Pick Creek is a spectacular rugged creek that is a classic of the Ventana Wilderness. The centerpiece is stunning Pick Creek Falls which shoots over a ledge with an 80 ft free-fall into a large, clear pool surrounded by lovely grove of old growth Santa Lucia Firs. Just downstream of Pick Creek Falls is a confluence with Bathtub Creek, which is aptly named since just upstream of this confluence are a series of gorgeous cascades and pools that look like bathtubs. Downstream of the confluence with Bathtub Creek, Pick Creek winds its way down a steep canyon to the South Fork Big Sur River. Along the way, the creek has numerous picturesque cascade and two impressive gorges with deep pools and small waterfalls. One of the gorges, the Pick Creek Narrows, contains pools that are deep enough to require a bypass to avoid swimming. The entire canyon is filled with moss, ferns, cliffs and Santa Lucia Firs in a pristine setting. Full photo album here.
At present, the trails leading to the South Fork Big Sur River and Pick Creek are in the best condition I have ever seen thanks to the work of Ventana Wilderness Alliance volunteers after the Soberanes Fire. Specifically, the Big Sur Trail down the infamous “Devils Staircase” to Rainbow camp is completely brushed and clear of logs. Enjoy it while the going is good! From Rainbow Camp to South Fork Camp along the South Fork Trail is now clear of brush, logs and the tread is obvious, including the location of the five river crossings. Both Rainbow Camp and South Fork Camp are lovely shaded camps next to the South Fork Big Sur River. The South Fork Trail is one of the best forest trails in the Ventana with a remarkable diversity of trees including Ponderosa Pine, Coulter Pine, Santa Lucia Fir, Incense Cedar, a variety of oaks, madrone, sycamore and big leaf maple. Just downstream of Rainbow Camp and along the descent of the Devils Staircase are some large old-growth redwoods that have persevered through many wildfires. The Big Sur Trail can now be easily accessed from Highway 1 from either the Boronda Ridge Trail or the DeAngulo Trail, both of which contain exceptionally scenic and classic views of the Big Sur coast.
In addition to Pick Creek Falls, several other smaller falls can be enjoyed along the route including Rainbow Falls and a “Pocket Falls.” Rainbow Falls is a tall falls (55 ft) in a lush setting of ferns. Unfortunately the Soberanes Fire reached the top of this falls leaving deadfall over the falls so the scenic value has been somewhat diminished for the time being versus what I remember from before the fire. In addition, the burnout of the canopy has allowed more sun to reach the falls and dry out the ferns that used to be so numerous in the cliffy amphitheater. Nature has proven resilient in the Ventana Wilderness and there’s no doubt the vegetation will return and this falls will become a lush paradise again. Make no mistake it’s still a worthwhile visit now! Between Rainbow Falls and Rainbow Camp is a small tributary that enters from the east. This tributary contains a series of three small waterfall steps with the first known sighting by Flyin’ Brian Robinson who has named the falls “Pocket Falls” since they reside in a pocket sized canyon. My favorite step is the second step which actually contains two segments. As the canyon is steep there are no plunge pools of any significance but the falls are worth a look in season when they are flowing (winter and spring).