In the morning, rise early to pit your fly-fishing acumen against the river’s steelhead trout (catch-and-release only; the season lasts through October). Then continue along the Pine Ridge deeper into isolation, zigzagging up 2,770 feet in 3.9 miles to the trail’s namesake ridge and views of the wilderness’s jagged peaks. It’s another 3.2 miles to Divide Camp–an ideal spot to bed down under oaks and alders before rounding the pine-cloaked mountains that flank the final 4.1 miles out to China Camp. From there, Cone Peak towers nearly a mile above the Pacific; 5,862-foot Junipero Serra, the highest point in the Santa Lucia Range, looms in the distance. Stop at Big Sur River Inn for outdoor jazz and homemade apple pie before heading home; as Henry Miller would tell you, wilderness is just one of many earthly pleasures.
» Directions This end-to-end hike requires a car shuttle. Park one at Big Sur Station; stash the other at China Camp, 33 miles by road to the northeast.
» Permits None required for camping, but you will need one for campfires (free at www. fs.fed.us/r5/lospadres/passes/campfire.)
» Beta For current trail info, go to www.ventanawild.org. Other questions, contact Big Sur Station at (831) 667-2315.
» Map Get the USFS map of the Los Padres National Forest, Monterey and Santa Lucia Range Districts.