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Road closed for THREAT of snow 01/12/19

backpacking
6 days ago

Amazing views hiking up the mountain. Be careful in the summer, it isn’t too shaded. Other than that, well worth it.

backpacking
21 days ago

This was a tough, but rewarding trail! We backpacked in to Vicente Flat, stayed the night, then got up early the next day to summit Cone Peak with just our packs and day hiking necessities, then came back to Vicente Flat for the second night. We hiked at a moderate pace and got to the summit by 4pm, then finished our last four miles with headlamps on. The route definitely has some incline to it, but the scenery makes up for it. The trail up to Cone Peak was breathtaking - we got great pictures looking down on the clouds.

backpacking
2 months ago

We did it in two days at a moderate pace and the worst part was just the heat at times. Unbeatable views.

backpacking
3 months ago

Fantastic trail. Went from H1 to Cone Peak Summit in a day. It was about 12 miles all uphill. Make sure to get water at the first camp because the spring on the San Antonio trail is dry and very overgrown as of October 13, 2018. Great views all the way. I camped on the Firewatch station with my one person ten, the station helped reduced the amount of wind. Don't sleep at the summit without a tent, years of people leaving their food/ trash up there has caused a rat problem at night. Other then that I cant wait to go back.

Great way to get up high into the Sierra Nevada without having to climb far. Trailhead begins about 10,000 ft, next to good campground facilities. We did full-on steak, wine, the works, at the trailhead, then left non-hike gear behind...all "smellables" in the roomy bear-boxes. Plenty of water on the trail. Everything beyond the trailhead rises to "no open fires" altitude. So, bring warm camp clothing, and enjoy the stars.

The hike and views are amazing. Biggest recommendation I have is to plan on taking 4+ full days. Doing 16 miles through elevation change each day is tough. There are bear boxes every site, so renting a canister really isn’t needed. Make sure to get some coffee at the Bearpaw Station early in the morning!

Loved it. Nice easy day trip or overnight.

backpacking
4 months ago

We went in early June. The meadows were green and the lakes were gorgeous. There are plenty of good camping spots around the lakes. The hike cuts through various types of alpine scenery and is capped off by a killer view of New Army Pass.

hiking
4 months ago

I day hiked this trail yesterday. i must say it’s one of the most challenging hikes i’ve done to date. the real challenge starts right after you get to Vicente Flat campgrounds. The views at the fire lookout is worth every single step. If you’re looking to train in distance and elevation gain for Mount Whitney, i recommend doing this hike. i did Whitney twice this year already, trust me :) Last but not least, being more than 3L of water on a hot day.

backpacking
4 months ago

My hiking buddy and I did this loop in the clockwise direction over 4 days in late August, camping at Pinto Lake, Upper Big Five Lakes, and Columbine Lakes. Overall a challenging but rewarding experience!

Pros
- Scenery: the views from Black Rock Pass and Columbine Lake were 5 stars. The alpine territory of Big Five Lakes and Lost Canyon were also incredible. The rest of the hike was pretty, but not quite as memorable.
- Logistics and solitude: this hike has become a lot more popular (permit demand has doubled in the last year alone). Nevertheless, obtaining permits is relatively easy and trail congestion remains low. We passed by only ~12 hikers per day on the trails and felt like we had our campsites all to ourselves.
- Charm: one thing I liked about this loop is you revisit a lot of the same locations from different points of view. For example, you get to see Columbine Lake from far away, then up close and personal. Or walk up Black Rock Pass, then admire how much altitude you climbed from far away 2 days later!
- Easy to customize: there are many variations of this loop if you have extra time, such as a detour to Nine Lake Basin or going over different passes.

Cons
- Difficulty: this hike kicked my butt! Although it's only ~7-8 miles per day, in the clockwise direction the first two days involve a LOT of uphill. The last day involves scrambling up and sliding down Sawtooth Pass. The packs and altitude only add to the exhaustion. On the flip side, the hike generally gets easier with each day.
- Getting there: Mineral King is less accessible than some other parts of the Sierras, so you might need to add 1-2 days to your itinerary to account for travel time.

