A rewarding day-in, day-out trip into the Ventana Wilderness. Campsites back up directly onto a beautiful ridge overlooking Big Sur and the San Lucia Mountains. 

Backpacking to Pat Springs is a way to see Big Sur and the San Lucia mountains from a perspective that few get to experience. The Ventana Wilderness is rugged and remote, yet Pat Springs is one of the most beautiful campgrounds around that will allow you to take in this amazing terrain. 

To get to Pat Springs, you will hike along Skinners Ridge. The Trailhead is at the Bottchers Gap campground which is about 15-20 minutes up into the mountains off the world famous Highway 1 (PCH). When you get to Bottchers Gap, take a second to check the map again, take a few photos, and let the camp master know that you're headed out. 

At almost 8 miles long and with 1400 feet of elevation change, this hike should not be considered easy. The strongest hiker will make it in 4.5 to 5 hours, but I suggest taking your time as the scenery is beautiful and you spend most of your time ascending. There are plenty of summits, fields, vistas, and trees to break and enjoy the view. 

This is not a hard trail to navigate. There is ample signage pointing to Pat Springs and the trail is easy to follow. I still suggest bringing a map, especially if you want to venture off trail or past the campsite. 

An important note once you get to the confusing 4-way intersection on the trail. On the trail that comes from Bottchers gap and going count-clockwise, the trails lead to 1) Ventana Double-Cone 2) Water 3) The Campsites. Thus, turn right to get to the campsites. 

Here's a veteran's tip when choosing a campground: You'll come across the first campsite that does not appear too inviting. Pass this one. You'll ascend about 50 yards more to the first campground on the ridge. It's beautiful, yes, but push forward. The second site is a bit better. Again, push forward. The best two sites in Pat Springs (and some of the best campsites I've ever seen) are the third and fourth. The 3rd is just a little bit past the second and is a bit smaller than the previous two, but has the best setup. The fourth is about a 15-minute walk past the third, is much more secluded, and also has a beautiful meadow and view that the other three do not have. 

If you're up for it, use Pat Springs as a base camp to summit Ventana Double Cone. VDC is the highest point in the San Lucia mountains and offers 360 views for miles in each direction. Although quite rugged and slightly overgrown, VDC is a rewarding hike. From Pat Springs, you're looking at another 7.5 miles each way with another 1500 (or so) feet of elevation gain. 

Feel free to ask me any questions if I've left something out. 

Note: This part of the San Lucias is dry. I suggest at least 2.5 liters per person to be safe. There is water once you get to the campsite (hence, the spring) for you to treat and fill up on. NOTE: There is NO WATER AT BOTTCHERS GAP. Don't expect to be able to fill up right before your hike. Pack your water in. 

Pack List

  • WATER
  • Mosquito Spray
  • Shelter
  • 10 essentials
  • Water purifier 
  • Sunscreen
Show More
RT Distance 7.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 1400 Feet
Activities Survival, Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers

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Due to the 2016 Soberanes Fire, this route is CLOSED until December 2017

As of December 5, 2016, the Soberanes Fire closure area has been reduced. See the links below for the Forest Closure Order and a map which indicates the closure boundaries. Most of the Ventana Wilderness remains CLOSED. This includes backcountry camps like Sykes, Terrace Creek, Barlow Flat, Pat Spring, Carmel River, Pico Blanco Public Camp, and many others. Unauthorized entry is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and imprisonment up to six months. Please review these links and call the Monterey Ranger District at (831) 385-5434 before visiting the Ventana Wilderness. http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/lpnf/alerts-notices/?aid=36345 Also, please note that Level 2 Fire Restrictions are in place. This means NO CAMPFIRES in the backcountry (stoves are OK with a permit). http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/lpnf/alerts-notices/?aid=36140 With visitation to the Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest now concentrated in far fewer trails and camps, it is up to all of us to tread lightly on the land and adhere to restrictions. Now more than ever, it is critical that all visitors practice Leave No Trace principles. http://www.ventanawild.org/plan-a-trip/leave-no-trace Many State Park trails in the Big Sur area are also CLOSED. Call the State Park that you wish to explore to determine if trails are open. A handy list of State Park phone numbers can be found at the link below. Big Sur Chamber of Commerce Camping Guide http://www.bigsurcalifornia.org/camping.html

almost 2 years ago

I'm the author

Think this is a great trip for a first, second, or third time backpacker. Not too hard, but definitely not a walk in the park. The campgrounds are to die for.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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