Secret Canyon Trail is located in the Pine Creek Wilderness area near Pine Valley California. The 16 mile long trail was constructed in 1992 and spans almost the entire length of the wilderness area. This area of the back country can be very rough and difficult to navigate at certain times of the year, even with an established trail. Most of the difficulty on the trail is *finding* the trail. When Scott and I hiked it was very overgrown in many areas, so much so the trail just disappeared. In winter or spring the creek can be filled with water and make it very difficult to cross at certain points along the trail. There is also the very real possibility of running into illegal immigrants who frequently use the surrounding mountain wilderness to cross into the United States. We saw many discarded backpacks, food containers, water bottles and faded clothing, all obviously from illegal immigrants. Here is one account
of the reality of getting lost and encountering illegal traffic.
|Discarded items from illegal immigrants|
|Discarded items from illegal immigrants|
|Even the Forest Service recommends caution|
OK, now that is out of the way, it is actually a very beautiful area to hike and at 16 miles is a good day adventure. There is some history to the canyon as well. Secret Canyon was used in the 1800's as a place for smugglers to hide their horses before heading across the border. There are still sections of an old flume built back in 1895 that was supposed to divert water to a reservoir in Pine Valley and also the incredible view of the the massive 1974 built Pine Valley bridge.
|Pine Valley Bridge|
|1895 built flume|
I knew from a previous trip out we would need some bushwhacking tools so both Scott and I brought our machete's, Scott even brought a small hand saw which actually worked better than the machete's.
|Me in the parking lot|
|Still some water even in Sept|
|Scotty "C" on the trail|
|Oak Apple Gall|
|Did I mention the thick forests of poison oak?|
It was a full day of hiking, we started at 8am sharp and got to the Horsethief Canyon trailhead at 6pm. We had lost the trail countless times and passed thru head high forests of poison oak so many times we gave up trying to avoid it. We didn't see any actual illegal immigrants, only a cow and lots of birds, lizards and a tarantula. This would be a really beautiful hike in the spring with all of the water flowing.
|A "wild" tarantula|
|Looking down into horsethief canyon|
|Our GPS tracks|
What? No mention of me running out of water 6 miles from the end? Drinking the 4 "extra" water bottles and even the last of your camelbak? Seriously, bring more than you think, it ended up being 17.5 miles by the time we "rediscovered" trail a few times. Granted, I'm not uber-hike-man like big D, but I drank through my 6-Bac (6 litres) in 10 miles. And know where you want to go, at least the canyons, you'll be searching out the trail in spots anyway. But good to know your general direction. It took us about 11 hours? Right? It would really be tough in the dark.ReplyDelete
Thanks for another great hike! - Scotty C!
oops..I guess I forgot that part Scotty...haha..You are right though, you will lose the trail, it is way overgrown and you should have a good sense of route finding if you plan to hike the "trail". If you get lost and find yourself in the dark, follow the illegals, they probably know the way!ReplyDelete
SD Trail Fit has cleared the trail now. It's in really good shape. We were told that the Border Patrol did not want the trail maintained for obvious reasons. But they have changed their minds and thus the Forest Service reached out to Trail Fit for assistance.ReplyDelete
Nice post by the way.
Wait...no more head high poison oak?? Great, now Scotty C and I can head back out in shorts and tank tops..thanks...!Delete
Excellent post Darren! Kudos to you and Scotty C in completing the "overgrown" trail. We recently hiked the first five miles from the south end (Espinosa trail) parking lot just to check the trail.ReplyDelete
Thanks Zac "Bajaboy" for posting the SD Trail Fit update to this 13+ mile hike. Great job on clearing out the trails! I wish there was a current gpx/kml to download for this trail... but that's fine. There's not much info out o the web of hikers completing this route.
I've read this post many times ad have referred others to it... especially the link to the "patandkathie.blogspot" account of their struggles to conquer this beast.
Keep up the good work!
Hey Nemesis...there is GPX for it, right here on my website! Check my Hikes page http://www.sefcik.com/p/hikes.htmlDelete
Oops. Thanks for GPX link Daren. It's time to blaze a new trail....Delete
Do you remember what the weather was like when you guys hiked it? I just got back from hiking it bottom to top a little bit ago, and the heat was unbearable. I also ran out of water a little over 10 miles, and it caused me a lot of trouble, along with the poison oak being constant.ReplyDelete
Hot and lots of poison oak...glad you were able to get out and enjoy the great outdoors..8-)Delete
Hard to imagine this trail being dry! With all the rain we've gotten recently the current state of things might be quite abnormal, but there is TONS of water on the Secret Canyon Trail right now. I had to ford two rivers where the water level was past my hips (I am a 5'6'' female), and hopped across smaller splits of the creek no less than 10 times one way. If you have the ability to filter, there is no need to carry more than 1-2 liters at a time. The trail itself is great-- it has lots of greenery, a nice mix of terrain, and is very secluded. I did this as an overnight trip hiking from Horsethief to Pine Valley and then back. Do keep your eyes peeled for poison oak, although there was only one spot on trail where there was a serious risk of touching it (climbing around a blowdown). Overall, I highly recommend it!ReplyDelete
Awesome, thanks! I'm going to do it in a couple of weeks. We're going to go top to bottom, though, (cars at both ends) and take our time. Glad to know we can filter/treat the water and be fine.Delete