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Ventana Double Cone Trail

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby carmel valley hiker on Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:08 pm

Date Hiked: April 5, 2014
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Bouchers Gap to Pat Spring is in good shape except for a dozen or so deadfalls. Cut about 6 trees 6" or less with small handsaw and cleared around a couple bigger trees to get access. About a dozen larger trees from 8" to 30" still on trail but not too hard to get around. Camped at Pat Spring and headed to Puerto Suello the next morning with the goal of doing some clearing on the trail up to VDC peak. again cut about 6 - 6" deadfalls and cleared out around a couple of bigger oaks that have fallen about a half mile before Puerto Suello. About a mile before camp the brush is encroaching heavily. Made camp and instead of working farther out the trail spent a few hours that afternoon and the next morning clearing brush back towards Little Pines. Made some decent progress and it will make it a little easier to get out to Puerto Suello. Trail down to spring was in much better shape than when I was out there a few years ago and the plastic spring box works well, the two quart box recovers within a minute or two of removing water Please keep the lid on to keep the leaves, bugs and mud from flowing in the top when it rains.
Ran into trail runner on the way to VDC, he turned back early because of the brush and time limits, said he was crawling quite a bit.
Does anyone know if there is a tool cache out that way? I had lopping shears and a small limb saw, but could have used a McCloud or a shovel to work on the tread a little. The runner said he found some lopping shears out a 1/4 mile or so past camp.
carmel valley hiker

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby TJB on Sun Feb 16, 2014 4:35 pm

Date Hiked: February 15, 2012
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

[Editor's note: the poster meant to say he camped near the Lone Pine Camp _trail _intersection_, since he later says he did not actually go to that camp.]

I hiked the Double Cone starting from Botcher's Gap. The trail was in great shape until about half a mile north of the junction with Puerto Suelo, then the brush started coming in tight around the trail. Definitely wear pants, and a long sleeve shirt would be good too. Keeping track of the trail isn't a problem though - it's always well-defined. About half a mile south of Puerto Suelo, the brush relents a little bit, although there's still plenty of overgrowth. I camped near the Lone Pine campground. The side-trail that leads down to the actual campground is very overgrown, although you can see the tread of the trail under the brush. There's a stack of rocks on the trail, and a sign post without a sign, where you access the Lone Pine campground down to the east side of the ridge. I just found a flat little clearing a hundred feet or so past the Lone Pine campground and set my tent up there. The next morning I started in the dark with my headlamp up to the summit. The trail was a little tricky to follow in the dark in a few spots, but if you have a decent nose for following a trail, it's very do-able. It took 1:15 from Lone Pine to the summit in the dark. The view of the sunrise from the summit was absolutely mind-blowing.

The only place I obtained water along the hike was Pat Springs, which was flowing fine. Since I didn't visit the actual Lone Pine campground, I can't confirm if there's water there. The worst of the overgrowth is a one-mile stretch around Puerto Suelo. Fortunately, none of the overgrowth that I encountered was poison oak.

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby Michael Brian Wolfe on Sun Feb 02, 2014 6:42 pm

Date Hiked: January 26, 2013
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Most of the journey to Pat Springs was wilderness Highway. After that, intermittent stretches of thick brush slowed us down and I got off track a number of times between the Puerto Suello junction and the summit. All in all a great experience. I decided that with the unseasonable warm weather, this would be the ideal time to do this trip. No insects to speak of. 70 degrees and calm. Plenty of water at Pat Springs. None to be seen anywhere else. Don't forget to sign the register when you summit.
Michael Brian Wolfe

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby Guest on Mon Jan 27, 2014 9:08 pm

Date Hiked: January 26, 2014
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

[Editor's note: here "VDC junction" seems to mean the intersection with the Puerto Suelo Trail]

4 humans + 1 dog hiked the VDC from Pat Springs. Overall we expected this trail to be a true back country epic based on previous trip reports, but actually found it to be enjoyable yet adventurous, and overall not worth all the fuss and worry we expected.

