Welcome Back to the Pine Ridge Trail!

Pine Ridge Trail

The popular Pine Ridge Trail (PRT) on Los Padres National Forest reopened to public use nearly five years after the devastating 2016 Soberanes Fire and winter storms of 2017. Massive sections of the trail were repaired by volunteers, partner groups, and U.S. Forest Service-funded contract crews. Volunteers continue to help care for and maintain it. Please do your part by treading lightly, practicing minimal impact ethics, and knowing and following current fire restrictions. Be aware of current conditions, "Know Before You Go" and enjoy this unique wilderness experience.

The hike up the PRT into the Ventana Wilderness is strenuous and challenging even for experienced hikers. Elevation gains and losses are considerable, and trees often fall across the trail making passage difficult in some areas. Be prepared to make several river crossings to reach the backcountry campsites. The PRT also makes for invigorating out-and-back day hikes for visitors not wanting to camp overnight.

There are five camps located along the PRT in the 12 miles of trail between the Big Sur Station and Redwood Camp. Barlow Flat Camp has the most room and Sykes Camp is most heavily used. Campsite occupancy numbers are posted and cannot be exceeded for health and safety reasons. It is expected that visitors will respect these occupancy limits and continue along the trail until an available campsite is located. Hikers should consider the lesser-used Barlow Flat and Redwood Camps. There is currently no reservation system for campsites so the earlier you arrive and begin your hike, the better your chances for securing a spot.

While there are hot springs throughout the Ventana Wilderness, the springs at Sykes attracted huge visitor use in the past that degraded this fragile area. Visitors will not find “tubs” at Sykes or any other hot springs within the Ventana. Human development of any kind is inconsistent with wilderness values. Long before it was damaged by wildfire, this enormously popular trail was mistreated and overused.

We need your help! Everything you pack in with you must be packed out. There is no garbage service in the wilderness and visitors are encouraged to leave these areas in better condition than they find them. As available, hikers should use the wilderness toilets - they are the only appropriate place to do your business. Visitors should bring a large plastic bag to pack out toilet paper, hygiene products, and disposable towelettes which have plastic content and do not decompose. Dog owners are responsible for picking up after their pet just as they would anywhere else.

A new three-panel display has been installed at the trailhead and visitors are encouraged to use the new self-registration permit system and take time to read through the posted information. Data gleaned through self-registration will guide future management decisions and determine whether additional steps are needed to protect this unique area.

This re-opening would not have been possible if not for the extraordinary efforts of our partners at Los Padres Forest Association, Ventana Wilderness Alliance, and California State Parks.  We would like to also thank the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance, the Community Association of Big Sur, and the Nepenthe/Phoenix Corporation for the critical financial support needed to launch the self-registration permit system.

Now more than ever, all visitors should pledge to "Leave No Trace" and serve as stewards to leave these special places better than they found them.  Escaped illegal campfires, human-made structures of any kind, and excessive visitation all have the potential to close access to the Pine Ridge Trail once again. Please do your part in leaving these special areas just as you found them...as nature intended them to be.

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Pine Ridge Trail Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Do I need a Wilderness/Backcountry Permit?

A: While a Wilderness or Backcountry Permit is not required to hike the PRT, visitors are strongly encouraged to fill out the Self Registration form at the trailhead to help Trail Managers better understand the level of public use.

Q: Do I need a reservation to stay overnight at one of the trail camps?

A: A reservation is not required for any of the camping sites along the PRT. Because these sites are first come, first served, hikers who wish to secure a camp site should plan to get an early start.

Q: Where do I park? How do I pay for parking?

A: There are 70 parking spots are located at the PRT trailhead. A charge of $10 per calendar day is collected for vehicles using the parking lot.

Q: Where do I self-register?

A:  Hikers can use the Self Registration System at the PRT trailhead.

Q: Is there a restroom at the trailhead?

A: There is a restroom located at the Big Sur Station’s visitor information center.

Q: is there water at the trailhead?

A: There is water available at the Big Sur Station visitor information center and a drinking fountain at the trailhead.

Q: How do I obtain a California Campfire Permit?

A: If you do not arrive with a California Campfire Permit, one can be obtained at the Big Sur Station visitor information center. You must have a California Campfire Permit before hiking the PRT.

Q: Can I bring my dog on the trail?

A: Hikers are discouraged from bringing pets of any kind on the PRT. If you do bring a dog, it must be on a leash at all times for its own safety and the safety of other hikers.

Q: What is “Leave No Trace” camping?

A: The PRT leads visitors through a pristine wilderness panorama. These areas must be treated with respect to preserve the delicate ecosystem. Humans should commit to minimizing their impact during their stay in the Ventana Wilderness.

Q: Where do I camp if all the trail camps are full?

A:  Hikers should continue on their journey until they reach a camp with available sites. Do not disturb untrammeled areas by constructing your own site if the camps are full.

Q: We have had multiple bear encounters in the Silver Peak Wilderness and a sighting at Barlow Flat on the PRT. Do I need to bring a bear cannister?

A: Though we don't require bear canisters, we have seen an increase in bear activity throughout the forest. We ask that visitors become Bear-Aware and practice good food storage techniques. Human-bear encounters on the PRT are extremely rare. 

Q: Where can I buy a trail map?

A: Trail maps can be purchased at the Big Sur visitor information center for prices ranging between $7 and $15.

Q: Where can I go online to find out more information about the Pine Ridge Trail?

A: You have found the official Los Padres National Forest Pine Ridge Trail site. Our site includes links to partner websites that contain useful information about the PRT.

Q: How can I become a trail volunteer?

A: Check inside the Big Sur visitor information center or visit the Ventana Wilderness Alliance or Los Padres Forest Association websites for more information about volunteer opportunities.