Pick Creek Loop 2018


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.

Pick Creek Narrows

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.

Above the fog on Coast Ridge
80 ft tall Pick Creek Falls
The Bathtubs

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).

A luge slide through the narrows
Sky lupine fields
Descending the Big Sur Trail, now in great shape down to Rainbow Camp
Pick Creek Falls
Descending the Big Sur Trail
Hanging fern garden
Upper Pocket Falls; named by Brian Robinson who has the first known sighting
Middle Pocket Falls
Rainbow Falls lower step
Lower Pocket Falls
The Bathtubs
Beautiful Pick Creek
Sculpted rock at Pick Creek
Sky lupine fields
Pick Creek Falls plunge pool
Hanging ferns
The amazing fern garden
Santa Lucia Fir grove along the South Fork Trail
Beautiful forest along the south fork trail
Morning above the clouds
Pool at the narrows
Wallflowers along Coast Ridge
Santa Lucia lupine above Pick Creek
Above Pick Creek Falls
Yucca in bloom
Evening light down the coast

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Gene says:

    Leor – enjoyed your Pick Creek Loop report! Great photos. Is Rainbow Falls upstream or downstream from Rainbow Camp? Did you hike an in-and-out from Cold Springs to Pick Falls and back the same way, or did you continue up Pick Creek to the Coast Ridge Road and back to Boronda Ridge? Thanks, Gene

  2. pantilat says:

    Gene, Rainbow Falls is upstream of Rainbow Camp, the South Fork Trail traverses just above it. We continued up Pick Creek to Coast Ridge Road.

  3. Tom Petrillo says:

    Love all of your reports and trying to do them all! Whats the minimum mileage for this? I have a little one now — the 15 milers are a tough sell… Keep on hiking!

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