Climb Cone Peak in Big Sur (Sea to Sky Route)
San Francisco › Kirk Creek Campground
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.
Cone Peak is in the Los Padres National Forest, so do check their website for restrictions and regulations.
- Rain Protection if it's not the summer
- Sunscreen all seasons
- Camping gear
- Good foot gear
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
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
Backpacking, Camping, Hiking
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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.
The Entire Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest is Closed
On July 22, 2016 a wildfire was ignited by an abandoned and illegal campfire at Garrapata State Park in Big Sur. As of this date (September 7, 2016), the Soberanes Fire has burned over 100,000 acres while destroying 57 homes and causing the death of a dozer operator fighting the fire. As a result of this fire, the US Forest Service has issued a Closure Order for the entire Monterey Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest. This is necessary for the safety of the public and the agencies battling the blaze. Cone Peak falls within this closure area as does nearly 300,000 acres of the MRD in all directions. Please consider the following if you are considering a backpack to Cone Peak once the Forest is re-opened to the public: 1) This fire will burn until it rains enough to extinguish it. Even then, the Forest will remain closed until the USFS determines it is safe to re-enter. This many not happen for quite some time. maybe not until 2018. Know before you go. Call the Monterey Ranger District at 831-385-5434 before planning a trip to determine if the Forest is open and for the latest campfire and stove restrictions. 2) Yes, Big Sur is a beautiful place. And these are amazing public lands. But overuse and excessive visitation are damaging the natural resources in this fragile region more than ever. We all need to practice the Leave No Trace principles, not just pay them lip service. Keep your group small, pack out all trash including toilet paper and personal hygiene products. Please don't have a campfire. And please camp in established campgrounds. The photo above of the encampment with a campfire and the word "Wild" written in light was not taken at an established camp. The proliferation of use camps like this make a place less wild. We need to understand these things if we are to preserve these wild places for future generations. It is up to all of us.
Tread lightly- Cone Peak is being loved to death.
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!
Combine with Mountain Biking
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.
Plan ahead and always go early
After driving 45 minutes through paved back roads through the hills, you'll find coast ridge road. The road is all dirt so AWD and high clearance is recommended. However, coast ridge road was closed the day we went so what intended to be a 4 mile round trip hike turned into a 12 mile hike. We never actually made it because the sun was setting and we had to turn back. Would definitely return though!
7.5 Mile Up and Back
Coast Ridge Road was closed so we hiked that too, 5mi, before the 2.5mi climb to the peak. Totally worth it spectacular views the whole way up, and there was some snow left for us at the top!
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