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

Big Sur, California

4.4/5
based on 13 reviews

Details

Distance

19.72 miles

Elevation Gain

7484 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Description

Added by Josiah Roe

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.

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Features

Camping
Backpacking
Hiking
Bathrooms
Beach
Easy Parking
Forest
Picnic Area
River
Romantic
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

We backpacked the "lollipop" loop over memorial day weekend, in three days. This hike definitely was not easy, as the first two days were mostly uphill and it rained on us the second day. There was poison oak everywhere!!! If you are severely allergic, you may not want to do this hike. Usually it was sticking out onto the trail from one side, but there were a few times where it was sticking out onto the trail from both sides, making it inevitable to not touch!! We used Tecnu every night on our hands and arms. Please check out my video of this trip on Youtube "Backpacking Hwy 1 to Cone Peak by Big Sur" by Kiki's Adventures if you would like to see what the trail is like! Day 1: Parked across from Kirk Creek Campground and hiked through Vicinte Flat Campground and up to Goat Camp for the night (~12 miles). There was plenty of water at Vicinte Flat Campground when we were there and there was also a waterfall right before you get to Goat Camp. Day 2: We hiked from Goat Camp up to Cone Peak and back down to Vicinte Flat Campground for the night (~10 miles). Day 3: We hiked from Vivinte Flat Campground back down to Hwy 1 where we parked our car across from Kirk Creek Campground.

It is dismaying to see so many posts that glorify camping at the summit of Cone Peak. Such behavior is completely inappropriate. Over use and under management of the public lands of the Big Sur backcountry is resulting in tremendous resource damage cause by uninformed visitors. The only appropriate places to camp in the Ventana Wilderness are at ESTABLISHED CAMPS where human impacts have been long-established. The dramatic increase in summit camping and the proliferation of new campsites throughout the Ventana, fueled by social media such as this site, is resulting in the dramatic degradation of this protected Wilderness and many others across the west. One might think, "I see no impacts. I'm just one visitor. I pack out what I pack in." The reality is that your impacts are akin to "death by a thousand cuts." Once impacts begin, we humans are adept at taking them to the next level ... and the next ... until we eventually bemoan the damage done. Please people, go to Cone Peak. Enjoy it its wildness ... its specialness. But do not camp there and for heavens sake do not ever have a fire there!!!!! Please use nearby established camps such as Vicente Flat, Trail Spring, Goat, and Ojito. These camps usually have water and are already impacted by us. I tis up to us to keep it wild. Realizing that all of us have an impact on fragile wild places is the first step in enjoying the great outdoors responsibly.

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.

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.

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.

Did the trip in two days and camped atop Cone Peak. Beautiful sunset and sunrise included. Only saw a few other hikers, but our trip in late December had no water above Vicente Flat. Be sure to fill up there and remember to LEAVE NO TRACE.

I drove up to the cone peak trailhead, where you will find a freshly cleared (10-28-17) and moderately difficult trail up to the summit. The road up from the main road is something to behold, just wide enough for a standard car and in very good shape as of 10-28-17. Took me 1 hr up and 45 min down from the trailhead. Very cool spot.

We took a group of students here last spring. Everyone was so amazed at the views that they (momentarily) forgot about the steep incline! We did screen participants to make sure that the entire group would be able to handle the physical exertion. The elevation gain is not for the faint of heart.

Cone Peak (& the Big Sur coast in general) have become incredibly popular & as such, Leave No Trace principle are of utmost importance here. On our last visit to Cone Peak, we packed out pounds of trash & abandoned gear. Someone had permanently scarred the summit rocks with a campfire, others had short-cutted switchbacks & vandalized the lookout tower. Orange peels & pistachio shells (which take decades to biodegrade) marred the scenery. When we returned to the trailhead, a group had left a large bag of trash & recycling, as if they expected a clean-up crew to pack it out for them!?! If you go, bring a bag to pack out trash (yours & other's) & spread the word about LNT. If you camp up top, pack in plenty of water & PLEASE skip the campfire, it's just not appropriate here. It's up to us to leave sensitive places like Cone Peak better than we found them & it's up to social media to be more responsible in reporting (or sometimes showing restraint by not reporting) them. For interactive trail conditions for the Kirk Creek, Vicente Flat, Cone Peak & other Ventana Wilderness trails, visit- http://www.ventanawild.org/trails/trailconditions.html Prayers for the land, Leave No Trace!

I decided to make this a day hike and bike. Drove up to top of Nacimiento, then biked the 6 miles on Coastal Ridge Rd (dirt road) to the beginning of the Cone Peak trail and hiked the rest to the top. This made the relatively flat Coastal Ridge Rd much more fun. Also, do bring bug spray and something to cover your upper body and neck with... The bugs are brutal and all around you.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Nearby

Clifftop Camping & Hot Springs in Big Sur

Hike from Kirk Creek Campground to Vicente Flat Trail

Surf Willow Creek

Camping at Limekiln State Park

Hike the 3 Branches of the Limekiln

Goat Camp via Twitchwell Flat Use Trail