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Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness - Los Padres National Forest
Trail Distance 7.12 Miles

The Lost Valley Trail connects Manzana Creek with the Hurricane Deck Trail.  The trail is used by day hikers looking to explore the secrets of Lost Valley as well as a connection for backpackers heading towards the Sisquoc.

In the early 20th century there were plans to build a road that bisected the forest from NIRA out to the Sierra Madre.  The road was planned to go up Lost Valley to the Deck, head west along the Deck, drop down Big Bend Canyon, cross the Sisquoc and then head up to the Sierra Madre.  Fortunately the road was never completed but the majority of the Lost Valley Trail follows the old roadbed that went from the Manzana Trail almost to the junction of the Hurricane Deck Trail.  Since it is mostly following an old road, the tread is very easy to follow up the canyon.

The trail starts from Lost Valley Camp, which is along the Manzana, and wanders up the canyon darting across the creek every now and then until reaching the base of the Lost Valley switchbacks.  At the base is a Forest Service Camp called Twin Oaks.  Twin Oaks was established in 2010.  From here the trail switches back past Vulture Spring to a ridge line that provides epic views across to the spine of Hurricane Deck and down into the rock gardens of Sulpher Spring Canyon.  Above this the trail hits an old camp that is now referred to as the “Cowboy Camp”, which is also the end of the road construction.  The final mile or so is along single track to its junction with the Hurricane Deck Trail.

The LPFA hosted two working projects in 2012 to clear the trail from Lost Valley Camp to the Deck.  The majority of the work was done along the switchbacks and through the main canyon.  The trail is very followable but expect to find the occasional downed tree or have to push through brush here or there.  The final stretch above the roadbed needs tread work and is quite narrow.  All in all the trail is in adequate shape and should pose no substantial problems.  Lost Valley is in reference to the hidden nature of the canyon and it's east-west direction, not a suggestion that you'll get lost along the trail.  That being said, there are some secrets within the canyon that one can only find by getting lost.  

Trail Details

  • Trail #: 29W14
  • Wilderness Area: San Rafael
  • County: Santa Barbara County
  • Ranger District: Santa Lucia Ranger District
  • Trail-head Latitude: 34.7665654
  • Trail-head Longitude: -119.9243509
  • Water Sources: Lost Valley Creek doesn't have reliable water. There is a spring midway up the huge switchback called Vulture Spring that has reliable water but can have very low flow.
  • Trail Condition: Kind of Good - Little to no bushwacking and easily followable
  • Topo Maps:
  • Activities & Features:
    • Backpacking
    • Creek
    • Day Hiking
    • Horseback Riding
    • Panoramic Views
    • Wildlife Viewing
    • Wilderness Camping



Trail Stats

  • Total Elevation Gain: + 2410 feet.
  • Total Elevation Loss: - 428 feet.
  • Overall Average Slope Gain: + 7 %.
  • Overall Average Slope Loss: - 3 %.
  • Kilometers: (km)
  • Meters: (m)
  • Miles: (mi)
  • Feet: (ft)
  • Average Slope: (%)
Upload Images Aerial Overview Image Login to Download GPS File
Survey This Trail

Survey Photos:


  • Los Padres Forest Association - 11-01-2014

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 11-01-2014

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 11-01-2014

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 11-01-2014

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 11-01-2014

  • Curt Cragg - 12-22-2014

  • Curt Cragg - 12-22-2014

  • Curt Cragg - 12-22-2014

  • Curt Cragg - 12-22-2014

  • M. Jones - 03-14-2015

  • M. Jones - 03-14-2015

  • M. Jones - 03-14-2015

  • M. Jones - 03-14-2015

  • Jeff Mahoney - 11-1-2015

  • Jeff Mahoney - 11-1-2015

  • Jeff Mahoney - 11-1-2015

  • Jeff Mahoney - 11-1-2015

  • Jeff Mahoney - 11-07-2015

  • Jeff Mahoney - 11-07-2015

  • Jeff Mahoney - 11-07-2015

  • Jeff Mahoney - 11-07-2015

  • Jeff Mahoney - 11-07-2015

  • Erin C - 11-25-2016

  • Erin C - 11-25-2016

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 03-10-2017

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 03-10-2017

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 03-10-2017

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 03-10-2017

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 03-10-2017

  • Michel Giroux - 05-01-2017

  • Michel Giroux - 05-01-2017

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 4-21-2016

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 4-21-2016

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 4-21-2016

  • Los Padres Forest Association - 4-21-2016

Submitted Trail Reports

Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 11-02-2017 - by Terry Jarrett
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 11-02-2017
Surveyor Name:Terry Jarrett
Trail description:There is some surface water in the creek bed on the way to Twin Oaks campsite. Vulture Spring has a usable trickle. 
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Condition details:Most of the obstructions reported on 03-10-2017 by the Los Padres Forest Association remain.
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 4-21-2016 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 4-21-2016
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:LPFA Working Vacation Spring 2016 along the Lost Valley Trail.  You can read the full report below, here's the Cliff Notes:

- Brushed, logged and performed tread work from Lost Valley Camp to past Vulture Springs
- More work needed on last stretch up to Hurricane Deck
- Trail was stock passable
- No water on trail, lots of water coming from the sky

http://lpforest.org/lost-valley-trail-maintenance-working-vacation/
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Images:

Views of Sulphur Spring Canyon and San Rafael Mtn from Lost Valley Trail

Some examples of great trail work accomplished on the Working Vacation


Always great food when the stock can support the Working Vacations


Crosscut sawing Before & After
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 05-01-2017 - by Michel Giroux
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 05-01-2017
Surveyor Name:Michel Giroux
Trail description:Went up the trail for about a mile and a half to cut the first tree that was blocking the way. Trail is in good shape to that point besides a slide near the beginning of the trail, sorry no pictures or coordinates.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Images:

Before

After
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 03-10-2017 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 03-10-2017
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:The Lost Valley trail was extensively damaged by this winter’s storms between where the trail first turns north into the canyon and approximately the right edge of the map. Much of the degradation is minor, scattered, but persistent throughout this portion of trail. It consists of fallen branches and small trees, slumps and slides, and rocks in the tread from baseball to microwave oven sized. In lower portions of the trail the stream has cut downward leaving large steps or in one case a several foot tall wall.  There are a few smaller downed trees that are along the trail and not included in the photos.

ABOVE VULTURE SPRING
I didn’t take photos or coordinates, but between Vulture Spring and eastern side of the next side canyon the road bends around, there are two 8 inch pines crossing the trail and a large, dead manzanita bush with an 8 in trunk making a more challenging obstruction.

Report by Blakley
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Images:

Locations labelled on this map.

010, An approximately 18 inch pine, located as you start up LV.


009, An 18-24" pine trunk, located as the trail starts to turn east.

008, A major, difficult to circumvent combination pines and slide. Pines are 18 inches or less, located on Wallace slide section.


Slide below Vulture Springs, same location as years past.
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 11-25-2016 - by Erin C
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 11-25-2016
Surveyor Name:Erin C
Trail description:First time exploring this trail. For Los Padres Standards this trail is in good shape. The cut into the slope from the old road is still very visible. The slope of this trail is gentle and would be a very good MTB trail. Too bad it is wilderness so you can only walk it or horse it. The spring has just a trickle of water but it is flowing very slightly.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Images:


Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 02-27-2016 - by Steve Cypher
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 02-27-2016
Surveyor Name:Steve Cypher
Trail description:The washouts have had quite a bit of traffic and are easily navigable. But the waist-high bushes and hundreds of rocks that have rolled onto the tread have become annoying and slow you down. Vulture spring is running but there are no pools from which to collect water - mostly just a wet spot in a washout. I hiked this as the last leg of a Middle Hurricane Deck loop. I thought the middle section of Hurricane Deck was in better shape.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Condition details:Rough & slow
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 11-07-2015 - by Jeff Mahoney
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 11-07-2015
Surveyor Name:Jeff Mahoney
Trail description:Photos from the follow-up trip.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Condition details:Lost Valley storm damage - daylight survey
Images:

Slide at 34.777962, -119.906432

Wash at 34.775174, -119.889575


Log crossing at 34.774575, -119.890133

Vulture Spring


Looking down from the spring
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 11-1-2015 - by Jeff Mahoney
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 11-1-2015
Surveyor Name:Jeff Mahoney
Trail description:Lost Valley trail was substantially hit by the storms two weeks ago. We came down the trail from the Hurricane Deck intersection, 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.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Hard to follow
Condition details:Lost Valley damaged from recent major storms in the area
Images:

The "Log Crossing" below Vulture Spring

Most of the east-facing sections two miles up from Twin Oaks are like this.



Miles 2 through 4 have a few of these trail-less sections now
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 05-23-2015 - by theejackalope
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 05-23-2015
Surveyor Name:theejackalope
Trail description:Three day loop hike Memorial Day weekend, 2015
Day 1: Nira to White Ledge via Lost Valley Trail and Hurricane Deck (East) (5/23/15)
Day 2: White Ledge to Manzana Narrows, with out and back to South Fork (5/24/15)
Day 3: Manzana Narrows to Nira (5/25/15)

LV/HD
Lost Valley Trail from Nira in great shape for the most part. Water near Nira, and generally around within first mile or so of trail.

LVT generally easy to follow until it gets into the chaparral up near/on the Deck. Near the campsite at the big U turn, be sure to look for the blue tape on the tree across the creek to follow the trail. Once up on/near the Deck, you will also need to keep a keen eye on things to follow the trail in relatively open country. Once it gets into the thick scrub, though, markers are generally visible.

There is pooled water throughout the first few miles of LVT; what we presume to be Vulture Spring (about 20 minutes up from the campsite at the big U turn) is flowing steadily but scantily. You could get water there but it will take a long time; suggest bringing all your water from Nira (or if in the other direction from White Ledge). 

No water, of course, on the Deck.  Definitely had to do some chap-bashing, but no need for true bushwacking or machetes. We owe a BIG THANKS to the trail crews and others who have made the way across the deck clear; this is especially true the closer you get to White Ledge. THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORK!!! It wasn't an easy hike, but it certainly wasn't grueling or life-threatening either.  A great balance.

Ample pools of water at White Ledge, though not flowing and also ample horse poop.  So bring your filters / treatement (!) if you want to use this water.

Finally, as often noted, don't trust any estimates of mileage on these trails, especially the signage. Allow more time than you think.  We're strong hikers, and at a moderate pace on a hot day it took about 8 hours from Nira to WL. We had expect 6 based on posted mileage and conditions.

South Fork from White Ledge


Clear trail all the way down to the Fork, and good flowing water around the Fork.  Low levels, but steady and ample.  Signs say it is two miles from WL to SF, but we're thinking more like 3. Didn't tightly validate with our map, though.  Allow 1.5 hours to SF from WL, the same going back.

WL to MN
Good trail, easy to follow.  Assuming a three hour hike from WL to MN, there is accessible water early on the trail, as well as apprx. halfway.  Ample flowing water at Manzana Narrows; worth waiting for rather than pumping along the way (as long as you're not totally out, of course).

MN to NIRA

Good trail, easy to follow. Suggest filling water at MN or Nira, rather than counting on it on this stretch of the trail.  There might be water along the way, but we didn't actively check; most things looked dry.

About three hours from MN to NIRA.

Beautiful loop!  Lots of variety and challenge. Estimate of total miles (with side trip to/from SF): 30.  

Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 03-14-2015 - by M. Jones
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 03-14-2015
Surveyor Name:M. Jones
Trail description:

Lost Canyon trail on 03/14/15 was in excellent condition for the length of the trail. Spring has brought a profusion of wildflowers to Lost Canyon, California poppies, Bush poppies, Blue Dicks, Yurba Santa and sunflowers were all in bloom.

Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Images:





Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 12-22-2014 - by Curt Cragg
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 12-22-2014
Surveyor Name:Curt Cragg
Trail description:

Los Padres Forest Association Volunteer Rangers Report from Trail Project on Lost Valley Trail December 20-21, 2014


Project Objectives Accomplished:

Cleared 20 fallen pine trees between Lost Valley Junction and Vulture Springs

Cleared brush in several dense areas along the trail

Repaired tread slides in several areas along the trail

Installed picnic table at Twin Oaks camp

Installed water basin at Vulture Springs

Bolted trail sign to post and planted post at Hurricane Deck and Lost Valley Junction


The Lost Valley Trail is in excellent hiking condition from the junction at the Manzana Trail to past Vulture Springs.  We did get a report of another fallen pine and slide area just past Vulture Springs where we completed our work. This will need to be addressed for the wash out section to be safe for passage.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Images:

This slide area is just above Vulture Springs and has not been repaired as of 12/22/14. Photo and report by Jeff Mahoney.

This slide area is just above Vulture Springs and has not been repaired as of 12/22/14. Photo and report by Jeff Mahoney.


Water basin installed at Vulture Springs for collecting water to filter

New picnic table at Twin Oaks Camp
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 11-01-2014 - by Los Padres Forest Association
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 11-01-2014
Surveyor Name:Los Padres Forest Association
Trail description:As reported by Curt Cragg

There are about 10-12 pine deadfalls across the trail between where the trail hits the creek to where Twin Oaks Camp is located.  There are a few more above it as well.  There is water at Vulture Spring but the flow is really light.

Photos by Toejam
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Images:

There are about 12 of these fallen trees from the Zaca Fire. Mostly along the lower half.

Twin Oaks Camp. Or is it going to be Solo Oaks Camp?


Water at Vulture Spring

Hurricane Deck Views and Lost Valley.


Sulphur Spring Canyon and the SB High Country.
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 01-12-2012 - by Hike Los Padres
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 01-12-2012
Surveyor Name:Hike Los Padres
Trail description:The LPFA hosted two working projects in 2012 to clear the trail from Lost Valley Camp to the Deck.  The majority of the work was done along the switchbacks and through the main canyon.  The trail is very followable but do expect to find the occasional downed tree or have to push through brush here or there.  The final stretch above the roadbed needs tread work and is quite narrow.  All in all the trail is in adequate shape and should pose no problems as far as getting lost.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Good shape and easy to follow
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 04-28-2014 - by LPFA
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 04-28-2014
Surveyor Name:LPFA
Trail description:Water at Vulture Spring flowing nicely.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness Survey - 03-22-2014 - by Valerie Norton
Link: Lost Valley Trail San Rafael Wilderness
Date: 03-22-2014
Surveyor Name:Valerie Norton
Trail description:Came down from the east section of Hurricane Deck while backpacking, staying overnight in the valley about 1 mile down from Vulture Spring (dribbling well). The tread of the trail coming down from the deck to the end of the old road is narrow and slipping in many places. Once on the road bed, it is generally good, but has many trees across it.
Mode of transport:Hike
Trail condition:Needs some work
Condition details:Uppermost section is downright dangerous.
Number of trees down:11
People Seen:0


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Last Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2016



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