360° Panorama at Cone Peak summit - drag to pan (larger image)
Note: map is interactive, lines & icons clickable for more info - profile displays climb within map bounds. Full-screen map
Disambiguation: Cone Peak via Backpack or Dayhike ?
This webpage describes a "Sea to Summit"backpack along established trails, overnighting in redwoods at Vicente Flat Camp and then summiting Cone Peak.
I've seen some articles calling this a "Sea to Sky" route,
but do not confuse this route with what locals call the "Sea to Sky" route,
a dayhike along unofficial use trails, ascending much more directly and steeply from the coast -
if looking for the latter, see my Sea-to-Sky webpage.
Cone Peak in Big Sur's Ventana Wilderness
rises to 5154 ft only 3¼ miles from the ocean - an average gradient of over
30% and reportedly the steepest from ocean to a mountain summit along the west coast.
The interactive map on right displays my interactive
Big Sur Trailmap with
the nominal Sea-to-Summit route overlaid as a magenta line,
including the "Cone Peak Loop" (aka "Stone Ridge Loop") hike which provides a
more varied experience of he Cone Peak environs.
This backpack is usually done in 3 days, spending both overnights at Vicente Flat Camp with
a summiting dayhike in between.
The hike's main attractions are its spectacular and varying scenic beauty and natural surroundings.
Though the hike is very strenuous, your efforts will
Vicente Flat is a wonderful redwood grove, with
perennial water at its upper (northeast) end.
And the views along the entire route are outstanding,
culminating in the 360° view from Cone Peak summit.
For the climb to Cone Peak, you have the alternative of doing an out-and-back
hike to the peak using the Vicente Flat and Cone Peak Trails (and Cone Peak Road)
(see "Excursion to Cone Peak" link below)
OR doing a loop hike which includes the Stone Ridge and Gamboa Trails (see "Cone Peak Loop" link below).
I recommend the latter for its varying experience of the unique Cone Peak environment (part of which has been
designated an official USFS Research Area to afford special protection).
Besides the loop's varying views, you then can enjoy Sugar Pines (longest pine cones in world), Coulter Pines (heaviest pine cones in world), and the endemic Santa Lucia Fir
as you hike - see photos on the Stone Ridge Loop "Photomap" below. BUT conditions along Stone Ridge and Gamboa Trails tend to be more difficult than along Cone Peak Trail,
so checking the interactive Trail Conditions Map is strongly advised before attempting the Cone Peak Loop.
A bit of local knowledge can make your hike more
enjoyable. Here are
• On the way to Vicente Flat, stop to enjoy the views from the "corner" where Kirk Creek Trail turns inland after paralleling the coast -
the simultaneous view of Cone Peak, Hare Creek Canyon, and up-and-down the coast is unmatched in Big Sur.
• Perennial water is available at a side stream crossing the trail just above the upper (northern) end of Vicente Flat Camp.
• If hiking directly from Vicente Flat to Cone Peak via the Vicente Flat Trail, note that water is
not available above Vicente Flat.
• If hiking the Cone Peak Loop, stop at the ridgetop points to enjoy the view at each, perhaps hiking a bit off-trail (sans pack) for a better view (e.g. camera icon on interactive map) - and enjoying the view
at Ojito Saddle at the North end of the Stone Ridge Trail is also a good excuse to stop and rest
after the steep climb up from Goat Camp .
Perennial water is available at several locations along Stone Ridge Trail and at Trail Spring Camp, but not on Cone Peak or Vicente Flat Trails.
• As on most Big Sur trails, you will need to do the "poison oak wiggle" along the trails.
(Note: a dog will bring back PO and ticks to you.)
• Summer is the least desirable season for this hike, due to heat and flies - if you do go then, be sure to bring a bug net.
• Remember these trails are wilderness trails, not park-like trails, and maintained by volunteer trail crews.
So conditions along the route are changable - current trail conditions should be checked on the interactive Trail Conditions Map or using the route-specific links below.
Due to the attractiveness of this route, Vicente Flat Campground is often heavily populated on weekends or holidays.
If you wish more privacy, note that the campground area extends 0.2 miles along Hare Creek (campers tend to congregate around the first encountered campsites) and
that nearby Vicente Meadow Usecamp is an attractive alternative (with a view of Cone Peak - but no redwoods or water).
In any case,
do your part to make this an enjoyable experience for everyone by not leaving an unsightly campsite with litter or toilet paper.