Advice
- I recommend doing this in the clockwise direction from Timber Gap if possible. The first day is a slog and while pretty, it doesn't live up to the next 3 days. In the clockwise direction, the views improve with every day!
- Trail is well marked with a few exceptions. 1) If you're planning on camping at Pinto Lake, know that the lake is not signposted nor visible from the trail if you're coming from Timber Gap (i.e. from downhill). We initially missed and passed by it. Keep track of your location on the map and be on the lookout for a marshy area with trees in an otherwise completely sun-exposed area. 2) The detour to Upper Big Five Lakes fizzles out at one point, but you can keep on going deep into the canyon off the trail. 3) When going from Upper Big Five Lakes to Lost Canyon, when you reach the last lake, you will need to cross the creek to the other side. The trail not clearly marked, stay close to the edge of the lake on the opposite and look out for cairns. 4) The trail between Columbine and Monarch Lakes is not well established. At the top near Sawtooth Pass, there are use trails in the decomposed granite, but the trail lower down near the lakes requires scrambling over rocks and some pathfinding.
- The NPS rangers will recommend against camping at Columbine Lake as there are few campsites and the area has been "abused" by hikers (e.g. leaving trash, illegally camping next to the lake, etc). The will instead advise hikers to camp in Upper Lost Canyon, where there are some sun-exposed sites near the switchbacks leading to Columbine Lake, or covered sites in the forested area before the switchbacks. We ended up camping at Columbine Lake unintentionally and it was incredible. If you do too, please respect the space!

backpacking
4 months ago

generally: great big sur trail with ocean views, redwood grove, and then summiting cone peak for the last portion with option to hike part way or backpack;
parking: Easy parking at Kirk creek trailhead (no passes or fees)
trail conditions: relatively well maintained (by big sur standards), overgrown in some places, some poinson oak but we wore shorts and did not have a problem.
Scenery: The first few miles were shrouded in clouds and comfortably cool until we got above the cloud line a few miles in, redwood grove at vicente flat, exposed w expansive views for upper portion of hike to cone peak
water access: There was a stream flowing just past Espinoza, no waterfall Vicente Flat, but a stream less than half a mile past it.
We camped at Vicente flat, which was not crowded on a Saturday.

backpacking
4 months ago

Completed the Cottonwood Loop yesterday (8-17-18). The Old Army Pass was a bit scary. Coming down New Army Pass was in much better condition. Breathtaking scenery! The weather was good. Did have some rain, which made the trip even more enjoyable. This trail is a must and will definitely expand our trip in to the Sequoia National Forest on our next trip!

This is a beautiful loop! We went clockwise and I would certainly recommend that direction; first day camping spots are better and scree skiing down Sawtooth is much better than trying to scramble up it from Monarch Lakes. I agree with others that noted the All Trails distances are off. Red numbers on map are more accurate than the All Trails lines and better match the trail signs. Rangers were still recommending marmot precautions as of 8/1/18. Trail crews did a good job of addressing the washout west of Pinto Lake and were actively fixing the one east of Pinto. Water was available pretty much throughout the loop. The only real tough patch was from Pinto to Little 5 Lakes. There's a stream at about 10,200 feet right before some switchbacks. Next water is 3+ miles away, over Big Rock Pass and down at Little 5 (the last lake is the cleanest). Mosquitoes were out around both Little and Big 5 Lakes but weren't really a problem. Caught trout all around the loop, but they were small and only good for the story. Nymphs seemed to be key. Hope this helps! Have a great trip!

I had an amazing time backpacking this trail with my brother. Spent one night camping at Vicente Flats and a second night camping on Cone Peak. It’s not necessary to camp for 2 nights but it’s certainly worth it as the view of the Milky Way at night from the peak is breathtaking.

Lots of the trail is exposed to the sun and MUCH hotter than we expected from the weather report of Big Sur. This made it difficult for my dog, but not dangerous for her. Something to think about if you’re taking your furry friend.

