Ventana Wilderness

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    Frank H.
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon

    I'm thinking about going backpacking here in the next couple of weeks, but i'm not sure where to start. I've got a map. But i'm not sure what are the best possible routes for water and things like that. If anyone has hiked there this year and trip reports or suggested routes. I"m looking to for 2 nights 3 days or just for an over nighter. No more than 10 miles a day. If you can help out thanks.

    Justin Baker
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Rosa, CA

    The most popular trail the pine ridge trail to china camp. That's about 20 miles one way if I remember right. Haven't done it personally, just did a short overnighter to one of the first camps.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    Arroyo Seco was nice but started getting overgrown about 10 miles past the last bridge before the wilderness boundary. Wonder if the trail has been cleared. I paid for parking but there's a nice shower upon return.

    Bob Gross
    BPL Member


    Locale: Silicon Valley

    In Ventana, it is always a good year for the poison oak harvest.


    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    you won't have that "I have the forest to myself" feeling that you can get in the sierra back country now, but sykes is a nice destination. I haven't been up the pine ridge trail since early spring… but I expect it's in good shape.


    Frank H.
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon

    Well i'm wanting to head to emmigrant the weekend of October 21-23, but looking at the weather reports; shows that it might rain and eventually snow. I've got a new backpacker going and i don't have that much experience backpacking in horrible weather. I just don't want to risk it in that weather.

    Harald Hope
    BPL Member


    Locale: East Bay

    In Ventana below 4000 feet there's a lot of poison oak. Lines the trails, so learn how to walk without brushing the sides of the trails. Using separate hiking and camp clothes can help too. You can avoid it, but it's hard. Sykes is over-visited and over impacted in my opinion, might as well go car camping almost at this point, especially if you go on a weekend with nice weather, ie, no rain, but all the other camp sites are nice.

    Remember the famous last words, that always precede the first big poison oak attack: I never get poison oak. It's a substance that you have resistance to, and repeated exposures remove the resistance, until one day you join those of us who get it.

    Unfortunately the best loops are still not easily passable due to trail damage, check Ventana Trail Conditions before you go.

    If you are going by car the Botcher's gap trailhead is really nice, although you are going to do a very heavy climb the first day, up the old jeep road, which means unusually steep trail grades. But there is no easy connector that I know of between that main trail and the Pine Ridge trail, though I'm going to check that again to make sure. Only I think the first 4 or 5 miles will have poison oak, after that you are high enough to be out of its zone.

    Watch your feet, watch for rattlers too.

    If you are limited to 10 miles a day, that's only going to take you almost to Sykes from the main Pine Ridge trail head (there is no agreement on the trail mileage signs, some say Sykes is 10 miles, other 12). Barlow Flat is about 6.5 miles I'd say, an easy hike in and out.

    From China camp trailhead Pine Ridge trail will take you to some of the camps up in the mountains, easy hike in and out as long as you don't start heading down the main mountain, towards Redwood camp and Sykes. In Big Sur 'easy' means, not that hard, relative to the hard parts, not 'easy' as in not hard.

    From Botchers that is a very hard 10 miles since the first part you climb I think 3000 feet or so, give or take, but there's some great spots up there on the ridges and nestled in the high valleys. I can't remember the other inland trailheads, but I remember that the Southern part is very flat and moderate, not like the other parts at all.

    Some trail clearing volunteers are working on getting the bigger loops cleared, but they are still missing a mile or two off each from what I gather. Big thanks to those people, that's hard work and they do it for free out of love for Big Sur.

    If you go in this season, bring real rain gear, it can start to hit any time.

    If I was going to go for 3 days, 2 nights, and had a car, I'd go to Botchers, get to Lone Pine in a day or two, then go back on the 3rd day, it's basically all down hill from Ventana Double Cone. Don't remember the mileage to Lone Pine, that's the one at the base of the peak. Some bush whacking in that area, but as long as you can see the trail more or less it's fine. If you go that route, don't bring any ultralight packs, they will get shredded by the chaparral if it's dense, as it often is.

    Water to Sykes: streams every few miles, maybe 4 or 5 miles to first water source, after that, every few miles. Going from Botchers, there are a few streams, very small, that might dry up in summer but I think there's been enough rain now to refuel them, so you shouldn't need to carry more than 2 liters of water from the trailhead, less if it's cool. Up on the ridges there's not as much water, get a real map so you know where to find the springs and streams. I always use water filter, love stopping, filling a liter or two, then walking on, drinking fresh water. Water from China Camp, almost nothing after China Camp, until you get to the first camp sites. That's my recollection anyway. Inland Big Sur is very dry, almost high desert type climate. But oddly enough, also resembles the higher Sierras in a sense.

    I'm not really fond of leaving a car at the China Camp trailhead, the locals all know about backpackers and the likelihood of a break-in is pretty high in my opinion. Botchers and main Pine Ridge have parking lots, pay, and ranger station. Botchers actually has a campground, I think, confirm that, so you can camp there if you get there late, for a third night.

    The only trail that you will really see people on is the easy part of Pine Ridge, the big climbs after Sykes and from Botchers do a good job filtering out most people, so after that you'll probably only see a few people at most per day, if that.

    Big Sur is very steep, very few flat spots except in the Southern parts, the topo maps they made of it use 200 feet lines, not the regular 50. Picture mountains starting at sea level, then going up straight for 5000 feet and you get the idea, ie, no foothills.

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