Trail Canyon Update and HikeSome of my best memories of my first hikes in the San Gabes were up Trail Canyon prior to the Station Fire. The trail was always busy up to the waterfall but from there I would usually have the canyon to myself. The canyon was a bit overgrown especially above Tom Lucas but readily passable pre-fire.
I haven't seen that many write-ups of the conditions of Trail Canyon post-fire recently so decided to give it a shot with a clear limit on how much bushwhacking I would put up with. The route up to the waterfall felt similar to what I remember. There were already numerous parties out going to the waterfall. The water flow was not significant but was continuous throughout the hike. From the top of the waterfall, I only saw one other party for the remainder of the day. The trail up to Old Tom Lucas is in solid shape with only one slightly tricky creek crossing at the mouth of McKinley Canyon.
From hereon the trail fades between obvious to overgrown and faint. The next tricky crossing is at the north fork where you need to climb over some deadfall to get to the creek as opposed to continuing up-stream. After this fork you get to go through a nice brushy section that has been cut through just enough. The canyon narrows and gets quite beautiful as you hike along the canyon bottom on slabs.
The trail climbs the east side of the canyon to get around some small cascades. From here the trail is quite narrow with lots of deadfall. The pace continues to slow as you near the actual Tom Lucas campground. The final 1/3 mile requires some scrambling up a steep 30 foot section to get on a shelf trail that leads you into the meadow where the camp once was. For some odd reason this last section has no real footpath as it tapers out. Find your way through faint use trails to the far end and you can see the memorial, old stove, and fire ring that is all that is left over of the campground.
There is a faint trail that exits the campground to the left that after 100 yards disappears into some whitethorn and it appears you're pretty much on your own for the next mile and a half to the saddle. I had already put in two hours to get to this point so was quite satisfied with stopping as I've hit all the points around this area multiple times on prior hikes.
The way back was much easier and the weather was perfection so I stopped often to enjoy the weather. The trees in the canyon are sorely missed but all the other vegetation has grown back and then some, without the shade from the trees. I stopped at the top of the waterfall to have a look down the drop and enjoy some vertigo. There were even more people on the trail going to the waterfall then in the morning. It looks like Trail Canyon is almost back in business.