Ventana Wilderness Forums • View topic - Black Cone Trail

Black Cone Trail

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Jim Ringland on Sun May 06, 2012 8:02 pm

Date Hiked: May 3, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

I hiked this downhill, from the Pine Ridge Trail to Strawberry Valley. My experience pretty matches that of recent posters.

The trail is clear-to-passable until about White Cone Spring. Along that stretch, there are no route finding problems and only minor brush and trail slumpage issues. The Mosquito Spring junction is marked by a burnt post and there's an obvious trail, but I didn't check it out. Farther along, Venturi Camp is right on the trail, is obvious, but is otherwise one of those not-terribly-exciting utilitarian openings in brush. White Cone Spring, about a half mile beyond Venturi Camp, was just seeping. Actually, there were three wet spots in the area. The first had the most flow, but even here, getting water would have been a slow task.

About a quarter to a half mile beyond White Cone Spring, I hit my first real encounter with dense warty Ceanothus. From here until about 2/3 mile short of Strawberry Valley, there were on-and-off sections of some very serious plowing through the shrubbery. There was tread at foot level, albeit with some slumping in places, but it took some real pushing to get through. Woodwardia Spring was dry, but there was a seep about 300' beyond the Black Cone Camp Trail junction – an obvious trail marked with a flag – that could supply water to the very patient.

I chose to go onto Strawberry Valley. Lovely camp next to a meadow under three huge live oaks. Plenty of water in Zigzag Creek.
User avatar
Jim Ringland
Posts: 124
Joined: Sat May 07, 2011 12:02 pm
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Chad H on Tue Feb 21, 2012 8:56 pm

Date Hiked: February 19, 2012
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

From Pine Ridge Trail down to Strawberry Camp. (Thanks to Betsy's trail reports advising the downhill direction). The top section of the trail is quite nice to "Lunch Rock". Past that brush starts encroaching, starting with knee-slappers then getting progressively worse. The slopes with more sun exposure had more brush encroaching. The brush got thicker as the elevation dropped. Venturi Camp was clear and includes a metal stool. There were isolated sections of clearing that were a relief. Around Black Cone the trail seemed its worst with overhead brush to push through. The trail was easy to follow (I dont know if it would be possible to NOT follow the trail), but difficult to make progress.
Chad H

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Betsy M on Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:28 pm

Date Hiked: December 31, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

This report is for the southern-most mile of the trail, starting from Strawberry Valley and heading north towards Black Cone Camp. This mile is quite easy to follow, even though it is brushy in some spots. The trail follows a creek from Strawberry Camp, turning to follow a dozer cut as it switchbacks up a south-facing slope. As noted by a previous poster, all of the large deadfall has been removed, making this section much nicer for hikers. At the end of the dozer cut, the trail turns and goes straight up the nose of a ridge for about 50 feet, then turns again and continues contouring. From that point on it is a trail, not a dozer cut. After recent work on isolated sections, any other switchbacks or turns in this trail are now quite evident. North of the dozer trail, there is about a mile between the end of the dozer cut and Black Cone Camp that is quite brushy. You should not get lost, but this is not a fun section to hike.

Note: with the very dry winter we have had so far, it is likely that there are NO WATER sources along the entire 8.6 miles of this trail. Please take this into account when you make your plans. Also, many hikers have found that it is easier to push through brush in a downhill direction, rather than try and fight your way uphill through the brush. This means you would want to hike from the Pine Ridge end of the Black Cone Trail to the Strawberry Valley end.
User avatar
Betsy M
Posts: 404
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:35 pm

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby js_radford on Fri Sep 09, 2011 2:31 pm

Date Hiked: July 11, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Per the last posting, let it be clear that Ventana Wilderness Alliance trail reports are the ONLY up-to-date info, unless one has some personal contact with a recent user. There is a persistent problem, that maybe cannot be addressed except online, with people having paper or other mapping without current info getting into trouble on any number of Ventana trails. I've met people on most every trip to the BCT who were more or less seriously set back for lack of valid info on trail conditions. The simple fact is that S. Fork trail is nearly impassible for a few miles past Strawberry Camp and that Marble Peak Trail is similarly difficult past Strawberry turn-off and is not even indicated on site by any signage at all.

