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Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

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Expand view Topic review: Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

Re: Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

Post by VWA_Ranger on Sun May 16, 2021 4:52 pm

Date Hiked: May 14, 2021
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

*** VWA/USFS Volunteer Ranger/Trail Crew Report ***


Today a Volunteer VWA/USFS Volunteer Ranger and VWA/USFS Trailcrew Leader were given access to survey the trail from Indians to Junipero Serra Summit. In general the trail is rated difficult and has been burned severely by the fire with only a few sections being unburned between the Summit Junction and Junipero Serra Peak. Portions of the summit area did survive the fire.

Trail conditions are as follows:

Santa Lucia Trail Summit Jct. to back side of Mountain Saddle. - Difficult - This section of trail burned heavily during the fire. The ridge line is barren, except for a short section of trail leading to the saddle. The trail can be followed but has lots of off camber tread, with many small rocks and boulders in the trail. Up top, vegetation is beginning to grow back in the middle of the trail. These tiny ceanothus seedlings have the potential to become large plants. Some of the burned vegetation is also sticking into the trail.
Back side of Mountain Saddle to Junipero Serra Summit - Difficult- The once welcoming forest on the back side of the mountain burned severely during the fire. The trail sign to Junipero Serra Camp is gone. Several downed trees along the back side were there before the Dolan Fire, and they burned, but not completely. You still have to step over them. And the trail still winds up and down where it had been when the trees and brush were all intact. The thick buck brush leading to the summit also burned. However, portions of the brush remain sticking into the trail. Once at the summit, the forest canopy mostly survived, providing shady spots for lunch and rest after the arduous climb to the summit.
Juniper Serra Summit Junction.jpg
Santa Lucia Trail Summit Jct. The sign is gone, the rock pile remains.
Looking down the ridge above the summit jct.jpg
Looking down the ridge towards Santa Lucia Trail Summit Jct.
Downed Tree along the back side.jpg
Downed tree along the back side of the peak.
Trail to back side of peak.jpg
Unburned section of trail leading to the saddle to the back side of the peak.
view of back side trail.jpg
View of back side of the trail leading to the summit.
Near the summit.jpg
Trees start to reappear as you reach the summit.
Old Fire Tower Survived.jpg
The old fire tower did survive the fire.

Re: Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

Post by Lonhart on Fri May 29, 2020 1:05 pm

Date Hiked: May 22, 2020
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Left the Santa Lucia trailhead at 0715 hr, first time on this trail. At first trail split, within 100 m after the first creek crossing, head left. Trail is hard to see due to thick grass. Once above the first slight rise it becomes clear and easy to follow. In the first 3 miles (to about end of oak trees) I removed 33 ticks from my legs and shorts. No evidence anyone had been hiking up the trail recently, although there was green flagging all along the trail, which was comforting to know I was still on the trail. Ticks no longer an issue after crossing the last creek and heading through head-high chaparral.

0945 hr reached trail junction to take the summit spur. Brushes are encroaching the trail, which is easy to see, but at times is narrow or has some overhead foliage. I tried to clip what I could as I went.

Once in the section with pine trees (I guess less than a mile from the summit), there are sections with more overgrowth, forming canopies. There are also multiple deadfalls, all easily navigated. A small metal sign indicates water down a spur trail heading away from the summit and down the canyon. I did not see any evidence of water along the summit trail after about mile 2.5.

The last shrub section was narrow, and requires more clearing work. I clipped some of the higher, encroaching limbs, but the base on either side of the trail needs limb loppers to take out the shrubs. Emerging from the brush into more of the pine forest at about noon was thrilling. The top of the mountain is so different from the rest of the hike. Pines, open spaces, and a relic lookout tower, along with the remnants of some brick and cement structures.

The views were excellent, and no one else was up there. A rocky outcrop visible from the lookout base has the USGS markers and a book with paper and pens to make notes of your visit (it is in a chimney-like structure with wood on top, tucked into a shelf for easy access).

No ticks on the way back down, and I saw no one during the entire hike, back at the trailhead 1645 hr.

Re: Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

Post by MarinaH on Sun Apr 12, 2020 2:07 pm

Date Hiked: April 7, 2020
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Trail was good up until about 3/4 of the way to the summit. Surprising amount of snow. Encroaching brush make the upper part of the trail difficult as it was covered in snow and very wet. Tread was evident mainly because of footprints left the day before. Summit views were worth it though. But, as the sun came out, the snow began melting causing huge clumps of snow and ice to fall from overhanding trees. From the trail head the mountain looks snow free, but on the northern facing slopes there was significant amounts of snow. We would definitely brought waterproof gear if we had know.

Re: Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

Post by pantilat on Tue Jan 28, 2020 3:40 pm

Date Hiked: January 25, 2020
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

From the saddle, the first part of this trail switchbacks through chamise and then it transitions to scrub oak. Only minor brush encroachment throughout this part as clippings were noted keeping the trail relatively clear.

The second part traverses onto the north side of the peak where a sugar pine forest is present. Prepare for much cooler temps here and possibly snow on the ground as snow can linger here for weeks after winter storms. There are two groves of sugar pine with a section of brush in between. The worst brush always resided on this stretch between the two groves of sugar pines. That part is now a fairly clear path/tunnel after some trail work. However, the handful of large logs remain over the trail. It's interesting to note the "field" of young Coulter Pines growing up through the brush. Given a few years without another fire this will be a dense Coulter pine forest and hopefully that will reduce the brush growth!

