Some travel the country looking for peaks worth summiting.
I myself am on a quest to summit the highpoint of each of the 58 counties in California, and I use the Ventana as a convenient training ground for the tougher
climbs/hikes. If you've not traveled the backcountry of the Ventana, you
may not realize the scope of the peaks readily available to those of us
along the central coast. I've arranged a list of the fifteen highest peaks
in the Ventana with a brief narrative of each.
- MILLER MOUNTAIN
- Named for John William Miller, an early settler,
Miller Mountain stands at 4,341 feet. While quite close to the Carmel River Trail, there is no known trail to the summit.
- MOUNT CARMEL
- Named for the city near Monterey, Mount Carmel stands at 4,417 feet.
This is perhaps the most accessible of the high peaks of the Ventana. A
side trail off the Ventana Double Cone Trail at Devil's Peak brings one to the summit. This author has observed snow falling while in the sunshine on the summit. The summit has remnants of a lookout used to watch for enemy
aircraft during WWII.
- BLACK CONE
- This peak, at 4,535 feet, was named for it's shape and
color. When viewed from afar, it looks like a black cone. It is currently
very tough to get to. The Black Cone Trail does go to the peak but the
trail is currently unpassable in the vicinity of the peak. Look to the
Forumboard in the future for updates. There are several groups looking to
re-open this route.
- KANDLBINDER PEAK
- Named for Dr. Alfred Kandlbinder, a original member
of the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club, Kandlbinder Peak stands at 4,653 feet. There is no trail directly to the summit but one can, with some skill of scrambling and perhaps a little bouldering, gain the summit from the Ventana Double Cone.
- VENTANA CONE
- Named for its proximity to "The Window" which translates
to Ventana in spanish, this cone shaped peak stands at 4,727 feet. While no
trail leads to it's summit, it is rumored that one can gain access to the
summit from Pine Ridge following an old fire break.
Looking Westward to the Pacific from South Ventana Cone
- UNCLE SAM MOUNTAIN
- At 4,766 feet, this peak lies near the Ventana Double Cone
Trail but no known path leads to the summit. It was named not for our
favorite patriotic uncle but for an early Mexican settler that everyone
called Uncle Sam.
- BEAR MOUNTAIN
- One could only surmise that this peak was named for the
grizzly bears that used to inhabit the Ventana. It's summit is at 4,771
feet and it is currently isolated by an overgrown access
road. It is roughly northeast of Junipero Serra Peak.
- TWIN PEAK
- At 4,843 feet, this peak was so named by mariners looking
from the sea, who saw it as a twin to it's near neighbor Cone Peak. No trail leads to the summit and this would not be recommended for the unskilled.
- VENTANA DOUBLE CONE
- Named for it's proximity to "The Window" and the fact that it has a double summit. The southernmost summit tops out at 4,853 feet and used to have a fire lookout. The trail named for the peak
leads to the south summit and while a long hike, not difficult by Ventana
standards. This one is on the must see list for all. The views of
Kandlbinder Peak, the other Ventana Cones, and the Ventana in general are
world class. It can cloud over even in fairly good weather so one would be
wise to be aware of the possibility of lightning strikes.
- BLACK BUTTE
- Seemingly named for the dark vegetation on it's flanks.
The summit, at 4,941 feet, is exposed and titillatingly close to Tassajara
Road, but there is no known report of anyone making the summit through the heavy brush.
Looking Southeast from South Ventana Cone
- SOUTH VENTANA CONE
- At 4,965 feet, this peak makes for an interesting
side trip to those traveling along the Pine Ridge Trail. While no trail to
the summit shows on any map, there is a rough cut trail leading to the
southernmost of three highpoints at the summit. One can access this "trail"
just east of the junction of the Pine Ridge Trail and the Black Cone Trail.
This peak provides what could be the best overall view of all the Ventana
peaks as it is the highest of the Ventana Cones and centrally located in the
Ventana Wilderness. No particular skill is required to make this summit.
- CHEW'S RIDGE
- At 5,045 feet and nearly on Tassajara Road, this one is
the easiest highpoint to visit in the Ventana. The only downside is that
the summit is in a forested area and the view from the summit is quite
limited. An unused fire lookout remains at the summit but is sealed off
from public use.
- CONE PEAK
- A relatively short tough hike from Cone Peak Road (4WD
recommended) of 2 miles leads to the summit at 5,155 feet. Towards the
summit the trail is literally cut into the rock. The experience would
remind one of the High Sierra as the peak is quite craggy. There is a fire
lookout still maintained at the summit but not often manned. The views of
the coast and Junipero Serra Peak are unsurpassed.
- PINYON PEAK
- Not much is known about this peak of 5,264 feet. Named
from a rough interpretation of the spanish word for crag, peñon,
this peak has not had any known recent visitors as the access road has long
since been reclaimed by the brush. There are the remains of a burned out
fire lookout at the summit. Currently there is a plan by this author to
reach this peak. Look to the Forumboard for future information.
- JUNIPERO SERRA PEAK
- Also known as Pimkolam by the native Indians,
this is the Big One of the Ventana Wilderness at 5,862 feet, as well as the
highest point in Monterey County. A fairly well maintained trail leads to
the top from a trailhead in an area called The Indians. This one is for well
conditioned hikers only as it gains about 4,000 feet in six miles. There is
a lookout platform at the summit covered with debris that can be accessed
with caution. Views of the Sierra can surprise one at the summit. Be
prepared for snow in winter as it usually sticks to the north and east slope
of this giant.
A final word to the wise, do not underestimate the difficulty you may
encounter attempting any cross country travel in the Ventana. In most cases,
where there is no trail, there is HEAVY brush which has turned back even the
most determined traveler. The heat in summer can be brutal even on peaks
along the usually foggy coast. Carry LOTS of water.
Clark, Donald T. 1991. Monterey County Place Names. Kestrel Press, Carmel Valley.