Monterey Section 11

Ventana Inn at Highway 1 to Upper Bee Camp Junction, Ventana Wilderness

Monterey Section 11

Ventana Inn at Highway 1 to Upper Bee Camp Junction, Ventana Wilderness

This historic route originated in the 1920s, predating Highway 1 as a north-south route through Big Sur. That, and the tendency of Highway 1 to be closed by storm damage during many winters, has kept the substantial portions of this route that cross private property open to hikers and equestrians over the years. Much of the route probably follows ancient Indian paths. Historically the original through road descended back to the coast via the spur road at 14⅝ miles, but in the 1950s the Forest Service and local property owners constructed the road to its present terminus around 18½ miles, with the route continuing south from there much as today's trail does. All the apparent road portions south of that point were actually constructed as fire roads or fire breaks during specific fires.

Planning your trek is critical here since all the campsites and reliable water sources have long hikes of 9 or 10 miles between them. The old road offers a steady moderate ascent to 4 miles, then a gradual ascent followed by some pleasant contours along a view-studded ridge. You may see no trespassing signs along this route, but they refer to vehicles and bicycles, not to hikers or equestrians. WILDFIRE UPDATE: Large fires once again burned Ventana Wilderness in October 1999. Crews used Coast Ridge near Bee Camp as fire line. Fire damage and control measures have affected trail, but extent of damage will not be known until after publication. Before you go, call Monterey Ranger District for more information and to make sure trail is open.

This high-route section officially starts where the Ventana Inn's road leaves the highway just north of Post's. Walk briefly down paved Ventana Road to the fork, veer right and climb past the day-use parking and on up the road past the Inn's scenic overlook. Where the road forks and the pavement swings left, Coast Ridge Road continues straight to a locked gate at ¼ mile. This is the official start of Coast Ridge Road, but we'll continue the mileage count we started upon leaving the highway.

Walk past the gate and savor a view down coast that includes Cone Peak on your route with Cape San Martin 28 miles away on the coast beyond it. Continue up the gravel road with the Ventana Inn on your left. By ½ mile you leave behind the Ventana Inn, and for the time being, the coastal views. Follow the road as it ascends along the wooded north face of a ridge. Make a big bend right by ¾ mile and continue a steady moderate ascent.

From one mile you climb through deep woods along Post Creek on your left. Cross it at 1⅛ miles and continue a winding gradual ascent. Pass some yuccas by 1¼ miles and glimpse the ocean to the west. Soon a 30-foot waterfall tumbles on your right where a tiny creek crosses the road. The falls drop over a rock formation that looks like a stalagmite sans cave. In fact it's formed by limestone in the creek that precipitates out during the low flow of dry season.

Leave the woods for a sunny slope by 1⅜ miles, with many yuccas on the right and ocean vistas on the left. Cross a gully and pass the second locked gate at 1½ miles, continuing a steady ascent. Gain your first view of Point Sur by 1¾ miles, but far better vistas unfold at the hairpin turn just before 2 miles, marked by an immense buckeye tree beyond a fence. There you look straight down the Big Sur River's fault valley and out to Point Sur. To the right stands Mount Manuel with Pico Blanco peeking over its left shoulder. From north to northeast beyond the deep river canyon rise the impressive craggy summits of Ventana Double Cone (4853'), Ventana Cone (4727') and South Ventana Cone (4965'). Coast Ridge Road ascends to a saddle at 2¼ miles with a view into the heart of the Ventana Wilderness, then continues a moderate climb across dry slopes, passing a private track on the left at 2⅝ miles. Then your road climbs through two gullies where shade offers relief on warm days. Beyond 3 miles a winding ascent crosses several more gullies that provide little shade.

As you round a broad bend to the left at 3½ miles, enjoy your last best vista north. Then the road/CCT ascends northeast following the ridgetop. The Ventana view returns with even more peaks visible, including Black Cone (4416') to the east-southeast, as you gain the first summit at 4 miles. Contour to a saddle, then to the Terrace Creek Trail junction near a residence at 4⅛ miles, elevation 2590 feet. The signed Terrace Creek Trail on the left descends 1250 feet in only 1⅝ miles to Terrace Creek Camp just above the junction with Pine Ridge Trail. CCT continues along Coast Ridge Road, ascending gradually east into Los Padres National Forest through open grasslands to gain a ridgetop, then following the ridge south past several private roads and homes. Around 4¾ miles your views suddenly shift toward timbered country to the southeast. Descend south to a saddle at 5 miles, then follow the ridge to the third locked gate at 5¼ miles with a filtered view down Castro Canyon to the coast.

