Climb Cone Peak in Big Sur (Sea to Sky Backpacking Route)

Kirk Creek Campground

Cone Peak is the most spectacular coastal mountain in the Lower 48 States. At 5,155' high and less than 3 miles from the ocean, the average gradient from summit to sea is 33%, which is steeper than Mt. Whitney to Owens Valley.

While you can make a day-hike out of it by driving up the gorgeous Sur-Nacimiento Road from Highway 1 to the Coast Ridge Road and take a 2 mile trail to the summit with 1300' of elevation gain (4 miles roundtrip), the more adventurous types do a Sea to Sky, starting at Kirk Creek Campground and up Vicente Flat Trail (23 miles roundtrip). You can camp at Vicente Flat 5 miles in. Another 2.5 miles up and you'll connect with the Coast Ridge Road, take a left and then up the Cone Peak trail to the summit.

You can camp on the summit if you like, near the old fire lookout. Unless you're during the week or in winter, don't expect to be alone for the hike.

For current fire closures and conditions, check http://calfireinformation.weeb... and http://calfire.ca.gov/. Illegally entering the area during closures can result in large fines.

Pack List

Cone Peak is in the Los Padres National Forest, so do check their website for restrictions and regulations.

  • Map
  • Water
  • Food
  • Rain Protection if it's not the summer
  • Sunscreen all seasons
  • Camping gear
  • Good foot gear
Show More
RT Distance 23 Miles
Elevation Gain 5300 Feet
Activities Camping, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Bathrooms
Beach
Easy Parking
Forest
Picnic Area
River
Romantic
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Sea-to-Sky route & interactive map

For clarification, the hike route described here, climbing Cone Peak via Vicente Flat Camp, while scenic, strenuous, and enjoyable is not what locals consider the "Sea-to-Sky Route", which instead climbs Cone Peak more directly, along Stone Ridge via usetrails. A link to an interactive map of the Sea-to-Sky route (from the same website as the original poster used for his "Map" link) is at: http://bigsurtrailmap.net/ROUTES/SEA-TO-SKY/sea-to-sky_route.html (which can be panned to show other Cone Peak trails, notably the ones described in the original post). The true "Sea-to-Sky route" is intended for extremely strenuous out-and-back day hikes, not suitable for a backpack. So backpackers wishing a "sea to sky experience" should take the route described here - after first using the trail at Kirk Creek Campground to put their finger/toe into the ocean to make it complete.

Great

Beautiful trail and location. Fill up with water at Vicente flat. We made camp there and then hiked the rest of the way without heavy packs. We had a close encounter with an aggressive mountain lion just north of Vicente. Make sure to bring food bags for overnight and make loud noises / brief yourself on what to do if you run into an animal such as this.

Awesome Views From Cone Peak

I backpacked from Kirk Creek Campground to Cone Peak for a weekend (2/10/2018-2/11/2018). The trail is in great condition, aside from a few fallen trees along the Kirk Creek Trail and Vicente Flat Trail. From the Kirk Creek Campground entrance there’s a trailhead right across Highway 1, and it’s 11 miles up to Cone Peak from there. I hiked to the summit in one day and my legs felt demolished during the last mile as it had been a long hike with another 1000+ ft of elevation gain left. The views and stargazing were definitely worth it though. The ascent took me 7.5 hours and the descent the next morning only took me about 5 hours. Be sure to fill up on water at Vicente Flat as the closest Creek to Cone Peak is about 5 miles away. The view from Cone Peak is beautiful, though I didn’t think much of Vicente Flat Trail was that majestic. I do recommend this hike if you’re looking for a lengthy hike with a good elevation gain challenge. Also the solitude factor was a solid 9/10. I didn’t run into many hikers along the trail and much my time hiking was nice and quiet. There were only 5 other people camping at Cone Peak with me for the night and we were able to spread ourselves out a bit. There isn’t a ton of space to camp up there so it’s nice to secure your spot early on if possible.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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