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Pine Ridge Trail

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Postby Gonehiking guest on Thu Nov 18, 2021 12:52 am

Date Hiked: November 11, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked from China Camp to Church Creek Divide. At first summit ~.6 mile, trail is overgrown with ceanothus, chest to head high. After that scrub oak and ceanothus are growing back and there is evidence of folks clipping brush at waist height which is making shrubs grow sideways, more into the trail. On the switchbacks down to the divide, scrub oak and large golden fleece bushes are growing in the trail causing people to punch out the downslope side of the trail. Last hiked 9/2019 (when it was really clear from past trailwork and the Soberanes fire) and was suprised at the amount of growth since that time even during a historic drought. Numerous ticks were found on our clothing from head to leg, after going through the trail even though we were all wearing treated clothing.
Gonehiking guest

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Postby hikin_jim on Tue Nov 16, 2021 3:08 pm

Date Hiked: November 11, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

I hiked the PRT Thursday 11/11/2021 to Sunday 11/14/2021 as follows:
  • Thursday - Big Sur Station to Terrace Creek Camp
  • Friday - Terrace Creek to Sykes Camp
  • Saturday - Sykes to Terrace Creek
  • Sunday - Terrace Creek to Big Sur Station (PRT trailhead)

Generally, the trail was in excellent shape.
There was a kind of re-route/washout between the trailhead and Bad Gulch. I think it's one major gully west of Bad Gulch, but my placement is inexact. It looks like it's been this way for a while, and, short of blasting out a channel in the rock wall on the east bank, I don't think there's any good way to restore the original tread. I saw families with children negotiate the bypass, so I don't think it's a huge deal. I report it here for the sake of completeness and so that others have a good idea of what to expect.
Wash out/re-route in first part of trail (before Bad Gulch)

Speaking of expectations, expect steepness. There's a good pull after you leave the campground area at the trail head, and there are steep sections interspersed throughout. I've had friends comment that hiking in Ventana is harder than hiking in the Sierra because of all the up and down.
Steep section of the PRT (pulling out of Terrace Creek)

We stopped on the way in and the way out at Terrace Creek Camp. It made a lot of sense to stop there on the way in and on the way out because we were driving up from LA, and we didn't get on the trail until 1:45 PM PST on Thursday despite leaving at 6:00 AM. It was just getting dark as we strode into eminently worthwhile Terrace Creek Camp. On the way out, being positioned at Terrace Creek got us out before noon which got us home at a reasonable hour. I found Terrace Creek Camp to be particularly lovely, an under-appreciated gem. We noted a number of people camped at Terrace Creek that used Terrace Creek as a base camp; they hiked in to Barlow, Sykes, or Redwood Camps using day packs thereby avoiding having to carry full weight the length of the trail (and avoiding potential crowds at Sykes).
Terrace Creek Camp. Exceptionally lovely.

The signage for the bypass near Barlow Flats is good on both ends. It's just a 3"x3" wooden post with a matching wooden sign on either end. I saw some comments somewhere about an orange bucket or something, but I didn't see anything like that. I also saw comments that the eastern end (further into the wilderness) wasn't clearly marked, but I found both ends to be clearly marked.
Sign marking the bypassed section near Barlow Flats

Water crossings were no big deal even at the Big Sur River this trip although you should expect that you cannot have a dry crossing at the river; you're going to get your feet wet. Conditions will change, particularly during or immediately after a rain.
Crossing Logwood Creek en route to Barlow Flats

Water was running at all named creeks. There was even a little dribble of water at Bad Gulch, but I wouldn't count on that. Dolores Creek was particularly lovely in my estimation.
Dolores Creek (to the best of my recall)

Camp sites at Sykes were harder to come by and weren't, in my opinion, quite as nice as those at Terrace Creek. Of course, you are camped near the Big Sur river, which is pretty darned cool, so there's that. There are still flows of warm water at Sykes "Hot" Springs (it's not all that hot compared to other wild springs I've visited like in the Mammoth, California area), but there's not much in the way of pools anymore. My friend who accompanied me has been there many times was quite disappointed that one could no longer truly soak. I suppose I can see both sides of the argument for removing the pools. I will express no opinion here but only report my observations.
Wedged into a fairly small spot on the banks of the Big Sur River at Sykes.

I saw no ticks this trip. However, note that I freshly treated my clothes with permethrin the week before the trip.

Poison oak on the other hand was much in evidence. Some still had the classic "leaves of three" sporting fall color (which would be an oily, verdant green in the spring).
Poison oak in fall color. Lovely to look at, but do not touch. "Leaves of three, let it be."

Of course poison oak is often completely leafless in fall and winter. Another way to spot it is via its distinctive white berries.
The distinctive white berries of poison oak. Beware!

