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Black Cone Trail

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby nrventri on Wed Sep 16, 2015 12:52 pm

Date Hiked: September 13, 2015
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Terrible trail. We hiked from Redwood to Black Cone Camp, and this was very time consuming and overgrown. If you need to do this route, wear pants, and expect to hike < 1 mph. Completely overgrown.

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Betsy M on Tue Aug 04, 2015 8:23 pm

Date Hiked: July 5, 2015
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked the loop from China Camp to Pine Ridge, down the Black Cone Trail to Strawberry, then the Marble Peak Trail to the Tony Trail, and over to Tassajara. The Fourth of July weekend was warm but there was a steady breeze up on the ridges making things pleasant. There was water at Pine Ridge Camp, and water a quarter mile up from Strawberry Camp (barely). But there was no water anywhere else on the entire trail. If you get to Strawberry and can't find the water, there is a reliable source at the other end of Strawberry Valley, at Tan Oak Camp.

The Black Cone Trail is brushy from the start of the trail at Pine Ridge for about 5 miles. Then the last 3 miles are a wilderness freeway. You can't miss the turn on Pine Ridge; the junction has been cleared out and a sign marks the intersection. There are lots of places where brush is growing into the trail, but only one spot where you could really lose the trail. That is on the ridge approaching Venturi Camp, where the trail meanders over to the left side of the ridge. Hikers have meandered off to the right, often enough that it looks like the trail goes that way. If you find yourself lost, backtrack and look for obscure holes in the brush that might be the trail.

In March and April the VWA, with support from the National Forest Foundation and the US Forest Service, ran two work trips. American Conservation Experience (ACE) provided workers and cleared 1.5 miles from the Strawberry end of the trail. Added to the work accomplished last year, this is 3.2 miles clear. Since these sections were the absolute worst on the entire trail, it was a huge accomplishment to have them cleared. A big thank you goes to the Forest Service packers for bringing ACE in to Strawberry Camp, and an extra big than you to ACE for the huge effort to clear all the way to "Turnaround Ridge."
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Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby charlie on Mon Mar 23, 2015 9:14 pm

Date Hiked: March 16, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Took this trail instead of the south fork trail from Strawberry Camp to Pine Ridge. The first mile or so of the trail is very clear. After that, I was bushwacking for the next 8 miles. Ripped my shirt and popped my sleeping pad. It was quite an experience! I was probably on my hands and knees a little less than 10 times to get under fallen trees. I was solo, but if you intend on going with a group...I definitely recommend switching off as the leader (aka bulldozer). I lost the trail briefly twice...once at the top of a ridge where the brush was very sparse and there appeared to be many possible dirt trails...and once at the intersection of pine ridge and black cone (there was a brush fire so a lot of trees were fallen over and brush burned). Overall, it is very difficult, but passable under tough circumstances. After all, I would rather be bushwacking through dense high elevation brush than taking south fork crawling through poison oak!

This review is for Betsy. Thanks for all that you and your team do in maintaining the trails!

PS. I was using the national geographic map...and it wasn't very helpful.

Hope this helps!


[Editor: Thank you Charlie for the report! Good to know you made it through. Hope the Pine Ridge Trail was better. Considering the recent reports for the South Fork and Big Sur Trails, this was probably a good choice. Really appreciate the description. Hope to work on this trail soon. - Betsy]

Pine ridge to Black Cone Trail

Postby mgillming on Mon Jan 19, 2015 4:16 pm

Date Hiked: January 12, 2015
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

We intended to take the pine ridge trail all the way to the hot springs from the east side. We ended up getting onto the black cone trail because everything was so overgrown. There was no water sources past the stream by dived camp. I would not recommend taking this trail at all.

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Betsy M on Fri May 02, 2014 9:54 pm

Date Hiked: April 27, 2014
General Condition: Wilderness Freeway (Heavily used and/or well maintained)

SECTION: STRAWBERRY CAMP TO BLACK CONE CAMP: The section of the trail from Strawberry to the North Fork of the Big Sur River is beautifully clear. The section continuing to the Black Cone Camp trail has brushy sections but is mostly clear.

