The Mission: Camp at Big Sur Memorial Weekend with no reservations!
The Prep: We found parking near the Big Sur ranger station on the side of the highway. Parking is also available in the lot at the trail head for a fee, but there are very few spaces.
The Gear: Please see my post on Camping Essentials
The Execution: We started off down Pine Ridge Trail toward Ventana, passing a rather loud campsite at Pfeiffer Big Sur. The sign states that there is no camping before Ventana and there really was NO camping before Ventana. The trail is rather narrow and cut into the side of the mountain… so there really is nowhere to camp before you reach Ventana camp.
The trail out was mostly uphill with small stretches of downhill to flat. We were met with sweeping views of the valley and higher mountains surrounding us with giant redwoods stretching low from the valley to high above our heads. The fog from the coast rolled in through the mountain peaks keeping us cool and shaded on our hike and the sound of rushing water from the stream in the valley below provided our soundtrack.
After plenty of steep uphill hiking, we reached a sign for Ventana camp, just one more mile away.
We were now sent all the way down to the valley through a series of switchbacks winding down the mountain. When we finally reached the bottom, we were greeted by groups of campers dotted around the valley on both sides of the stream. Although it was a holiday weekend, there were not as many campers here as we had anticipated. We found a nice little clearing away from the water and set up camp for the night.
We built a small fire, ate some dinner and listened to the sound of the rushing water as we sat under the stars.
The next morning, we got an early start to tackle the switchbacks up the mountain. We were dreading these switchbacks all night, but they weren’t nearly as bad as we had anticipated. We knew if we made it through the switchbacks, the rest of the trail would be mostly downhill and easier than the previous day on our hike out.
We had a gorgeous, cool morning for our 5 mile hike back to the ranger station as we enjoyed the fresh air and beautiful redwoods surrounding us. We’re looking forward to returning to this area and doing a longer hike next time!
- Level of difficulty: moderate to strenuous
- Trailhead begins near the ranger station: Big Sur Station, 47555 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
- The hike to Ventana is 5 miles. The next camp area after Ventana is an additional 5 miles (10 miles total).
- If you plan on building a campfire, get a free permit in advance.
- Watch out for poison oak, it’s everywhere!!
- Bring a water filter if you plan on drinking from the stream.