ApproachThis is the shortest trail to the summit starting from Highway 1. A far shorter route can be taken by driving up the Nacimiento Road and taking the Cone Peak Trail. A more challenging route starts at the Kirk Creek campground. Be warned that the Gamboa Trail was realigned some years ago (as were a number of other trails in this area) and does not follow the route shown on the USGS maps. The USFS maps for the Ventana area do show the correct route, so be sure you have such a map before venturing out.
From Monterey, drive south on Highway 1 until past Lucia, a small, two-building stop on the right side of the road. A short ways further is a poorly paved road leading to a hermitage on the left side. Continue a mile past this road where a wide pullout is found on the right (west) side of Highway 1. The unsigned trailhead is the indistinct jeep trail found opposite on the east side of the highway. If you reach the Limekiln campground, you have gone a mile too far.
From San Luis Obispo, drive north on Highway 1 until past the Nacimiento Road, the Kirk Creek campground, and then a mile past the Limekiln campground. Park on the left (west) side of the road at the large turnout. The jeep trail marking the trailhead cannot be seen from this direction so watch carefully.
Route DescriptionThe first part of the trail follows a jeep road (gated at the start, unsigned except to say it is State Property) as it climbs 500ft to a ridge above. From there it drops slightly as it enters the West Limekiln Creek drainage and shortly crosses the creek. The road continues on the other side of the creek and climbs in a quarter mile to a grassy area marked by some aged fencing where it ends.
The next section is unmaintained, but basically follows the grassy, rounded ridge to the north up for a thousand feet where it meets the maintained trail coming from Vincent Camp. From the grassy area at the end of the road, pink ribbons may mark the easiest route up to the left. Follow these or one of several other indistinct trails up for about a mile.
The route then meets the more distinct South Ridge of Twin Peak. No sign is found here. Going right (east) will lead to Vincent Camp. Going left (north) leads to Goat Camp and Cone Peak. Go left. The trail follows the contour of the hillside on the east side of West Limekiln Creek Canyon until it reaches Goat Camp. This section of the trail slumps badly and careful footing is required. One must also be wary from this point on for poison oak found lurking along the trail. It is usually easy enough to step around if you know how to identify it.
After Goat Camp, the trail climbs more steadily, then steeply switchbacks before topping out around 3700ft. This is the trail junction to Ojito Camp, though the trail sign is not right at the junction. You can find the sign nailed to a large burned tree just east (right) of the junction. Following the trail directly over the ridge and down the other side will take you to Ojito Camp, but not to Cone Peak. Follow the trail east that contours the north side of Twin Peak's Northwest Ridge, starting just past the signed tree.
Two more miles will bring you to Trail Springs and another junction. This one is easy to miss. If you find yourself heading north, you've taken the left branch that heads to Cook Camp, but not Cone Peak. A sign on the left side of the trail labeled "Gamboa Trail" marks the junction where a small stream cuts across the trail. A smaller sign on the right side of the trail points right and up to the Cone Peak Trail.
Take the Cone Peak Trail up a series of switchbacks and then along a ridge for one and a quarter mile to a last trail junction. A good sign here points up to the left for the last quarter mile to the summit.