There was no water at the Woodwardia ferns above the Black Cone Camp Trail, and no water in the seep above the trail just south of the Black Cone Trail. Since these places usually have water when other sources are dry, I suspect that the entire upper section of the trail is again dry. In fact, Zig Zag Creek at Strawberry Camp is drying up already. You can still get water at the Camp, but just downstream the water has dried up. I flagged the spot up the trail, where there is still a good flow after the water completely dries up at Strawberry. This is just below the swithchback, where the trail turns to countour around the face of the hillside. UPDATE: a hiker CONFIRMS NO WATER ON THE ENTIRE BLACK CONE TRAIL, until just above Strawberry Camp. Once Strawberry Camp itself dries up, the water is way up by the switchback, or you need to go down to Tan Oak Camp.
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Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby robert_barringer on Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:24 am

Date Hiked: October 27, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Myself and 3 other adventurous hikers set out to hike the Black Cone Trail this past Sunday (October 27th) from Pine Ridge down to Strawberry Camp. I have always wanted to experience the Black Cone Trail not only for it's awesome views of the Big Sur Wild & Scenic River corridor BUT also for the profound enjoyment of being in perhaps the most desolate place of anywhere in the Ventana. Without a doubt the Black Cone Trail is in itself a quintessential wilderness experience -- not for the faint of heart as there are numerous challenges to face along the route.

Section: From Pine Ride Trail Junction to Venturi Camp
Rating: Passable - Mostly good tread, with some brush encroachment

The upper portion of the Black Cone Trail starting at Pine Ridge is quite delightful in all respects. You start out high and gradually descend along a ridge that separates the Big Sur and Tassajara watersheds, all the while meandering back & forth from one side of the ridge to the other with stunning views in all directions. The trail condition along this stretch is fairly decent -- good tread and only minimal brush to deal with. There is mostly low-lying manzanita here which encroaches the trail in some spots, but nothing too annoying as it tends to pull apart your boot laces here & there.

Morning view from the Black Cone Trail looking down into Cienega Creek.

Looking over the Big Sur Wild & Scenic River corridor and across to the North Coast Ridge.

From the Black Cone Trail looking east into the Tassajara Creek drainage with Black Butte on the far ridge in the distance

Section: From Venturi Camp to Strawberry Camp
Rating: Extremely Difficult - Completely overgrown / Tread varies from well defined to severely eroded/deteriorated

Once past Venturi Camp the trail becomes extremely difficult -- The entire route through to Strawberry Camp (nearly 5 miles) is a gauntlet of severe brush, most of it being over the top of your head, and in some stretches this combines with sloping/deteriorated tread to make for a long & exhausting "brush-bust" experience, particularly more so if you're carrying a heavy pack.

The brush in this section is very dense -- mostly ceanothus, scrub oak, and manzanita. Highly recommend long pants, long-sleeved, gloves, and eye protection for this stretch. If carrying a heavy pack be extra cautious as the brush tends to push you off the trail in most spots. You can "crash" through the brush with steady determination BUT your body will take a beating.

View looking back towards the Big Sur Wild & Scenic River corridor from near the base of Black Cone. Also in view is the Ventana Double Cone, The Window ("La Ventana"), and Kandlbinder Peak

View from the saddle above Strawberry looking into the headwaters of the North Fork Big Sur River. Note in the distance the prominent view line of Ventana Double Cone, The Window ("La Ventana"), Kandlbinder Peak, and Pico Blanco

Water Availability: I MUST EMPHASIZE that as of this writing (late October 2013) there is NO WATER to be found anywhere along the Black Cone Trail between Pine Ridge and Strawberry. If you're coming down from Pine Ridge be sure you pack all your water before heading down the Black Cone Trail (as our group did). And we were thankful too as there is NO water currently flowing at Strawberry Camp itself. There is a spring source about 1/4 mile up from Strawberry however it only a trickle at this point. Perhaps the start of the rainy season will alleviate this condition but for now be sure you plan ahead and don't count on there being any water anywhere along the Black Cone Trail until after we get a few soaking rains and the ground saturates.
[Editor: the flow of water "up from Strawberry" is along the Black Cone Trail, as it follows Zig Zag Creek. This is adequate to fill water bottles. Other sources on the trail are dry.]
Last edited by Betsy M on Tue Oct 29, 2013 1:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby RSIBryce on Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:59 pm

