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Recommended 1-2 night hike in the Big Sur area
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Erica Ruch
(skrapp138) - M
Recommended 1-2 night hike in the Big Sur area on 07/16/2013 14:00:12 MDT Print View

I'm debating doing an overnight hike this weekend in the Big Sur area (I'm coming from the south - so anything from San Simeon to Carmel is fine).

I'm craving a hike amongst the redwoods and near the coast and to avoid too much of the exposed heat of the upper elevations - and I'd like to avoid the traffic to Sykes Hot Springs. I'm up for anything between 12-24 miles round trip.

Does anyone know of a good overnight hike they can recommend? I'd be open to 2 nights (with a short first day)....

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
rough on 07/16/2013 15:19:15 MDT Print View

trails are rough in that region. There are very few (if any) loops to do that many miles. Further. all the trails go away from the ocean so you lose the redwoods pretty fast.

I haven't really looked in a while though so maybe you have better luck than I did.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Recommended 1-2 night hike in the Big Sur area on 07/16/2013 15:30:10 MDT Print View

Forget about the miles. Get on the pine ridge trail and hile down to ventana or barlow. Start exploring up or downstream on the big sur river. You will need swim through some canyons. You will stay nice and cool, you wont see any other people, and you will experience a beautiful river canyon lined with redwoods.
The little sur river is nice too. Go to botchers gap and walk down to picco blanco boy scout camp and follow the trail to jackson camp. If you are up for a challenging cross country trek you can follow the trail markers up jackson creek up to the window.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Recommended 1-2 night hike in the Big Sur area on 07/16/2013 16:27:39 MDT Print View

Learn how to identify poison oak if you don't know already :)

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Big Sur on 07/16/2013 16:53:24 MDT Print View

+1 to visit Ventana Camp. That was always my favorite "official" camp along the Pine Ridge Trail. Not very far in at all, but the ~1 steady descent/ascent in and out of camp from the main trail discouraged lots of folks from heading in there. Great camps, beautiful redwoods, excellent swimming holes, etc. Plus, like Justin said, you can go explore off trail, either up/down the Big Sur River or venture up Ventana Creek which joins the Big Sur River just downstream of Ventana Camp. Neat area.

Another, more southerly option if you want to stay on trail is to look into a couple of the trails out of the Salmon Creek Station area. You can follow the Buckeye Trail to the Cruikshank Trail or follow the Salmon Creek trail upstream. The southernmost stand of redwoods can be found along Villa Creek camp just off the Cruikshank trail, if my memory serves me. These trails are generally nice, stay close to the coast and have access to redwoods/creeks. There's ways to make loops out of them but they all take you farther inland and high up where things will be hot hot hot.

Erica Ruch
(skrapp138) - M
Ventana & Salmon Creek on 07/17/2013 12:32:49 MDT Print View

Thanks for the recommendations - they actually both sound really nice!

I am a little worried about the poison oak in the Ventana area (I've never gotten poison oak before - so I've always wondered if I'm one of the rare ones that don't get it....but I'm always nervous to find out! Ha!). Sounds like the Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes is pretty clear, but in looking online sounds like Ventana is used much may just have to wait and see how the conditions are when I get there.

Does anyone know if Mosquitoes are a concern in this area?

I'm thinking I may just do a 2nd night and do a night in the Salmon Creek area the following night since they're both pretty low milage hikes.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Ventana & Salmon Creek on 07/17/2013 22:06:48 MDT Print View

I did a quick trip in and out of sykes last friday afternoon/sat morning. There were a moderate number of mosquitoes late afternoon in Redwood camp, and some a Sykes before / around dusk, but no problem after that. I didn't bother setting up bug netting and don't get a bite in the evening / night.


christopher smead
(hamsterfish) - MLife

Locale: hamsterfish
Big Sur on 07/18/2013 01:25:43 MDT Print View

As previously mentioned, be ready for poison oak and ticks. Many trails aren't well cut either. Pine ridge to Sykes is well defined though.
If you're just looking for something quick and coastal, Point Reyes or Skyline to the Sea are much better in my opinion.
Sorry, I'm a little bitter about Big Sur after I lost a backpack off a cliff there.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
skip sykes on 07/18/2013 15:46:43 MDT Print View

E. R., skip sykes, it's just ruined, particularly during summer months. If you have good range / time you can hit Redwood camp, which is usually fairly empty, that's above sykes, and is the last redwood canyon you'll be in from the coast, plus you get to see a bit of the high chaparral terrain, but not so much as to be sweltering for too long. If I were to meet up with people on a trip I'd do it at Redwood camp because everyone stops at Sykes, but Barlow is technically better because it's got more options. Redwood however is up fairly high, not at the main river, and it's not really a canyon, just a stream that runs downhill to the main river, so it doesn't feel the same as the river spots.

Barlow if you go up or down stream from where the trail hits it, is really at least 5x better than sykes in terms of most of the things that make a spot nice.