Unless and until Ventana Trails Forever gets a grip on trail maintenance, the problem will persist for any number of sections leading to many a disoriented and discouraged newcomer.
Posts: 62
Joined: Wed Oct 22, 2008 8:19 am

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby none on Sat Aug 06, 2011 10:25 pm

Date Hiked: August 3, 2011
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Hi all,

My gf and I walked up Pine Ridge to the junction with Black Cone in the hopes of connecting with Marble Peak and back to Pine Ridge via the South Fork Trail.
Not sure if we missed something, but we ended at an impassable section just past an isolated re-worked/maintained section. Random question but why would someone work on an isolated section?

We're not sure whether we should have been able to pass to Black Cone Camp or Strawberry Camp, or whether we'd even missed them because of the density of the overgrowth on the trail (apparently abundant growth of . We had to backtrack to Venturi, stopping at one of the springs on the trail in order to replenish water supplies. Very frustrating given our high hopes and lack of water and sunlight. Our goal was to get to South Fork Camp or otherwise Rainbow Camp on the South Fork Trail - this plan was hatched at Sykes without the aid of the trail reviews on this site.

There was one cutoff to the right that had no obvious signage, so I wasn't sure whether we should have taken that route. It headed downhill into one of the two watersheds, but I'm not sure which one because we were tired and hungry. Maybe that was Black Cone Camp? I'm looking at "Hiking and Backpacking Big Sur" at a p.216 topo map now - the impassable point was likely at an eastward cutback just above the North Fork.

Other reviews about sideslope waling are on point, excepting the re-worked section. Hard on the uphill ankle. Moreover, the brush is so thick in some sections that is hard to know where to place one's feet for fear of not knowing where to place your face.

If any single person could give some feedback that'd be wonderful. I wouldn't want to forego another trip with such an ambitious plan. The views from up top were wonderful, but without the loop option it makes for backtracking.

Hope this helps, and hope that someone can chime in.

Berend and Lisa from San Diego

Editors Note: The best map information is here:
South Fork is also considered impassable: viewtopic.php?f=36&t=271

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby js_radford on Mon Jul 18, 2011 11:29 am

Date Hiked: July 10, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Betsy will post a full report soon, I expect. I just wanted to add a week-later update to hers saying that all deadfalls that I know of between Black Cone Camp and Strawberry Camp are cut away. Near as I recall, there are no deadfalls of any significance from PRT junction to Strawberry Valley.

I cleared the first 0.6 miles of trail up from Strawberry. It is quite clear and fun to walk, at least in this year of good water with fine weather and a fresh, cold seasonal stream next to about half of it. I cleared all deadfalls past that to BCC as well, along with associated brush near these deadfalls and in other areas.

There is still maybe a mile (off and on) of thick to bad brush between where I quit and where the recent VWA crew (ending July 4) cleared some beautiful sections. But even when one cannot see the way, the tread is underfoot and fairly readily felt even at worst. It's sticky Wart-leaf-brushy, though, in this warm weather.
Last edited by Betsy M on Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Posts: 62
Joined: Wed Oct 22, 2008 8:19 am

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Betsy M on Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:59 pm

Date Hiked: May 30, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

As noted in the previous post, the upper sections of the Black Cone Trail are in good shape, with some minor sections of encroaching brush. It is not difficult to push through this brush in the first 3 miles. Past White Cone spring, just before the 4-mile point, the brush starts to get more serious. This is the realm of the warty-leaf ceanothus. You will find that your clothes become coated with a sticky resin from the ceanothus leaves. It wasn't so bad in May, but as the weather gets warmer, the stickiness gets worse. Because of the brush, the best direction to hike this trail is downhill, north to south. Hiking up from Strawberry would really be a grind.

This year has been wet enough that there is still lots of water on this trail. Many years, there is no water at all, and hikers may be very disappointed to hike the entire 8.6 miles without encountering water, beyond a small seep near Black Cone Camp. We hiked a quarter-mile down from Mosquito Saddle and found water before Mosquito Springs Camp. In fact, the trail peters out after making a switchback, and we ended up hiking straight down to the stream to get water. There is a pine snag very close to the stream, and a large fallen pine across the stream, which we walked along to get down there. Mosquito Springs Camp itself is not currently located, and the logical place to camp is right next to the main trail, where there are a couple of spots large enough to accommodate a tent.