Date Hiked: April 11, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Section: From the Pine Ridge Junction to Strawberry Valley and the South Fork Trail

Black Cone starts off very manageable and pleasant as it meanders along low lying higher elevation chaparral with outstanding views over the Big Sur Wild & Scenic River corridor. (We found the spur trail to Mosquito Springs just after the South Ventana Cone and went down to take a look. Pretty badly burned out and the trail disappears, the camp is there but not much of a destination camping wise. No water was found in the creek.) The closer you get to White Cone Peak (4721) along the trail, the ceanothus chaparral begins to appear and in higher brushier quantity that makes for rather difficult hiking, i.e. brush-crashing. We happened upon a rare encounter with the California Mountain Kingsnake and paid our respects with gaping mouths. It was a big one and the first I've seen, what a treat. Just after the Kingsnake we saw a bannana slug. What it was doing in such high 'n dry territory was hard to say, but gave us some inspiration to keep going.

In a few years and with no attention, this trail may very likely become impassable. We failed to find water near Venturi Camp (just off the trail bout halfway) and made for some dry thirsty hiking towards Strawberry. We made it down to Black Cone camp, a spur trail that leads down southwest off Black Cone, also brushy and deadfall to duck under. The camp was in decent shape, though crowded on all sides with brush. I imagine at one time there was a view out to the river valley below. Water was very difficult to get to from the camp, my trail partner Sam was able to sniff some out after a lengthy exploration through the blackberry bramble of the obvious stream zone, only for a small trickle however. The ticks began to make their appearance and in rather annoying numbers, hard to hike very far without stopping to brush them off. Trail remains quite brushy, thick and tick infested all the way into Strawberry Valley. Through such gorgeous country, we here still happy to be out and about despite the challenges. A good stream flow was a sigh of relief and we camped at Strawberry for the night.
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Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby bigsurnut on Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:17 pm

Date Hiked: March 21, 2013
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

So, I took this trail starting from Strawberry camp. Overall, the trail is clearly defined and easy to follow. However, there is a lot of brush! The first 3.5 to 4 miles are intense - brush is scraping you quite a bit. Then there are sections of the trail that are quite clear (a godsend!), followed by sections that, again, are quite scratchy. Then there are parts of the trail (much of it, actually) that are a bit sloped, so just be prepared for that. I didn't encounter any water on the trail, so be sure and bring plenty with you. I had 2 liters with me and that was barely enough, certainly not ideal. But, it is, of course, a trail that provides gorgeous views. Will always be one of my favorites.

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby cdwahl on Wed Mar 27, 2013 8:21 am

Date Hiked: February 16, 2013
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked the Black Cone Trail from north to south during a loop that I started at the Church Creek Trailhead.

I decided to hike up South Ventana Cone before starting on the Black Cone Trail that morning. I ended up approaching from the north, off the Pine Ridge Trail, descending the southern ridge and meeting up with the Black Cone Trail near the Mosquito Springs Trail junction. Neither of these routes were clear, but I would suggest the southern one:)

The first mile or two of the Black Cone Trail was in fair shape and so was the last mile or two. These sections were pleasant compared to the middle section that had patches of thick overgrown brush which took a large portion of the day to get through. It was easy to follow the trail, but just hard to get through the brush with a pack. The views were amazing and completely worth the struggle!

I found an ax on this trail, identify it and I will try to return it to you.
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Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Rob on Sun Nov 25, 2012 6:52 pm

Date Hiked: November 24, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked this trail yesterday from north to south, and it looks like trail conditions haven't changed much since the last report. I didn't see water flowing anywhere along the trail, though that may soon change with the arrival of winter rains. Enjoyed the incredible views. The northern half is a must for any Ventana enthusiast.

There were definitely sections on the southern half where I had to plow through brush, but also a few sections that appeared to have had recent (?) treadwork and brush-clearing. I think it's gotten better since the last time I hiked it. Long pants/sleeves mandatory. There were a few small blowdowns on the southern half as well.
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