The week before last (June 5th- 12th, 2017) I went on a little adventure. I got to meet up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I spent some time with my parents, and got to take a day trip down into Big Sur, which IS accessible from the north, and it appears that a lot of people don’t realize that anything is open down there. It is.
The trip ended with a single night backpacking trip with my siblings to Preston Falls in Stanislaus National Forest. This trip was fantastic, but there was a certain lack of information about the trail (and lack of trail at some points, for that matter) that made me want to write a blog post about it.
For starters, I came across a blog post while researching the trail that said they made it to what they thought were the falls, then made it home to realize that it wasn’t the right falls. This was a super handy tip, but… where were the actual falls? How did she
know she hadn’t made it? It took me a long while to find the proper GPS coordinates. That’s the first thing I thought I’d fix, in case someone ends up here, curious about the hike to Preston Falls.
The trailhead is actually marked as the Stanislaus National Forest Trailhead and can be found at these GPS coordinates:
N 37° 52.722′ , W 119° 57.025′
There is a little parking lot at the end of the road just past the dam where you’ll find a big sign saying “Stanislaus National Forest Trailhead,” a restroom, and, of course the trailhead.
Preston falls is at GPS coordinates:
N 37° 53.067′ , W 119° 52.878′.
We had wanted a short, easy-ish hike because it was only for an over night and it had been a while since any of us had been backpacking. Some sources said it was a 4 mile hike and others said it was more like 4.4. Not usually enough of a distance to really worry about, right? There’s a good reason for that discrepancy… I’ll address this in a moment…
The river had a ridiculous amount of water in it and, though there were signs everywhere that it had burned in the rim fire a few years ago, it was still startlingly beautiful.
There were flowers everywhere.
It was a nice, relatively flat, easy hike for the first 4 miles. Including a long, leisurely lunch break, it took us something like two hours, but we were dawdling, because we thought the whole thing was going to be that easy. Just about at the 4 mile mark, there’s a
nice little camp spot, and a view of SOME falls, and the trail went straight into the river. I understand why people would be tempted to stop there.
Did we, though? No. No, of course we didn’t.
We knew Preston Falls was further up stream, so we pressed on. The idea was that the trail had to come back out of the river at some point. For the remaining half mile or so — spent scrambling over rocks through ever thickening poison oak — we found plenty of pretty views, but never saw a trail again. I’m not sure exactly how far we walked because there was a lot of back and forth while setting down packs and scouting ahead, but it was about a half mile, probably less, and it took us almost another two hours. We eventually found some relatively flat ground and decided to call it a day. Curiosity got the best of me, and the little marker on my GPS was SO close, I ran ahead to see if the falls really existed. Fully intending to just pop over for a look and probably come back later, I, like an idiot, left my camera behind. The route got more difficult and took me a while to find a way up, over, and through the obstacles.
As a side note, this is probably a good time to mention that I had dropped my walkie talkie into the river earlier and was under the impression until I had made it a good ways away from my siblings that it was waterproof… It was not. It just took a while to start freaking out. I felt a little bad being gone so long without contact. They were a little worried, but it all worked out. I did find Preston Falls, just about when I was going to give up. “If it’s not around this last corner I’m going ba… Oh, there it is. Neat.” They were beautiful, but I didn’t wander back over there later. I met back up with my siblings, set up camp, and took a bunch of pictures. It was beautiful, and totally worth it.
The walk out was easier and much faster because we knew where we were going.
I regret nothing about the trip, but when I plan the next one to this location, there are a few things that I’ll do differently, now that I know. I’ll make sure it is more than an over-night, because there was a lot to explore… but that’s sort of how I feel about everywhere. I would also probably plan to set up camp at the site near the first set of falls (where the trail disappeared), then go back to Preston Falls as a day hike, there’s no reason to drag the pack back there.
When the river is lower, I imagine the trail might be more easily traversed. Please let me know with a comment if you do this hike and conditions have changed.
Because I’ve been playing around with time lapses, I put together a few throughout the course of my adventure and, just like last time, I edited it into a short video with some music I made. It’s not great, but it was fun to make.
The music is something I made for this video in Muse Score.
The first shot with the flowers, is in San Diego in Guajome Regional Park.
The next 5 (between times 8 and 52 seconds) were taken from my parents’ backyard in Monterey.
The remaining 5 shots were taken near Preston Falls in Stanislaus National Forest.