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Marble Peak Trail

Marble Peak Trail Arroyo Seco to South Fork Junction

Postby Megan Sebay on Wed May 30, 2018 7:25 am

Date Hiked: May 25, 2018
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

We hiked from Arroyo Seco to Strawberry Camp on May 25th. The first few miles to the junction with Tony Trail are clear and passable, though poison oak and blackberry are beginning to encroach some. The ticks were also out in full force!

After Tony Trail the vegetation encroaches a bit more, and by the time you get to the top of the ridge there's a lot of vegetation on the trail. Most of it is grass/wildflower type, but there's some actual brush. There's no question about where the trail is, though.

There is NO CAMP at Camp Creek (No-Camp Creek?), but there's a use camp at Shovel Handle Creek that will do in a pinch.

Coming down into Strawberry Valley the trail continues to be brushy, especially around the creek crossings. There's a big camp just past the junction with South Fork Trail, but we didn't go all the way to Tan Oak.
Megan Sebay

Re: Marble Peak Trail

Postby Jim Ringland on Sun May 13, 2018 10:27 am

Date Hiked: May 9, 2018
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

On the 9th, I hiked from the South Fork Trail junction to Willow Springs Camp, having started at Strawberry Valley Camp. On the 10th, I continued the short distance to the Tony Trail junction. In addition, on the 9th I dropped my big backpack at the South Fork junction and dayhiked west toward and beyond Tan Oak Camp.

South Fork junction west through the Tan Oak Creek corridor: Passable (!)

The creek crossing is now right behind the sign at the Marble Peak / South Fork Trail junction. Tan Oak Use Camp, just a few hundred feet down the trail, looks well-used and has the same general feel as it had in 2016 when I stayed there. The shrubbery burned and is regenerating. The trees are mostly intact although some lower limbs burned.

The trail beyond to the original Tan Oak Camp is in good shape and easily followed, mostly. I did miss the last stream crossing right before Tan Oak Camp but figured that out within a few 10’s of feet. A few branches leaning into the trail are the only obstacles. Tan Oak Camp appears to be little used. The fire ring and grate are still there but there was nothing that looked like a bedsite. The sign I saw in 2016 is gone.

I was going to stop at Tan Oak Camp, but the trail on looked fine, so I kept going … and going. Despite the earlier reports, I found this easy hiking. Somebody’s cleaned a lot of blackberry away from the trail. There are still a few residual vines on the ground (easily stepped upon), softer things leaning into the trail, and a few things growing *in* the trail, but mashing through the occasional patches of bracken or shoots of deervetch (Hosackia crassifolia) wasn’t hard. No route-finding issues. The area burned hard so there were open views down to the creek and up the hillside.

My intent once I got going was to continue until the trail began switchbacking away from the riparian corridor. I stopped about 300’ short, at least according to my GPS. I heard a rattlesnake in the blackberry at the side of the trail. (The berries were low and mounding there, maybe 12” to 24” high.) I never saw the snake and couldn’t quite localize the sound. Rather than throw a bunch of rocks or do a lot of careful probing into the blackberry with my poles to encourage him to move on, I just decided I was the interloper and he the resident. I turned around.

South Fork junction east to the Tony Trail junction: Passable to Clear

The jradford report from April still fits well.

Passable certainly fits through the Zigzag Creek drainage. Good trail with some brush that occasionally needed to be pushed aside. Sometimes there was some growth in the trail too: I have a nice picture of a popcorn-flower-filled trailbed. No footing issues. The Shovelhandle Creek Use Camp doesn’t look much used and the Camp Creek camp is long gone.

