Trout Creek Trail is a 7.9 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Arroyo Grande, California that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and horses and is best used from March until November. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.
The route to Buckeye Camp in the Garcia Wilderness follows the Trout Creek and Buckeye Camps Trails, first paralleling Trout Creek and then following a climbing traverse along the south slopes of Garcia Mountain to Buckeye Camp. The route crosses a mix of national forest land and private inholdings for the first 2.4 miles before entering the designated wilderness area. The drive to the trailhead is something of an adventure in itself, as the Hi Mountain Road (30S05) is unpaved and deeply rutted. Wet fords of the Salinas River and Trout Creek itself make a high clearance vehicle essential for safely reaching the trailhead. Hi Mountain Road is usually closed during the winter months due to mud and high river levels. The trailhead itself consists of a small grassy clearing marked by a fence. A hiker's stile allows access to the trail itself. Neither the trailhead nor the trail is signed. Despite the lack of signage, the Trout Creek Trail is in good shape and quite easy to follow. The trail runs downstream along Trout Creek, crossing and re-crossing the stream nine times before reaching a junction where the Buckeye Camp Trail turns left uphill. This important junction is currently marked with a carsonite trail sign - and a cow skull. The main Trout Creek Trail continues for approximately 0.5 miles before reaching a fence and private property. Once on the Buckeye Camp Trail, the route climbs steeply uphill, shortly entering the Garcia Wilderness. The trail crests at a saddle at 3.25 miles, where Caldwell Mesa and Pine Ridge are visible to the southeast. A brief descent from the saddle leads to a junction where the side trail to Buckeye Camp heads left. A short climb from here leads to Buckeye Camp, nestled on a well-shaded flat beside a spring-fed tributary of Trout Creek. The camp has a single fire ring with a metal grate and several benches. A wilderness toilet is located just below the camp, but dense poison oak made it difficult to access. Back at the junction with the lateral trail to Buckeye Camp, turn right to return to the trailhead. From here, it is also possible to continue deeper into the Garcia Wilderness.
First time on this trail about 2 weeks ago. I have a 4Runner with 4WD, but ended up parking in the shade where the county maintained dirt road ended as it was very clear where the maintenance ended; and I didn't want to risk getting stuck way out there. It was about 1/2 of a mile to get to the trailhead (located on right hand side of the road). Trailhead not clearly marked- just a metal gate with a hikers entrance. Other hikers have posted pictures. No water in the creek and plenty of poison oak and foxtails. Pants would be a good idea on this trail. Overall, beautiful views and very peaceful amongst our California Oaks. Pretty isolated, so bring plenty of water and come prepared.
I recently did an overnighter to the camp. Poison oak was unavoidable in some spots. There weren't many ticks, but I had a few on me when I got to camp and when I got home. Wear long pants and take plenty if water if you're camping. The creek had small holes, but it wasn't flowing very well.
Agree on the vehicle. The hike was awesome but at the time we went in July the poison oak is abundant. Suggest long pants. It's on both sides of the trail. Don't go on a hot day. There was some water periodically in the creek but not running.
This is an excellent creekside hike that leads into the Garcia Wilderness and visits a remote, seldom-used backcountry trail camp. You'll need a high-clearance vehicle to get to the trailhead, and finding the unsigned trailhead itself is somewhat challenging. If you can get past these challenges, the hike itself is a worthy reward. It's best to go in the spring when the weather is cool and the wildflowers are blooming.