Date Hiked: March 1, 2007
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)
Conditions reported by: Chris
Survey date: 1-MARCH-2007
Section: Highway 1 to Fire Road - Clear/Passable
The trail was clear and well defined up until the redwood grove on the ridge. In the grassy field just before the ascent gets steep I briefly saw a mountain lion, who promptly slumped off into the forest. Exciting!
Section: Fire Road to Post Summit - Passable
The old 4WD road along the ridge was easily discerned, but this could change in a month or two once the grass grows longer. Once on the old fire break to the summit, the trail becomes passable to at times difficult. However, there's never a question about where to go since you just follow the (admittedly overgrown) fire break all the way to the summit. I encountered 1-3 inches of snow at about 3000 feet, but this will likely be gone in a few days.
Conditions reported by: Paul Danielson
Survey date: 21-JULY-2005
Conditions and views were almost identical to those aptly described by Greg Rasure in his May 10, 2002 trail report of the same hike (variation).
The spur ridge descent (from the firebreak north of Post Summit) along the still visible ranch road, was indeed steep,but doable. Focus and a sensible pace is all that is required. At the bottom, one can see the road-cut going up the slope on the other side of the canyon. It is steep and marked by some deadfalls but can be followed without difficulty to the top, where one regains the main trail on the grassy ridge. No cross country is required. We encountered deer en route. We heard but did not find the water source at the canyon crossing. All in all, it is a most enjoyable hike. It can provide an interesting variation for those who like to do the East Molera route to Post Summit.
Conditions reported by: Carl A. Mounteer
Survey date: 25-MARCH-2005
The trailhead is not immediately obvious or marked. It is next to the sign telling you Andrew Molera State Park is 1/4 mile on the northbound lane of Highway 1.
This trail is an uphill grind almost the entire way. I calculated about 900'/mile elevation gain to the redwood cluster at the end of the trail. Schaefer estimates it at an average 20% and, in places, a 30% grade.
The tread is evident most of the way except for a half mile in before the first switchback where the wildflowers have completely obliterated the dirt road you hike on before the switchback. But you can still pick up the trail easily further on. A small landslide covered the trail about 1/4 mile from the end. But it was easily negotiable.
There is lots of sharp talus on the trail. This makes for a cautious descent. This stuff is so sharp it tore some rubber on the toe of a fairly new Hi-Tech Granite Peak backpacking boot. I've been through some pretty sharp talus but I've never had that happen before.
At the beginning of the first switchback the tread turned into a tiny stream that was quite slippery. Another reason for caution at this time of year.
It looks like the trail terminates about 30 yards beyond the huge fallen pine at the redwood cluster at the end of the trail. Then it continues on a very untravelled and poorly maintained dirt road that was overgrown with grass and only had one tread evident for the first 50 yards.
I took me about 1.2 hours inbound and .8 hours outbound on a 1.6 mile trail. I usually average about 2 m.p.h. on a moderate grade so the latter really slowed me down.
The views are absolutely magnificent.
Conditions reported by: Michael
Survey date: 12-FEB-2005
Hiked to Post Summit, lower section had lots of ticks, middle grassy fire road section was clear as usual. Upper fire cut section still clear but steep and slippery coming down. Actually find this section to be less slippery when wet as it was at this time.
Conditions reported by: Trey Kropp
Survey date: 31-MAR-2004
Section: East Molera to Pfeiffer State Park
I hiked the entire ridge from East Molera to Pfeiffer State Park. The firebreak over Post Summit is getting overgrown, but still very clear. I encounted about 100 ticks on the overgrown parts but that happens this time of yerar. I never got bit. The only confusing part is after Post Summit you go down, then back up. You will see a Forset Service sign on the right that says TRAIL. Don't take this because it it only leads to a dead end. Overall the trail is very clear but very steep.
Conditions reported by: Vivian Mather
Survey date: 24-MAY-2003
We parked at the East Ridge trailhead, then rode bikes to the Manuel Peak/Oak Grove trailhead in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
The trail was good for the first third of the way up to Manuel Peak, with good views of the lower Big Sur River drainage. We then encountered some downed trees, slippage and alot of poison oak. One other couple who had reached this point turned back due to these conditions. The last third of the trail to the "peak" was fairly good, with masses of wild flowers and oaks. It was quite beautiful.
We had lunch on the rocky outcrop, where someone had obviously made camp in the recent past. It had taken us longer to reach this point than anticipated due to trail conditions, but our objective was to continue on along Cabezo Prieto ridge to Post Summit. We walked/bush whacked alot of the way, as the fire break is fairly overgrown, but it is very obvious to just stay on the top of the ridge all the way.
Along the way we had incredible views in all directions, plus a surplus of wild flowers, including varieties of Sticky Monkey flowers we had not seen elsewhere.
Once at Post Summit we slid alot of the way down to the South boundary of Molera Ridge. We were very glad of the advice of Tom Hopkins, who advised trekking poles. Our knees were feeling it by the time we entered Molera State Park. We then followed the fire trail back to the trailhead. We were on the Ridge last summer, when it was clear, but now it is getting overgrown. Long grass.
It certainly seemed more than the 12.5 miles that Tom Hopkins had estimated. It took us about 7.5 hours, with two 1/2 hour stops to refuel.
Great hike - really challenging with spectacular scenery all the way. Do carry trekking poles, lots of water and wear long pants and shirts. Oh, and check for ticks - there's lot's of them.
