Local trail users will be happy to hear that it appears several of the front country’s trails that were closed soon after the Jesusita Fire will be open for use, perhaps as early as this weekend. Last week, at a meeting of the Front Country Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force, agency staff recommended that the Rattlesnake Trail, West Fork of Cold Springs Trail, and the portion of Jesusita Trail from Cater Filtration Plan in San Roque Canyon to Inspiration Point be opened. However, no date for this to occur was set at the meeting.
Several sources tell me that a news release announcing the changes is being circulated among staff for final approval and could be made public as soon as tomorrow or Thursday at the latest. If so, Rattlesnake, West Fork and Jesusita Trails may be open to the public again this weekend.
These sources also caution that trails in Mission Canyon, including the paved road beyond the locked gate at the end of Tunnel Road will remain closed and are likely to stay closed through at least the end of August. Any decision to re-open any of the trails in Mission Canyon will be contingent on their impacts on fire reconstruction in the canyon or erosion-related issues in the upper canyon.
Forest officials also cautioned that trail users should be prepared for how the fire damage will impact their experience. “Expect the trails to be hot and the shade hard to find,” Kerry Kellogg, the wilderness trails manager for the Santa Barbara District of Los Padres Forest, explained to me in a recent phone call. “Even in San Roque Canyon, a lot of the brush and tree canopy along Jesusita Trail is gone. Ground temperatures will be far higher than normal, there isn’t much water in the streams and for those with dogs, you might want to consider not bringing them with you on the first few hikes until you’ve got a better idea of what conditions are like.”
Agency staff also cautioned that they will be monitoring trail conditions as well as making sure that users are staying on trails. “It is absolutely critical that users don’t wander off trail, even though it is easy to do so, because of the potential impacts on the loose hillsides, number of places where rockfall could endanger other users,” Kellogg said.