Trip Review: Ventana Double Cone

Panoramic views from Pat Springs Camp (Site #2)
  • Region: Big Sur / Ventana Wilderness
  • Date of Visit: March 11–13, 2022
  • Total Length: ~35 miles (including side trips)
  • Elevation Gain (Highest Elevation-Lowest Elevation): 3,493 feet
  • AllTrails Link: N/A
Full trip out and back: The Hoist to Ventana Double Cone
(1) Road closure on Palo Colorado Road to the right, Long Ridge Road immediately to its left (2) A mailman’s nightmare at The Hoist
Day 1: The Hoist to Pat Springs — trail in dark green, Pat Springs use trail in red
1) Looking toward the initial ascent up Long Ridge Road 2) a very retro but I imagine quite functional fire engine 3) first visibility of VDC, the “Window” and Kandlbinder from Long Ridge Road
A cluster of Purple Owl’s Clover enjoys sunshine and oceanic views
(1) Impassable deadfall on the original Turner Creek Trail (2) Refreshing waters of Turner Creek (3) Marching upstream for some aquatic bushwhacking
(1) Signage at the east end of the Turner Creek Trail, left to continue to Pat Springs (2) First unencumbered views of VDC, the “Window” and Kandlbinder
Post-Devil’s Peak panorama featuring lush meadows in the foreground, Pico Blanco directly ahead.
(1) A lupine (variety unknown to me) sticks its head out to say hello (2) Blueblossom shows off for potential pollinators
A Tanoak stands out from the trail with unique yellow coloring, unfortunately due to an iron deficiency (I think)
(1) Fairly fresh mountain lion scat — I made sure to raise the volume on my trail tunes (2) Snow on the VDC trail ascending out of Pat Springs
(1) Plentiful flow at Pat Springs, perfect for both drinking and a much needed bath (2) Use trail at the junction of the trail & Pat Springs leading to campsites
Panoramic views from Pat Springs Camp (Site #2)
(1) Dusk at Pat Springs Camp (2) (3) A perfect fire on a windless evening
Western fence lizard (with great colors to boot) joins me by the fire to soak up the warmth of the fire ring’s rocks and my feet!
Day 2: Pat Springs to Ventana Double Cone — trail in blue
Morning panorama from Pat Springs (site #2)
A hungry tick extends a hopeful arm in hopes to latch on to its next meal 😳
(1) Obligatory Coulter Pine cone (“widow maker”) photo from the VDC trail (2) More snow along north facing slope on the VDC trail
Views of the “Window” and Kandlbinder from the VDC summit, featuring Pico Blanco in the background and a rare endemic Santa Lucia Fir to the right
(1) The view south from VDC all the way to Cone Peak at the south end of the Ventana Wilderness (2) Ventana Spires to the southeast of VDC
Going full goober with pants-tucked-into-socks in front of the Window & Kandlbinder.
Marine layer beginning to pour into the backcountry.
(1) Golden hour looking back toward VDC & Kandlbinder from a use trail extending past Pat Springs (2) Sunset at Pat Springs ushers in a thick marine layer
Time lapse of the sunset, somewhere out there beyond Pat Springs :)
Day 3: Pat Springs to the Hoist— trail in dark green, Pat Springs use trail in red
  1. Daylight savings time had hit that morning, and as such, my 6AM wakeup was much darker than I was expecting.
  2. The winds that rolled me to sleep that evening rolled with them an immense fog cover, which reduced immediate visibility for anything beyond ~20 feet.
Conditions can change quickly in Big Sur (Saturday morning vs. Sunday morning)
Cloud cover begins to dissipate across the valley after a morning of heavy fog.
  • Fitness: This is a very challenging two day trip with significant elevation gain / change and sun exposure throughout. You and your party should be confident in your ability to ascend and descent extremely steep terrain.
  • Water: I consumed approximately 4 liters of water from the Hoist to Pat Springs, 4 liters from VDC to Pat Springs and back, and 1.5 liters from Pat Springs back to the Hoist on a very chilly morning. This does not account for water I consumed prior to departure each day, which was on the order of 1-1.5 liters. Note that the first two days were 10-20 degrees warmer than the third and had much more elevation gain, and as such my water consumption more than doubled on the first to days. For reference I am 6ft. 4, 205 lbs. and am extremely active. In my opinion, always opt on the side of caution when estimating how much water you will need, especially in the Ventana Wilderness where water sources are scarce and potentially unreliable.
  • Check Trail Conditions: I researched this trail extensively before departing, stalking both Big Sur Trail Map and speaking to pros like Leor Pantilat and Mike Toffey before going. Be sure of where you will get water.
  • GPS / Satellite Device: I would highly recommend bringing a satellite tracking device on this trip if you have one or can get a hold of one. The trail to VDC is extremely remote and it is hard to know if you will run into others on the trail (it would be unwise to expect to run into more than 4–6 people IMO) and would imagine it’s even lighter on a weekday.
  • Camping at Pat Springs: The signage at Pat Springs makes it unclear where the actual campsites are. They are NOT further up on the VDC trail. With closer review, you’ll see that there is a use trail that continues up the bluff. Initially, you will see a campsite with a bench. If you have the legs for it, continue up and you’ll two additional sites. The 2nd is perfect for 1–2 people and the 3rd great for a larger group. Beyond those sites, the use trail continues to Pat Mountain / Peak, where you can see the sun set beyond the horizon. I highly recommend exploring this part of Pat Springs if you have or can make the time.



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David Yocom

David Yocom

San Francisco-Based | Venture Capital at iSelect Fund | Venture for America | Aspiring Outdoorsman | Future of Food & Nutrition | Mediocre Guitarist | Fitness |