Backpacking Cone Peak via Vicente Flat, Ventana Wilderness
Fun fact: I’ve never really hiked in Big Sur until this holiday break. I got the chance to tackle Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Cone Peak! Not all in one day though.
Peakbagging in the Santa Lucia Mountains is something that has been on my to do list for a while, but I’ve been putting it off with trips to bag peaks in the Sierra Nevadas instead. With a few days off before 2014, what better way to ring in the new year than traversing across mountains?
My pick was Cone Peak, the tallest coastal mountain in the lower 48 states. I originally planned to start this hike at Limekiln State Park and taking the Stone Ridge Trail to Vicente Flat, but couldn’t park my car at Limekiln. Ended up starting at Kirk Creek, which knocked a few miles off the adventure.
It has been unusually dry this winter, so I was a little worried about water sources along the trail. However, the creeks flowed above Espinosa Camp (2.6 miles in) and above Vicente Flat (5 miles in). The hike in to Vicente Flat starts with switchbacks ascending above a breathtaking view of the coastline. It then descends into second growth redwoods where the campsites are located.
From there, I took Vicente Flat up to Coast Ridge Road. The majority of this section of Vicente Flat follows a gorgeous creek, and then makes way for spectacular views of Cone Peak. Coast Ridge Road is currently open for motorized vehicles. Cone Peak was a little busier than usual, since hikers knock miles off via Nacamiento-Fergusson Road. Cone Peak was amazing with views of the coastline and Ventana Wilderness.
I then retraced steps back to Vicente Flat for another night, then back to the trailhead.
The backpacking trip up to Cone Peak and back was about 22 miles long with 6500 feet in elevation gain. It’s not for the faint of heart, but camping at Vicente Flat for two nights breaks the trip up nicely.