Backpacked to the Schoolhouse Camp this past weekend, stayed one night and then backpacked out. Trail is easy to follow and in great shape. Many creek crossings but they are easy to navigate. I would highly recommend this as a good trail for first time backpackers. The trail is mostly level. I had amazing weather but could see that it could get blazing hot in spots so definitely check before you go.I took my dog and he enjoyed it too. Saw other people but its not overly crowded out there. We saw two horned lizards, a couple of deer and a whipsnake. Also be prepared for the drive out there. Doable with 2WD but full of huge potholes and very narrow in places. Go slow and enjoy! The Toyota key mentioned below was still at the trailhead!

Toyota key found at camp. We brought it out to the trailhead and placed it on the sign-in book.

Our recording was 26.4 miles without any off trail wandering— something to take into account if you’re doing it as a day hike as we were. Amazingly beautiful backcountry, especially around white ledge. A few spots where the trail gets hard to follow, but easy to sort out with the GPS map loaded into the phone.

Great two night backpacking trip to the schoolhouse. Plenty of water but the wet winter brought pretty thick poison oak too. We saw several snakes including garters, rattlesnakes and a king snake. Large bear and mountain lion tracks in the sand near the swimming hole we swam in near the schoolhouse. Flies and mosquitoes were not bad yet but that will probably change soon. Hiked in on a Thursday and the campground was empty but we saw quite a few hikers going in on our way out on Saturday.

Great overnight backpacking trip! Decided to do CW starting with Lost Valley Trail to Hurricane Deck to Manzana Creek. Weather was great at 70s and sunny, still very green from recent rains and flower blooms everywhere. Very chill gradual uphill for the first several miles leading to Lost Valley. Lost Valley was super cool (very similar to Pinnacles NP). Hurricane deck was overgrown and had NO shade, pretty miserable even at around 80 degrees with the sun. Stayed the night at White Ledge which is the first water for 12 miles after you leave the Manzana Creek area (where the fork splits at the beginning). Next day hiked out via Manzana Creek and it was completely different from the first half of the trip. Mostly in the forest along the river, there were plenty of places to swim and relax in the shade and it was downhill most of the way to the parking lot. Definitely recommend!

Super pretty trail right now! Everything is super green! Only down side is that the water crossings are pretty deep and wide right now...definitely need either waterproof shoes or hiking sandals and extra wool socks to complete this hike.

Once you're down in the valley after the first mile or so (past Protero camp), this hike levels out a bunch and is very pleasant. Manzana Creek is pretty high right now so plan to bring good watershoes or lots of replacement socks - we counted 30+ crossings each way, none of which were possible without wet feet. The Schoolhouse camp itself is well kept though the grass is a little high right now. Shade is nice for most of the trail even when it's hot! The hike is longer than advertised here, about 10 miles each direction.

mountain biking
1 month ago

1 month ago

Beautiful, long hike. My buddy and I hiked this the day after a rain and everything was very green. There was snow towards the top so we turned around ~1 mile from the summit ( I wore sandals! We hiked 4 or 5 miles in the snow after I decided I had hit my limit. My feet were surprisingly fine after plowing through 6-8 inches of snow. My feet never cease to amaze me.) Some sections were cold and windy, it was nice having layers. This hike has a lot of great views along its entire length. It was especially nice to see the Channel Islands and San Rafael mountain in the distance. There’s a lot of cool plants like chia, poppies, yucca, manzanita, pines, thistles, ceanothus, oaks, and bay. We saw bear tracks in the mud! Spotted a small, fat lizard (Blainville’s horned lizard.) The trail is a wide dirt road that makes for mellow walking.

1 month ago

We hiked to Hells Half Acre this morning. It rained a few days ago, but the road is in good condition and the views were spectacular.

Such a fun hike. I day hiked the whole thing. Really liked seeing the caning, school house, and the views! Had fun crossing the river a bunch of times along the way. Things to note. -The last part of the road to the trail head is a bit rough ( dirt sections and/or a bunch of potholes) but my Toyota Corolla made it. -the trail is pretty easy but it’s just on the long side. The app said 17 miles and the sign on the trailhead says 10 miles to the schoolhouse. That would be 20 all together... -late winter or early spring is an awesome time to go. I got some rain and it was so much fun.

3 months ago

Trail is in good condition though the last half mile of to the summit of McKinley is overgrown but still passable with some effort, watch for ticks. Would also recommend doing the extra 3.4 miles to the San Rafael Peak which is in much better condition and is not much extra effort.

trail was easy to follow and dry. water in creek with easy water crossings. tall grasses along some of the trail, some ticks were visible on the grasses but neither myself or my dog got any. February is a nice time to hike with good weather. limited shade. fish camp looked nice and maintained with access to the creek. did not see much poison oak.

over grown
5 months ago

The last half mile or so to the summit is now very overgrown with thorny brush. I brought a small machete, but the brush is quite thick. The sign that was at the summit is no longer there. Water is first available at about mile 8.5 at McKinley Springs camp, so bring plenty. that's pretty much the only water. On IG as @picbynathan

washed out
6 months ago

I took a group of 4 scouts with 2 other adults on an overnight backpacking trip on this trail. It was a nice and easy walk and beautiful weather in Mid-November, chilly in the morning, but nice once the sun came up and crystal clear at night; no cloud cover, stars were amazing. Trail was clear and well traveled but we lost it twice during several wide creek crossings that had been washed out; the trail markers need to be reestablished. Once, we spent an extra hour searching a creek bed for the trail. Lots of bear scat on the trail. Not a lot of birds or critters during this time of year but lots of flies especially at the campsites. There were wild turkeys on the private property. We never actually found Dabney Cabin and ended up walking within 2 miles of Manzanita Schoolhouse looking. Slept on the trail and in the morning, hiked back to Horseshoe Bend campsite to find running water then hiked out.

no shade
8 months ago

Good hike with good views of Hurricane Deck, Lake Cachuma, and even the Channel Islands. Saw both bear and lion tracks all along the trail.

