Ventana Cone is located in the heart of the Ventana Wilderness along California's rugged Big Sur coast. Though not one of the ten highest peaks in the Ventana region, it is the most remote of the top twenty, situated 2 miles from the nearest trail. It lies along a ridgeline halfway between Ventana Double Cone and South Ventana Cone. The west side of the ridge overlooks the beautiful Big Sur Valley and the Pacific Ocean, while the east side overlooks the more remote areas of the Carmel River drainage around Hiding Canyon and Pine Valley. Due to its central location, nearly all the high peaks of the Ventana Wilderness can be seen from the summit of Ventana Cone, making it a spectacular location for taking in the full grandeur of the Ventana Wilderness.
Objective dangers in the Ventana Wilderness include poison oak, yucca, ticks, rattlesnakes, listed in the order of your liklihood of encountering them. Poison oak is prevalent throughout the region, and can be avoided if properly identified.
The easiest approach is from the east via the Pine Ridge Trailhead at China Camp. To get there, Take county road G16 (this is the Carmel Valley Road coming from the west) to the Tassajara Road. There is a ranches with large meadow areas at this juncture, located approximately halfway between Highway 1 and US101. Follow the Tassajara Road for about 10 miles. The pavement ends after about a mile, but the dirt portion is decently maintained and graded, passable by passenger vehicles in good weather. In rainy weather this road becomes impassable, and signs will warn you of this - don't take it lightly! Enroute to China Camp, you will pass the White Oaks campground, and the Mira Observatory that sits atop Chews ridge. The road winds down the hill to pass between Miller Canyon and Church Creek, with the China Camp campground located on the west side of the road at the upper end of Miller Canyon. The trailhead and a parkinglot are located just past the campground. The parkinglot is on the left (east), and the trailhead is on the right (west) side of the road.
A second, but long approach is via the Pine Ridge trailhead that starts along the coast. This is a longer and more difficult approach, but as part of a longer visit to the Ventana Wilderness, it provides a spectacular tour of the Big Sur River. The trailhead for this approach begins at the ranger station located a short ways south of the entrance to Big Sur State Park. You can also reach the trail from withing the state park if you are staying there.
No permits are required for overnight stays, but fire permits are required for overnight visitors planning to have open fires in the Ventana Wilderness. The main office is just south of the entrance to Big Sur State Park, on the left (east) side of the road. This is horribly inconvenient for trips starting from the Tassajara Road on the east side (so consider going with just cold food).
There is also a ranger station at the Los Padres Dam (or Carmel River) trailhead, though it is open less frequently than the Big Sur Station.
As of May 2004, The NF Adventure Pass is no longer required by the Monterey Ranger District which covers all of Ventana.
When To Climb
Most hikers visit in spring, after the winter rains have diminished and when the wildflowers are in bloom. Summers are usually too hot for hiking in the Ventana Wilderness. A worse scourge is the flies that visit in the summer and can make a hike rather annoying. At least you can get repellent for mosquitoes...
Fall is also a nice time to visit, though the wildflowers will be absent. Winter can be a nice time to visit as well, though the weather is more fickle, making advance planning difficult. Cold temperatures and snows reach areas above 3,000ft, so be prepared for cold weather if visiting Nov-Apr.
Camping is allowed in most parts of the Ventana Wilderness. There is no charge, but you must have a valid Fire Permit if you plan to have open campfires.
Due to a lack of water in many areas, it is advisable to use the existing campgrounds in the area. Many of these have water sources fed from springs, ensuring adequate water supply year round. This is particularly important along the many trails that follow ridgelines rather than the creeks or rivers.
For the hike to Ventana Cone, there is an excellent camp at Pine Ridge, located just west of Pine Ridge (this is the ridgeline between Ventana Cone and South Ventana Cone). This campground has a spring-fed water source and one of the best view sites anywhere in Ventana.
Big Sur Activities and Services
Trail condition reports / message board from the Ventana Wilderness Aliance
- A dayhike to Ventana Cone - April 16, 2002
- Another dayhike - Jan 18, 2003
- Yet another Dayhike - Jan 17, 2004