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Backpacking Cone Peak Loop / Stone Ridge Trail

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Re: Backpacking Cone Peak Loop / Stone Ridge Trail

Postby geoffvirtue on Tue Feb 15, 2022 9:40 pm

you can give it a shot but if it gets sketchy and you lose the trail for too long i highly recommend back tracking and walking back out. jack marked that section of trail impassable after I made my trail report last year. it was one of the more sketchy sections of washout throughout that area. we walked for about 1/4 mile in the wrong direction down the wash before realizing it wasn't tread and back tracking and then wandering around the ridge until we picked the tread up about 1/4 mile further along the ridge.

I do believe it's impassable for most backpackers and i can't in good conscience recommend that folks attempt, but if you have the accurate gpx track you can probably make it through.

regarding ticks/PO - it's normal ventana, just wear long pants and long sleeves, that section of trail wasn't as ticky as some of the interior gets but just make sure you brush off if you swim through any large brush / deer grass.

stone ridge was OK after goat, there's a few washouts that needed some careful navigation but tread is mostly evident. there's one section near the end coming down into vicente flat where you hit a hill covered in burned oaks with a lot of deadfall. the tread disappears there. look for the area with a bunch of ferns and hug the left of the ferns and you'll see tread.

i'll pm you to get your email and send over the gpx for ya.
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Re: Backpacking Cone Peak Loop / Stone Ridge Trail

Postby jtack7 on Tue Feb 15, 2022 6:52 pm

Hi! I appreciate the response, and I see you also took those pictures I was checking out; really useful (though depressing) comparisons. We were hoping to make this a 2 night trip, so staying out in the wilderness would be key and not just Cone Peak.

In that sense, if you are willing to share, I'd love to see the gpx file! We've done a few treks in Utah deserts without any marked trails, so following a garmin doesn't specifically worry me (even without flags) BUT I would be worried if there were impassable sections; You think there are not? https://bigsurtrailmap.net/trailconditions.html lists a section near Goat Camp 'Impassable'but I don't know how updated that is.

Another thing is how much bushwacking we'd need to do to get around the worst sections, and if that means being covered in ticks and poison oak?

Any idea how the rest of the Stone Ridge Trail and Twitchell Elevator look?

Also, any idea how the route north to Cook Springs looks? Two recent trip reports say the trail south from the NCRT, at least, is clear (https://www.ventanawild.org/forums/vent ... trails/228). I'm tempted to go clockwise on the loop and hit up Cook Springs and/or part of the NCRT, but it's frustrating that seems to be the part of the loop most affected.
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Re: Backpacking Cone Peak Loop / Stone Ridge Trail

Postby geoffvirtue on Mon Feb 14, 2022 10:59 am

hey jtack, i was back there late last year, it's the roughest i've seen the trail in a long time. the camps are still all in great shape, both trail springs and goat are viable with flowing water, though a bit overgrown since so few folks have made it back there post dolan.

i would say that it's really up to your comfort level, an out and back from vicente flat up to the summit is very doable with clear/evident tread if you don't mind a bit of army crawling under some large fallen redwoods. this would be my recommended route if someone is solely interested in bagging cone peak.

once you get to the back side of cone peak coming down into trail springs and on into goat, it gets very rough with a lot of deadfalls and a few sections of the tread that are completely washed out/not evident. i would say it's not for the faint of heart but i'd be happy to send you a gpx file that gets you through the hard to navigate sections we hit last year. there is no flagging back there so if you've never done the trail before i don't know that i would recommend trying to follow the gpx since you might get in trouble due to no flagging out there currently. it's definitely manageable for those that want to give it a shot, though..
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Re: Backpacking Cone Peak Loop / Stone Ridge Trail

Postby jtack7 on Sun Feb 13, 2022 2:41 pm

Hey All. My apologies for resurrecting an old thread, but we never ended up doing this hike because COVID hit and then the world ended.

We are attempting to try again this Spring; late April or early May. I know about the winter storms, the Dolan Fire, and that Cone Peak Road is cut off.

I am planning to park where Twitchell Road hits Route 1 OR right outside Limekiln – Still doable? Or should I factor in the longer hike from Kirk Creek?

I know bringing accurate GPS maps is essential, but should I expect most of the loop route to be difficult to find now? Are there campsites that don’t exist anymore, post fire?

In your honest opinion, is this still a pretty hike to do to experience Big Sur or is it something to wait another year or two for regrowth? I’ve seen the pics from last September (https://www.ventanawild.org/forums/vent ... ssion/1912) and I’m on the fence.

I appreciate any feedback!
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Backpacking Cone Peak Loop / Stone Ridge Trail

Postby jbl on Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:37 am

As Toejam says [PS-Toejam is the perfect description for the feeling you will have going down the Twitchell Elevator!!], the parking for Twitchell Road is just after (if heading north) you've driven through the rock slide tunnel and over the bridge, essentially at or near the spot where the Twitchell Road comes down to Highway 1.

I never have trouble parking at Kirk Creek if I want to hike up from there, but for your intended route you are better off starting at Twitchell Road.

The route up the Stone Ridge to Twin and Cone Peaks is quite steep and unending (from where you cross the Stone Ridge Trail up to Twin Peak is relentless, with about 3,000' of cumulative gain and some spots in excess of 30% grade, and the crossing from Twin to Cone through multiple saddles includes a short section of rocks that I personally would not want to be carrying a backpack through). Every time I've done Sea to Sky I've gladly opted for the longer 10-mile route down via the Cone Peak Trail/Gamboa Trail/Stone Ridge Trail/Twitchell Elevator+Road rather than returning on the shorter 6 mile route back down via the Stone Ridge given the steepness of the Stone Ridge.

