Junipero Serra Peak is a 11.3 mile out and back trail located near Greenfield, California that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is best used from April until October.
Junipero Serra Peak is the highest peak in the Santa Lucia Mountains, and hiking it normally takes a full day. It's just to the East of Big Sur in Monterrey County. The views from the top and along the ridges are breathtaking, and the 5.6 mile, one-way climb from the trailhead to the summit is a heart pounder. Many reports note that the trail is brushy, and my arms and clothes will attest to that. The trail is not a wide, super-well-maintained trail like some you will see in Federal, State, and County parks. It's more of a remote trail, and that is part of the allure to this magical place. The brushy nature doesn't become an issue until you get up past the 4,000 foot line and run into a lot of Manzanita and Chamise, with a little Holly to spice it up. I recommend a long sleeve shirt in any season. Start at the obvious trailhead and make sure to close the gate behind you. In a short distance, you will come to the trail register on the left then cross a small stream. About 250 feet past the stream crossing, you will come to an unmarked fork in the trail. Both directions look equally traveled. Go left. If you go right, you'll be back when you get tired of bushwhacking. There is no good way to the peak on the route to the right. The first 2.5 miles of the route have a very gradual incline. I noted that there was 1,000 feet of climb in the first 2.5 miles. The remaining distance of the trail are entirely different with a good steep climb that is, in some parts, over 1,000 feet per mile climb rate. Mile 2.5 through about mile 4.5 ascend steeply through switchbacks on the south faces of a ravine. The terrain is brushy in places, and the trail can momentarily become somewhat obscure. If you get into serious bushwhacking and the trail seems to have disappeared, you are probably off track. Go back until you can find the more obvious trail. It is always there, but you can get distracted in the bushy tunnels. Once you reach the final ridge and get a view to both east and west, you have a about a mile to the summit tower. Try to follow the trail as much as possible. You can easily find your way to the peak by the most direct route, but in doing so you will be climbing very steeply through a lot of brush. The trail is an easier route, but it gets easily lost in the large number of fallen trees on the summit shoulder to the northwest of the peak. If you stick with what appears to be the trail even through a lot of fallen tress and rough going for about 100 yards, your path to the summit will be easier than the direct route up the northwest spine. At the top are some nice rock outcroppings with magnificent views at the summit. There is also an old lookout tower, but there is no flooring up on the top of the tower, so it isn't a really good place to hang out. Return to the trailhead the way you came.
Tough trail.... not used much so the main trail can be difficult to follow in places. Requires paying attention to the map and sharpening your orienteering skills. The trail as marked on the current USGS topo or USF topo is not always accurate. However, this is whats its all about isnt it. this is one of those rare times/places where you find yourself dependent upon yourself and nature. I would give this 5 stars, but that may make the trail sound too easy, physically and mentally. Requires you to be on your game for both resources.