OverviewVentana Double Cone is one of the more remote peaks in the Ventana Wilderness along California's famed Big Sur coast. Though not as high or well-known as Junipero Serra Pk or Cone Pk, access is more difficult with the easiest trailhead 15 miles distance. Of the three, it is the only one that actually lies within the Ventana Wilderness. It sits at the center of the northern part of the Santa Lucia Range, and acts as the triple divide point for the Little Sur, Big Sur, and Carmel River drainages.
The views from its summit are outstanding, taking in fully half of the Ventana Wilderness, as far north as the Diablo Range, and even a portion of the Pacific Ocean. Though a trail leads to the summit, it is infrequently climbed, perhaps a few dozen times a year.
Ventana is Spanish for "window", and was applied to the region because of a window-like opening in one of the hills. If there was ever a window-shaped opening enclosed on four sides, this opening no longer exists and it is uncertain just where it was supposed to be, though it was believed to be in the vicinity of Ventana Double Cone. More likely, this notch located about half a mile west of VDC was the inspiration for the name. It is not easily recognized from most vantage points, and seems a weak inspiration for the naming of an entire region.
Getting ThereThe easiest approach is from Bottchers Gap. To get there, take Highway 1 south from Carmel for approx. 20 miles. Turn left (a right turn off this highway isn't pretty) at Palo Colorado Rd and drive through a remote residential community (a throwback to the 60s) interspersed among some giant redwoods in this canyon. Take the road to its end, about 8-9 miles where it stops at Bottchers Gap. A locked gate leads down into the Little Sur drainage towards the Pico Blanco Boy Scout Camp. Be sure not to continue down if you find the gate open. On the left side of the road, at the saddle between two watersheds is a parkinglot and campground.
An alternative with about the same miles but a tougher approach is via the Carmel River at Los Padres Dam. To get there, turn left off Highway 1 in Carmel at Carmel Valley Road (G16). Drive up the valley for about 20 miles, turning right (south) on a small side road with a sign indication Los Padres Dam. Turn right again at Princes Camp, a remote community with no services. Another half mile on a crummy (but passable in all vehicles) road leads to a gravel lot before a locked gate. The Los Padres Reservoir is a little less than a mile from the trailhead.
The astute map reader will note that Ventana Double Cone is only 4 miles ENE from Manuel Peak, which itself is 3 miles on a decent trail from Big Sur State Park. Those four miles are along a ridgeline which do in fact provide more direct access, but the lack of trail will thart all but the most stubborn enthusiast (I tried). The hillsides here are covered in the thickest chaparral imaginable, and cross-country travel is all but impossible in the Ventana Wilderness.
Red TapeFire permits are required for open fires in the Ventana Wilderness. The nearest office is just south of the entrance to Big Sur State Park, on the left (east) side of the road.
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.
Hunting is allowed in the Wilderness, though this is restricted to certain seasons and is usually most pronounced along the Tassajara Road on the east side of the Wilderness. Hunting is definitely not allowed out of Bottchers Gap.
As of May 2004, The NF Adventure Pass is no longer required by the Monterey Ranger District which covers all of Ventana. There is a $5 per car parking fee at Bottchers Gap for both overnight and day use, payable when you park. A $15 annual pass can be obtained from the Parks Management Company (805-434-1996) that is also good at the Mill and Willow Creek areas.
When To ClimbMost 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.
CampingCamping is allowed in most parts of the Ventana Wilderness. There is no charge, but you must have a valid Wilderness Permit.
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.
Mountain ConditionsBig Sur Activities and Services
Trail condition reports / message board from the Ventana Wilderness Aliance