Trip Suggestions

THANK YOU FOR READING THIS IMPORTANT INFORMATION - updated October 10, 2020

Despite the closure of public lands, many Big Sur businesses (including private campgrounds) are open for business. Call the business you wish to visit ahead of travel for hours of operation. 

As of 6 PM on 9/21/2020, Highway 1 is fully open along the Big Sur coast. 

Most other roads in the region are closed.   

US Forest Service Managed Lands - Though 98% contained as of this date, the Dolan Fire continues to burn in the Ventana Wilderness and its trails and backcountry camps are closed. The Silver Peak Wilderness remains closed. Effectively, the entire Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest is closed.  Click here for the Forest Closure Order dated 10/09/2020.  This link includes a Forest Closure Map.    

Fines for entering closed areas can be up to $10,000.  

State Parks

The following are open for day use:  Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Garrapata State Park - Soberanes Canyon Trail, Andrew Molera State Park, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (go online or call to find out if their campgrounds are open) 

The following remain closed: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, John Little State Natural Reserve, Limekiln State Park, Point Sur State Historic Park 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO (additional US Forest Service information for the Monterey Ranger District): Please note that the information above is oftentimes more up-to-date than the US Forest Service site. Call 831-385-5434 with questions. 

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

 

 

 

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