Even in the middle of August there were water sources before Vicente and at. The creek bed in Vicente is dry but if you hike down it you will find water. Once you move beyond this point water becomes limited and there is absolutely none on the Cone Peak trail. I would suggest not hiking to the top unless you’re carrying at least a gallon per person and a little extra for your dog.

Overall this hike is incredible, Vicente Flats is breathtaking, and the views from Cone Peak are worth it. I would definitely do this hike again.

backpacking
5 months ago

Just finished this trail as an overnight backpacking trip. Would rather recommend doing this in the spring or fall. Summer’s too hot and the trail’s mostly exposed. Bring lots of sunblock. Creeks we’re running and got to filter some water. Stayed at Vicente Flats for the night. This is definitely a butt-kicker with a pack. Could be done as a day hike but start early.

backpacking
5 months ago

Incredible views and well earned solitude during the middle of the loop. We went counterclockwise heading over Farewell Gap a few hours in then passed up Bullfrog Lake to make a little more headway before camping near the Broder’s Cabin site (which we didn’t actually find even though we looked). Expect that once you’re over farewell pass and into the Golden Trout Wilderness you’ll gain a real appreciation for the maintained trails of Sequoia Nat’l Park! Day two we continued through the brush only losing the trail once, until we intersected Shotgun Creek where there’s a sign pointing to Silver Lake. Here the trail basically ceased to exist and it’s uphill land-nav at its finest until you reach Silver Lake. Once you’re at the lake the trail becomes visible again and it’s a tough slog up loose sand/pebble mountainside to get to Shotgun Pass. The trail gets tough to follow again but it’s easy hiking down to the marsh area after which there are cairns marking the way down to Rattlesnake Creek where you pick up a well groomed trail again. The hike up to Franklin Pass is rewarded with some of the best views of the trip. The switchbacks down to Franklin Lakes take forever but would be even more boring if you were slogging up! We camped at Franklin lake then it was all downhill easy going back to Mineral King on day three. Awesome trip. Right at 48 hrs at a moderate pace. Definitely wear pants for the portion through Golden Trout as you’ll beat bush quite a bit. I definitely will do this trip again one day.

backpacking
6 months ago

*no water at vicente*

We hiked in planning to either camp at Vicente or get water there and continue to cone peak. The hike to Vicente was gorgeous - ocean views most of the way and wildflowers all along the trail. There was a small stream right by Espinosa camp almost 4 miles in.

We reached Vicente on 6/9/18 and the stream/creek was bone dry. There was no water at any nearby streams. There were also big bee hives and lots of bees at the camp. We decided after looking for water for an hour or so to camp at Espinosa and refuel at the stream. It was beautiful there with ocean views and very quiet. There were a lot of gnats at dusk and dawn. The hike down the next morning was quick and shaded - we started out around 8am. It’s a beautiful hike.

Oh also beware of poison oak! I was spared but my boyfriend is covered. Careful about putting your pack in the brush.

Spectacular. Went late June. Saw 12 people in four days (including a kind ranger). Did the loop counterclockwise, which is recommended unless you are otherwise itching to crawl/scramble/struggle up the skree of Sawtooth Pass. Camped Cliff Creek, Middle Lower Five Lakes, and Upper-Middle Lost Canyon. Mosquitos were out and about, but with the year’s lighter snowpack, we may have faced the worst of it. To be safe, bring ample Deet and invest in mosquito resistant clothing (including face netting). With some long stretches out of tree-cover, also bring ample sunscreen (though 3oz was more than enough for two of us).

If you’re young and/or in tip-top shape (and, more importantly, very prepared and carrying a light pack), you could do this in two days, though take caution with altitude sickness over some of these passes. Otherwise, take your time and enjoy this underappreciated escape.

