Big Sur Backpacking Suggestions

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(last update: Jun 21, 2021)

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Betsy MacGowan (credit:j.glendening)

Betsy MacGowan
(j.glendening)

Ventana Wilderness backpacking suggestions from Betsy MacGowan, Ventana wilderness doyenne

When planning fall/winter/spring a hike consider the weather and how much rain might have fallen.  Fall is a great time for river hikes, or anywhere that requires driving on a dirt road, since creek crossings are easy and roads are driveable. Winter and spring are great times for the ridge trails. 

And be sure to check latest trail conditions for your route - brush found on some longer route sections !

Shorter to longer:
  •  Carrizo Spring Camp:  RoundTrip=5mi  
     
         Views of rock formations, Junipero Serra Peak and "The Rocks" valley
  •  Vicente Flat:  RoundTrip=10mi  
     
         Redwood grove camping with views of Big Sur coast and Cone Peak along the way
  •  Pine Valley:  RoundTrip=11mi  
     
         Meadowed valley with pine trees and rock formations
  •  from Arroyo Seco Recreation Area:  RoundTrip=7-28mi  
Farther camps on the Marble Peak Trail
     
         Riparian valleys and views from ridgelines
  •  Carrizo Loop:  RoundTrip=17mi  
Carrizo Trail, North Coast Ridge Trail, Arroyo Seco Trail, back to start
     
         Views of rock formations, Junipero Serra Peak, "The Rocks" valley, the coast and all around
  •  Arroyo Seco Recreation Area Loop:  RoundTrip=18mi  
Marble Peak Trail, Horse Pasture Trail, Tony Trail, Marble Peak Trail, back to start
     
         Wide riparian valley, rock formations, views over mountains and valleys
  •  Route1↔ArroyoSecoRecreationArea One-way:  One-wayTrip=27mi  
Boronda Trail, Big Sur Trail, South Fork Trail, Marble Peak Trail, Arroyo Seco Recreation Area
   
         Coastal views, wide and narrow riparian valleys, inland views, etc.
  •  Route 1 Loop:  RoundTrip=31mi  
Boronda Trail, Big Sur Trail, South Fork Trail, Marble Peak Trail, North Coast Ridge Road, back to start
   
         Coastal views, wide and narrow riparian valleys, inland views, etc. (ambitious due to 72 hr Rte.1 parking limit)
  •  Black Cone Loop via Pine Ridge Trail  RoundTrip=31mi  
Pine Ridge Trail, Black Cone Trail, Marble Peak Trail, Tony Trail, back to start
     
         Seldom visited (and now brushy) Black Cone Trail gives views of upper Big Sur River and all over the Ventana (and do read Details)
  •  Black Cone Loop via Arroyo Seco Recreation Area  RoundTrip=38mi  
Marble Peak Trail, Horse Pasture Trail, Church Creek Trail, Pine Ridge Trail, Black Cone Trail, Marble Peak Trail, back to start
     
         Larger loop on the Black Cone Trail (see above hike) starting from the Arroyo Seco Recreation Area (and do read Details
  •  Lost Valley Loop:  RoundTrip=39mi  
Marble Peak Trail, Lost Valley Trail, ArroyoSeco-Indians Road (closed to vehicles), back to start   (can access from Arroyo Seco Recreation Area or Escondido Camp)
     
         Celebrate the recent clearing of the Lost Valley Trail after 6+ years of being "lost" (if you wait too long, it may become "lost" again!)

Variable length:
  •  from Memorial Park:  RoundTrip=3-6mi  
Any camp on the Arroyo Seco Trail
   
         Pine and oak forest with surrounding rock formations
  •  Carrizo Spring Camp:  RoundTrip=5mi  
     
       plus excursion to Cone Peak:  +RoundTrip=11mi  
 
         Views of rock formations, Junipero Serra Peak and "The Rocks" valley - then views of the coast and all around
  •  from Arroyo Seco Recreation Area:  RoundTrip=7-28mi  
Nearer camps on the Marble Peak Trail
     
         Riparian valley
  •  Vicente Flat:  RoundTrip=10mi  
     
       plus excursion to Cone Peak:  +RoundTrip=12mi  
 
       plus Stone Ridge Loop:  +RoundTrip=16mi  
 
       Webpage:  Sea-to-Summit Backpack: Cone Peak via Vicente Flat
         Redwood grove - then views of coast and all around
  •  Pine Valley:  RoundTrip=11mi  
     
       plus excursion to Pine Ridge:  +RoundTrip=7mi  
 
         Meadowed valley with pine trees and rock formations - then views in all directions
  •  from Route 1:   Boronda Trail to:
     Cold Spring Camp:  RoundTrip=11mi  
   
     Rainbow Camp:  RoundTrip=20mi  
   
         Cold Spring Camp has views, Rainbow Camp has a river with views along the way
  •  Pine Ridge Trail:  TrailLength=23mi  
Spanning the Ventana Wilderness, five camps, create your own route from either end
     
         West end low ↔ East end high : river canyon ↔ mountain views : redwoods ↔ flowers

Jack's longer-route additions:
  •  Arroyo Seco Recreation Area Grand Loop:  RoundTrip=45mi 
ArroyoSeco-Indians Road (closed to vehicles), Rodeo Flat Trail, North Coast Ridge Trail, North Coast Ridge Road (dirt), Marble Peak Trail, back to start   (can also access from Escondido Camp)  NB: if hiking in reverse direction, descend on Arroyo Seco Trail instead of Rodeo Flat Trail (traction problems on latter)

  •  Grand Triple Loop:  from Arroyo Seco Recreation Area:  RoundTrip=107mi  

Jack Glendening (credit:p.danielson)

Jack Glendening
(p.danielson)

Jack's Silver Peak Wilderness backpacking suggestions

Shorter to longer:
  •  Villa Creek Camp:  RoundTrip=5mi  
      
         Camp under trees near large creek with pools
  •  Estrella Camp:  via Salmon Creek Trail   RoundTrip=6mi  
      
         Waterfalls and stream lead to secluded camp
  •  Buckeye Camp: 
     via Buckeye Trail   RoundTrip=7mi  
     
     via Cruikshank Trail   RoundTrip=9mi  
      
         Pleasant secluded camp
  •  Three Peaks Loop:  RoundTrip=15mi 
Salmon Creek Trail, South Coast Ridge Road (dirt), Three Peaks Trail, Spruce Creek Trail, back to start
      
         Waterfalls, inland and coastal views, meadows
  •  Dutra Flat Loop:  RoundTrip=15mi  
Baldwin Ranch Road (gated), County Line Ridge, Murry Mine Track, Spruce Creek Trail, back to start
      
         Coastal and inland views, meadows
  •  Lion Den Loop:  RoundTrip=16mi    
Salmon Creek Trail, South Coast Ridge Road (dirt), Cruikshank Trail, Buckeye Trail
      
         Waterfalls, inland and coastal views, cinnamon serpentine rock, endemic Santa Lucia fir, serpentine-endemic Sargent cypress
  •  Elk Camp:  For adventurous solitude seekers  RoundTrip=17mi  
Baldwin Ranch Road (gated), Elk Camp Trail, back to start
      
         Coastal and inland views, meadows - route following skills required
  •  Mix & Match Segments from above hikes  wink



Click to thank:               
Photos from Jack Glendening, Paul Danielson, Maria Ferdin, Betsy MacGowan, Jim Ringland, Leor Pantilat, Hillary Trout, Paul David Tuff, Nathan Kistler, Amanda Sevall, Perry Way, and others (anonymous, from the web).  Jim Ringland's photos are under the CC BY-NC-4 license.