All of these are 10x better than staying at point reyes, which is nice easy walking but really is just a very developed location, where all the campgrounds are over impacted, have picnic tables, pit toilets, bad tasting running water, dirt roads the rangers use to access each official camp, almost nowhere you can try for unofficial camping due to extreme poison oak infestation off most of the trails, nice, but a place I'd only use to get in shape for a real trip at this point. Plus it costs $20 a night or so, and the camp sites fill up in summer, you have to book in advance.

If you are aware of poison oak it's not that big of an issue, and of course, we are all immune to it until we are not, I believe exposure is what triggers the reaction, I never got it until I did, then I got it really bad. Some people need only one exposure, some need many, over years, some apparently never hit the limit at all and are spared.

If you want to maximize your chance of getting poison oak, I suggest walking through it all day to sykes, taking care to brush against the stuff that grows on the sides of the trail, get it on your shoes and pants too, make sure then to wipe your hands on your face too, then going to the hot springs there, where all the oil from all the people who have been in them for the last days is waiting to test your resistance as your pores open wide, that should do it, it did for me one year, which was the last year that I had resistance to poison oak, by strange coincidence. If you don't want to get it, then do the opposite of what I note here.

There are, as noted, ticks, and those ticks do carry lyme disease, permethrine is a wise thing to use on your clothing, and very careful nightly tick checks. A friend of mine from Alaska says he'd rather deal with Grizzlies than ticks, and I think I agree with him now.

Nobody mentioned biting deer flies, those are fun too, but they only hang out in the hotter areas, not in the redwood canyons, except for Redwood camp, because it's surrounded by the hot ecosystem. I've pitched a tent inner to have lunch there to avoid them in the past, they are pretty annoying, but are only around a certain time of year, the hottest.

Edited by hhope on 07/18/2013 15:52:42 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Ventana & Salmon Creek on 07/18/2013 16:04:21 MDT Print View

Last summer the trail to Ventana Camp was not visible and the way down involved bushwacking through poison oak and thorny plants. We found the trail and it was layered with deadfalls. There was a guy living down there and he said he rarely saw anyone else go down there. The pit toilet was totally destroyed.

Now the trail is totally clear and there are plenty of people down there.

Yes, there is A LOT of poison oak in Big Sur. If you are really concerned I would not recommend hiking anywhere but the most well used trails or following some of the river canyons (poison oak doesn't grown much under redwoods). On some of the more overgrown trails I have seen poison oak at head level.

Luckily I don't get poison oak and I will bust my way through a huge patch of it in shorts and no shirt while my hiking companions stare in horror/amazement. But my main hiking buddy gets it and I look out for him now, and it can be hard to avoid at times.

Only go to Sykes if your idea of a good wilderness experience involves camping in crowded river corridor (sometimes so crodwed that you literally can't find a place to camp unless you have a hammock) with 100-200 other people. It's terrible. Most of Big Sur is remote and few people travel it, most of the crowds are headed to Sykes because they heard of some hot springs on the internet. There is nothing special about the hot springs and you could get poison oak by getting into a wilderness hot tub that's been used by many people.
I'm a wilderness hipster and while the Pine Ridge Trail is an awesome trail, I get uncomfortable walking on it because of all the traffic.

" Sounds like the Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes is pretty clear, but in looking online sounds like Ventana is used much less"

Do you mean Ventana trail? The one going up to the Double Cone? I haven't been on it but I would not recommend it this time of year. It will be extremely hot and I don't think you will find water anywhere. And I have heard of that trail being overgrown.

Nicco, I'm surprised you know about Ventana Creek. It looks so tiny when you first walk by it but it really opens up to a beautiful creek walk. There are tricky log jams to get over but they are concentrated only in a few areas, most of the creek is clear and easy walking. Not far upstream there is a really large flat area to the right that makes a great campsite - good for a quick overnighter. We took doolans hole creek from Ventana Creek and that was a wild trip.
You can actually hike up to the Window from Ventana Creek but I haven't been that far yet.

Edited by justin_baker on 07/18/2013 16:31:17 MDT.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Ventana on 07/18/2013 16:39:49 MDT Print View

@ Justin,

It's been probably 8 or 9 years since I've last been down into Ventana Camp and/or explored Ventana Creek, but I really love that little zone. Sleeping on the sandy beaches along the Big Sur River downstream of the official camp and spending summer afternoons in that amazing swimming hole surrounded by the natural granite amphitheater are fond memories. We'd climb up the cliff face on the south side of the river and cliff jump into the pool, then swim across the pool and lay in the sun, warming on the perfectly scoured lazyboy-like depressions in the granite. Luxury backpacking!

This thread reminds me I should take a trip back there one of these days.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Ventana on 07/18/2013 20:58:13 MDT Print View

We actually camped at a very small sandy beach right downstream from Ventana camp, just the perfect size for 2 people. There was a huge swimming hole there. A large tree fell and wedged itself in the canyon about 15 feet above the water so you can jump off that.

If you decide to go back there, send me a message. I am obsessed with Big Sur and want to hike/swim every creek and river.
If you haven't been to the Window, you need to get up there. The journey there is epic and the view from the Window will amaze you, especially if you go in the winter when all of the surrounding peaks are snowed out. It's one of those places that everyone forgot about and it has a lot of history surrounding it.