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The Big in Big Sur
The trailhead for this superb hike is across the highway from Kirk Creek Campground which is itself about 150' above the Pacific Ocean crashing into the edge of western civilization, and the destination is the back country Vicente Camp nestled deep in a high elevation redwood grove. If someone asked me, "I will be passing through the Big Sur area for the first, and probably only, time, and I'd like to do a hike. Do you have any recommendations?" I would tell them to do this hike. It's a really good workout on mostly good tread, and also stunningly scenic.
This area sees a high level of use, and is probably the busiest part of the Ventana Wilderness. All visitors must practice leave no trace ethics. Note that the Vicente Flat Trail runs from the Cone Peak Road which is above Vicente Camp, and not generally part of this description.
The gorgeous views on this hike become apparent almost from the start as the trail climbs steadily up and away from the coast. The serious, but not brutal, assault upon one's legs is more than offset by views of the multi-hued ocean blue to the west, the soft chamise chaparral underfoot and the mountains above. California condors live in the area so be on the lookout, and wildflowers are common. I saw multitudes of poppies, lupines, morning glories and even a few Western Columbines on the last weekend in March 2019.
The trail climbs relentlessly uphill for 2.7 miles and 1600' to Espinosa Camp before turning north-northeast high above Hare Creek to follow the canyon slightly uphill through intermittent redwood groves that are remarkable only because of their southerly location and high elevation. Enjoy the views of 5100' Cone Peak through small openings, and dream of the day you can crush it in a day.
This hike eventually gets to Vicente Camp deep in a redwood near the head of Hare Canyon. This appears to be an extremely popular place based on the number of tents I saw there on a Saturday afternoon. I am sure that I will be back here soon.
The first triplog for this hike shows mileage between Vicente Camp and Cone Peak Road. The Vicente Flat Trail heads up the little side canyon to the northeast instead of the northwest no matter what the facts on the ground indicate. The first mile up has 500' of elevation gain, and goes through a nice wild redwood forest.
Check out the Triplog.