Hey guys! Welcome to my article on hiking Cone Peak in Big Sur, California. My name is Sertan Usanmaz and I was born in Istanbul, Turkey. I moved to California with my parents and brothers (quadruplets) when I was just six years old. I went to college at UC Davis and then graduated in 2017.
My inspiration for hiking came from a class I took in college on the geology of national parks. The rock formations piqued my interest and being in nature became one of my passions. I’m a fitness junkie so hiking, trekking and mountaineering grew on me due to the fitness aspects. There is nothing better than exercising outdoors and capturing epic photography in the process! Today, I have plans to climb mountains all over the world.
Inspiration to Hike Cone Peak (2nd Time)
I love California’s coastline and visiting last year was my 4th time here (and second time hiking up Cone Peak). I tend to take trips that are more coastal during the winter months since the mountains in the Sierra Nevada get packed with snow. This was a two day trip with one night of camping.
The hike up Cone Peak was 23 miles long and we camped for a night halfway up the mountain. Then we summited the following day and came back down. There is a lot of planning and coordination that goes into multi-day backpacking trips like this. I had three friends join me on the trip. We started the hike at Kirk Creek Campground and hiked all the way up.
Cone Peak was originally on my bucket list because I have a huge poster in my room of all the prominent mountain peaks in California. Cone Peak was on my list as it’s the tallest coastal peak in California. I love summiting high mountain peaks! I found the trail on AllTrails which I frequently use and leave reviews on. I put about a month of planning into it and kept a close eye on the weather. All in all, it was an epic hike the second time!
My Experience on the Cone Peak Summit Trail
We started Cone Peak at Kirk Creek Campground off of Highway 1. We camped two thirds of the way up on the trail. On day two we finished off the trail to the summit and came back down to Kirk Creek Campground. The hike took two days and 23 miles with 6,250 feet of elevation gain. The scenery along the way was awesome! We enjoyed epic views of the Big Sur coast and mountainous coastal peaks in the surrounding area.
This was a difficult trail but when split over a few days it becomes a lot easier. I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners. I would suggest this hike for intermediate to advanced hikers who have some backpacking experience. You don’t need a ton of experience and fitness, you just need to be open to the idea of adventure and not giving up! Hiking is for everyone after all.
The best moment from this hike was reaching the top. This feeling was incredible and I had the same sense of accomplishment I get with all the peaks I summit. There is a rush of emotion and adrenaline that overwhelms your body and pushes you to greater heights. We stayed up there for a few hours to admire the sunrise and then I flew my drone off the top to capture aerial footage. It was amazing! Then we headed back down at 9:30am.
I remember the orange glow of the sunrise reflecting off the ocean in an amazing way. I stared at it for ages! There is something about nature and a sunrise like that which really makes you appreciate life and everything our planet has to offer. It’s something like a natural drug! The best kind too. I can’t wait to head back up Cone Peak in the future for my third summit.
What you Need to Know Before Hiking this Trail
Please hike in a responsible and eco-friendly way. Pick up after yourself and follow the standard Leave no Trace hiking principles. You can also filter your water at the various creeks along the trail and cut down on the use of plastic if you can (bringing a refillable water bottle is always a good idea).
For the hike itself, planning and preparation is key to having the best experience! Keep an eye on the weather and assess conditions before you leave. Carry a first aid kit for potential injuries on the trail because they can be common. Pack enough food and carry water filtering equipment.
It’s a pain to carry all of your water up to the top and back, so you should filter your water at the creeks. Gear like a stove, tent and sleeping bag are necessary if you will attempt Cone Peak over a few days. Also, poison oak is everywhere as it’s a plant which is native to Big Sur. Make sure you wear long sleeves and pants along with base layers to avoid contact.