Don’t follow this trip report to find the summit of Cone Peak. I got to the summit, but there are easier maintained trails. I was making a quick tip from Oregon to escape some bad weather and decided to pursue 2,000 ft prominence peaks on the Central California Coast. I didn’t study the Trip Reports, Route Descriptions, or Photos like I normally do and just headed out with road directions to Cone Peak.
Saturday, November 5, 2005 was an absolutely beautiful day on the California Coast and I enjoyed my drive down Hwy 1 from Monterey. The road directions I had were accurate and got me up to the Coast Ridge Road without any difficulty. The Coast Ridge Road is winds its way along with many blind corners. I was concentrating on the road and drove right by the normal trailhead for Cone Peak and soon arrived at the end of the road where there is another well marked trailhead. This is the upper end of the Gamboa Trail.
From the small parking lot I could see the summit of Cone Peak with the building on top. It was only about .3 mile away but it was straight up a cliff. The Gamboa trail follows this cliff to the west and then to the north up to a ridge line north of Cone Peak. I assumed there would be an intersecting trail from Cone Peak on this ridgeline, so I headed down the trail.
When I reached the ridgeline about 1.2 miles later, I couldn’t find any trail heading back south to Cone Peak. I could see there north ridgeline up to Cone Peak and it didn’t look too bad although there were lots of boulders o the ridgeline and it was brushy. I rationalized that there had to be a way up to the summit.
What I found is that there used to be a trail along this ridgeline, but hasn’t been maintained for years. The “Trail” disappeared several times in brush or had been lost to erosion. I stayed near the top of the ridgeline whenever I could and made steady progress up and down the ridge towards my objective. Eventually, I got to the last part of the ridge and climbed up to the summit.
It was a Chamber of Commerce day on the summit, with no wind, no fog, only glorious sunshine. I enjoyed the views while I ate my lunch. I found the real trail that comes to the summit from the summit, but I didn’t know where it would lead me, so I headed back down to my car the same way I came up. I did take a shortcut down a steep scree slope from the ridgeline to the trail that cut about a mile off my hike.
When I got back to the car, my GPs said I had only traveled 4 miles total, but it had taken me 2.7 hours. The moral of the story is to READ and UNDERSTAND the very fine trip reports, routes, and photo’s that are posted on Summit Post. It makes life easier.