Hard, but not overly painfully so. I have asthma and had to stop many times for air, but there was no need for a fast pace. Even with my slowness, we planned for four days but did it in there. Aside from normal backcountry gear, bring A LOT of sunscreen and zinc and GOOD mosquito repellant. Our GPS recorder logged significantly more miles than as posted on this and other trail sites. This map has the trail going in straight lines that do not exist. Expect closer to 35 miles maybe.

Day 1: Timber Gap Trail to Timber Gap. The trail is moderately steep out of the parking lot and continues so for some time. Reaching the top of Timber Gap has nice views with plenty of shade. Descend fast to the junction with Cliff Creek. This is the most psychologically challenging parts of the trip—to descend to below where you started and then have to climb for miles with a tall pass at the end of it. At the junction with Cliff Creek there is the most beautiful creek passing with several little pools. I wish it wouldn’t have been a waste to camp there, otherwise we would have. Have lunch. Walk along the creek and through the dry bed (which can be confusing—some cairns arranged; alternatively look for mule poop) as you pass epic waterfalls as you approach the switchbacks to climb to the Pinto Lake Area. At Pinto Lake, full water in stream that is clearly audible. Several campsites in front of and across the path from the bear box area. Choose a site on the rocks above the bear box—the breeze up there keeps the mosquitos away and the sunset is incredible.

Day 2: Fill your water. Then have fun figuring out how to get across the marsh and connect with the trail. Once you find it, begin the 3000 vertical feet in 3 miles to the top of Blackrock Pass. You’ll pass a steam going down the side of the mountain near the beginning of the climb up the switchbacks. Fill water here as it is the last water on this side and there won’t be mosquito free water for a bit on the other side. Then get ready—if you look straight up the mountain, slightly behind the stream, you can see the pass. It looks forever away. It sucked. I had to stop often (every 20-30 steps) to catch my breath. The grade is steep most of the way. But the views are the best views of the trip, as you see Columbine Lake and Spring Lake and the other lake across the valley. Take your time getting to the top and then enjoy the pass. The views are also quite good, as you look down on Little 5 lakes below. As you descend, turn around and look at the pass and you’ll understand why it’s called Blackrock—all of the rock to the right off the pass is sand colored. Get down, enjoy the view of the first couple of Little 5 lakes from above, but then put on your turbo boosters and get past them as fast as possible—horrible mosquitos. There is a creek draining from one of the lakes at the trail junction that takes you to the ranger station. Bugs were slightly less horrible there if you need water. Continue onto Big 5. You’ll hit a junction for Lower or Upper Big 5. Just know that if you choose Lower Big 5, you likely won’t come back to see Upper Big 5–there are quite a few switchbacks on the one mile trail to lower Big 5 and elevation to get back up to Upper Big 5 would suck. Lower Big 5 has some nice camping spots near the bear box and other spots across the lake on a small shoulder above where we were told there was a nice pond. AND YOU CAN HAVE FIRES HERE! Remember—no wood larger than you’re forearm.

Day 3: We had a leisurely morning of breakfast, a couple of swims, cards, and snacks. We slowly packed up, departed at 1230, and began the moderate climb to start, then mostly easy going hike to the end of Upper Lost Canyon. The creek and valley are absolutely stunning with Sawtooth and a couple other peaks in the background. We camped at a small, cleared area just a few switchbacks up the trail at the start of the climb to Columbine. We were directly next to one stream with another up the side of the mountain. Take your time along here—you’re in no rush and the valley is picturesque.

Day 4: after sleep, the hike up to Columbine from the base of the switchbacks wasn’t too bad—took maybe 45 minutes. The views are incredible; you can see the switchbacks up Blackrock Pass Trail. Contrary to what the rangers say, there are plenty of camping spots up there. When you reach the lake, follow the trail to the right, over the stream and you’ll find over a dozen great spots. The hike up to the pass is steep and challenging in sections, but the views are top notch and scree skiing down the mountain is so, so fun. Gaters and poles are a must for the descent. There isn’t really a trail for a while, so just choose a good skiing spot and keep your eyes open for the use trail toward the bottom on the way to monarch lake.

