Add Heading HereFirst time post here, thought I'd add something to a community that has provided me with a wealth of knowledge along the way. The route I took to Cone Peak isn't discussed much on this board, but may be more accessible at times due to the seasonal/occasional closures of Cone Peak Road.
You can take the Vicente Flats trail from Highway 1 (directly across the street from Kirk Creek campground) all the way to the road, about 1.6 miles from the Cone Peak Lookout Trail trail head. I believe it is close to 7 miles to the road from the trail head, and you will pass two nice, well-developed backcountry camp areas (unnamed and Vicente Flats) along the way. There is a small creek a little ways beyond the unnamed camp, though some reports say this is an unreliable source in the summer. Vicente Flats has a larger creek through the middle. After Vicente Flats, make your way out of the camp to the north, towards the road. The trail was moderately difficult to follow at times once out of camp, but sticking to (and several times crossing) the creek will keep you on track. Eventually it becomes quite obvious again. There are no blazes.
When you hit the road, continue north (left) for about 1.6 miles, where you'll hit the Lookout Trail trail head, and you can follow other route reports.
The information that I'd read on this particular hike suggested it as an overnight or 3-day backpacking trip. I had one day, therefore it was a day hike! 22 miles round trip, and about a mile of net elevation gain. It took me about 9.5 hours round trip from Kirk Creek. Though the trail is never severely steep, be aware that there is some good, sustained elevation gain in several areas - particularly the first mile or two from Hwy 1, then just north of Vicente Flats camp, and of course parts of the summit trail.
If you have the time, or feel like punishing yourself for a day, I'd suggest this route. Some of my favorite areas and views were on the first few miles of the Flats trail, and driving/biking up to the Cone Peak trail head skips these zones and ecosystems. Make sure you bring enough water and some sun protection - it can get warm fast up there once you're exposed on the road and above.