Follow Coast Ridge Road as it mostly follows the ridgetop, undulating through grasslands and chaparral offering views, but now with stands of oaks, bay laurels and madrones providing some shade. Enjoy grand coastal views on a moderate ascent from 5¾ to 6¼ miles. After brief descent, pass an ascending spur road on the right at 6⅜ miles. Coast Ridge Road bends left to round the summit called Timber Top, graced by ponderosa pines. Upon reaching its north side at 6⅞ miles (3050'), enjoy the wilderness vista north.

The road dips slightly, then climbs gently to round another view-rich summit before 7⅝ miles. Cross shady, north-facing slopes to reach a saddle beyond 8¼ miles with more pines and an ocean view south down Torre Canyon. As you continue along the ridge, the views soon switch to north over the wilderness again. Gain the crest for a short contour to the probably unmarked junction with the historic DeAngulo Trail on the right at a saddle around 8⅞ miles, a difficult and steep route down Partington Ridge. (A better, more maintained link with the
DeAngulo Trail heads west from Coast Ridge Road at a saddle at 9 1/16 miles.) Continue along Coast Ridge Road as it climbs east along the ridgetop, then traverses north slopes before regaining the crest and meeting the newer DeAngulo spur at a saddle with an awesome view south down the coast, with Cone Peak flanked by its sister Twin Peak on the right. Follow the road along the flanks of the ridge, passing another ocean-view saddle at 9⅜ miles. Continue to a saddle without a view where you meet the Cold Spring Road at 9½ miles, 3430 feet. While CCT continues along Coast Ridge Road, you'll probably need to detour east down Cold Spring Road ½ mile to Cold Spring Camp (3260), where ample water in a big green tank, a stove and table sit beneath trees near the end of the spur road, offering filtered views. The road ends just beyond a flat clearing with a stock tank and table, but the Big Sur Trail continues into the wilderness, heading 4½ miles to Rainbow Camp on South Fork Big Sur River.

After a night's sleep, return to Coast Ridge Road and turn left to follow its least traveled leg. Climb east along a wooded north slope. By 10¾ miles you contour along wooded north- and east-facing slopes of Michaels Hill with wilderness views, including the first vistas of broad Junipero Serra Peak 14 miles across the wilderness. Also known by the native name Pimkolam, at 5862 feet it's the highest point in the Santa Lucia Range. At 11⅛ miles you regain the crest at a saddle with your fourth locked gate, then pass a ridgetop cabin. An easy descent offers ocean views until the saddle at 11⅜ miles.

Coast Ridge Road ascends moderately along the ridgetop, then to the right of it. After a spur road on the left at 12 miles, contour east through ponderosa pine forest, nearing the wilderness boundary. As the road bends south briefly around 12½ miles, gain your first view of 4099-foot Anderson Peak with Cone Peak beyond, both ahead on your route. By 13 miles (the final milepost along the route) you descend toward a saddle, then ascend steeply to Anderson Peak's southwest ridge at 13½ miles (3930 feet) after passing a paved gated spur to an Air Force Tracking Station atop the peak. At this ridge, pause to appreciate the best coastal view this side of Cone Peak, with great views of Ventana Double Cone and Cone Peak as well.

Coast Ridge Road turns east on a short steep descent along Anderson Peak's south slope, finally entering Ventana Wilderness, though no sign indicates this accomplishment. Ironically homes still lie ahead and the road is maintained. Your road contours through a graceful, tall Ponderosa pine forest along the ridgetop. Pass a 3980-foot summit at 14 miles, then descend to the fifth locked gate at 14¼ miles, marked "MARBLE PEAK RANCH, 1885." Continue dropping toward brushy Marble Peak to 14½ miles, then contour past trail signs, passing the north fork of Marble Peak Trail just beyond. Resume your descent, passing a private road on the right at 14⅝ miles. The left fork, Coast Ridge Road, heads southeast soon climbing to views. Ascend across chaparral slopes with views down Anderson Canyon to pass below the peak's southeast corner. From there you can see the south, maintained fork of Marble Peak Trail descending to meet your road. From the junction at 15 miles, it drops east to Indian Valley and the Lost Valley Trail. CCT follows Coast Ridge Road, contouring southeast along the ridgetop through an immense glade to 15½ miles. Climb fitfully on the ridgetop through chaparral slopes, then dip to a saddle at 16 miles. After a short ridgetop contour, make a longer a descent to a wooded saddle before 16⅝ miles where a spur road descends south to a large house. After brief ascent, descend across chaparral draped slopes with unlimited vistas. Pass a saddle with a turnaround and a gated spur on the left at 17⅜ miles. Another brief climb leads to a long descent south with views west into rugged Hot Springs Canyon, followed by a climb to the last residential spur at 18⅛ miles. In 250 feet the road has a turnaround and the sixth locked gate.

