Puerto Suello Trail from Los Padres Dam

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California, United States, North America
Route Type:
Time Required:
One to two days
Class 1

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Created On: Sep 18, 2001
Last Edited On: Dec 10, 2003


This about the same length, but a more difficult route than the hike from Bottchers Gap.

See the Getting There section of the main page for directions to Los Padres Dam.

Route Description

After leaving your car in the parking lot at the end of the road, pass through the gate and follow the road up to the dam. Cross the dam and follow the trail around the west side of the reservoir. The first half mile after the dam is a bit tricky. Pass a 4WD road (that hasn't had traffic in some time) that joins the trail on right. This road goes up to the Big Pine Trail. You will encounter another trail junction a quarter mile later, this time with the Big Pine Trail. There are a couple of additional 4WD roads that don't actually go anywhere, so keep your eyes open for the real trail that contours around the lake, climbing high on the hillside above up it.

The trail is then easy to follow until just before you get to Bluff Camp. You must cross the river in several locations - keep your eye out for the trail as it switches to the other side of the river. Shortly after leaving Bluff Camp, you enter the Ventana Wilderness (though you probably won't see a sign to such effect), and the going gets tough. The trail becomes quite thin as you realize there are few travelers along this route. The trail crosses the creek a dozen time in the next few miles, and it is nearly impossible to keep your feet dry in the winter and spring seasons. You may believe you are totally lost and the trail is gone for good when suddenly you will come across one of the primative campsites at Carmel River, Sulphur Springs, or Buckskin Flat.

At Hiding Camp, turn right and climb the Puerto Suello Trail to the ridge. There is much poison oak along this portion of the trail and it is often overgrown, so keep your eyes open. At the top of the trail, you meet the junction with the Ventana Trail, and things get much easier. No more poison oak, good views, and the trail will seem divine by comparison, though it is a poor trail as well. Ventana Double Cone is 4 miles south of the trail junction.

Conditions along the Carmel River can be highly variable depending on seasonal rainfall. While I travelled through this section in April without having water above my knee, mconnell reports having water past his waist at the crossings with long sections of the trail underwater in April/May of a different year. This trail is tough no matter when you travel on it, so don't take it lightly! You may be better off taking the Big Pine Trail out of Los Padres Dam at times of high water. While this alternate route is longer, success is ultimately more likely.

Essential Gear

Through June it is impossible to keep your feet dry along this trail. Your best bet is to remove your socks, wear crummy tennis shoes, and simply wade through the creek for the more than a dozen crossings. If you remove your shoes and socks for each crossing you will add much time to your hike.

Because of the unavoidable poison oak in many areas (all along the creeks and up the Puerto Suello Trail), it is advisable to wear long hiking pants, and remove and wash them as soon as possible afterwards.

The mosquitoes can be ferocious in this area through May. Bring repellent or hike fast.

Doesn't sound enticing? It isn't. The Bottchers Gap route is easier. And more scenic. It is also devoid of mosquitoes, and there is only a moderate amount of poison oak.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.