Relatively easy destination from the trailhead. The camp is nice and has water. I've camped here once, using it as a base camp to trek on to the Hurricane Deck or on to the Manzana Schoolhouse. Hot in the Summer with plenty of ticks.

This was our first backpacking trip and we really enjoyed it. We parked at Nira back packed in to Coldwater camp and set up camp there. The next day we took a day trip to Manzana school house and back. Great trail for beginners and enthusiast alike.

10 months ago

Although this trail is labeled as “Moderate” be prepared for a good workout. The trail is well marked with lots of unforeseen cutbacks and narrow pathways with steep drop offs . One false foot step and you could be in trouble. There was plenty of water so we were able save on some weight in our packs (bonus). The deer flys were out in force and a serious nuisance... recommend that you bring a head net. Poison oak was at a minimum and easy to maneuver around. Fire season was not a concern so it was great to have a camp fire and enjoy the evening with friends. A few more miles down the trail brings you to “Rays Campsite”. This is also a great place to camp if you have more time. I really enjoyed this trip.. having running water really makes it more enjoyable. I have hiked here in December with no water, so you had to carry it in. Five stars.

Two night easy backpacking trip. Camped at Horseshoe bend both nights. Day hiked to schoolhouse. Lots of places along the river to cool off. Would only camp when there is water.

no shade
Sun May 26 2019

This trail is beautiful. We went in late May. The terrain goes from desert-y to tropical to "standard" California mountains and from lush and green to stark and rocks only. The rocked sections are full of bizarre and beautiful formations that are all soft and round and prehistoric looking. It's a difficult hike. I went with a friend, we don't backpack a lot, and we had a really hard time but it was a good challenge and so dynamic: sand, river jumping, rock scrambles, winding ledges, etc. The views are unrivaled. It took is two full days. We headed out 3pm on a Saturday and got back to the car 9am on Monday. We did 12 miles on Saturday because it was 40 degrees and raining and we wanted to get back to the care. I have done parts of Appalachian Trail and Lost Coast Trail and the views and nature here rivaled anything I have ever seen. It was memorial day weekend and we saw nobody on Saturday, one person on Sunday, and a group of 5 campers once we got closer to the start point on the last day. But you are out in the middle of damn nowhere. No bug bites, a couple ticks, and no cat or bear sitings but droppings on the trail and several snakes, no rattlers that we saw. The halfway point (White Ledge Campground) has a really lovely swimming hole that is hot spring fed and is totally beautiful. There are tons of places where if someone had not stacked rocks, we would have been lost as all hell. So bring a park map and track it diligently. We did the hurricane deck part first and ended with the Manzana trail. We didn't got lost until right before White Ledge where the landscape gets very dramatic and it's nearly impossible to follow the trail. I don't know how to explain it but you don't turn left where it looks like you should, down into the rock valley, you go forward, through the bush, and then you will see the trail open on the other side of the hill. The part from White Ledge to Manzana is beautiful but is where you will get lost, I feel like more than half of it was all done on river crossings and creek walking, and several felled trees we had to crawl under. And then, in the section where it gets very rocky there is no trail to see so your map or the rock stacks are the only way to know your way, otherwise you're just surrounded by the most beautiful jurassic sites but it's totally unclear where to walk. It was scary in parts because we were cold and soaking wet and a bit lost, but the views made up for it. There is a lot of water on the White Ledge to Manzana part, not so much on Hurricane Deck but we made it fine with three large Nalgenes. We only saw one campground on Hurricane deck, and only a couple places where you can actually set up camp. Hurricane Deck has no shade.

First time backpacking with friends, about 14-16 water crossings each way. Be ready to have plenty of water in your boots. A lot of the camping area is a little overgrown except for the last spot closest to the bathroom. Had an awesome time but a little rough for an overnight trip and it being my first time.

Amazing hike and what a surprise at White Ledge... tons of water with a belly button deep swimming hole. Trail is in good condition most of the way, with only a mile where it's beginning to get overgrown.

Rivers flowing well, lots of swim holes. Soaked at horseshoe bend for quite awhile enjoying fresh filtered creek water. Some poison oak patches but easily avoidable. Still wildflowers popping up

I loved this trail! Although, AllTrails led us astray when we got towards the school house. River is flowing! 34 crossings each way! 10 miles out and 10 miles back. Poppies were blooming. We backpacked out and stayed overnight. Great people at the campsite. Beautiful trail! Although, not sure I’d do it any other time of year. It would not be as pretty and too hot in the summer.

private property
Mon Mar 18 2019

Third time hiking this trail and first time camping. This is great if you’re not trying to do much elevation and enjoy some camping with shade and running water even if it isn’t potable. There were 5 dedicated campsites and a sixth party settled between my site and the next closest. They were still 30+ yards away from both parties. Got there Friday afternoon and had the entire camp to ourselves til Saturday at noon. I’ll be doing this again!

11/05/18 Creek is dry till cold water, stagnant pools. Saw bear scat. The first 1.5 of the trail has small washouts. Thanks to the stacked rocks, helped us stay on track.

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