The brush-crowded, seldom traveled road continues less than a mile before disintegrating to a trail. After contouring ½ mile beyond the locked gate, look for a hard-to-spot junction with the Upper Bee Camp Trail on the right at 18¾ miles (3400 feet), about 400 feet beyond a saddle. This section ends here, with Section 12 continuing along Coast Ridge Trail. All but superhumans will want to descend to Upper Bee Camp for water and a night's rest.

If it's not signed, the Bee Camp spur Trail can be easy to miss. Look for an old jeep trail descending southeast in the brush along a spur ridge. After a few steps the tread becomes obvious and turns moderately steep. This continues ¼ mile to the base of a dry gully. Then walk 120 feet downstream to the base of a second gully and Bee Camp hidden behind a large fallen oak at 19 miles (3190 feet), where you might have to wrestle blackberry vines and poison oak for enough level room to pitch two tents. Water flows most of the year in the adjacent stream, the headwaters of North Fork Big Creek. If it's not flowing, head downstream to find several small pools. The trail to Lower Bee Camp shown on the Ventana Wilderness map no longer exists, although the level camp still exists on the west side of the creek about a mile downstream. If Bee Camp is too crowded or overgrown, you can filter water there and carry it up to a dry camp astride the trail on the ridgetop, just west of the vague spur junction.

ALTERNATE ROUTE: See Highway Route, Monterey Section 11Alt and 12Alt.

SUGGESTED ROUND TRIPS & LOOPS: You can make a rewarding full-day or overnight loop of 11¼ miles, up Coast Ridge Road, then returning via Terrace Creek and Pine Ridge trails to Big Sur Station where a short shuttle is required to return to Ventana Inn.

Distance: 18¾ miles, plus ½-mile side trip to Cold Spring Camp and ¼-mile side trip to Bee Camp (30.2 + .8 + .4 kilometers).

Open to: Hikers, dogs, equestrians.

Surface: Dirt road, trail.

Access point: Ventana Inn turnoff from Highway at Post's, Big Sur.

How to get there: Turn east off Highway at Milepost 44.3, .1 mile north of the top of the hill, .6 mile south of the Big Sur post office. Take the right fork toward Ventana Inn (Ventana Campground on left fork) to day-use parking .15 mile from the highway.

Other access: None.

Difficulty: Hard

Elevation gain/loss: 3300 feet+/810 feet- to Upper Bee Camp Trail Junction.

Cautions: Wildfires burned area around Bee Camp in October 1999, call before going for updates and closure information. In summer this route can be very hot and black flies a problem start early or take highway route. Winter weather can be very cold and snow is not uncommon; spring and autumn are best. Please stay off adjacent private property. Yield to vehicles on road portion. Campfire permits required during fire season, May to October. Trail traverses remote, isolated country with no services and extremely limited water sources. Watch for rattlesnakes, ticks and poison oak. Bear bag your food. Always purify drinking water in wilderness. Day-use parking means just that. If planning a hike with an overnight, contact the Ventana Inn to make arrangements to leave your car there, or park in the wide turnout on highway 0.1 mile north of turnoff.

Further information: Monterey Ranger District, Los Padres National Forest (831)3855434, Ventana Inn (800)628-6500, (831)667-2331.

Facilities: None until Cold Spring Camp unless you camp or lodge at the Ventana Inn. Cold Spring Camp has water, stock trough, table and stove.

Campgrounds: Near section's start, Ventana Inn has a pleasant campground for tenters only (831-667-2688) with showers. Camping en route at Cold Spring Camp (10 miles) and Upper Bee Camp (19 miles).

Lodging: The neighborhood inns, Ventana and Post Ranch, both start around $200/ night. For more affordable rates, look south to historic Deetjen's Big Sur Inn or north to Ripplewood Resort, Big Sur Cabins, Big Sur Lodge or Glen Oaks Motel.

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