Treadmill Rating (out of 10): 5 out of 10
Distance: 4.5 mile round trip
Max Elevation: 1450
Elevation Gain: 1350
I had the honor of accompanying my son on an overnight boy scout hike to Cruickshank campground in Monterey County. I have to be honest, it was a great hike, but filled with a lot of poison oak (so be careful). The Cruickshand trail head is easy to miss. It is a few miles north of Salmon Creek on Highway 1 along the coast. Once you find the trailhead you may park for free and camp for free. You may also have a fire, but you must get a fire permit (also free). So, as far as camping along the coast, it is one of the least expensive.
We embarked with a group of 15 total people which was a nice group size for the hike. We were able to get started on a Friday afternoon at about 4:10pm and we arrived at camp just before 6pm (with several stops). Although the hike in is only 2.25 miles, the first mile is fairly steep with several switch-backs which reminded me of the switch-backs on Whitney. But after the first mile the trail really levels off and takes you through a beautiful valley filled with tons of vegetation and shade. All the while the ocean view is at your back.
The camping area has a fire pit and is very primative. There was a nice stream flowing nearby to filter water for cooking and drinking. Just above the fire pit area (about 100 yards) there was a beautiful open field which most of us setup our tents and slept there for the night. We had a great time around the fire and were able to find plenty of activities to keep the scouts busy. I wished we had more time to adventure out on some of the other trails that were offered in the area, but we were on a short time table.
We were fortunate enough to stop and have a brown bag lunch at Salmon Creek. The waterfall was flowing nicely since we had a good rainy season this year. Overall I loved this hike. It offers some of the best of what California represents (Ocean, Mountains, beauty, and fun) and in such an easy to digest package. I am planning on returning to the area soon for some more overnight adventures and excursions to some of the other trails in the area. I highly recommend this hike to families.
HOW TECHNICAL IS THE HIKE?
Overall the hike is not very technical. As I mentioned, the first mile is a real “grind” but after that it levels out. I would say that there is a good 1100 elevation gain in that first mile. It is a single wide trail with lots of vegetation but I would feel comfortable taking any one of my kids with me.
WHO CAN DO THIS HIKE?
Anyone who is in relatively good shape can do this hike. It is possible to do the entire hike in a day, but that first mile coming in and the last mile going out would be tough if you weren’t prepared. Again, I recommend this hike for families looking to get away for an adventure but still sticking close to home.
WHEN SHOULD I GO?
We don’t recommend going anytime immediately following a heavy rain. The trail looks like it has been washed out before and there are some areas with down trees which have been cleared out. But, given the general geographic location of this trail, it should be accessible year round. But, be very, very careful of the poison oak.
If you are in good enough shape to walk 5-6 miles with a heavy pack, you should be good to go for this hike. I would recommend training with a full pack on before heading up. Again, that first mile was more difficult than we thought it would be.
See our standard overnight gear list.