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.

Length11.3 miElevation gain3,976 ftRoute typeOut & back
Dogs on leashBackpackingCampingHikingNature tripsRock climbingBird watchingRunningForestRiverViewsWildflowersWildlifeBugsOver grown
Description
Waypoints (0)
Tips
Getting There

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.

Late fall and early spring are probably the best times to do this hike.  It may be difficult to get to the trailhead in high water since the road crosses a stream twice. Don't attempt to cross in high water. The summer could be very hot on the steepest part of the climb. The southwest facing switchbacks will have no shade and that sort of terrain heats up like an oven. There are small streams through about the 2.5 mile point.  After that, water may be unreliable. There is plenty of camping available in the surrounding area. Make sure you get a fire permit before you build a fire. You can download one for free from the National Forrest web site.

You can only access this magical area by motor vehicle using roads that come from the east, getting off US 101 at King City, South of Salinas. From US101 in King City, go west on Jolon Road (County Road G14) for 17.8 miles.  Take a right turn onto Mission Road and enter the Fort Hunter Liggett Army Base. You drive northwest through the base for about 4.9 miles and then turn left on Del Venturi Road. Continue on Del Venturi Road for another 7.7 miles, then continue straight on Milpitas Road. It just looks like you are going straight and on the obvious main road. You go another 9.3 miles on Milpitas Road until you reach the parking lot for the trailhead. There are two places you can turn off the main road to park. The second turn-in on the right is the more street vehicle friendly of the two. The first one is the closer to the main trailhead. Don't forget to take in the scenery as you drive to this trailhead. It is quite unusual and worth admiring. Driving through a place that looks like a land that California forgot, it is remote and out of the way, so much so that it can go completely unnoticed in a state with as much beauty as California.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (34)
Photos (110)
Recordings (40)
Completed (49)
View user's profile page
Stefan V.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJune 27, 2020
HikingBugsNo shadeOver grown
View Stefan's Recording
View user's profile page
Jurgen Herzog
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 13, 2020

This was a one time hike for me. I went June 8th and most of the wild flowers and vegetation were already dried up. Beautiful rock formations in the lower part. Trail was easy to follow, but I strongly advise long pants. It is a steady and long incline, so the category "hard" is appropriate. The views on top are beautiful, but people who hike along the coast are a bit spoiled. The best time to go is probably April/May when things are still green and lush. It took me 4.45 hours sole hiking (was trail running downhill)

View user's profile page
Arras Wilson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 4, 2020
Hiking

It was a gorgeous hike in a very secluded area of California. The trail is overgrown in some areas but a lot of trail work has been done in the last couple months. The trail is in much better shape than it was previously and very easy to follow. Car to car was 9 hours counting two or three hours I spent doing trail work. It was a warm sunny day and I went through 6 liters of water. I topped off my reservoir at a seasonal creek on the way in and again on the way out.

View Arras's Recording
View user's profile page
Dhawal Naik
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarApril 6, 2020
HikingOver grownSnow

Truly a hidden gem. Did it on 4th April. Started late around 2:30 pm (The main road was closed and we had to take a mud-road diversion which added time to get into the area) and got down by 9:30 pm. The first half is easy yet pretty. The real climb begins 2.5 miles in and the views get better and better as you rise up. Trail has been recently marked using coloured ribbons and was being cleared of thick overgrowth while we were climbing. Surprisingly high amount of snow in the last 3/4th mile. But the top is totally worth it. The views are breathtaking on all sides. Highly recommend this. Not many go here since it is not in a popular park but that adds to the allure!

View user's profile page
Aaron Gonzalez
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 15, 2020
HikingOver grown

What an epic hike! We did it on an overcast day with some light rain and it took us 6 hours and 45 mins. We took minimal breaks and only stopped at the summit for 20 mins because it was so cold and the rain was coming down harder. Although the drizzle didn't bother us in the beginning, the constant rain started to penetrate our shells and pants. The overgrown brush is worse in the rain because it can drench your whole body each time you pass through it. Even battling through the elements this was still an amazing hike with some really cool views. Oh and the trail was pretty easy to find the whole way. I know previous hikers mentioned having issues with finding the way, but it's well defined right now. Look for the green and yellow flags tied to the bushes to let you know you're going the right way. Overall, a really cool place to hike through. Pretty secluded too. Would definitely recommend.

View user's profile page
Frank Kong
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFebruary 24, 2020
Hiking

The difficult level of the trail is moderate. but the trail was covered. a lot of bushes, not recommend to wear short sleep shirts. be careful you can be scratched by them The trail was not crowded at all, in fact we don’t see even a single hiker.

View user's profile page
Andrew Griggs
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFebruary 16, 2020
HikingOver grown
View Andrew's Recording
View user's profile page
Miriam H
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 1, 2019
HikingBugsOver grownRocky

This is definitely not a trail for the faint of heart. 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!

View user's profile page
Joey Page
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 27, 2019
Over grown

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.

View user's profile page
Hongche Liu
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 26, 2019
HikingMuddyOver grown

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.

View Hongche's Recording
View user's profile page
Noah Campbell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMay 11, 2019
HikingBugsOver grown

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

View Noah's Recording
View user's profile page
Austin Herbaugh
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMarch 24, 2019
HikingNo shadeOver grownSnow

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.

View user's profile page
Michael Dyrdahl
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarFebruary 23, 2019
Hiking

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.

View Michael's Recording
View user's profile page
Michael Kahane
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 23, 2018
Hiking

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.

View user's profile page
aaron moses
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 4, 2018
Hiking

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

View user's profile page
Tiffany Vannasing
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 13, 2018
Hiking

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.

View user's profile page
Alex Smith
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 28, 2018
Hiking

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

View user's profile page
Bryan Stuercke
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarDecember 31, 2017
Hiking

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!

View user's profile page
David Briggs
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarOctober 19, 2015
First to Review

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.

View user's profile page
Kelly Long
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 4, 2020
Hiking
View Kelly's Recording
View user's profile page
Alan Sittig
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 4, 2020
Hiking
View Alan's Recording
Showing results 1 - 21 of 34