Twin Peak is a beautiful mountain on the Big Sur coast of California that is often overlooked for it's lofty and more rugged (and also more accessible and visited) neighbor, Cone Peak. It is less than 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean and affords isolation and dramatic 360 degree views of the Big Sur coastline and the Santa Lucia Mountains. It is surrounded by deep, rugged canyons of Limekiln Creek and is *only* accessible via a scramble across a saddle from Cone Peak or from a fire break from the south.
Highway 1 to the Twitchell Flat Usetrail trailhead or Limekiln State Park.
Directions via Cone Peak can be found here
RouteFrom the East
: drop down from the Fire Lookout on the summit of Cone Peak
and take the obvious saddle West over to Twin Peak. Directions to Cone Peak here
From the West: approaching Twin Peak from the west ridge means either approaching the west ridge from the north via Gamboa Trail, which can be accessed either from Cone Peak or from the Cone Peak Campground at the end of Cone Peak Road...
Take Gamboa trail from the New Camaldolil hermitage till it reaches the saddle between '3850 and Twin Peak (before it drops down to Ojito Usecamp) and follow/bushwack the ridgeline up to the summit.
An alternative is to Stone Ridge trail either all the way from the east at Vicente Flat or via Twitchell Flat Usetrail to Stone Ridge Trail.
From the South
: the most direct but also most difficult (in elevation gain and bushwacking) is a near-direct route up the south ridge of Twin Peak via the Twitchell Flat Usetrail to Stone Ridge Firebreak direct to the summit. The Twitchell Flat Usetrail trailhead is located roughly a half-mile before Limekiln State Park (if approaching from the North) and looks like a gated fire road leading up to a saddle directly above Highway 1 and the 800' hill between the TH and Limekiln SP. Follow the Usetrail up and across the West Fork of Limekiln Creek through a gorgeous grove of Redwoods, then begin the climb up to the main ridge leading to the summit of Twin Peak. The trail will often times look like a deer trail, and eventually you'll cross the more obviously used Stone Ridge Trail where instead of going left or right, you'll continue up the Stone Ridge Firebreak, which rarely looks more than a deer trail and is often times overgrown with brush and manzanita. Total distance about 5 miles with 5K+ in elevation gain.
Excellent maps of the various trail options can be found here
Twin Peak is located in Los Padres National Forest and is technically outside of Ventana Wilderness.
When to Climb
Most of the year. If approaching via Cone Peak & the Coast Ridge Road, the road will be closed during the rainy season (November to May). Highway 1 is occasionally closed in winter or spring due to landslides, so check conditions before you go.
Santa Lucia Range is very dry and hot in early fall (September - October) and there is significant fire hazard. Spring and early summer are the best times to visit. The peak rises high above the fog layer so the view is majestic even on foggy days.
Back country camping in Ventana Wilderness does not require a permit. Developed backcountry campsites are recommended because availability of water can be uncertain elsewhere. From Limekiln Creek south for about 15 miles the coastal area along Highway 1 is part of Los Padres National Forest (there are signs on the highway), where you can camp for free on beautiful perches 300 feet over the ocean, or in redwood groves. This area has very steep terrain so there aren't many suitable spots, yet it's warm even in the middle of winter.
Just off the summit of Twin Peak to the west is a flat, sheltered location suitable for camping, though obviously, there is no water.
There are fee campgrounds along Highway 1, with Kirk Creek and Limekiln campgrounds are closest to Cone Peak. There are also campgrounds on the Nacimiento Fergusson Road just east of the Coast Ridge Road. They are open in the winter months, do not require reservations, and are both by a running creek.
About 15 miles north in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park there are two environmental campsites
(walk-in access ~500 feet; fee) perched on top of spectacular cliffs; these are frequently booked on summer weekends. These are the most beautiful camp sites I have ever seen, a few steps away from the spectacular McWay waterfall which free-falls 60 feet onto the beach in beautiful McWay Cove.
You can also stay in the resort town of Lucia
(just a motel and gas station, perched on spectacular cliffs over the ocean).
External LinksThe Big Sur Trail Map