From Pat Springs to the VDC junction, the first 3/4 of trail out from Pat Springs I would rate as "clear" with a little bit of encroaching PO onto the trail grade. With a little care it is avoidable while not in bloom this time of year. It's a beautiful ridge walk with great views. The last 1/4 of trail to the VDC junction you are pushing through brush and the trail tread resembles more of a deer path in places, but is still obvious and isn't any cause for concern. This section I would rate as "passable". From Pat Springs to the VDC junction it took us 1 hour and 50 minutes, with a departure time of 6:20 am.

Previous trip reports make the VDC junction to be easily missed. We found it very obvious. Again, finding this landmark is not a cause for concern. The first 1/2 of the trail to the summit from the junction you are pushing through brush at head level and crawling under deadfalls, but the PO is minimal and the trail is obvious. Worthy of a "difficult" rating. The last 1/2 the trail opens up nicely with outstanding views, and I would rate as "clear/passable". There are a handful of places where the trail along the route disappears you might say, but not for more than 20 ft. or so, and then picks right up again. Mostly it's in places where people have flagged trees to mark the route, but where common sense has lead hikers a different way. The ground is very sandy, so if you can recognize a human boot print you won't get lost. From the junction to the summit it took us 2 hrs. flat, arriving at 10:10 am.

The summit is gorgeous, beautiful and everything that makes this a trip worth taking. The summit register had 40 + records of people climbing it in 2014 so far, which you wouldn't know by the lack of trip reports. Overall if you want to get a great sense of solitude, have an adventure while not tackling the ruggedness of most Ventana trails and see some incredible scenery, this is a trip in most peoples ability.

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby pmannisto on Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:28 am

Date Hiked: January 12, 2014
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Hiked out to Ventana Double Cone in cold, windy, but beautiful conditions on January 12 from Bottchers Gap. Despite the brush, I found the trail thoroughly enjoyable, and the view from the summit was spectacular. Long sleeves and long pants are essential. I even wish I had brought a cover for my face as my cheeks brushed up against poison oak several times, which left a few marks. If you're sensitive to poison oak you probably won't like this trail. Some observations...

- The trail up to about a half-mile before Puerto Suello gap is well-defined and basically clear of brush. I would consider this part of the trail (about 10 miles one-way) a wilderness freeway. About a half-mile before Puerto Suello the brush starts to encroach. If you get here and you're not enjoying the trail you should probably turn around, as it only gets worse from here.

- The brushiest section extends from half a mile before Puerto Suello extending up to Lone Pine Camp (maybe 2 miles total), at which point the trail clears up slightly. This brushy section is perfectly navigable in my opinion, as the trail is very evident despite the encroaching brush. The switchback that others have talked about is ridiculously well-marked at this point, there is almost no possible way of mistaking it. The only way to get lost in this brushy section is probably if you are having to battle so much with the vegetation that you don't have time to navigate. Take it slow! At the few confusing junctions there is usually a flag or marker to indicate the correct trail. There are also a few downed logs to crawl under or climb over, but if you've made it this far you should have no problem.

- From Lone Pine Camp to the summit, things clear up a little bit. Unfortunately, here navigation becomes more difficult as there are use paths branching off from the main trial in various directions. One thing I found confusing is that the flags in around Lone Pine seem to indicate campsites rather than the main trail. I still wouldn't consider this section particularly difficult to navigate, but I had to pause a few times to determine the correct route.

- At the summit there's cell phone reception (or at least I had a signal), so you can call your friends and brag about where you are! :) Make sure to read the summit register, too; people have written all sorts of things there!
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby kgriffith on Sun Jan 12, 2014 12:56 am

Date Hiked: December 10, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Approximately a mile and a half from Bottcher's Campground, there is some deadfall blocking the trail as it turns sharply to the right. It appears that many people have tried to continue on straight past the turn, as the false trail has a lot of tread for ~100 feet before it peters out. Someone apparently spent a lot of effort bushwhacking up a gully before they realized it was the wrong way. Beyond that, the trail is generally clear and well-signed all the way to Pat Springs, although after passing the Pine Creek trail intersection the trail narrows a bit due to ferns and overgrown shrubs. Pat Spring was flowing clear and cold, as expected.

