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Day Hike

Exploring an Old Domain of Grizzlies

September 26, 1987|JOHN McKINNEY

Reyes and Beartrap creeks are two of the many pretty watercourses that spill from the northern slopes of Pine Mountain in Los Padres National Forest. The creeks run full speed in the spring and even right now, after a very dry year, still have some water.

Upper Reyes is a cool canyon trail camp named for a local pioneer family. Father up the trail is Beartrap Camp, where the Reyes and other settlers established hunting camps. The fierce grizzly was lord and sovereign over these mountains until man eliminated him from the area with guns and traps.

Near the trailhead is Camp Scheideck Lodge, established in the 1890s as a hunting lodge. Now the establishment is a funky country bar, where hikers may gather post hike to quench their thirst with a beer or soft drink.

Variety of Names

I prefer the name Beartrap Trail, but this trail has many names. Some hikers call it the Reyes Creek Trail (not to be confused with Reyes Peak Trail). Officially, it's the Piedra Blanca Trail, although few hikers make the long trek to the sparkling rock formations of Piedra Blanca from this trailhead. For its scenic qualities, the path has been designated a national recreation trail, so you could refer to it as the Piedra Blanca National Recreation Trail. Lastly and most succinctly, you could join the Forest Service in calling it Trail 22W03.

Only the trail's name is confusing; the actual path is a beauty, well engineered and easy to follow.

Directions to trailhead: From the Golden State Freeway just north of Gorman, take the Frazier Park exit and follow Frazier Mountain Road west for seven miles to Lockwood Valley Road. Turn left and proceed 24 miles to the signed turnoff for Reyes Creek Campground, Los Padres National Forest. A second sign advertising Camp Scheideck Lodge is also at this junction. Turn left and follow the paved road as it crosses the Cuyama River. Caution: Crossing can be difficult in high water. Continue two miles to Reyes Creek campground. Park in a safe and courteous manner in the campground. (Leave the campsites for campers).

Between Campsites 17 and 18, you will find a dirt road leading up a small hill. Walk up this road 150 yards to the signed trailhead, which is close to a horse corral.

The hike: From the trailhead, the path rises out of Reyes Creek Canyon. The trail leads through an interesting mixture of three life zones: chaparral, oak woodland and pine. You're likely to flush a covey or two of quail from the bush and perhaps spot one of the area's numerous jack rabbits bounding across the trail.

The trail switchbacks up to saddle. Behind you, to the northwest, is a fine view of the tortured terrain of the Cuyama Badlands. In front of you, to the southeast, is the much more inviting forested canyon cut by Reyes Creek. From the saddle, a half-mile descent brings you to Upper Reyes Trail Camp. It's a pleasant stream-side camp, a good place to cool your heels or to take a lunch stop.

Option: To Beartrap Trail Camp No. 1. Energetic hikers will assault the switchbacks above Upper Reyes Trail Camp and climb to the ridge separating Reyes Creek from Beartrap Creek. The trail then descends to an oak- and pine-shaded camp on Beartrap Creek.

Are you wondering why there's a Beartrap Trail Camp No. 1 and not a No. 2 on your Forest Service map? Beartrap No. 2, another mile up the trail, was washed out by a flood about a decade ago.

Spend some time prowling Beartrap Creek and when you've sampled enough of the grizzly's former domain, return the same way.

Beartrap Trail

Reyes Creek Camp to Upper Reyes Trail Camp: six miles roundtrip; 800-foot elevation gain.

Reyes Creek Camp to Beartrap No. 1 Trail Camp: 10 miles roundtrip; 1,100-foot elevation gain.

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