The only bad part of the trail is that I had to leave on Sunday and go home. :(
Views on the way out

In short: If you're headed out on the Pine Ridge Trail, expect good or better trail conditions, but don't (because of the steep sections and all the up and down) expect it to be easy. However, WARNING, you may suffer from acute VWDS after your hike (Ventana Wilderness Deficit Syndrome). The only cure... is to come back. Ask your doctor if the Ventana Wilderness is right for you. :)
A final look at the Ventana Wilderness.


P.S. Very nice to meet Betsy and VWA trail maintenance crew on Saturday. Thanks for all you do.
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Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Postby Tommy on Fri Nov 12, 2021 7:58 am

Date Hiked: November 6, 2021
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Hiked between China Camp and Carmel River Trail. Tread is great, however there are several areas of heavy, stiff brush overgrowth across the trail. Confused about recent claims of "wilderness freeway."

Ed: poster refers to immediately preceding report for same section of trail

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Postby BG Rich on Thu Nov 11, 2021 5:54 am

Date Hiked: November 1, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

We hiked this trail November 1-3 as part of our trip from China Camp to Ventana Double Cone and covered the section from China Camp to Pine Valley Camp. It is truly a wilderness freeway. The trail was clear, well-defined and easy to follow. No problems whatsoever.
BG Rich
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Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Postby lylegordon on Sun Oct 31, 2021 9:51 am

Date Hiked: October 26, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

Pine Ridge Trail from Big Sur Station to Big Sur Trail Junction
Excellent trail conditions - wilderness freeway

Our group the previous pre-fire/restoration route above Barlow camp where there was a large fallen tree and a couple small rock slides that you need to carefully go over but weren't major issues, even with backpacking gear.

The route to the hot springs required a few back and forth crossings of the Big Sur River (knee high in places) and the tread wasn't always evident, minor route finding was required.

Water was available at Terrace Creek, Sykes and Redwood Camp as well as some other small creeks. Logwood creek had water further up on Big Sur Trail and likely where it intersected the Pine Ridge trail but I can't recall for sure.

Minor issues with annoying flies that didn't bite but no other bugs were encountered.
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Big Sur to Redwoods Campsite

Postby Harrison96 on Mon Oct 11, 2021 5:47 pm

Date Hiked: October 10, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

Water available at Redwoods Camp 10 October 2021

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Postby tedmerrill on Fri Oct 01, 2021 12:39 pm

Date Hiked: September 29, 2021
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and well maintained)

VWA Moderator Note: The "detour" referred to in the post below is an official reroute of the Pine Ridge Trail that was necessitated by the failure of a section of the original route. The US Forest Service determined that the reroute was necessary for public safety. Of course what is "safe" or "dangerous" is in the eye of the beholder. But as the managing agency for these public lands it is their call. They funded the contract crews that completed the reroute. Note: VWA volunteers were instrumental in making key access points on the PRT pack stock accessible to enable the contract crews to work more efficiently. Plus, volunteers completed hundreds of hours of work just making the trail better in general. Thank you!
As for the original route, there is a plan in place to eventually reopen it allowing for continued travel on the PRT without having to deal with the crossings down by Barlow Flat Camp. But for now it is reckless to suggest that the original route be used (or to actually use it). What may seem like an easy "scramble" today when dry could be a life threatening maneuver tomorrow. The slightest bit of rain could again make that whole section susceptible to slides. Do not use the old original route above Barlow Flat until it is officially reopened. And if you are visiting during times when the Big Sur River flows are high, don't try to cross it. Visitors are not owed the right to continue on a trail when natural conditions dictate otherwise. Accept Wilderness on its terms and stay alive.

Trail is excellent from Big Sur Ranger Station to Sykes, with one exception.
Many thanks to all the volunteers who cleaned up the trail!

The exception is where the trail is officially re-routed at Barlow Camp.
This detour requires two crossings of the Big Sur River and should not be attempted by most people during the high flows of a normal winter.

Fortunately there is a solution for those with minimal scrambling skills, which is to follow the original trail!

There is, on the original trail, a single slide where ground water undermined the trail.
The width of the slide is only about 20 feet.
On the west side is a drop-off of about 10 feet.
On the east side has a drop-off of about 5 feet (the east side is lower than the west side).
The natural slope of the hillside is steep enough to make traction difficult, but not enough to pose any danger to sliding in an unsafe way IMO.
There is, currently at least, a use trail just above the slide... this trail ascends easily 5 feet, traverses, descends easily 5 feet and then the last 5 feet to the east side is steep enough that traction is difficult (but there is currently a tree to hang on to).
I repeat that for someone with minimal scrambling skills, there is no danger even if you lose your footing.
IMO with a very small amount of work this use trail could be made to have a suitable gradient... if I had had a pulaski with me I would have done so.
It is possible that the trail above the slide will become, over time, unsuitable for a trail, in which case IMO filling in the slide with well-placed rocks would be an easily manageable project that several volunteers could accomplish in several days.
As to why the Forest Service decided a reroute with two river crossings would be required... unfathomable to me.
But since the new trail is there, it could come in handy some day.

