Ventana Hiking Route
Cone Peak via Vicente Flat
the "Sea-to-Summit" Backpack Route

© j.glendening
360° Panorama at Cone Peak summit - drag to pan   (larger image)

3D View

Note:  map is interactive, lines & icons clickable for more info
Disambiguation:  Cone Peak via Backpack or Dayhike ?   This webpage describes a "Sea to Summit" backpack along established trails, overnighting 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. Or for a much easier dayhike summiting Cone Peak, take the Cone Peak Trail from Cone Peak Road (road closed during rainy season)

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 "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 be rewarded;  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 "Stone Ridge Loop" link below).  I highly 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. 

A bit of local knowledge can make your hike more enjoyable.  Here are some thoughts:
•  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 Stone Ridge 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, maintained by volunteer trail crews.  As of July 2019 trail conditions are "clear" along the entire route - but conditions will change, so current trail conditions should be checked using the links provided below. 

Please Note:  Due to the attractiveness of this route (and the current closure of the Pine Ridge Trail), 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.  (In other words, don't be a jerk.)

      Vicente Flat Route  RoundTrip=10mi  
       Excursion to Cone Peak:  +RoundTrip=12mi  
       Stone Ridge Loop:  +RoundTrip=15mi  

     Download route GPX file

Related links:
     Big-Sur-specific hiking basics
     Backpacking suggestions
     Wilderness places to visit
     Trail Conditions Map

Jack Glendening (credit:p.danielson) Jack Glendening
July 2019
Copyright:  This page and photos are copyrighted by John W. (Jack) Glendening.  Public use permitted under the CC BY-NC-4 license.