Bear Trap BluffI have been hiking sucky peaks the last month or so and the proof was in how much I enjoyed this hike. Bear Trap is located on the north end of the Piedra Blanca trail in the Los Padres. Its creation is purely one of the HPS Sierra Club and Mr. Pete Dogget in particular. Nevertheless the random location is a worthwhile goal and a nice vantage point to boot.
The trail wanders through three watersheds that empty into the Cayuma River including Reyes Creek and Bear Trap resulting in lots of up and down action. The area is a transition zone with nice forested north slopes and dry chapparal south slopes. The area is right next to the Cayuma badlands which were very cool to drive through. There are two campsites that you pass with Upper Reyes at the three mile mark and Bear Trap at the 4.6 mile. The trail is in excellent shape and has a solid gradient to keep moving at a fast pace.
The enjoyable part of this hike occurs when you reach Bear Trap Creek from here you cross the creek and go downstream to the first gully. The first section of the gully had an immediate 10-15 foot awkward obstacle probably created by the recent rains. I clambered out of the gully to the left and found some grassy ramps that allowed me to continue upwards. I then drifted back to the right when I saw the friction slabs thereby bypassing the lower gully entirely. From there hike up the friction slabs or re-enter the gully proper. Soon the slabs end and you are forced into the gully which had solid footing compared to the San Gabes making it a pleasure to climb. The top section of the gully gets a bit confusing as to the preferred route which is actually between the two gullies but any route will do.
Once at the summit plateau you will see an immediate high point to the left which is NOT the bluff. Do not go up the first larger subsidiary gully and instead head further back to the next much smaller one. Once inside this one, ducks will help you find your way through to a small ridge and you'll see the bluff to the left. Contour up a steep gully just below you that would've separated you from the bluff if you had gone up the first gully to the base of the bluff. A relatively easy 40 foot scramble up the rock gives you a great view of the environs and the sign-in register is at the base.
It took me just over three hours up with all the false starts to get to the bluff. The way down was much quicker as I knew my route and did a side trip to Bear Trap Camp with some enormous trees. The weather was perfect for the hike in the 60s with some wind. This area gets very hot in the summer and is best in spring with the flowing water and flowers in bloom. I didn't see anyone the whole day and the area is remote with no human noise pollution, just the sounds of birds and the creeks. The hike is about 12 miles with 3,800 feet elevation gain with 800 of that on the return as you climb through the watersheds completed in just under six hours.