The trail widens about half way between the Zigzag Creek / Willow Creek divide and Willow Springs Camp. From here to Willow Springs, it’s essentially Clear. The camp is a big and nice as always, sitting under its huge oaks and bays. The trail’s a little narrower between Willow Springs and the Tony Trail junction with some soft stuff leaning in occasionally, so it’s a toss-up whether to call this Clear or Passable. Either way, no problems.
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Re: Marble Peak Trail

Postby jradford on Sun Apr 29, 2018 4:22 pm

Date Hiked: April 25, 2018
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

One can now hike at a steady quick pace all the way from Arroyo Seco to Tan Oak Camp w/o any slow-down for brush or obstacles. It's a far cry from "wilderness freeway", such as it was just 2 years ago, alas, but it is easy to navigate. However, about 4 miles of it has vegetation growing IN the tread such that more and more people are stepping around such and occasionally breaking down the outside edge of the tread - a bad situation on steep slopes!

Horse Bridge to 1/2 mile west of Willow Springs: there are 4 low logs (before Willow Springs Camp) easily stepped over; much Poison Oak, the worst I've seen here but mostly broken back and it could be quite a bit worse. The section is technically "passable" only because of encroaching PO but that's all. Most would simply call it "clear".

[Suggestion: cut a walking stick with a fork at the bottom end, forking for 2-3" or so. PO is generally brittle and it is easy to break outreaching long twigs, to push (weave) stems backwards into nearby growth, to uproot small plants. Uprooting is best done by hand, of course.]

Willow Springs to Saddle (triangular metal sign): in the last 1/2 mile or so Chamise and other brush encroaches, some in your face but the tread is ever-obvious. No snags to duck under or step over or around. Definitely "passable".

Saddle (triangular sign) to Strawberry Valley: most of the tread, though obviously present and easy to follow, is mostly covered with grass or annuals (some beautiful floral displays now) or perennials such as new Chamise, Deer Weed, Mountain Balm. No snags to duck under or step over. Definitely "passable" but rapidly filling in and getting threatened by overgrowth.

Strawberry Valley to Tan Oak Camp: "clear" all the way.

Re: Marble Peak Trail

Postby Jacob Nie on Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:02 pm

Date Hiked: April 21, 2018
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked West->East

The trail from Marble Peak to Indian Valley Campground is in good shape--make sure that you take the correct turnoff from Coast Ridge Road. Some maps are wrong--the Marble Peak trail begins south of the peak and has a sign.

The uphill stretch from Indian Valley to the ridge had a couple of sketchy spots where the trail crossed a bunch of steep scree slopes. I had a couple guys completely slide off the trail here, so please be mindful of that.

The trail down to Tan Oak camp is totally obscured with vines, with only a faint indication that people have previously walked through. Big thanks to Betsy M for flagging this section of trail--I was very glad to see that they were all still there. Getting through efficiently wouldn't be possible without these flags.

The entire trail east of the Strawberry Valley junction is in ok shape, shouldn't have problems there.
Jacob Nie

Re: Marble Peak Trail

Postby Betsy M on Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:53 pm

Date Hiked: December 30, 2017
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked from the North Coast Ridge Road to Strawberry Valley on the New Year's weekend. Pantilat has described the section from Strawberry Valley to the trailhead at the Horsebridge. The other end of the trail is as follows:

Marble Peak to Indian Valley, to the junction with the Lost Valley Trail:
Wilderness Freeway, maybe a couple of spots with minor issues. This section has been kept clear by volunteers in the past months (thank you!).

Junction with the Lost Valley Trail to the top of the ridge, and down to Tan Oak Creek:
Passable. There is some brush encroaching in a few spots to the top of the hill, but most of this section did not burn and the work done before is holding up. From the top of the ridge down to Tan Oak Creek, almost the entire section burned, and is quite passable.

The Tan Oak Creek section, which had been lost, then located, was almost impossible to find this time. Let's call this Difficult. Huge piles of blackberry vines covered large sections of the trail. Even though I've been on this section many times, it was very difficult to locate the trail. I ended up taking an entire day and flagging most of it, clearing out blackberries where I could. The section from Tan Oak Camp to the junction with the South Fork Trail in Strawberry Valley was similarly difficult to locate. Not from blackberries, but roses. Again, I flagged most of this but there were a couple of creek crossings where I wasn't sure where the crossing was, so I left them unflagged. Note to hikers: please don't remove the flags. The way the blackberries are growing, it will be essential to have flagging to find this route in another 3 months.

The Marble Peak Trail turns at the burned sign in Strawberry Valley, and heads up the hill. The half-mile long section beyond is actually the start of the South Fork Trail. Again, Difficult. And as Pantilat describes, it is quite overgrown. I was really glad that someone had gone through before I did, since even a couple of hikers seem to be effective at smashing down the clover and other vegetation that is clogging up the meadows. Again, I flagged most of this. The one section that isn't well flagged is at the end, just before Strawberry Camp. Here, you should stay to the right, in what appears to be a new streambed. This is the trail that got gullied out by the water last spring. It goes without saying that you need to be wearing long pants, since this is the Ventana. The wild roses will rip your legs to shreds if they get a chance.
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Re: Marble Peak Trail

Postby pantilat on Sat Dec 30, 2017 12:17 pm

Date Hiked: December 27, 2017
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

From Tony Trail JCT to Camp Creek: Clear. Lots of recent work is evident restoring tread along Willow Creek and removing dozens of downed trees and obstructions from the trail. Thank you! Willow Creek is flowing at Willow Springs Camp and at the last stream crossing beyond. Camp Creek has a good flow of water as well.

From Camp Creek to Strawberry Valley: Passable. Trail work has not arrived to this section yet so there is a lot of regrowth in the trail and little evidence of prior use. There is also some inflexible burnt brush skeletons in the trail and a few downed trees. This area was decimated by the fire and almost all of the young coulter pines did not survive. In Strawberry Valley the tread is almost entirely covered by tremendous regrowth including nasty thorny bushes with stickers that are like claws. There was water flowing in Shovel Handle Creek and in Zigzag Creek at Strawberry Valley.
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Re: Marble Peak Trail

Postby RSIBryce on Sun Oct 01, 2017 9:06 am

Date Hiked: September 20, 2017
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

We began hiking from Strawberry Valley, en route from the Black Cone trail, while performing a survey for the USFS in the Soberanes Burn area. As noted in other trail reports, the herbaceous plant growth near streams was tremendous, and made travel through these areas slow and cumbersome.

Black Cone trail sign

From Strawberry to where the trail climbs out of the lil valley, just past the turn off to Tan Oak Camp (and the continuation of the Marble Peak trail) the growth is thick, especially of wild rose. Once you climb up along the traverse, the fire has done nature's best trail work and its clear sailing, aside from debris and hinges that need cleaning, and the occasional tree and a few slides. There's also a prevalence of small plants growing out of the trail, lots of yerba santa. I don't recall ever seeing such growth, perhaps an effect of the fire enriching the tread soil?

Tread growth

Once you begin the descent down toward Willow Spring, the burn area ceases. The trail is in good shape and remains clear (thank you VWA volunteers and others). We counted some 37 trees down between Strawberry and Marble Peak TH. Most of these lie near Willow Spring and out to the TH. Beyond Willow there are many stream crossings. Willow Spring to the TH the creek crossings have become deeper cut after the big rainy season-quite a bit of mitigation needed to make those stock passable, I would assume. Theres also alot of logjam type situations across the trail- which account for a fair number of the 37. Nothing to hard to navigate with a pack, but plenty of work to do for the dedicated.

Could be a tricky one

Water was everywhere. No problem finding springs in all kinds of places and at all camps.
Marble Peak trail, typical conditions between Tan Oak turnoff and descent to Willow
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Marble Peak Trail

Postby js_radford on Sat Jun 18, 2016 7:21 pm

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

Hiked June 12-13-14

COAST RIDGE ROAD to STRAWBERRY: the tread is easily seen 99% of the time. Work of the last 3 years has started to deteriorate as expected, being "Wilderness freeway" in the more westerly section as of a year ago, now quite clear but crowding in since even those areas were mostly not done to high standards (for stock use) seen east of Strawberry.

- There is need for a lot of tread work about a mile east of Indian Valley on to Tan Oak. The more or less excellent tread west of that section has started to fill in some.
- Brush also is making its usual comeback and, again in the section about a mile east of Indian valley to Tan Oak camp there is quite a bit of Chamise growing inwards, sometimes touching but often with about a 1-foot gap to walk through, sometimes overhead. Brush along the entire section from Coast Ridge to Tan Oak was not cut back to stock use standards and is needing renewed work though it used to be about 100x as bad just 2 years ago! Slight exaggeration now but felt that way when many sections were miserable crawl-throughs.
- Deadfalls remain but nowhere really impede backpacking in an upright manner. I cut about half of the pruning saw size trees and branches (up to 8 inches). There is only 1 remaining deadfall a 1/3 mile east of Indian Valley (easily ducked under or straddled) until crossing over the ridge above Tan Oak Camp. From the ridge down, there remain perhaps 50 small and half a dozen larger fallen branches and trees and such. But all can be stepped over/around (w/o degrading the tread) easily. I don't think I left anything requiring ducking. There were a few minor short crawl-throughs that are now gone.

- Tread is in excellent shape, having been maintained to stock use standards as of 2 months ago.
- Brush, likewise, is cut well back to clear the way for a "Wilderness freeway". East of Willow Springs there is often an abundance of Poison Oak but it can be avoided almost entirely w/o breaking stride.
- The fallen tree mentioned about half a mile (closer to a mile) east of Jct. with Tony Trail is a monster Oak that will be extremely difficult and dangerous to cut. However, one can stoop under it easily since it clears the tread by a good 5 feet.
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Re: Marble Peak Trail

Postby David Courrejou on Wed Jun 08, 2016 8:33 am

Date Hiked: June 3, 2016
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

On Friday 6/3/16 We hiked from Arroyo Seco ranger station to Strawberry Camp. The trail was in good condition the best I have seen it in years. There was a down tree about a 1/2 mile from Willow Creek camp ,we got through it pretty quickly. On 6/4/16 we continued our hike through Rainbow Camp over to Cold Springs Camp and again I found the trails to be great shape. We were able to follow them easily especially with colored ribbons marking the way at river crossings . On Sunday 6/5/16 we followed the coast ridge road to Big Sur. Its been 16 years since I completed this hike and want to say the trail conditions were better now then, again a big thanks to the VWA for all your great work.
David Courrejou

Re: Marble Peak Trail

Postby Jim Ringland on Sun May 15, 2016 5:47 pm

Date Hiked: May 10, 2016
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked the entire trail, Arroyo Seco to Marble Peak, on May 10, 11, and 12, spending nights at Tassajara Creek Camp and the Tan Oak Use Camp. Trail conditions varied considerably. The rating above is for only the worst section. My thoughts are close to what Leor Pantilat reported last week, but with a backpack and more than a few extra years of age, some of my ratings are lower.

Arroyo Seco Indians Road to Tassajara Creek Camp: Wilderness Freeway. Well used, well-cleared trail, mostly in forest, well up on the hillside. Occasionally one has to push a branch of poison oak to the side with a hiking pole, but that’s about the only concern. There are some luscious Salvia spathacea (hummingbird sage) with orange-ish flowers on dark red calyxes along the trail between the horsebridge and the Horse Pasture Trail junction.

Tassajara Creek Camp is on a big open bench below the trail but above the creek. There is room for many, although after a few obvious bedsites are taken, one might have to hunt around a bit for a spot that isn’t too full of small rocks. There’s a fire ring with log benches. It’s under trees a little closer to the water than the bedsites.

Tassajara Creek Camp to South Fork Trail junction: Clear. Between the Tassajara Creek and Willow Springs Camps, the trail spends a lot of time close to Willow Creek. There are several easy rock-hop crossings. There’s just little more PO and other growth to be nudged aside. It’s not bad, but it’s not freeway-quality openness either. It can be wonderfully dark, cool, and moist down at the bottom: coltsfoot (Petasites), five-finger ferns (Adiantum), and giant chain ferns (Woodwardia) grow down here. Plenty of flowers in the less dark places. Beyond Willow Springs, the climb to the Willow Creek / Zigzag Creek divide has one low-ish duck-under. There is still some occasional brush incursion higher up, but many sections return to wilderness freeway levels. The slumped trail I wrote about in 2012 is gone, fixed so well that I couldn’t tell today where the offending spot had been.

There are three camps in the vicinity of the junction of the South Fork Trail junction. I stayed at the Tan Oak Use Camp about 200’ west of the junction. It’s in a modest opening with a grate, a fine sitting rock, a nice bedsite, and a resident rattlesnake who wiggled his tail and slunk off into the brush once his repose was interrupted. Lots of water in Zigzag Creek. About 10 minutes up Tan Oak Creek is the real Tan Oak Camp. It seems a less attractive area with lots of burnt-out trees still showing. While there’s a rudimentary fire ring with a metal grate, the camp as a whole doesn’t look much used. Tan Oak Creek was running nicely too. Strawberry Valley Camp, 1/2 mile up the South Fork Trail (I walked up after dinner), remains the nicest camp of the area. It sits in a pretty meadow, has a big fire ring with benches, and offers several good bedsites. Zigzag Creek is running by camp. I walked the new South Fork Trail a little farther up to the divide. No more dangerously washed out trail! And a clear trail down. It’s on the to-hike list.

South Fork Trail junction to about 3000’ elevation above Tan Oak Creek: Difficult.
This mile-or-so includes the walk along Tan Oak Creek and the first part of the climb out. Several downed trees. More than a little brush to push through. One stretch of thimbleberries where I had to look hard to find the trail. None of this is all that hard. This is really on the line between difficult and passable. But with a big pack on my back, I’m inclined to rate down, not up.

About 3000’ elevation above Tan Oak Creek to the Higgins Creek crossing: Passable. Once above 3000’ or so, the trail pops out of the forest and into the chaparral. Many sections are excellent although there is just enough brush incursion, trail slumping, step-overs, and duck-unders that I think “passable” is more honest than “clear”. Great views up here. At the Higgins Creek crossing, where the Marble Peak Trail meets the Lost Valley Trail, the Old Indian Valley Camp (so named in my 3rd [1981] Sierra Club guide) is back in place. (The 2003 Sierra Club guide suggests the camp is gone.) The camp is just simple fire ring with a few logs on which to sit, but it seems like a nice enough place. It did have a lot of flies active when I was there at about noon, though. Both Higgins Creek and a very handy small side stream were running there. While the Higgins Creek crossing is flagged, I didn’t find it obvious. I had to cast around a bit. Higgins Creek and the small side stream a few hundred feet ahead were the last water sources I found heading up toward the Coast Ridge.

Higgins Creek Crossing to Coast Ridge Road: Wilderness Freeway. Except for being a long uphill slog, this was straightforward. I took the main trail all the way. The cut-off use trail near the top isn’t marked but is fairly easy to spot ... even if it looked a little narrow and brushy compared to the wide-open trail I was on. Right at the Coast Ridge, there is no question about where to go when hiking east to west as I was, but I’m not sure the same would be true in the opposite direction. The trail runs through grass for about 200’ between where it exits the forest and where it intersects the road. There is a sign at the road. So there is any doubt on how to get from the road onto the Marble Peak Trail, head up the hill at the sign and follow the edge of the open grass until an obvious trail into the forest appears.
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