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The Best Hikes in Ventana Wilderness

2 Triplog Reviews in the Ventana Wilderness
6.42 mi • 1,802 ft aeg
I was somewhat chagrined to learn that I spent about 6 hours in the car for a 6-mile hike, but I did need a lot of windshield time to make a bunch of long phone calls so it all worked out in the end. Big Sur is such a cool place. I regret not visiting years ago when I moved up here, but I was intimidated by the 2-3 hour drive each way from Walnut Creek.

I wanted to knock off a few shorter hikes in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and the Pfeiffer Falls-Valley View and Buzzard's Roost Trails fit the bill. I parked in the large lot just past the entrance kiosk ($10.00 fee), and went west on the River Path trail to the deck around some old growth redwoods near the lodge. The Valley View Trail begins on the other side of the main park road just north of the raised deck, and it meanders through a pretty grove of second-growth redwood before beginning to climb in earnest. The Pfeiffer Falls Trail branches off to the east about 2/3 mile from the road, but I kept climbing up to whatever the Valley View is. The trail soon gained the top of an uphill ridge on its ascent to Valley View, and there were nice views east towards the Manuel Peak massif and northwest down the Big Sur River valley as it approached the sea.

I reached the bench which marked the end of the trail about a mile from the road to meet a nice Swiss family. There were 3 generations of this family enjoying the view, and they were typical super-friendly Swiss people. The pregnant mother of 2 small children offered to give me her seat on the bench, but no way did I even look remotely that tired!

I went back down the Valley View Trail to check out Pfeiffer Falls. The quarter-mile trail to the falls is about 1/3 mile down from the top, and I'm glad I wasn't planning on spending a lot of time there. There is a viewing area about 100 feet from the falls with "barriers" around it warning people to not go past them to the falls. There were also about 30 people who had gone beyond the barriers to hang out just below the falls. A nicely flowing 50-foot-tall fall wasn't even worth photographing due to all of the people in the way. You can guess how happy that made me. There were also a few dogs even though dogs aren't allowed on any of the trails in this state park.

I went back down to the road to the bridge by the lodge, and crossed it to the Buzzard's Roost Trail. Go right at the junction as Buzzard's Roost Trail follows the Big Sur River under Hwy. 1 then a few hundred yards before it switchbacks to begin the workout portion of today's adventure. The trail gradually climbs on switchbacks first through a dark second-growth redwood forest, then a nice forest of bay, tanoak and smallish redwood before finally reaching open areas near the top. Buzzard's Roost Trail is a lasso-loop with the loop portion beginning a half-mile up. Go right (counterclockwise) to switchback up the summit for 2/3 mile through the successional forest. The summit of Buzzard's Roost has obviously seen wildfire in recent years, and the chaparral is gradually reclaiming it with baby redwoods right behind.

There is a small building on the summit which is merely one of numerous high points on a long ridge separating the Big Sur River from the coast. I was startled by how developed the Big Sur area is. There are at least 200 homes in the Big Sur area, and many of them are right out of Sunset Magazine. The summit is also close to a road that serves a few houses within a few hundred yards of the summit that appear to be linked to ranching. Indeed there is a lot of ranching along the coast of the entire state of California, and this area is no exception. There are great views in all directions from the summit. The remainder of the loop is about a mile back to the junction, then return on the Warden's Path trail as it heads east along the south bank of the Big Sur River. Cross the bridge to the north/left to return to the large parking lot.

A foldout visitor guide with the typical maps and interpretive information costs $2.00, but it's worth it.

Buzzard's Roost Trail is a loop
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