Meeting the Santa Lucias on their own terms …

“Sube conmigo, amor americano, Besa conmigo las piedras secretas.” – Pablo Neruda

First of all, it’s only fair to mention that most reasonable adults consider wandering off the trails in the Santa Lucias to be ill-advised. Guidebooks invariably warn against off trail travel. The Sierra Club guide notes that “canyons tend to be steep and narrow” with “rocky cirques and waterfalls which can be hazardous to climb around.” The Schaffer Guide complains that “the vegetation – particularly the chaparral, which dominates the landscape – is in most places so dense that most routes are practically impossible.” Mr. Schaffer says following streams is “tedious,” and relates an adventure in which he used up two hours in traveling half a mile.

The guidebooks are right. Mile for mile it’s easier to hike on a trail than to squeeze through brush or rock hop down a stream. Yet, tediousness is in the mind of the sufferer. Some think finding their own way is less tedious than plodding down a dusty trail seeing the same thin slice of the wilderness that every other visitor sees. In fact, many of the most spectacular and memorable spots lie far from any trail and are enjoyed only by the off trail traveler.

A waterfall can be a dangerous obstacle to some and a cause for celebration to others. The hiker thrashing in brush, feet not even touching the ground, is experiencing an intimacy and involvement with the landscape not found on any trail. Too slow? Well isn’t quality of experience, not speed of travel what we go to the Wilderness for?

So stop reading about it on the Internet already and get out there and do it.

Here, to whet your appetite, are some far from the beaten track scenes …


Not just another pretty waterfall. A hot spring flows from the wall on the right hand side and freefalls into the pool. Stand in the cold water admiring the falls and get a hot shower at the same time. Is this a great planet, or what?

BTW, You won’t have to wait in line. As you’ve probably guessed, this cozy locale is many a difficult mile from the nearest trail.



The steep, crumbling ramparts of the Double Cone’s southern slopes can be a serious impediment to human travel



Following creeks can be a great way to get around, but some are pretty steep 



The 3rd “Circular” Pool



“Cakewalk” cross-country travel along lower Lost Valley Creek 



Rime ice coats a tree on the rim of the Window 



Steelhead summer over in a secluded stream 



Falls on Ventana Creek 



Peaceful gorge 



In the sticks 



No need to filter this water 



Lupine blooming on the Double Cone’s south face 



Falls on Zig Zag Creek 


9 Responses to Meeting the Santa Lucias on their own terms …

  1. faulkie says:

    Ahhh….I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoy this section of your site, particularly one of my favorite areas in the Ventana, lower Lost Valley Creek. Always inspirational! Trails are nice, but they won’t lead you to Zig Zag and many other hidden gems. Thanks for the perspective.

  2. What a nice site! Loved the photos of the carvings from Sid Ormsby. I admired them for decades until they were relocated.

    Would you be willing to disclose the location of the hot and cold waterfall in the photo above?

  3. sam says:

    awesome post, just shared with some friends. haven’t been as adventurous as i’d like – but yes – many hours of off trail exploration has paid off in terms of views, sights and memorable journeys. often following an old & disused or dilapidated historic trail can even lead to many awesome finds.

  4. Randy D says:

    Can you give a general location for the hot spring shower mentioned above?

  5. xasauan says:


  6. Randy D says:

    Can you at least tell me how old the photo is? If it is where I think it is, then I have already been there. I just did not want to miss out on another hot spring in Ventana.

  7. xasauan says:

    I can explain why I don’t publicize the location of Ventana Wilderness hot springs in one word: Sykes.

  8. Le Doof says:

    xasauan, I like your style. I have been in search of the ‘fabled’ hot springs that you mention, now I know its not a fable…:) I purposely omitted the name. I enjoyed your post.

  9. Boris Aronshtam says:

    So, how do I get to the hot spring? Or what is the gps coordinate of it?

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