Ventana Wilderness


Day Hike - Cone Peak

One way length:2.3 miles
Low and high elevation: 3,720 to 5,155 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

This is a steep climb (1,400), but the magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean and the entire Santa Lucia Range make this a premier hike on a clear day. To reach the trailhead, turn off of Coast Highway 1 by the Mill Creek Picnic Area onto the NacimientoFergusson Road. This highly scenic route winds 7.5 miles up the mountains to Redwood Springs Campground, where it intersects Forest Road 20S05, sometimes known as the Coast Ridge Road. From the trailhead parking area, the hike follows the closed road a short way, then it splits to form a separate trail that follows a ridge, passing through oak woodlands. Eventually, the trail switchbacks, passing through Coulter pine, sugar pine, and the rare Santa Lucia fir, on the final 0.25 mile of spur trail to the summit lookout.

Day Hike - Vicente Flat

One way length: 4.3 miles
Low and high elevation: 300 to 1,780 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

The Vicente Flat Trail takes you from near sea level at the coast up through the Santa Lucia Mountains and ends at a lovely redwood grove along a murmuring creek. The trailhead is located near Kirk Creek Campground just east of Coast Highway 1. With beautiful views of meadows and oak woodlands, the trail ascends by switchback through chaparral and grasslands, often studded with flowers in March and April. You will continue climbing to a ridge, then traverse along the side of the Hare Creek drainage to the redwood-lined banks of the creek at Vicente Flat, which makes a great overnight camp as well as a good picnic spot and goal for day hikers.

Overnight Hike - Pine Valley Loop

One way length: 23.1 miles
Low and high elevation: 1,600 to 4,750 feet
Difficulty: Moderate

The Pine Valley Loop takes one past waterfalls, pine forests, and beautiful meadows. As might be expected, this is a popular route, so it's best to avoid it during major holidays and during summer when it can be very hot. To reach the trailhead, turn west off Highway 101 by Greenfield on County Road G16. Take this county road 29.0 miles to Tassajara Road, then turn south to China Campground, where there is trailhead parking for the Pine Ridge Trail.

At first, the trail goes up and down as it makes its way to Church Creek Divide, with views of flowery meadows just above the trail.

Continue north to Pine Valley, where there is an overnight campsite, a lovely place with large ponderosa pine somewhat reminiscent of the Sierra Nevada. From Pine Valley, it's an easy hike to view Pine Creek Falls, and the pool below makes a good swimming hole on a hot day. To continue the loop, head down the Carmel River Trail, which crosses the stream a number of times. This can be difficult if water levels are high—usually a concern only in winter. Good campsites are located at Hiding Camp and Buckskin Flat. The Carmel River Trail is joined by the Miller Canyon Trail at Carmel River Camp. If you have previously arranged a shuttle or want to hitchhike back to your vehicle—which is risky, given the limited traffic—you can continue 5.0 miles down the Carmel River to the Carmel River Ranger Station by the reservoir. To complete the loop by trail, take the Miller Trail 9.4 miles uphill to your vehicle at China Campground. Alternatively, it is possible to camp enroute at Miller Canyon Camp and have an easy jaunt out the next day.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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