Peak 4,275ft P300
Peak 4,988ft P300
Peak 4,820ft 2x P500
Peak 4,735ft

Nov 2, 2021
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile
Peak 4,820ft previously climbed Feb 7, 2011

While I was studying the Ventana trail conditions from Jack Gendening (a most valuable resource, btw), it occurred to me that I could combine what I expected to take two outings into a long one. Peak 4,988ft and Peak 4,735ft lie on the main crest and I'd thought I'd have to ride the bike to the end of the Cone Peak Rd and hike from there. But the trail map showed decent conditions for Rodeo Flats, Arroyo Seco, Carrizo, and North Coast Ridge Trails, which could be combined in a big loop, adding another peak off the Carrizo Trail. About 4mi would be along paved Del Venturi Rd, so I would use the bike for that portion. With a difference of about 600ft in elevation between the two bike points, I decided it would be better to ride downhill and hike the extra uphill. So I left the bike at the Arroyo Seco Trailhead at the end of Del Venturi, and drove back down to the Carrizo Trailhead to start the hike soon after 8:30a.

I didn't pick the best day to visit, and knew this based on the weather reports. A small storm the previous day had not dropped much rain, but left everything wet, a problem with Ventana trails and the typical overgrowth. The Salinas Valley was mostly clear as I drove up it around sunrise, but Fort Hunter-Liggett was steeped in fog and clouds, as was the Los Padres NF, keeping the moisture from evaporating until later in the afternoon when skies began to clear. The Carrizo Trail begins just past a gated bridge over the North Fork of the San Antonio River. It travels through some lovely grass and oak terrain for about half a mile before jumping on a ridge and beginning a long climb. Most of the bushes were wet, some holding water better than others (manzanita and pines are especially adept at this), while newts periodically scampered along the ground in places, probably the first time in eight months. I used trekking poles today because of the high mileage and a bum leg, but their biggest help came in using them to knock most of the water from the brush ahead of me. My boots and socks would get wet through, to be sure, but not so bad that my toes would get blistered. I'm pretty sure I would have had to end the outing early if I hadn't the poles with me to minimize the drenching.

The trail conditions had the Carrizo Trail as a "Wilderness Freeway" well past the day's first summit, Peak 4,275ft. This was not the case. The trail was excellent up to about 3,200ft, after which it became hard to follow. I found myself on a sketchy, exposed slope where I lost the trail at one time, eventually finding old ribbons that helped keep me on track, though I still continued to lose the trail on and off for half an hour. Had the hillsides not been torched in the Dolan Fire, I think I would never have made it to the first summit. It took me two hours to reach the saddle SE of Peak 4,275ft, marking the point to leave the trail for the last half mile of cross-country. This started off easy, but got tougher as I realized the NE side of the ridge I was following had not burned. The SW side had, but it was cliffy there and it took some effort to work around obstacles or, when that didn't work, wade through some unburned brush. Still, it wasn't too bad, as it took just over half an hour to reach the top. I was half in the clouds here, leaving me with interesting but poor views. I could see points below me in the adjacent ravines and drainages, but not the higher surrounding peaks nor any far views, not unlike typical views peakbagging in Hawaii. I left a register here, the only one on the day (because I'd forgotten to restock) while I took a much needed rest.

I could see the continuing Carrizo Trail to the southwest only a third of a mile away and decided to descend in that direction. This worked nicely, traveling through the burn zone and saving me time. It probably would have made a better ascent route, too. Once on the trail, I found it easier to follow, and had no trouble the rest of the day with trail navigation. The upper part of the Carrizo trail had some downfall in places, but nothing serious and I made decent time along it. I had to climb about 800ft along the trail before leaving it around the 4,700-foot level to climb to Peak 4,988ft. I passed over the North Coast Ridge Trail on my way up, finding the summit ridge had not burned completely, leaving me some brush and rock sections to work through. From the first summit, it took about an hour and a half to reach Peak 4,988ft, landing on the summit rocks around 12:45p. Views were muted even more than the first summit, as I seemed stuck in the clouds. Some blue sky was appearing, so I was holding out hope that things would improve as the afternoon wore on. I was now more than 4hrs into the hike and I still had many miles to go, having done maybe a third of the route. Most of the elevation gain was done, so it should get easier, but I didn't know if I would run into more trail problems. With cell phone coverage at the summit, I let my wife know it might be late before I got home. I had a headlamp with me, so wasn't too worried, just hoping I didn't crash and burn when my body gave out fighting brush.

I descended off the summit northeast and north to regain the North Coast Ridge Trail. It's really an old road that one used to be able to drive decades ago, not a single-track tread that is far easier to lose. So even if the brush gets heavy, it's easy to see where the trail goes because of the wide footprint. I found both trail and weather improving, and while my feet/boots weren't drying out, at least they weren't getting wetter. An hour after leaving the previous summit, I had a good view of the next two peaks still some distance to the northwest. Views east to Junipero Serra and the San Antonio River drainage were opening up nicely, too, though views towards the Pacific would remain shrouded in clouds the rest of the day. It would be 2:20p before I managed my way up the firebreak to the summit of Peak 4,820ft. I had been here back in 2011 when it took 500ft of prominence for me to climb unnamed summits in Ventana. That had been a long, 22mi outing from the end of Cone Peak Rd that included another P500 5-6mi further north.

Peak 4,735ft is less than a mile further to the northwest, mostly connected by roads and firebreaks. I continued over the summit of Peak 4,820ft on the firebreak, reconnected with the North Coast Ridge Trail, and hiked to its junction with the Rodeo Flats Trail, my descent route. At this same junction is a firebreak running up to the lower southwest summit of Peak 4,735ft. Not knowing at the time which was higher, I went to this summit first, taking only about 30min from Peak 4,988ft. After noting the elevation reading on the GPSr, I then spent another 10min dropping to a shallow saddle and making my way to the NE summit. It read 4ft higher, so I'm going with that until someone does a better surveying job. It was after 3:15p when I started down from this last summit, heading southeast down a burned slope to intercept the Rodeo Flat Trail. This is really just an old road/firebreak dropping 2,000ft in less than three miles to Arroyo Seco. It was in poor shape for vehicles, but otherwise decent for hiking - no brush at all on the entire route, just the usual collection of ruts, loose stones and smaller plants. The road ends just short of reaching the river below. A duck on the left side showed where a single-track continues on the north side of the river. This leads in a few minutes to the junction with the Arroyo Seco Trail, marked by a second duck. I spent the next 40min hiking the lower few miles of the Arroyo Seco Trail, part of which I had used only a few days earlier when descending from Peak 3,807ft. It was 4:50p by the time I reached the trailhead where I had stashed my bike.

I was quite sore by this time, my limping having progressed over the last four miles from hardly noticeable to apparent drunkenness. The bike would be a most welcome change. I packed up my poles and tucked my pant leg into my sock and rode off, past the campground, the summer homes, then up and over the saddle between the Arroyo Seco and San Antonio River drainages. I spent 30min on the bike, most of that coasting downhill in the late-afternoon sun through the grassy meadows to return to the Jeep by 5:20p. After packing the bike away, I took a shower, got a cold drink and a snack, then began the drive home...

Jack Glendening comments on 11/04/21:
Thanks for supplying GPX track, very interesting to see where you lost Carrizo Trail and rejoined. Have modified my conditions map accordingly. BTW, "green" represents "Clear - WildernessFreeway", not simply "Wilderness Freeway", but in any case what you experienced, especially for an experienced bushwhacker, is not "Clear".
Great to hear from you, Jack! I would never have tried this outing without your awesome trail reports/map. Super helpful resource.
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