South Fork Little Sur

There’s no sign, but the Little Sur Trail begins at this easily recognized gate on the Old Coast Rd. Just take the Old Coast Rd. north, a little under 4 miles, from its south end at Andrew Molera State Park.

A California Firefly (Ellychnia californica) sits on the grass by the gate. The females of this species retain a larval body form and emit a bright greenish light. We have seen the lights of hundreds of these “glow worms” shining up from the forest floor while walking in the Ventana Wilderness at night – as if the ground were reflecting the stars (an experience that those who use artificial light to travel at night in the Santa Lucias will probably miss). The males do not produce light.

There may not be a sign on the road, but only a few steps down the trail one comes upon this work of art. The claim that public use of this longstanding public right-of-way is subject to the El Sur Ranch’s “permission,” is certainly interesting, as is the odd attempt to limit use of the trail to “daylight hours defined as any time from one half hour after sunrise to one half hour before sunset,” and the attempted prohibition of dogs and horses. A mile or two further we saw a very happy dog carrying his own pack along the trail – guess he couldn’t read. The El Sur Ranch folks don’t have to worry much about stock on the trail though – it’s nowhere near passable for horses or mules.

This is a pretty fair representation of trail conditions along the first couple of miles.

The trail descends through deep redwood forest to the banks of the South Fork Little Sur River.

Many winters back, a slide wiped out the trail a little less than a mile from the start. This section has never been fully restored.

Stropharia ambigua sprouting from a pile of flood debris.


A bank of Red Clintonia (Clintonia andrewsiana), one of the redwood forest’s showiest plants.

A Clintonia close-up

Closer still

These little yellow violets (Viola glabella – or are they Viola sempervirens?) are also abundant on the forest floor.

Climbing into the chaparral, the trail crosses another slide zone.

But it soon re-enters the woods, and the constant clambering over, and swinging under, of deadfalls provides a good agility workout.

Another placard bearing the El Sur Ranch rules sits surrounded by ferns and deadfalls.

A waterfall glimpsed through a break in the trees.

View up canyon into the proposed East Molera Wilderness. The East Molera Ridge is on the skyline. And, yes … that is the trail in the foreground.

Fording the river on the way back.

Update! On February 12, 2012, the Little Sur Trail was cleared from the trailhead to the crossing of the South Fork Little Sur. Click here for photos and details.

4 Responses to South Fork Little Sur

  1. Lois DeFord says:

    Doesn’t look like there was a lot of trail to follow, but thanks for the picturesque albeit vicarious hike on the Little Sur trail.

  2. Chris says:

    Of course, your understatement doesn’t go unnoticed. That posted El Sur sign is a deliberate attempt to foreclose public access, and as such, is an attempted theft of public property. There has not been a time in recorded history when the Little Sur trail has not been used by the public, a record that goes back at least as far as when Jacob and Matilda Launtz homesteaded in the south fork of the Little Sur in the 1880’s — and yet the El Sur ranch and Granite Rock are both signing, along the trail and in the county recorder’s office, their assertion that they “own” this historic public trail and that the public no longer has a *right* to use it.

  3. Simon Eagar says:

    Whilst looking for mushrooms off the OCR before the Rocky Creek slide I could hear but not see a machine that was tearing the shit out of anything that got in its way – bushes, brush, small trees – I could see the destruction and the debris. What the purpose was I don’t know but that is the stewardship Jim Hill brings to the land.

  4. xasauan says:

    Civil Code Section 813, which the El Sur Ranch cites as their authority for the proposition that public use of the trail is subject to their permission and control, allows property owners to record a notice that public use of their property is subject to their permission for the purpose of avoiding an implied dedication to public use. The section goes on to state, however, that “The recording of a notice pursuant to this section shall not be deemed to affect rights vested at the time of recording.” The public’s right to use this trail, both on foot and with stock, and with dogs, and with firearms, and at night, and even to camp at the campsite by the river was obviously vested decades, if not centuries, before El Sur Ranch recorded any notices pursuant to Section 813.

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