After Pat Spring, the trail involves some minor bushwhacking but nothing too difficult. We camped at Little Pines, which had one really nice cleared area on your left as you hike through it. After Little Pines, the minor bushwhacking continues to the Puerto Suello gap. Once you reach the gap, there is a Y-intersection with the path marked by two cairns. The unmarked trail goes to the spring. Despite a report of water being found there in November 2013, it appears it is dry. Someone sank and left a plastic bucket into the mud to try to get it to fill with water, but it is so filled with mud/dirt it will clog your filter intake (I tried). I hiked down past the normal spring location for ~1000 feet and could only find some muddy footprints and some drops coming out of the side of a ridge. The path was well-flagged, and another source cited a shallow pool ~650 feet from the trail in November 2013. I believe I found the site, but it is bone dry.

After Puerto Suello the bushwhacking began in earnest, and there was a lot of deadfall and branches closing in on you. It was difficult and slow but the tread was evident. The infamous switchback has a whole bunch of things piled up to help guide you the right direction. While we could have gone further, we decided to turn around and head back due to time constraints.

We saw a total of 4 people on the trail - one camper at Pat Springs, two hikers to Double Cone, and one crazy runner doing it as an out-and-back. I would do the trail again after a rain gets the water flowing at a lot of these campsites again. However, I bet the drought is the only reason these trails aren't completely overgrown..

Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby jack_glendening on Mon Oct 28, 2013 10:43 pm

Date Hiked: October 26, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

This is an addenda to the previous post, highlighting some details of our hike.

The infamous switchback
An infamous switchback 0.2 miles beyond Puerto Suello gap has been often missed since the tread appears to continue straight-ahead into a gully and beyond - as many hikers have indeed done - unfortunately that "trail" seems to continue aways before petering out and initiating a search for the true trail, so finding the missed trail can be difficult. Some have turned around at that point, after realizing that trail following will be more difficult than expected. I'd heard about that switchback prior to my first VDC ascent so caught myself from missing it and placed two flags to mark its branches. On a later trip I found that someone smarter than me had placed a line of small stones across the wrong route. I thought that made things pretty apparent, so was surprised to later read reports of people continuing to miss that switchback. Yet on our group's trip, our leader at the time, a very experienced hiker, also missed that switchback! Someone had replaced the small stone line with two large flat rocks, which were easily mistaken for a water bar instead of a trail barrier! Moreover, the switchback was now pretty overgrown and not very apparent. So on our return, we put a stone "X" on the far side of the "water bar" rocks, also placed a branch across, and cleared brush around it. That should keep others from continuing into the gully, for awhile at least.
Addendum: just heard from Betsy MacGowan that on her first VDC ascent in 1984 she and her companion also missed that infamous switchback! So it has a long history and seems to almost to have been a rite of passage for a first VDC ascent.

VDC Register
Since my last visit in Nov 2012, there have been 23 register entries (not including our group of four). Those include many entries from a Stevenson School expedition, bumping the numbers upward. Most were in the spring. From May through October there were only three entries - that's 3 entries in 6 months. The Double Cone is getting lonely!

Personal impressions
This was my fourth visit to the VDC (the first being 3 years to the day before this last visit). Comparing experiences, this trip was significantly more difficult than my last trip just 11 months ago. Then, once I ascended above Puerto Suelo gap the brush lessened and only a few places were brushy. But this time, after Puerto Suelo I was almost constantly fighting against the brush until about 1/2 mile from the summit. This trip was much more onerous than my last. One of our group likened it to a gaunlet (which I felt was apt). Another, who'd been to the VDC two years prior, remarked that this trip was not an enjoyable one overall. Personally, even though I love the VDC and think the view from there is astounding, the best in the Ventana, I'm a bit reluctant to go out there again.


