Trip Suggestions

THANK YOU FOR READING THIS IMPORTANT INFORMATION - updated August 2, 2021

FIRE RESTRICTIONS: Effective July 15, 2021, COLD CAMPING ONLY IN THE BACKCOUNTRY. NOT ONLY ARE CAMPFIRES AND SMOKING PROHIBITED IN THE BACKCOUNTRY, SO IS STOVE USAGE. If you are going backpacking, take food that does not require any sort of open flame to prepare. Campfire use and smoking are also prohibited at Designated Use Sites but stoves are OK at those few locations for now.   

The Willow Fire Forest Closure Order has been revised. See this link for what trails and camp remain closed and a map

(NEW) The Dolan Fire Forest Closure Order has been revised (effective July 30, 2021). In short, the Kirk Creek Trail is now open to the public. See the order revision here and the map here

Highway One is Open.

Nacimiento-Fergusson Road is Closed -- This road -- which connects Highway 1 at Kirk Creek with Fort Hunter Liggett on the eastern side of the Coast Ridge -- is significantly damaged but it is open to bicycle and foot traffic. No camping! 

The Pine Ridge Trail from Big Sur Station to Redwood Camp IS OPEN. Remember ... NO campfires or stoves!

For now, most trails and backcountry camps in the Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest are open.    

Roads closed to vehicular traffic: Arroyo Seco Road at Carmel Valley Road, Tassajara Road at Carmel Valley Road, Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, South Coast Ridge Road to Prewitt Ridge, Cone Peak Road, Arroyo Seco - Indians Road from Memorial Park to Escondido Camp

Know Before You Go: Please enjoy your public lands responsibly. Pack out everything you pack in (including toilet paper). Leave this special place better than you found it. Call the U. S. Forest Service, Monterey Ranger District office if you need more information: 831-385-5434.  

Current Fire Restrictions: NO CAMPFIRES OR STOVES. Stoves are permitted only at a few Designated Use Sites in Los Padres National Forest. A permit is required for stove use at the very few "designated use sites."  Click here for a permit and take it with you

State Parks: Check with individual State Parks to confirm access and for additional information. 
Open for day use: Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Garrapata State Park - Soberanes Canyon Trail, Andrew Molera State Park, Point Sur State Historic Park (tours only), Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Closed: John Little State Natural Reserve

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.

Please note: Wilderness travel in the Big Sur backcountry during the summer months can be extremely dangerous and even life threatening. Extreme heat, impassable trails, and unrelenting topography conspire to make summer backpacking difficult for even the most experienced explorer. This is not the high Sierra. Loop routes that look do-able on a map may be impassable in the field. Summertime exploration of the Big Sur backcountry is best done closest to the coast.Trail and camp conditions change constantly. Always research trail conditions before you head out and be prepared for the many perils associated with Wilderness travel. Apply information gathered at ventanawild.org at your own risk. VWA assumes no liability for the usage of this information.

 

Buckeye Trail

buckeye trailThe Buckeye Trail is arguably the most scenic trail in the entire Silver Peak Wilderness. With a long history of use dating back to the 1880’s under the name “Upper Coast Trail,” the Buckeye Trail was the main travel route to the Los Burros Mining District from points south along the coast. Today, the Buckeye Trail begins at the abandoned Salmon Creek Guard Station next to Highway 1 and winds its way north-northwest along the coastal slope, offering the traveler sweeping vistas of the Big Sur coastline. After passing above and within viewing distance of the Southern Redwood Botanical Area—the southernmost grove of naturally occurring Sequoia sempervirens in the world—it arrives at spacious Buckeye Flat, one of the more accommodating backcountry camps in Big Sur. From Buckeye Flat it continues north through Cruikshank Camp before dropping down to redwood-rich Villa Creek Camp, then climbs up and contours through the Alder Creek Botanical Area to reach its northern terminus at Alder Creek Camp. In conjunction with other trails such as the Cruikshank, Salmon Creek and Three Peaks,the Buckeye Trail makes possible some very enjoyable long weekend loop trips starting and ending at the Salmon Creek Station.

Click here to download a Silver Peak Wilderness map and Leave No Trace brochure. Prints best on Legal Size (8.5" X 14") paper.

Buckeye Trail Conditions

 

Carrizo Trail

carrizo trailThe Carrizo Trail is one of the most historically important trails in the Ventana Wilderness. Prior to the completion of Highway 1 in 1937, many of the south coast Big Sur homestead families, including the Harlans, Danis, Gamboas, and Lopezes, used the Carrizo Trail as their main connection with civilization at Jolon and King City in the Salinas Valley. Several times a year they herded cattle, pigs, goats, and even turkeys to market over the Coast Range via the Carrizo Trail, returning with the necessary supplies to sustain their remote existence.

The Carrizo Trail’s eastern terminus is at the scenic Wagon Cave Plains in the upper San Antonio Valley. Heading westward, it climbs steeply up to the coast ridge, passing through intriguing sandstone formations and oak forests before topping out at its juncture with the Coast Ridge Trail beneath majestic old-growth sugar pines. When combined with the Gamboa Trail, Stone Ridge Trail, and Vicente Trail, the Carrizo Trail allows backcountry travelers to make a complete traverse of the coast range from inland valley to the Pacific shore.

Carrizo Trail Conditions

 

Stone Ridge Trail

stone ridgeThe Stone Ridge Trail in the Ventana Wilderness offers hikers the quintessential “Big Sur experience.” This incredibly scenic trail takes backcountry travelers through deep old-growth redwood forests, over sunny, oak-studded ridges, through grassy meadowlands, and across babbling mountain streams, while offering some of the best coastal views to be found anywhere in the northern Santa Lucia Mountains. It also makes possible, in conjunction with the Vicente Flat and Gamboa Trails, a popular weekend loop trip that circumnavigates 5,155-foot-high Cone Peak.

From where it starts on Cone Peak Road, the Vicente Flat Trail descends to spacious, redwood-shaded Vicente Flat Camp before meeting the Stone Ridge Trail, which contours north across the coastal slope. It eventually crosses each and every fork of Limekiln Creek as well as its namesake—Stone Ridge—with its stunning views of the Big Sur Coast. Along the way to Goat Camp on the west fork of the creek, the trail passes through the Cone Peak Gradient Research Natural Area, offering not only exceptional recreational opportunities but important scientific research access as well.

Stone Ridge Trail Conditions

 

 

Ventana Double Cone Trail

double cone(July 2018 update: Some sections of this trail are currently impassable and the trailhead at Bottcher's Gap is inaccessible due to reconstruction of Palo Colorado Road. Consult the Trail Conditions page for the latest information.)  Winter travelers in the Ventana Wilderness are particularly fond of the Ventana Double Cone Trail, due to the fact that its entire length runs along high, warm, sunny ridgelines rather than the deeper, cooler canyon alternatives. From the trailhead at Bottchers Gap, the trail climbs up and over Skinner Ridge and Devils Peak, passing through some of the most impressive madrone and black oak forest to be found anywhere. It follows the forested ridge between the Little Sur and Carmel River watersheds, passing by a number of excellent camps— Comings, Pat Spring, Little Pines, and Lone Pine— before arriving at its namesake, the summit of Ventana Double Cone. If any specific location could be considered the heart of the Ventana Wilderness, the Double Cone summit is it. With lofty views in every direction, including the vast Pacific Ocean to the west, this remote mountaintop was once the site of a fire lookout—and for good reason.

Ventana Double Cone Trail Conditions