IMPORTANT FIRE CLOSURE AND WINTER STORM ROAD DAMAGE INFORMATION
As a result of the 2016 Soberanes Fire, the US Forest Service closed the entire Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest. On December 5, 2016, the Closure Order was amended to allow for a partial re-opening of parts of the Monterey Ranger District. See the links below for the Forest Closure Order and a map which indicates the closure boundaries.
Most of the Ventana Wilderness remains CLOSED. This includes backcountry camps like Sykes, Terrace Creek, Barlow Flat, Pat Spring, Carmel River, Pico Blanco Public Camp, and many others. Unauthorized entry is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and imprisonment up to six months.
Please review these links and call the Monterey Ranger District at (831) 385-5434 before visiting the Ventana Wilderness.
Areas that are currently OPEN include the Cone Peak Trail Network and the Silver Peak Wilderness. However, winter storm damage to Highway One and Nacimiento-Fergusson Road has made it extremely difficult to access these areas. CALTRANS is implementing hard closures on an hour-to-hour and daily basis due to slides and unstable roadways. The Big Sur Information facebook page, updated by the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, is your best source for up-to-the-minute road conditions in the Big Sur area.
Effective January 17, 2017, Fire Restrictions are reduced for the areas of the Monterey Ranger District outside of the closure boundaries. Campfires are now permitted with a valid permit which can be obtained here. Campfires are never permitted along roadways in Big Sur.
With visitation to the Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest now concentrated in far fewer trails and camps, it is up to all of us to tread lightly on the land. Now more than ever, it is critical that all visitors practice Leave No Trace principles.
Many State Park trails in the Big Sur area are also CLOSED. Call the State Park that you wish to explore to determine if trails are open. A handy list of State Park phone numbers can be found at the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce Camping Guide.
You'll find here a number of links to some pretty informative internet weather sites relevant to the northern Santa Lucia backcounty traveler. They should be helpful in determining what the weather's going to do while you're out there. But regardless of what these folks say, it's always smart to prepare for the worst.
The Big Sur backcountry is rugged and untamed. It is also quite fragile and easily impacted by the actions of man. California’s population has doubled since the Wilderness Act of 1964 was signed into law. This growing population and the global popularity of Big Sur as a destination for outdoor recreation exert tremendous pressure on our public lands. The US Forest Service is the agency responsible for recreation management in the region. They are woefully underfunded and understaffed.
For those new to the region, heading out into the backcountry without consulting a trail guide is at best adventurous and venturing forth without at least a map is courting disaster. Thankfully, maps and books specific to exploration of the Big Sur backcountry are readily available. The publications and web resources listed below, when used in conjunction with the VWA's online Trails Conditions pages, should help in the planning of a wilderness visit.
You may have heard stories about a fantastical place in the Ventana Wilderness with redwoods, a clear-running mountain stream and magical natural hot springs. That’s all true. But another truth is that human visitation at Sykes has a profound impact on this special place. We need your help to keep Sykes from being “loved to death.” Everyone who hikes to Sykes needs to commit strongly to Leave No Trace ethics to help protect this fragile place.
With over 300 miles of trails and dozens of camps in the Big Sur backcountry, there is ample opportunity for recreation and solitude. Since we are so often asked for trip suggestions, we offer these five locales as a mere sampling of what the Ventana region has to offer.