Conditions reported by: Greg Rasure
Survey date: 10-MAY-02
Today hiked the East Molera Trail from Hwy One to Post Summit. Trail conditions were good all the way to the top. The initial switchbacks had a lot of loose rock on them, as did the final very steep section before the summit. In between, however, there are several miles of gradually rising trail through grasslands carpeted with beautiful blue lupin and other wild flowers. Stunning views of the coast, Pico Blanco, and the mountains and canyons of the interior were to be had. Weather was cold and windy, with some fog blowing over, and otherwise sunny. Wind shells and sweaters were definitely required.
On the way back from the summit we attempted to go north along the ridge and follow a very faint very old roadbed we had observed from below. We followed this as it descended off the main summit ridge and dropped very steeply along a spur into a canyon. This is strongly not recommended. The spur drops extremely steeply into a canyon, with basically only a faint trace of a route to follow, very overgrown and rocky. This strained our reserves to the limit, and was followed by a difficult climbout up from a streambed in the bottom of the canyon through trees and brush to regain the main trail. I would not do this again, even knowing it is humanly possible.
Otherwise, though, the day and the trail were spectacular. We did encounter many ticks, however. There is at least 3500 feet of elevation gain to get to Post Summit, so be prepared to do a lot of work to get there and back again.
Conditions reported by: Francis Toldi
Survey date: 27-DEC-01
I hiked up the East Molera trail from Highway 1 to Post Summit on December 27, 2001. The trail was clear all the way up to the summit. As of that date there was no significant brush on the firebreak portion after the route leaves Molera State Park property. Some portions of the firebreak as it works its way up the ridge to Post Summit were very steep and slippery. The trail appeared to continue in a similar manner to Manuel Peak, but I did not hike further on it, returning the way I came. I suspect that the amount of brush on the firebreak is a matter of luck, and depends on how long it has been since the firebreak is cleared or bulldozed.
Conditions reported by: Betsy MacGowan
Survey date: 13-AUGUST-00
A Sierra Club Ventana Chapter Outing completed the same loop reported on by Tom Hopkins. This was a beautiful hike, though we found that two quarts of water was not enough on a hot summer day. From the State Park Boundary, at the edge of the grassland as the trail begins the last mile up to Post Summit, where the dozer trail goes straighu up the nose of the ridge, to the top of Mount Manual, the way has been cleared by fire activity. Walking is easy, and since you aren't busy pushing the chapparral out of your face, you are able to notice the scenery. Such as the Pacific Ocean, the Ventana Double Cone, the moon rising in the East, and the pristine stand of Santa Lucia Firs nestled in the rocky curve of the ridge below you.
Conditions reported by: Tom Hopkins
Survey date: 28-DECEMBER-99
General: CLEAR BUT DIFFICULT
On the morning of December 28, 1999, I parked my car along Highway One at the cattle chute entrance to the East Molera Trail. It was a bright clear winter day that held great prospect for a fine hike up to the crest of the coast ridge that separates the lower end of the Big Sur and Little Sur drainages.
The first portion of the hike is up the East Molera Trail that is within Andrew Molera State Park. The trail is clear all the way as it follows an old road up fairly gentle slopes to the base of the main ridge. This lower area is a mix of oak woodland and mixed grasslands now being invaded by mixed native shrubs as a result of the cessation of livestock grazing. This lower area is good birding and one often sees a variety of raptors.
The climb up the main ridge is generally steep and some spots are littered with slippery cobbles, so watch your step. About half way up the first leg of the steep section, there is a seep that is the only source of water along this trail; look for the willows. After the first switchback, the trail continues at a steep grade through several more twists and turns. It finally arrives at several groves of stately redwood trees standing sentinel in what is otherwise an open grass covered ridgetop. Great views abound. One can look down on all of Andrew Molera State Park including the mouth of the Big Sur River and the adjacent Pfeiffer Ridge. Just north of the park lies the vast grass covered marine terrace of the El Sur Ranch stretching up the coast to the wave defiant pinnacle of Point Sur. Behind you, across the dense forest covering the north facing slope of the Little Sur River, the white hulk of Pico Blanco rises high above you.
At this point you have reached the end of the East Molera Trail proper. However, one need not turn back because an old jeep road follows this ridgetop in two directions. I headed southeast and followed the old road as it climbed through the gently rising grass covered ridge to the south boundary of Andrew Molera SP which is marked by an old fence line. Continuing in that general direction, the road rises more steeply and reaches an unnamed summit. Looking to the east, one can see chaparral covered Post Summit with its newly bulldozed firebreak creating a direct access to this recently chaparral bound peak. The firebreak is quite steep and the loose gravel surface is very slippery. This is a good place to use trekking poles to help maintain your footing.
From the top of Post Summit, with its spectacular views of the Little Sur drainage and the Ventana Double Cone, the new bulldozed firebreak continues across Cabezo Prieto ridge to Mt. Manuel. The top of Mt. Manuel was significantly disturbed by fire suppression support activity during the Kirk Complex fire and the old trail has been obliterated. To find the trail down to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, walk over to the big black monolith near the "view point" on the southwest side of the peak; just downslope you will find the trail down to Pfeiffer. The Mt. Manuel Trail was clear all the way down with a few typical slipouts along the way. I estimate the total length of the walk at 12.5 miles.