PS: a note on water. Perennial water is available at Lone Pine Camp, but nearly 0.2 miles off-trail so getting it will add at least 20 minutes to your trip. And you must know where it is located, since there is no tread! For details see the Lone Pine Camp Trail Report section: viewtopic.php?f=36&t=251

PPS: should also send out some thanks since the brushiness from Pat Spring to the infamous switchback was much less this time than 11 months ago - a heartfelt appreciation for their trail work go to Steve Benoit and his VWA crew and to the Stevenson School expedition.
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby runcyclegirl on Mon Oct 28, 2013 10:33 pm

Date Hiked: October 26, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I last hiked to the Double Cone in March of 2011. Despite having read the current conditions, I did have hopes of finding the trail not too far from what I remembered. Conditions up to Pat Springs are clear to passable with a few deadfalls and some brush. In this section, some plants will touch you. Beyond Pat Springs and especially pass Puerto Suelo, you wear the plants. Thus, a very different hike. Four of us dayhiked out from Pat Springs on a 3day/2night trip. We started around 8AM and made the summit by 1PM. We spent appx an hour on the summit and got back to Pat Springs by 7PM.

Conditions up to Little Pines junction are clear and the views are scenic. There is evidence of tread work just beyond the junction which was very nice to see. Shortly after that we encountered brush tunnels of ceanothus up to Little Pines Camp. There are appx seven trees down in this section all easy to step over with most measuring ~one foot in diameter and the largest may be two to three feet. The route progressively deteriorates towards Puerto Suelo with encroaching brush, deadfall, and sections of loose tread. But I agree with the previous post describing Uncle Sam's "shoulder" as passable.

The climb beyond Puerto Suelo to the Double Cone is difficult- heavy brush, numerous and significant deadfalls, low visibility, kicking the tread with your feet to find your way. We did have GPS and still it was necessary to double back in a few places (i.e. between Lone Pine Camp and Ventana Spring Camp). However, our group made it to Puerto Suelo by 10AM and, with a brief snack break, we reached the summit just before 1PM.

If you go prepare for long stretches of nearly interlocking brush. Tread is present but heavy brush reduces visibility forcing you to "feel" your way. A GPS (with the known route loaded - see is a reassuring tool and flags enroute also assisted in places where we were forced to double back and try again. Long sleeves, long pants, and gloves may make for a more comfortable hike if you go.
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby 1hiker on Fri Jul 12, 2013 11:44 am

Date Hiked: July 6, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I agree with the last report on trail conditions to Pat Springs. Then beyond it is nice for quite a long ways. Once you get closer to VDC it becomes extremely difficult. I think the thread is ok but difficult to tell in heavy brush. I tried to go with a full backpack and wanted to camp at Lone Pine. I dropped down to a drainage and I do not believe I was suppose to be there. I have heard about a switchback but I did not see that. I turned around and returned to Pat. I wore long pants and long sleeves; but next time I will wear gloves also. I would say carry far more water than you believe you will drink. Right now there is no water around Lone Camp. I am interested in returning in cooler weather and hopefully will be better water sources.
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Re: Ventana Double Cone Trail

Postby brow on Sun Jun 30, 2013 7:59 pm

Date Hiked: June 23, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Run/Hike from Bottcher’s Gap to VDC and back. 7AM start, finished about 4:30 PM. We had about 7:30 of "forward" moving time and the rest of the time was spent taking pictures, resting, or looking for the trail. As many have reported the trail is "Wilderness Freeway" to Pat Spring. And generally "clear" for three mile past Pat Spring. However, on the shoulder of Uncle Sam, the trail got much worse.The two miles to the saddle were "passable" and the trail was easy enough to follow. A very short break in the bushwhacking at Puerto Suleo and then the conditions deteriorated to "difficult". We lost the trail twice, crawled through, over, under thick brush for over two miles, before it broke on the rockier push to the summit. Much worse than my last trip in March 2011 which had only a mile of bushwhacking. I fear this trail make be lost to the wilderness without some serious work.

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