Junipero Serra Peak

MODERATE 8 reviews
#52 of 163 trails in

Junipero Serra Peak is a 11.3 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Greenfield, California that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

11.3 miles
3,976 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash





nature trips

rock climbing

trail running





wild flowers



old growth

over grown

no shade

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. 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. 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. 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.

1 month ago

This hike is actually 12.5 miles round trip, took us about 6.5 hrs with a 30 min lunch break at the top. Did it mid June 2018. We used strava to track it and most of the elevation gain is between miles 4-6. The last about 1.5 miles is bushwhacking through tall bushes and pines. Bring a jacket and wear pants to not get scraped up. The views going up are amazing, so it's nice to take breaks and look around. The summit has a fire tower which does not have a platform, but you can climb the stairs to just take a quick peek. Overall, it was a nice hike.

1 month ago

Great hike, I completed it late December. The round trip took me a little over 5 hours with break at the top. The first half of the trail is in woods, then there is little to no shade for the rest of the hike. I couldn’t stop turning around and admiring the views. And the last hour of the drive has some great views as well.
A few things of note: there were a few places where I had to double check if I was on the trail.
And at the top the trail takes you to the other side of the mountain - the temperature did drop nearly 20 degrees with winds gusts.
For a scenic hike to escape the crowds - highly recommended

6 months ago

I’ve hiked this 5 times in the past few months to get in shape for bigger peaks. It’s tough, about 3 hours to summit at a good pace, but there’s views of the fort, King City, GreenField, Nacimiento Lake, and the Pacific.

Heavy brush at the top as of November 2017, but it’s not too difficult to get through. Just keep your eyes on the trail and always stick to the most worn trail.

Definite worth it if you have a day for it!

Monday, October 19, 2015

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.

4 months ago

5 months ago

6 months ago

recorded Junipero Serra Peak

Saturday, June 24, 2017