Goat Camp is quite large with very reliable water and a beautiful spot. Cook Camp is also quite pleasant and virtually always has water (I would think that water is definitely there now).

Happy Trails.

Good Luck.
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Re: Backpacking Cone Peak Loop / Stone Ridge Trail

Postby toejam on Wed Jan 22, 2020 9:44 pm

Big Sur Kate has the road to Twitchell Flat labeled "Lemon Tree Road 21.25." Maybe I should start paying attention to mile markers. I come from the south and drive past Lime Kiln SP, through the rock slide shelter, across the bridge on the other side, and then park near the road. These days there are always lots of cars parked along the highway at Kirk Creek near the Vicente Flat trailhead.

Someday I'll hike up the Sea-to-Sky route, but I'll come down using the trail, which is what the smart people I know have done.
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Re: Backpacking Cone Peak Loop / Stone Ridge Trail

Postby jtack7 on Wed Jan 22, 2020 9:23 pm

Thank you for both of your followups.

So what I am understanding is that I should be able to easily park and leave the car multiple nights at the bottom of the Twitchell Flat Usetrail (is there a mile marker I should look out for on Rt. 1 for the pullout?). I should do this instead of getting in via Limekiln->Alvin. What I don't know is if I should do this instead of driving up to the Vicente Flat trailhead. I guess I can't make that decision until the week of and I know if Cone Peak Road is open.

Thank you for the info on Trail Springs camp and Middle Fork (I found it now).

I'll aim for Goat camp and I'll try to figure out how to get to Cook Spring and still make it back to Rt 1 on the 3rd day. I'm now looking into the Stone Ridge Firebreak (or the full Sea-to-Sky route) but I see its pretty gnarly on the descent down to Twitchell.

I will take lots of pictures and I will gladly donate. I do understand all the work that has gone on. Only reason I'm even considering doing this!
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Backpacking Cone Peak Loop / Stone Ridge Trail

Postby jbl on Wed Jan 22, 2020 5:12 pm

Following up on toejam's comments:

--Parking at bottom of Twitchell is much more available than it was during the heaviest Pauls Slide construction period (construction continues but more shoulder is available).
--Limekiln parking isn't really available in the park (other than for campers), there is room for a few cars just to the south of the entrance to Limekiln where we park for day hikes
--They've removed the barriers at the bottom of the Alvin Trail which were inexplicably there for about 2+ years after that trail had been built, and the trail itself is in good shape, very well designed and graded (we were on in on 12/21 and it was clear)
--Middle Fork Camp is small and when water is high can be hard to get to and can have some water in it; when we were there 12/21 it would have been hard to get up there, it hasn't rained a ton since then (I don't think) so unless there are recent heavy rains when you go you should be OK.


Also

--Trail Spring Camp is quite tiny with not a lot of flat ground, when we've been there with a trail crew, we have sometimes had to have a few people camp on the Gamboa Trail just above camp.
--The Twitchell Road trail from the top of the Alvin Trail to the end of Twitchell Road (and the beginning of the Twitchell Elevator) remains in pretty good shape (it had gotten very overgrown prior to some State Park trailwork that was done during '18), is starting to grow in a little in places (at the end of '18 it was as clear as I'd seen it in years but during '19 things started encroaching again).

Whatever you do, please submit detailed trail reports, include pictures and locations of any problematic obstacles, and contribute some time and/or money to the VWA; virtually everything that you'll be hiking on would have been impassible without the Cone Peak Project and other related initiatives having been done by the VWA to rebuild and clear the trails!!!
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Re: Backpacking Cone Peak Loop / Stone Ridge Trail

Postby toejam on Wed Jan 22, 2020 5:39 am

Twitchell to Cook Spring is more doable. Cook Spring is off the well-publicized route. A couple weeks ago when I drove by it looked like there's good parking at the bottom of the Twitchell route again after a couple years of road re-construction mess. Ideally you'd park in Lime Kiln State Park and hike up the Alvin Trail, but Lime Kiln is reserved for the next decade or so and they want a lot of money for anything you want to do. I don't know if you can leave cars there overnight. The Alvin Trail inexplicably always has a barrier at the bottom saying it's closed, although it's as good as any trail in the Big Sur area.

Middle Fork Camp is a tiny flat spot near a small waterfall on Lime Kiln Creek. You can see it on the Big Sur Trail Map (bigsurtrailmap.net) is you select the "Big Sur Trailmap" view, vice the "Trail Conditions" view.

If you check the Los Padres National Forest web site under "Alerts & Notices" for Monterey Ranger District, it says "Cone Peak Road is temporarily closed due to wet weather." https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/lpnf/ale ... rdb5347980
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Re: Backpacking Cone Peak Loop / Stone Ridge Trail

Postby jtack7 on Tue Jan 21, 2020 8:49 pm

Hey, any reply is better than no reply. I appreciate you taking the time.

I am hearing you on avoiding the Vicente Flat Trail from Kirk Creek, and avoiding Vicente Flat Camp. In fact, if I take the Twitchell route, maybe we just do an out and back staying on the west side of the loop. I could possibly incorporate Cook Spring that way.

Some hopefully shorter follow-ups:

Where is Middle Fork Camp? I can't find it on any maps.

Do you have any idea when Cone Peak Road is open and closed? That is the biggest decision I'm trying to make currently.
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