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Santa Barbara Hikes

Lost Valley Trail

Lost Valley Trail

[out of 5]
 *  *  *  * 1/2
For:Relatively level, long if you do the whole thing, trail is overgrown or crumbly and remote.
Vulture Spring
Vulture Spring, the spring on Lost Valley trail

Lost Valley Trail begins along the Manzana Trail from Nira Campground. But instead of heading to the Narrows, you veer off to the left and head up Sulfur Creek.

The trail used to be a road long ago, but the vegetation has closed in significantly, making it a trail again.

The trail crisscrosses a small creek that almost always has water in it, no matter how late in the season it gets. At some places there is the distinctive smell of sulfur that gives the creek its name.

As you travel up Lost Valley trail you enjoy riparian vegetation, sparser hillside scrub, and occasional pine trees which rustle gently in the wind.

About 3 miles in there is a small camp next to the creek. Another mile in there is another camp beneath a huge oak tree.

Then the trail begins to climb up the mountain, making a looping switchback.

At the 4.5 mile mark is a natural spring. This is the last source for water for those heading further up the trail, and the first source of water in 18 miles for those who have been hiking the Hurricane Deck Marathon.

The spring makes a nice destination of its own, being in the shade and surrounded by bird feathers. The spring is the watering hole for the local fauna as well as hikers!

You can continue up Lost Valley for several more miles. The terrain changes and becomes more and more rugged and remote. There are many unusual rock formations and impressive cliffs to look at. A good stopping point is at the rock formations. This makes the hike a total of 14 miles round trip. But you can continue far into the back country for days. You are encouraged to get a topo map and plot out a back pack trip.

You will need an Adventure Pass Pass to park at the trailhead.

Boulder, CO Leave No Trace Frountcountry program

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Lost Valley trail was substantially hit by the storms two weeks ago. We came down the trail from the Hurricane Deck intersection yesterday evening, and unfortunately, there was a lot of damage starting just before Vulture Spring. Vulture Spring has been mostly washed away. That draw funneled a huge amount of water and is basically debris and a deep gash now. The trail on both sides is rubble, as is a number of the east-facing slopes down to Twin Oaks. The other culverts/draws along the trail are also seriously damaged and many sections along the slope are just rock & sand slides now. The last mile down to Twin Oaks camp is fine (as is the camp), but traveling on toward Manzana there are many large cuts and washes that have really really changed the topography. Unfortunately, winter hasn’t started yet. At this point even a moderately large storm will probably make Lost Valley impassable (and dangerous on the higher slopes) to most hikers. At the present state, it would be a mistake to take stock up there (with probably the exception of goats---no disrespect to the mules). Experienced hikers will not have too much trouble finding their way, but there are several dicey sections. Carrying a large pack would put you at quite a bit of risk if you slip or lose your balance. ([url=http://www.hikelospadres.com/lost-valley-trail-san-rafael-wilderness.html]Photos here[/url])
Posted by: Jeff  on  2015-11-03
Hiked to Castle Rock yesterday. We tried to more or less find our way with Diane's directions, but once you get off the trail into the creek, the easiest thing to do is to just forge ahead towards the left side of the rock. There are tons of beautiful rock formations though! You could probably spend hours exploring. Manzana Creek near Nira was basically a bunch of stagnant pools; I think there was only one place where water was slowly flowing between them.
Posted by: Sebastian  on  2014-07-20
Hiked up to Hurricane Deck via Lost Valley trail on June 14, 2014. The trail was fairly easy to follow. Saw mountain lion scat about 1.5 miles before the Deck. Very little water coming from the spring, but enough to form a small puddle.
Posted by: Chris Chirgwin  on  2014-06-16
The spring is barely a dribble now.
Posted by: Jeff  on  2014-04-14
By loop I mean Nira, Lost Valley Trail, Hurricane Deck, Potrero Canyon Trail, Nira.
Posted by: Andrew Carter  on  2013-06-25
Did the loop Saturday afternoon (4 hours) and Sunday (7.5 hours). Trails in "good" condition (local rules apply). Thank you volunteer maintainers. Never once lost the trail, even on the Deck. No water in Lost Valley, but the "surprise spring" climbing out of Lost Valley to table lands above is still flowing. For how long, who knows? No water on Manzana Trail downstream from Nira. Upstream, yes. Hot, but not too hot on Sunday (again, local rules apply). Thank you intermittent breeze. Avoid the middle of the day when the ground itself becomes a furnace.
Posted by: Andrew Carter  on  2013-06-25