Trail Access in Ventana Wilderness Now Permanently Protected

Trail Access in Ventana Wilderness Now Permanently Protected

Apr. 22, 2015

The Wilderness Land Trust permanently protects a 120-acre property previously open to development as the newest addition to the Ventana Wilderness


SACRAMENTO, CA … Hikers love the network of trails in the Big Sur and Milpitas areas of Central California’s Ventana Wilderness, easily connecting to several State Parks on the ocean and in the Santa Lucia range. The area features iconic views of both the Pacific Ocean and the coastal mountains, and offers hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, photography opportunities and birding.


However, the future of these recreation opportunities and unspoiled views was threatened - until The Wilderness Land Trust permanently protected a 120-acre formerly private property open to development by transferring ownership to the Los Padres National Forest as the newest addition the Ventana Wilderness. Every land protection deal by the Trust takes two steps to achieve permanent protection—first timely acquisition of the property from the willing private owner, and then restoring the land back to the United States (in this case the US Forest Service) for permanent protection.


“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, it’s important to work with valued partners like The Wilderness Land Trust to protect natural and cultural resources adjacent to the Ventana Wilderness and enhance public access to these special lands,” said Los Padres National Forest Supervisor Robert Baird.


Just a few miles east of Carmel Valley, acquisition of the property protects ridge trail access to the Wilderness, panoramic views of peaks like the Ventana Double Cone, and prevents future development in the home range for the endangered California condor and the rare Santa Lucia Fir. The purchase was made possible through a loan from one of the Trust’s partner foundations, and the organization will now work to transfer the land to the Los Padres National Forest for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.


"A stunning high-elevation mosaic of valley oaks, Coulter pines, bunchgrasses and shrub lands rewards hikers on the Hennickson’s Ridge Trail." said Mike Splain, Executive Director of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance. “Historically, the trail facilitated a loop through the fascinating Santa Lucia fir groves of Miller Canyon. This vital acquisition will protect biodiversity, wilderness character and public access to public lands.”


When the Trust began working in California, there were over 2900 acres of private property within the wilderness boundary. This is the fourth property the Trust has protected in the Ventana Wilderness in the last two years—the Trust also protected the 120-acre Lost Valley property in late 2012, the Three George’s property in late 2013 and 29-acre Milpitas property in 2014. Both Lost Valley and Three George’s are on the North Coast Ridge Road (now a trail inside the Wilderness boundary), with gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean to the west and of the vast Santa Lucia mountains to the east. All properties had motorized access and residential rights, but are each now a protected part of the Ventana Wilderness. Previously, the Trust also protected another 160-acre property along Tassajara Road, also protecting trail access. By reducing what are essentially holes in the wilderness, the Trust is able to contribute to a more unified protected landscape – working towards connected trail systems, wildlife corridors and free flowing and unpolluted water.


“The land sits on the crest of a ridge with spectacular views—now for all to enjoy,” said Aimee Rutledge, the land trust’s California Program Manager. “Private uses inconsistent with wilderness would have despoiled an unbroken expanse of ridgeline, visible from trails throughout this area of the Ventana.”


The National Wilderness Preservation System is a refuge for animals, plants, clean water, clean air and a foundation for 21st century conservation. It may hold the key to future conservation and the tools for adapting to global climate change. However, the system is still filled with holes, 180,000 acres of private lands that fracture the whole. Across the country there are plans to develop mines, retreats, logging operations and resorts deep within wilderness holdings, fragmenting a resource that cannot afford to be lost.  The Trust’s continuing mission to eliminate these pockets of inholdings and create a seamless wilderness system is vital, echoing the spirit and intent of the original Wilderness Act. The Wilderness Land Trust is the only national organization dedicated solely to buying these lands and adding them to the National Wilderness Preservation System.



The Wilderness Land Trust

The Wilderness Land Trust is a small, highly specialized nonprofit organization established to buy and protect wilderness land. Since it was founded in 1992, the non-profit organization has preserved 417 parcels comprised of more than 42,000 acres of wilderness inholdings in 92 designated and proposed wilderness areas. The Wilderness Land Trust, a 501(c)(3) organization, has offices in California and Colorado. For more information visit our website


The Wilderness Land Trust is an accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission and is a 1% for the Planet Non-Profit Partner. Visit to learn how individual and businesses can support our projects.         


Contact: Aimee Rutledge, Vice President and California Program Manager


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Since it was founded in 1992, The Wilderness Land Trust organization has preserved 447 parcels comprised of more than 48,872 acres of wilderness inholdings in 103 designated and proposed wilderness areas. 

(Updated 12/2017)