Overall, the summit spur is now in the best shape I've seen it the past couple years.

Fun Fact: Between August 1965 and October 1967 astronomers were stationed at the now dilapidated fire lookout and provided the only weather data available for the peak. In the winter of 1966-67 season they recorded 119.7 inches of snow! Perhaps that explains why there was an "unauthorized skiing operation on the summit before 1970." Source:

Re: Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

Post by AaronP on Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:51 am

Date Hiked: January 1, 2020
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked up to the summit on new year day. The lower areas within the first 3 miles of the trailhead were a bit muddy. Some small downed trees on the trail but nothing too difficult to go around/step over. After the junction and closer to the summit there are some larger downed trees to climb over(maybe 4-6). Within 2 miles of the summit the trail was covered in 2-6 inches of snow so we followed flags to the summit.

Re: Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

Post by seagoat1724 on Fri Jun 28, 2019 1:54 pm

Date Hiked: June 8, 2019
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Trail is good. Some brush but regularly cut back by users. Often cuts are close to/in the trail and sharp/angular.

Re: Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

Post by Aaron Luoma on Mon Apr 29, 2019 8:47 am

Date Hiked: April 27, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Hiked on 4/27, 5 hours to the top, 3 back down. Lots of water as you follow the trail along the creek and several swampy areas the trail traveres. No water once you reach the switchbacks. Trail narrows with areas of brush growing thick on both sides for most of the switchbacks to the top but passable. People have been doing brush cutting and someone thoughtfully left some nice cutters on the trail for others to continue the work.

Re: Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

Post by JohnnyB on Thu Apr 04, 2019 12:42 pm

Date Hiked: April 2, 2019
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

I am confirming the post below to be accurate. I hiked with a partner from Memorial Park campground to the summit of Junípero Serra and the overgrowth around the last 800 feet below the summit is thick in many places, especially on the northern side of the summit. It is passable, but we were pushing through brush which will only get heavier later in the season. I had loppers and my partner had hand pruners and a saw, and we cleared the trail on the way down, but mostly put a dent in the overgrowth since we were pressed for time. It is recommended to wear long sleeves and pants until the overgrowth is properly cleared.

There are about three downed trees near the summit which could use a crew to clear. The trail nearer the summit is barely visible and easy to lose, but with use and brush clearing it should become more evident. The rest of the trail below 5,000 feet was in very good condition and easy to follow.

Water was flowing everywhere, and I refilled two liters directly from the stream at the last crossing before the climb up to the trail junction.

My partner had a GPS tracking device, and the distance from the campground to the summit was 5.87 miles, with a 3,800 elevation gain. It took us 3.5 hours to reach the summit. Small patches of snow remained near the summit.

Poison Oak is leafing out, but very little of it is near the trail.

Regeneration of conifers near the summit due to The Indians Fire is prolific. Most of the saplings are between 3’-8’ tall, and given more time, will completely block any views to the north.

Re: Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

Post by aa6xa on Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:32 pm

Date Hiked: March 29, 2019
General Condition: Difficult (brushy and/or many deadfalls, faint tread)

Hiked from Santa Lucia Park TH to Junipero Serra Peak. After the junction with the Peak Trail the trail got progressively worse. Up until the trail went around to the north side of the ridge the brush was a minor annoyance, easy to get through. I would rate it "Passable". On the north side of the ridge the trail was completely overgrown for long sections, and I could tell I was on the trail because it was marginally easier to push through the brush on the trail than off. There were some signs of maintenance, cut limbs and such, but this section needs a lot of work. Tread was well defined until the final climb to the summit, around the 5500 contour. Here I lost the trail and couldn't find it, so I ended up doing a horrendous bushwhack up to the summit and back. The bushwhack was even more fun because of all the snow still on the ground. The final section could be accurately labeled "Impassable".
If I had known the trail was going to be so overgrown I would have worn long sleeves to protect my arms.

Re: Santa Lucia Peak Trail (summit spur)

Post by WindowMtn on Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:26 pm

Date Hiked: April 21, 2018
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

The trail was easy to follow. There were a just a few very short sections
of loose gravel that was a bit slippery. In the last two miles there is quite
a bit of brush encroaching on the trail. Most of it is a minor annoyance.
In some sections it requires shouldering one's way through and presents a small impediment to forward progress. However it never obscured the trail
and never required a full body weight shove to get through. People in my party who neglected to wear long pants and long sleeve shirts ended up quite bloodied.

There was a tiny bit of poison oak near the creek crossings that could be avoided with some care.

The steepest part of the trail also has the least shade and is the most exposed to the sun. It was a bit grueling. I took four liters of water and drank it all.

The creek was running clear, clean, and cool and the water was very refreshing. The last refill spot is 3 miles from the trailhead at altitude of about 3200 feet. You could fill up here to avoid having to carry a full load of water the first 3 miles. Also it's really nice to have a cool drink on the descent and a place to dunk one's head in the water.

The trail immediately uphill from this crossing is a little wet for about 50 feet. There didn't seem to be a way to avoid it. Luckily it's not the horrible clay-type mud. It's not deep enough to go over the tops of your shoes.

There were a few brief, pretty wildflower presentations, lupines, ceanothus, and others, mostly in the lower sections of the hike.