White Cone spring is flowing well. The southernmost of the two water sources has the best flow, and the easiest access to the water, which is pouring down a vertical face.

There was water a half-mile past White Cone spring at "gneiss wash" although there were odd-looking wood chips all over the rocky area where the water flows over the gneiss outcrop. It looked like a miniature beaver had been chewing up a log up above.

There was also plenty of water in the North Fork headwaters, as well as in a spring just past Black Cone Camp. Most likely there is water in Black Cone Camp itself, though we did not go down to check.

There are awesome views, looking back towards the "ventana."
And at Strawberry Camp, a signpost marks the start of the Black Cone Trail, with the sign lying on the ground next to the post.
User avatar
Betsy M
Posts: 404
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:35 pm

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby jscholz on Thu Jun 02, 2011 5:56 pm

Date Hiked: May 29, 2011
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The black cone trail ranged mostly between passable and clear from where we apparently started on it in the burned out area on what we now believe was the PIne Ridge Trail going through what we assume was formerly bear basin campground to where we came across the trail crew near Venturi Camp led by Betsy.

On the Black Cone Trail, a small portion of the growth was taller than me (6'2") rendering those sections possibly Difficult, but most growth on the trail my wife and I just walked through, and it was ankle or knee or waist deep. No matter the depth of the growth we could find the trail so it was certainly passable and not what I would rate as difficult or impassable as we just plowed through it like swimming through reeds. Except for some of the very tall stuff, the growth just gave way or was crushed as we hiked/plowed/pushed through it along the trail.

I also isagree with the last review that the entire trail is on a slide slope. There was certainly a good portion of it that had the wall to one side and drop off to the other and was narrow, but there are portions that go along flat areas and areas which are wide enough to be flat even if they were on the side of the ridge.

In comparison, I found the 6 miles we covered on the Carmel River trail was Difficult due to the Brushy Overgrowth and steepness of the trail. We hiked from Pine Valley to just before Hiding Camp and back to Pine Valley the day before we covered the Bear Basin/Pine RIdge/Divide/Black Cone plus a lot more.

Despite the growth and steepness, I found the dirt ground overall in Ventana Wildnerness to be much easier to hike on for miles at a time than say in the Eastern Sierras or the Angeles National Forest, where the trails are much rockier, looser and slippery.

I thought the trail crew we found all has done a nice job of turning and shoring up the dirt to widen the path and clearing out sections of the trail.

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby bjmcdani on Thu May 19, 2011 3:02 pm

Date Hiked: May 14, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

As the last commmentor noted the first 1/2 to 2/3 or the trail is in decent condition with encroaching brush around waist level. The last third or the trail is nearly impassable with encroaching brush and down trees. The encroaching brush covers the entire trail in sections and is above head level, and I am 6'4". The entire trail is on a side slope which increases the difficulty of hiking. There hasn't been any trail maintenance in what looks like a few years. If possible I would suggest using an alternate route.

Re: Black Cone Trail

Postby Rob on Sun Feb 13, 2011 5:28 pm

Date Hiked: February 12, 2011
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

As per the reports below, the trail is in great shape initially. I continued on to the southern end and was pleasantly surprised by conditions on the first 2/3rds or so. The area around White Cone (peak 4719') looked like a lot of work had been done, both on tread and brush. I would rate this section Clear to Passable. There were sections of brush, but nothing sustained. The views were magnificent.

As the trail descended the west slopes of Black Cone, I encountered more and more brush. There were some large downed trees as I descended towards Strawberry. I did some sawing on some of the smaller stuff, but much remains to be done. This last part I would call difficult because of all the brush and branches to push through. It was an adventure :twisted:

I also found two items of gear in the brush on this last section. Email me with a description and I will do my best to get them back to you.
Posts: 106
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:21 pm
Location: SJC


Return to Ventana Wilderness Trails

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest