As mentioned in a previous training hike post, Marissa and I (Jon) were planning on doing an overnight hike/camp trip to the trail camp that is roughly 4 miles north of Warner Springs along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This is the account of that overnight hike.
To get to the Barrel Springs entry point on the PCT we parked along Montezuma Valley Road (S22) at the 1 mile marker. There was a pretty well defined dirt pullout on the south side of the road with good shade cover where we parked. From the car we entered onto the PCT by crossing the road (Look both ways! The speed limit is 55 here so cars can come up fast!) and entering through a cattle gate heading north. This part of the trail begins with a slight climb on some looping ridge lines finally bringing you to the top of a chaparral covered ridge. From here you’ll descend through the chaparral and cacti to reach the valley below. Once at the valley, you may feel a bit exposed as the terrain is much more prairie like and contains nearly no overhead growth until you reach the next ridge. The first valley is pretty short, though, and serves as a bit of a prelude to what is to come. After the first valley you’ll traverse another small ridge with more chaparral and cacti before descending again to the next valley floor. The climbs are negligible, as you’ll see in the stats images at the end of this post. The total gain/loss for the entire one-way hike from Barrel Springs to our camp site was only 1040 ft. Once you’re on the second valley floor you’ll head out into the open again with great panoramic views of rolling hills and their accompanied ridge lines on the outskirts. The trail first takes you to some rock formations you can just make out as your start your trek through the meadow. From these first rock formations you’ll follow the trail up a slight ascent and then back down again as it bends west a bit and finally arrives at Eagle Rock. Eagle rock is another grouping of rock formations right around the 5 mile mark.
A main challenge in this open space, at least on the days we were coming through in mid-November, was wind. The wind coming through the valleys can be pretty brutal if you don’t have some sort of wind protection. I was wearing a long sleeve dryfit shirt to protect against the sun and wind and my hat has a chin strap which came in very handy in this area. We took a break at the trail crossing to Eagle Rock (you can take a small side trail up to the rocks if you’re nasty) where there were a few decent sized rocks near the trail that we could get a rest from the wind for a few minutes. Click here for a video of the panoramic view from the trail with my AEE MagiCam SD22 (It’s like a GoPro but a fraction of the cost). I replaced the annoying wind flooding the camera’s microphone with a more soothing, yet still fitting, tone.
After leaving Eagle Rock the trail leads you through the final stretch of meadow and then into a shaded area that appears to follow a creek bed, which was dry during our hike. From here, you’ll descend some while enjoying the much more protected area of the shady oaks around you until you finally reach Warner Springs. Before you reach the first crossing of Highway 79 near Warner Springs you can opt to take the California Riding and Hiking Trail into town if you want to grab a bite to eat or need to tend to anything else in a small town before heading to camp. We continued on the Pacific Crest Trail with goes wide to the west of the town. If you continue on the PCT, first you’ll come to the Warner Springs Fire Station where you will have to come up to the road and cross (you can’t go under the bridge even when the creek is dry as there is a barbed wire fence on one side). Once across Highway 79, you’ll follow the trail northwest through some more open meadow lands until you reach some more shady oaks just before the second Highway 79 crossing. Just before crossing the second road we took another little break at what appeared to be an ill maintained campground. It wasn’t pretty but there were picnic tables and a rope swing in the area we set our packs down.
After starting up again you’ll pass by what looks like some fire fighter training grounds with a ropes course and some other structures around. Then you’ll come to the white bridge that you would park near if you were going to start the Agua Caliente Trail hike that was outlined in a previous post. From here, you will follow the PCT northbound as described in that earlier Agua Caliente Trail Hike post.
Below are the hike stats from our adventure.