Attached, I hope, is a picture of the slide and use trail around the slide, taken from the east side.
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Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Postby Eric-ventana on Wed Aug 25, 2021 4:48 pm

Thanks for the thorough report!!

Is there anything left of the hot springs? I know they busted them out due to heavy traffic and a lot of misuse. Has there been any effort or evidense of building a pool back up again?

Thanks again!!
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Joined: Tue May 11, 2021 11:22 am

Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Postby kmahony1 on Wed Jun 23, 2021 4:49 pm

Date Hiked: June 16, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked the entire Pine Ridge Trail in 4 nights and 5 days beginning at China Camp starting on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Campsites at which we stayed were, in order: Divide Camp, Pine Ridge Camp, Redwood Camp, Terrace Creek Camp.

Condition of Trail to Divide Camp 80% Clear with some downed trees.

No water in the creek at Divide Camp
* The two small "trickles" on the PRT on both sides of the trail leading down into the Divide Camp are now "puddles" where one could get water, if needed, by scooping it, or by, very delicately, suctioning via a water filter.

There is water a 1/2 mile west on the PRT in a small stream that crosses the trail.

Trail conditions from Divide Camp to Pine Ridge Camp:
60 % clear with more fallen trees, and more brush encroaching on the trail.
** There is water at Pine Ridge Camp via the piped-in spring 200 or so feet beyond the campground.

Trail Conditions from Pine Ridge Camp to Sykes Camp:
* Very Bushy first 2 miles between Pine Ridge Camp and Sykes, although there were signs of someone clearing out helpful amounts of brush that would have otherwise severely impeded passage of this section if not had been removed. We did have to pay close attention to where we placed our feet and our poles during this section due to the tread of the trail being right on the outside edge of the contour of the ridge heading down.

* Some very EXCELLENT trail work evident the last mile or 3/4 of mile heading west before reaching Redwood Camp and onward to Sykes Camp. (Kudos to the trail workers!)

Trail Conditions between Sykes and Ranger Station:
Very much passable. Well worked trail.
** The reroute at Barlow Flats was clearly marked and easy to navigate.
** I was not aware to the reroute at the end of the trail which now leads into Big Sur Campground before being rerouted back to the original trail for the last 1/4 of the trail leading back to the ranger station.

Some General Observations:

All in all, I thought trail was in good condition. (Better than when I went in July, 2016 - right before the fire a few weeks later.)

The only difficult section remains between Pine Ridge Camp and the area right before Redwood Camp.

Toilets at Sykes and Terrace Creek are the best backcountry toilets I have ever seen, by the way.

Thanks to all who do the trail work and keep us informed! :) :)
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Re: Pine Ridge Trail

Postby Betsy M on Tue May 04, 2021 10:33 pm

Date Hiked: May 2, 2021
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

SECTION: Big Sur Trail Junction to Pine Ridge Camp Trail Junction

As reported by others, the section between the Big Sur Trail junction (.8 miles above Redwood Camp) and the Pine Ridge Camp Trail junction is super brushy. Not so brushy that you could lose the trail. But enough that you really have to focus on watching where you are going, pushing brush out of the way, and watching your step so you don't trip on low branches. I day-hiked this section and it was annoying. With a backpack it would be even more so. When you reach the end of the brush, it is amazing how much easier it is to walk on open trail with good tread.

There is a good bit of tread slump in the lower sections, caused by chamise, scrub oak, and other chaparral species growing on the uphill side of the trail, making hikers step off on the downhill side and eroding the tread.

In the upper sections, manzanita bushes growing in on both sides make the trail corridor tight. Someone has been working on the upper sections of the trail which has really kept it from being completely impassible. There are also quite a few stretches up top where the trail has wandered from its original (straight) route. Watch for clipped brush to find the trail.

For a while in the middle, more rocky section, the trail remains fairly open, with good tread and not so much brush.
You can see the work that went into construction of this beautiful rock wall (right side of photo).
There was lots of creeping sage on the middle, more open part, of this section, with beautiful fragrant flowers.

Note 1: If you are hiking up this section, watch for the switchbacks. After a long straightaway above the Big Sur Trail junction, hikers have been continuing straight at the first switchback. I tried to pile chamise clippings to block the wrong route. The sticks laid across the trail here were not doing the job, as a pretty good trail had been established continuing straight at this switchback. Then at the next switchback, there are some odd jogs in the trail. Just watch to make sure you are staying on what looks like tread and you should be fine.

Note 2: The trail clearing coming up from Redwood Camp reached about a half mile above the junction with the Big Sur Trail. After that it is 2 miles of brush before the trail opens up again on Pine Ridge.
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