My fellow REI friends and I took a nice 3 day jaunt up to Upper Reyes Campground from the Reyes Campground TH. In case you are as unfamiliar with this terrain as I was before the trip, I will attempt to explain this often-overlooked hiking/backpacking area.
The hike in basically is a 3 mile hike, with the first 2 miles up an incline of 500′ per mile or so. Once you have pushed through those first 2 high desert miles, you will arrive at a saddle that provides beautiful views of Mount Pinos and other surrounding peaks. Beyond this saddle, you basically drop down 300′ into a wooded area of cedar trees and a small stream. Welcome to Upper Reyes!
Sounds easy enough right? Honestly, it is… but there are some things that can occur to change the landscape a bit. We arrived at the trailhead at 11am Tuesday – just as the day was heating up. Our good friends at weather.gov predicted 90 degrees and partial sun. Well – the truth is that the temps were in the 100-105 degree range and full on sun coverage. The only saving grace was an occasional 10mph breeze. We began our hike with 30 lb packs on and – coupled with the aforementioned heat – our little jaunt became a bit more of a death march. After our first mile, Vinit, Allison, and I began to question the shape we were in (I thought we were all in great shape!). Truth be told, we are in great shape, but heat can absolutely take it out of you. At the mile marker, we came across another one of our groups members who’d left earlier than us. She was visibly beaten up by the heat and doing her best to collect herself to move onward. In compliance with her recommendations, we passed by her and continued onward. We took a couple small water breaks before the 2 mile saddle. We also varied our pace, slowing down to about 2mph as we approached our high point. Finally, upon hitting the saddle, the trail clearly dropped down and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
From here on, it was cake. Like I mentioned, we dropped down through chapparal, manzanita, and yucca and into a cedar grove called Upper Reyes Trail Camp, where our friends were already settled. Upper Reyes is a 2 section campground; the first is a small and flat plateau with room for 4 tents. The next section up is a little hillier but is about 2-3 times larger. We decided to drop our food off at the first camp and to set up most of our tents at the latter camp. There is also a small stream that runs between both camps, allowing for plenty of filterable water.
By Tuesday evening, there were 16 of us set up, enjoying the beauties of Upper Sespe. The temps stayed mild until about 11pm. At that point, they dramatically dropped off into the low 50’s. Wednesday was a day of rest for some of us who decided to hang out at camp and enjoy the friendship and company of each other. More than half of the group decided to push onward a bit more, hiking up 2 miles to Beartrap Campground. The day was uneventful – not a bad thing for people who work as hard as us 🙂 – and we were even greeted by a juvenile rattler near our camp. We went to sleep again after enjoying a nice fire that kept the bugs at bay. Finally, Thursday, we woke up to an earlier-than-normal heat. We packed up everything by 11am as the thermometer was approaching 85 or so. However, the trip back was mostly downhill and much less strenuous.
The trip to Upper Reyes was great. Pluses included seclusion (we saw no one else on the trail), some cool views, and a relatively easy hike (minus the heat) for beginners/intermediates. On the downside, it was a bit buggy with flies and mosquitos and certain could have been cooler. Either way, I’d recommend it!
Distance: 3 miles one way
Elevation: 1000′ or so up to the saddle, then 300′ down to the camp
Getting there: Go through Lockwood Valley to Camp Scheideck Road. Turn south on that and take it to where it ends at the Upper Reyes Trailhead. The Upper Sespe Tom Harrison Map is very helpful for this voyage. You must display an Adventure Pass or America The Beautiful Pass in your car but no permits are needed.