Junipero Serra Peak

HARD 20 reviews
#40 of 179 trails in

Junipero Serra Peak is a 11.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Greenfield, California that features a river and is rated as difficult. 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.

Distance: 11.3 miles Elevation Gain: 3,976 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

backpacking

camping

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

bird watching

running

forest

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

over grown

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.

hiking
bugs
over grown
rocky
1 month ago

This is definitely not a trail for the faint of heart. My boyfriend and I hiked this trail yesterday, took us about seven and a half hours (with about 45 minutes at the summit). The first part of the trail is deceptively easy, with a mile to a mile and a half of gentle hills through grassland. Sage grass seemed to act as the indication that we were moving into a more thickly wooded section. Here things began to move more consistently uphill, although still pretty easy. A little brushy, but the flies were definitely the worst part here. After about another mile, the elevation gain really starts to pick up, and you reach the beginning of the switchbacks. Also at this point you will exit the wooded area and be back out in the sun. About midway through the switchbacks you'll reach a saddle, and the trail diverges, but a sign pretty clearly states to go right. At that point it's another steep climb to reach a ridge. The views here are amazing, but I hope you're ready for the amount of brush. Not so many switchbacks at this point, so it at least feels like the steepest part of the trail. The brush is all about waist to shoulder height at this point, with plenty of seeds to release on the person behind you. At about the time you reach the lower peak you will start to reach the tunnels of spiky brush, with only brief reprieves from sections of pine trees. This goes along the entire north face of the mountain, so you won't get a whole lot of views from there. When you get to the actual summit, there's just an end to the tunnel of brush (pay attention to where the entrance is when you come back), and you have to find your way through the pine trees to reach the tower at the top. Then it's just a matter of resting and finding your way back down. Pay attention to the rock cairns, As they'll help you figure out which way to go. You can see Junipero Serra peak from the beginning of the trail, and it looks deceptively easy... Good luck to future travelers. Hard hike, absolutely worth it!

over grown
5 months ago

This trail was amazing, epic, & the views were breathtaking. I would not attempt this unless you're wearing long sleeves and pants. There are parts where the trail is very overgrown and you need to go through thick and sharp brush. 1st quarter is grassy and not very steep, 2nd part is rocky and steeper, 3rd part is very steep and overgrown, last mile or so before you get to the top is pretty mellow. I'm a moderately experienced hiker, it took me and a buddy about 5 hours to reach the top, and about half that time to get down. From Monterey, it's about a 2 hr drive.

hiking
muddy
over grown
5 months ago

It is our first difficult level hike. and tire to the designation, the distance, the elevation gain, the narrow trail, the overgrown brush, the thicket (when we got lost for 30 minutes), rain and snow made it a challenging hike for first time hiker trying difficult trails. Fortunately, we are mostly well equipped with water proof boots and jackets, trekking poles and new hydration system backpack. We survived, but not without a lot of blisters, muscle soreness and a bit of knee swelling. Excuse us rookie difficult level hikers.

hiking
bugs
over grown
6 months ago

Between the overgrown path, bugs, interesting vegetation, isolation, and overabundance of lizards and snakes, I feel like this hike was the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing the Triassic Period

hiking
no shade
over grown
snow
7 months ago

The first couple miles is beautiful. The trail is steep but manageable. Once you climb above the creek the trail gets VERY steep and overgrown. Wearing pants is a must because there are parts where brush has almost taken over the trail. The view from the summit was worth the hike, but I would only recommend it for very experienced backpackers.

Excellent hike. Snow on the south face is limited (20 FEB 19) and the trails are clear to 4500'. We ended the summit attempt due to snow depth 24" on th north face of approach ridge. No tower this trip. Snowshoes and gaiters would have made it easy. Lesson: Don't be deceived by what looks like Ltd snow on summit.

hiking
Sun Sep 23 2018

Great views but it's a shame that the trail is not well maintained, it is overgrown at many places, be prepared to brush against a ton of bushes along the way.

hiking
Tue Sep 04 2018

If you want to be a human weed wacker, then this is the trail for you! I did not have the best attitude after climbing several thousand feet to battle extra thick brush and flies. I would suggest doing this hike late in the year. It does have expansive views and gives you some bragging rights. However, there are much more enjoyable hikes in Big Sur, in my opinion, with better views. Scenery: 3 Views: 4 Difficulty: 5 Crowds: 1 Shade: 2 My 1-5 Rating Scale Comparisons for above: 5 for Scenery; Mcway Falls Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP 4.5 for Scenery: Berry Creek Falls Big Basin State Park 4 for Scenery: Steep Ravine Trail 5 for Views: Nimitz Trail Tilden Park 5 for Views: Ridge Trail San Bruno Mtn Park 4.5 for Views Montara Mtn Summit San Pedro County Park 4 for Views Rancho Canada Del Oro Bald Peaks trail 5 for Difficulty: Junipero Serra Peak 4 for Difficulty: Mount El Sombroso Loop Trail

hiking
Wed Jun 13 2018

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.

hiking
Mon May 28 2018

Great hike, I completed it late December. The round trip took me a little over 5 hours with a 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

hiking
Sun Dec 31 2017

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!

Mon Oct 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.

hiking
6 months ago

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8 months ago

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Sat Nov 17 2018

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Mon Feb 19 2018

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Sun Jan 21 2018

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Mon Jan 01 2018

recorded Junipero Serra Peak

hiking
Sat Jun 24 2017

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