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Ventana Wilderness

Ventana Wilderness

- One night backpacking trip to Pine Valley in Ventana Wilderness near Big Sur.

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I wanted a one night backpacking trip avoiding the massive snow pack in the Sierra. I had wanted to explore Pine Valley and the Ventana Wilderness for quite some time and had read conflicting reports on whether the road to the trailhead was open. A recent trip report on the volunteer forum explained why there were conflicts and said the road condition was excellent - so I thought it was a good opportunity!


Ventana Wilderness
Wilderness sign selfie

Flowering yucca

Lupine in Pine Valley

Meadow in Pine Valley

Day 1 Highlights

  • Saw lots of wildlife on the drive up, including rabbits, a huge buck, turkeys and quail. The dirt road Tassajara into the wilderness was in very good condition.
  • Exploring the meadows beyond the cabin was a pure joy and brought back happy memories spent in nature during my childhood.
  • Only saw other backpackers once into crowded Pine Valley.
  • Fields upon fields of flowers and lizards were out on the trail in abundance. The views along the top of the ridge were incredible. Open skies and warm sun, but with plenty of shade.
  • Plenty of running water once we started heading down Carmel River Trail to Pine Valley.


Ventana Wilderness view

Morning on the PRT

After the hike

Day 2 Highlights

    • The food was so tasty. Some of my favorite meals and snacks on a trip.
    • All my gear and prep was dialed in and I was able to just enjoy the time outside.
    • Took our time with lots of breaks on the hike out and it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. Typically I dread these upside down hikes (hiking down first, then back up). Just a great trip.
    • Saw no one else on the hike out. Just enjoyed the cool temps and changing morning light.
    • Had plenty of water - made sure to fill up as much as I could whenever I could. Woohoo!


    • Location: Pine Valley, Ventana Wilderness via the China Camp trailhead.
    • Date: June 2023.
    • Stats: 12 miles with 3,600+ ft elevation gain
    Route map
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    A really fun night out.

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