This loop was more difficult than I anticipated and more beautiful than I could have imagined. The pictures don't do it justice. The altitude and the grade of the slopes make it difficult and the distances were longer than what is stated on the trail guides. I tracked my progress with my Garmin GPS watch and racked up considerably more distance than indicated on the maps. Maybe the maps don't account for the switchbacks or when the trail goes up and down in elevation? The snow also added to the difficulty and made it a bit more dangerous. I think I could do the loop more easily now that I know what lays ahead of me and I also think it would be easier when the snow melts off the slopes. I highly recommend this trail. Its one of those adventures that will make you ask "What was I thinking" during the hike and a week after you get home and recover you'll be trying to figure out how you can return and do it again.

Did half of it late may, I had to take the shortcut at sawtooth since I was doing this as a day hike. Went counterclock. I think it'd be doable to do the whoel thing as day hike without the snow, but with the snow it was very hard to have good speed. There is some pathfinding needed. And sawtooth is really hard to climb because of the terrain. The shortcut was hard to negotiate due to snow and lack of marks, but it was fun.

strenuous 1 day ascent to summit from hwy 1 (took 8 hrs), overnight under the stars, spectacular views and stargazing, about 1/2 time for descent next day, worth the work. lots of poison oak but with long pants and sleeves have managed not to get a rash.

7 months ago

Went in May and all the lakes were frozen over. Beautiful place, will definitely be going in July to fish.

Lost GPX file so had to draw it out. Much more strenuous than the 17 miles (GPX file read ~25 miles) and 5000 vertical feet described. First and last 6 miles (on trail up to Lamarck Col and down from Muriel Lake) are fine but everything in between is scrambling, talus, shale, route finding. All class 3, sometimes having to take off packs etc. Still worth it for the views of Darwin Canyon if you don't have time for the 55 mile North Lake to South Lake loop. Doable in 3 days but don't underestimate the route finding/talus/boulder fields.

hiking
10 months ago

Fun and saw nobody out there. Beautiful view.

on Highway 1 to Cone Peak

10 months ago

Feb 17-19, 2018.
*TONS OF POISON OAK*

This is a great first time backpacking trip. On presidents day weekend, we hiked in the five miles to Vicente Flat campground with all of our gear and set up camp. Definitely busy, but there's a ton of spots to set up tent. We were cozy with our neighbors, but everyone was polite. We left our camp set up and day hiked up to the peak just with day packs. Stayed at Vicente Flat Saturday night then hiked back out the 5 miles with our gear.

Despite it being February, I was wishing I was in shorts most of the time we were hiking, especially the 5 miles to and from Vicente Flat. It's pretty much all open, which allows for beautiful views of the coast but direct hot sun. This would be a pretty brutal hike in the summer. Even with warm days, we got a light dusting of snow at Vicente Flat Sunday morning, which was stunning.

We brought our medium sized Australian Shepherd, and saw a few other dogs throughout the weekend. The trail is pretty dog friendly, but I would recommend booties as a good amount of the trail is rocky, but totally doable for a relatively fit dog.

Overall, it was a really nice weekend trip. Beautiful view of the Big Sur coast, a nice mix of chaparral and redwoods, and Vicente Flat was a beautiful campsite.

backpacking
10 months ago

Nice trail, but very crowded.

Water:
The first stream is a couple of minutes past Espinosa Camp. The creek was dry at Vicente Flats, you need to hike up another 5 min to get to water. When you head up to Cone Peak, the last water was where the redwoods end. I did not see any sign of the spring mentioned in the trail description.

Camping:
There were easily 50+ tents at the Vicente Campground over president's day weekend. Lots of fun people, but not a lot of solitude if that's what you're looking for.

Hiking up to the peak:
Most people left their tents and stuff at Vicente and hiked up with a light pack, that way you could carry more water. I got up to the peak a bit after 10 and was alone there for almost a half hour before people started showing up. After 12 it got really crowded up there.

hiking
11 months ago

Amazing

Great trip. Going over black rock pass is challenging but completely worth the effort to get to little five lakes on the other side.

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