Lost Valley were put there to keep the horses IN while staying at Lost Valley. Not cattle.The trails have degraded over the years till about 6 years ago were almost impassable, even for backpackers & some places nonexistent. My son, I, friends & FS personal we know have spent MANY difficult & HOT hours clearing the trail so not just our horses but backpackers could even get in there. If it wasn't for us you wouldn't be able to enjoy Lost Valley. After the Escondido fire,we had to clear tunnels through the brush just to get in at all. There are very few trails in Ventana that horses can get in because of amount of time to clear the trails to get in. The Forest Service doesn't have the money to maintain the trails like they used to & rely on volunteers & grants, which rarely happens. The only reason this trail is in the good shape it is, is because the FS got a grant to hire guys to clear some of the trails, after we got it cleared enough just to get through at all.
Maybe you could volunteer to clear trails you get to use like we have on this & others instead of complaining about a few horses using 1 trail ONCE A YEAR. With that said... I DEFINITELY would NOT recommend this trail to other horseman as there are spots that are very dangerous.
Ps- Your complaint about the horse "poop" is a legitimate one so... I'll have my friend who goes along follow with a shovel.
Pss- And we didn't have steaks since we didn't build a fire due to the dry conditions and we hauled out a lot of Garbage left by other campers. Also I wonder if the guys with dogs cleaned up their dog "poop" on the trails so others didn't step in it.


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