Backpack Big Sur\'s Ventana Wilderness


Big Sur

05.10.07

From the issue Splash Camps

Splendor in the Sur

Get back, wayyyy back, into Big Sur's remote Ventana Wilderness. Starting from Los Padres Dam and ending at China Camp, you'll hike through lush river canyons, climb high ridges to panoramic vistas, and spend the night at secluded riverside camps. Bring river shoes, a walking stick, and a swimsuit for the dozens of river crossings and swimming holes on this three-day, two-night backpacking adventure. Two special highlights: End your first day in Carmel River Camp, at the confluence of Miller Creek and the Carmel River; this shaded campsite is ideal for kicking back, cooling off your feet in the river, and savoring solitude under the stars. On your last day, the 0.7-mile side trail to Pine Falls pays off with a spectacular 50-foot waterfall that plunges into a deep emerald-green swimming hole. Jump in for an invigorating backcountry rush.

The entire hike is 19 miles. Follow the Pine Valley route taking Carmel River Trail, Church Creek Trail, and Pine Ridge Trail. Before your trip, pick up a map and check trail conditions at ventanawild.org. Note: River shoes are a big help with the numerous river crossings. Look out for rampant poison oak and stinging nettles.

Directions: This is a point-to-point hike that requires a car shuttle. Park one car at China Camp. To get there, go south on Hwy. 1 from Monterey. Turn left on Carmel Valley Rd. and continue 23 miles to the Tassajara Rd. junction. Turn right onto Tassajara and continue 10.7 slow miles to the China Camp trailhead. Park in the pullout across the street from the campsites. Continue in your second car to the Los Padres Dam Trailhead. To get there, return via Tassajara Rd., going almost all the way back to Carmel Valley Rd. Turn left onto Cachagua Rd. and continue 4.3 miles to Nason Rd. and turn left. Pass the USFS Carmel River Station on your right, and park at the lot on the right beside a locked gate. *Dogs are permitted.

Other Activities You Might Enjoy


  • 10.16.14

    Kirby Cove
    Kirby Appeal
    Still haven't cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge yet? We have a twist on this ...
    Read Story
  • 10.16.14

    Ride the Ducks
    Duck, Duck, Drive!
    San Francisco's famed waterscape wouldn't be complete without at least one quacky landmark. Cue ...
    Read Story
  • 10.23.14

    Assiniboine Lodge
    Legendary Lodge
    Ready to be whisked to the ultimate backcountry lodge? Reachable only by helicopter (or a 17-mile ...
    Read Story
  • 10.23.14

    Sedona Red Rocks
    Red Rock Refuge
    Sedona's famed red rocks have been luring hikers and spiritual seekers for many years. And ...
    Read Story

Close