Skinner Ridge Trail: Ventana Wilderness #tbt

Today I’m doing a throwback post to April of 2015 when I went on a weekend backpacking trip with Jon and my roommates, Luke and Elena. On Friday, we camped at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and then early Saturday morning drove to the trail head at Bottcher’s Gap for our 1-night trip on the Skinner Ridge Trail to Pat Springs campground.

The Drive

Before I get in to the details of the hike, I want to emphasize how amazing the drive down Highway 1 is. We were lucky enough on this trip to enjoy a clear day.

The Hike

The trail began with some elevation gain, but didn’t get too intense during the first quarter.

The trail

Since we hiked in the springtime, we were able to see lots of green grass and flowers.

Springtime is the one of the prettiest times to hike

The real challenge in this hike came at about the halfway point. The highest point that we had to climb up, Devil’s Peak, was unshaded and had enough elevation gain (~1400 ft) to break a decent sweat, especially with a pack!

Once we reached the top we stopped for a much-deserved snack and photo break.

We used the panorama feature on my iPhone to get a shot of all of us

Maybe we were delirious from the heat, but we started to get a little silly with the panorama feature on our phones…

Two sets of twins!

The vista from the top is nothing short of jaw-dropping.


After the peak of the hill, the rest of the trail to the campsite was downhill. We were feeling happy about that.

Elena and I say cheese 🙂

What we loved best about this half of the hike was that there were views of the mountains the whole rest of the way.


At one point, maybe 3/4 of the way through the hike for the day, we encountered the remains of a forest fire.

Burned trees with new growth

Some of the dead trees were huge.

Elena inspecting a dead giant

When we finally reached the campground, we got a little bit turned around at first. There was a few campsites right off of the trail, and a sign that pointed towards the trail down to the water well, but we had heard that this backpacking campground had some of the best views Big Sur had to offer. After a bit of sleuthing, we realized that we had to turn to the right and go uphill for about 10 minutes (follow these directions if you start from where I did!).

It was so worth the extra uphill.


That spot was probably the most amazing place I have ever camped. Waking up to that view filled me with exhilaration and made me feel so “at-one” with nature.


Jon and I enjoyed a celebratory HopNosh IPA at our campsite.

This refreshment was worth the extra weight in our packs

After we dropped our stuff off at the spot we claimed, we did a quick hike up the hill so we could get a view of the sunset. It took about 20 minutes of extra hiking to the top of the ridge, but we were rewarded with vibrant red and orange skies.

Sunset over the ocean in the distance

A few lucky people who got there earlier than us were actually able to camp with this view.

We slept very chilly that night but warmed up quickly in the morning when we went on another short day hike. We found a rock to climb that offered a different perspective of the views in the valley.


Me and Jon on the rock, Luke photobombing the side

This is an out-and-back hike so we followed the same trail on the way home.

The Stats

This trail/backpacking trip doesn’t have an EveryTrail, but you can find a map of the trail and more information here. There is also a blog post from Allyson Thommen at See Monterey that has pictures from her trip and a few more stats about the trail. You can read her post here.

The hike out to Pat Springs took us 4-5 hours on the first day, and the hike back to the car took us more like 3-4 hours.

There is no water on the trail, so make sure to bring enough with you for the hike. There is a well at Pat Springs where you can refill before leaving the next day. The trail also does continue on if you want to make a longer backpacking adventure!

The best place to park and start the hike is at Botcher’s Gap. There is a campground there so you can camp there the night before starting if you’d like. You have to pay cash for each day for parking in this lot.


This is a great backpacking trip since it can be done in one weekend and it really gives you a taste of all that the Ventana Wilderness has to offer. The best time of year to go is probably in the spring since it isn’t too hot, but it is California so any time is probably just fine!

Luke and Elena being cute

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