Thanks to the recommendations in response to my earlier post, I decided to take a trip to Big Sur and climb Cone Peak with my kids (9 yr old twins and 4 year old) on Thanksgiving weekend. Despite the wet weather leaving the Bay Area on Friday morning, the weather improved dramatically by Salinas and was completely dry by the time we got to Ponderosa campground just past Ft Hunter Liggett (very nice campground - lots of space and excellent flat sites, though limited facilities).
The next morning it was incredibly clear so we drove up to the base of the Cone Peak trail - pretty intimidating dirt road with a 2000ft drop - I was relieved we were early and it was quiet. The views were as spectacular as promised and we were sheltered from the NE wind most of the way up, though it got very windy and quite cold on top. It seemed like the distances given on the signs were a bit optimistic (especially the last one saying quarter of a mile to go, which I cursed while carrying my youngest up there), I'd estimate the total was almost 5 miles round trip and 1500ft of ascent. It also didn't correspond at all to the trail shown on my Topo map of the area (in reality you go all the way round the west side of the peak to the NW ridge and switchback up that almost to the top).
Definitely the best day hike I've had in California outside the Sierra, and fairly quiet for a holiday weekend (we saw five groups totaling about a dozen people during the hike).
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Nice post and photos. Cone Peak is indeed a nice hike and a fine family destination. I speak from distant memories of my childhood. I don't recall just how old I was, but I'm guessing that I was probably somewhere between 8 and 10 or so and my brother would have 3 years younger. My bro probably covered a fair amount of the distance on my dad's shoulders. I don't remember too much about where we camped but I remember my brother was scared of a dog in another campsite and ended up fleeing into poison oak. He really had a horrible reaction to the poison oak. I remember doing Junipero Serra at least once also (the first time was sometime before the Cone Peak climb), and that Junipero Serra was a longer hike with more elevation gain but not as nice looking a mountain as Cone Peak.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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