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Cone Peak Loop


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There's a hike a couple hours up the coast from me that I've been wanting to do. It's a classic, with Big Sur redwoods & coast views, and a mile-high summit just a few miles inland. The Cone Peak Loop has had more maintenance than most other trails in the area, but it's steep, narrow, overgrown, has a lot of fallen trees, a freaky amount of poison oak, and huge views.

I'd seen a trail called the "Twitchell Elevator" on a map that provides quick access from the coast to the 2000' elevation trails that comprise the Cone Peak Loop. I couldn't find any good information on it, but thought it would be worth checking out - actually, I found it irresistible. So I made my way way there on a Friday morning in the kind of fog and drizzle that makes coastal redwoods grow, pulled off Hwy 1, and headed up an un-signed, overgrown road.



At the top of the first ridge I was distracted by a pretty woman from Montana and mistakenly took a trail not on any maps into Lime Kiln State Park. This trail was new to me so I took the chance to explore and soon was back on the severely overgrown roadbed, hiked through a redwood grove, and emerged on a steep mountainside meadow. I figured this was the Twitchell Elevator but couldn't see much in the fog except a well-used path through the long wet grass headed straight up the ridge. I choked way up on my poles and thought about how great the view must be on a clear day.


I climbed to an unmarked intersection of 5 trails in the middle of a meadow and poked around in the fog until I figured out that, besides the elevator trail I’d climbed, one went to a knob that must have a good view, two were the Stone Ridge Trail heading to Vicente Flat on the right and Goat Camp on the left, and the other headed straight up the ridge to 5148’ Cone Peak. I have to climb that ridge trail some day, but at the time I was getting very wet and cold and needed to get to Goat Camp and put up a tent. A few miles of soggy trail lined with poison oak later, I crawled in the tent and snoozed until the sun came out in the late afternoon. The view was as advertised. I hung around camp in long johns letting my clothes dry, and coaxed a fire from the wet wood after dinner. This was a great camp to have to myself. I heard there were more people than the site allowed the following night.

The next morning I climbed through a pine forest to Cone Peak and sat alone with the views on top for and hour.






I hiked down the mountain through flowering bushes covered with bees. It was a warm, clear day. The only people I'd seen that morning were slackers still in bed when I hiked through Trail Spring at 9:30 (one of their dogs barked at me and woke them up), but I saw more and more people as the day went on. At Vicente Flat Camp there were barking dogs, screaming kids, and about a dozen tents. From the top I'd seen a nice meadow near Vicente. It was undiscovered by the hoard and a great place to get away from them. It also had a much better view than the overcrowded camp in the bottom of the canyon. I could faintly hear loud partying late into the night and barking dogs at first light from the camp and was glad I wasn't there.


In the morning I was eager to see the Twitchell Elevator. It didn't seem quite so steep without the fog, but the view was terrific. 


Looking down the Twitchell Elevator:DSCF3039.JPG



This was a great hike but got crowded on a spring weekend. There aren't that many flat places to camp, so the mapped campsites get full. Photo album - https://goo.gl/photos/5UUBsmXtsbs7nhmBA

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looks like your rainy, drizzly hike up turned into a nice day following!

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10 hours ago, John B said:

looks like your rainy, drizzly hike up turned into a nice day following!

The forecast was for 60% chance of rain clearing late afternoon. We don't get that much rain in California so it didn't scare me off. It turned sunny & beautiful late afternoon the first day and stayed that way the rest of the weekend. Late spring - early summer that area gets a fog bank about 1500' thick that stays on the coast most of the time. 

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