Monterey County High Point Trip Report

Junipero Serra Peak

Date: January 12, 2002
Author: Chris Randall


I had a successful summit bid from Indians Road. No big deal? Well, it was for me. This is NOT an easy day-hike. I have not really done any REAL physical activity for almost two years (I ran a marathon in 2000), so this was a hard hike for my computer programmer lazy butt. The hike is 12 miles round trip, with 3,900 feet of vertical climb. It reminded me that I need to get more active! However, I did the hike attaining the summit in about 6 hours, including some backtracking (see below). There was a negligible amount of snow on the north side of the peak.

The sign at the 4,170-foot saddle needs to be removed, it is very confusing. It looks like the sign points you on the north-facing trail, when you actually want to take the northeast-facing trail, straight up the ridge directly facing the peak some 1,700 feet above you. Jeffrey Shaffer's book says to avoid the northwest-facing trail (which I mistook for the true trail, which actually faces northeast). After half an hour of beating my way through very thick brush and poison oak, I realized I was on the wrong trail, and headed back. My instinct told me to take the clearer path up the ridge but I was following the sign.

Somebody had kindly marked a large arrow in the dirt after I had already passed it on the way up, and I saw it on the way down. Down toward the bottom I ran into the nice guy who did this. He was a squirrel hunter, and had climbed up just to make sure that the trail was clear. He was hunting down where the creeks were flowing. I guess my mishap is not uncommon.

After the 4,170' saddle, it was pretty clear up to the dreaded 0.2-0.3 mile stretch around the north side of the peak where trail crews have cleared a whole lot of brush. It was great to see this was done, although, it was still difficult to climb through. All the cuttings are still on the trail, along with some deadfall trees. After a good deal of high-stepping, crawling, climbing, and tripping, I made it through the deadfall area, and continued through the open-forest section. It looked like some trees had been laid down to indicate where the trail should be. A small amount of snow on the ground made it somewhat unclear, but still very navigable.

As noted in an earlier report, the summit tower has indeed been vandalized. Lots of broken glass and other yucky stuff lying around. The peak is a really nice plateau, and I enjoyed my stay up there. There is summit cabin up there, which I did not expect. None of the trail reports, or anything else I read, talk about it. Inside where about four sleeping bags, a cot to sleep on, and some water. I would imagine that this is where the lookout probably slept when the fire looking was functioning.

The view from the top of this peak is really amazing. This is a great winter peak to climb. It was cool enough, but not cold. And the sky was totally clear. I've heard and read that the ocean is almost always foggy in the summer. I could see the ocean to the west, and most of Ventana Wilderness to the north. To the east I could see all of Salinas Valley, some of the San Joaquin, and could make out the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada some 135 miles away. It was neat to be able to see that far!

Technically, the east part of the peak is actually the highest point on the top of the mountain. There is a strange-looking concrete slab that surrounds the benchmark.

See the pictures I took on my trip on the Junipero Serra Peak entry on