Having bushwhacked extensively in the Ventana and Silver Peak wilderness areas of the Los Padres National Forest, I want to provide some useful information for others so inclined.
But currently this is only a stub which I hope to expand later.
Off-trail travel is permitted in the
National Forest but prohibited in State Parks.
Off-trail travel in the Ventana/SilverPeak wilderness areas can be very easy or very difficult, largely
depending upon the amount of brushiness - and can be impossible
when brush becomes interlocked.
Off-trail hiking is generally easier in Silver Peak areas than in
Ventana areas due to the former's greater frequency of grassy slopes and valleys.
Off-trail hikers should be especially cognizant of basic Big Sur wilderness hiking information.
Knowledge and planning pays off for off-trail hikers!
Many "use trail" routes exist, i.e paths which are not official USFS-designated trails but instead
created by frequent usage producing a more-or-less followable path. Many are depicted as orange "use trails" on my
Big Sur Trailmap. Of course their ease-of-use depends upon how frequently
they've been recently used, which can wax and wane.
For "bushwhacking", i.e. routes which are both "off-trail" and "off-usetrail",
I've learned to choose my routes carefully - often by examining GoogleEarth imagery
before a hike to see where I should and
should not try to go. Nearby clear areas often cannot be seen when inside the brush,
so for difficult situations I've plotted a route on
GoogleEarth, threading it through the less brushy areas, and loaded that into my GPS. GPS and GoogleEarth error are such that
the track is only a rough guideline - primarily eyes must be used for the best route, but if thick brush is
encountered the track proves a direction to head for easier travel and keeps one from straying too far from the best route.
• "Sea-to-Sky" route up Cone Peak: Though officially off-trail, due to frequent usage this route is in many respects actually easier
than many official trails - except that it is STEEP !
• "The Window" via Jackson Creek: The traditional route to a Ventana namesake, the distinctive ridgeline notch visible all over the Ventana wilderness.
At one time getting to "La Ventana" was a rite of passage with a well-defined route, but much of the path up Jackson Creek was destroyed after the 2008 wildfire and subsequent creek erosion - so
is now essentially a bushwhack.
Note that the webpage is somewhat out-dated, as the route has become increasingly difficult due to further degradation with time and lack of consistent use.