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Santa Lucia Trail

Re: Santa Lucia Trial (Pimkolam Summit)

Postby rt1 on Fri Aug 13, 2010 1:25 am

Date Hiked: August 12, 2010
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

This is for the route from the Indians to the summit.

The trail has very little poison oakand only has knee high brush. There are only a few deadfalls that need to be ducked under. There are a few places where the trail temporarily disappears near the top but it reappears soon after. Around Mountain Laurel Creek there is a lot of foliage but very little poison oak.

When you get to the top, the logbook is in a clipboard in the ruins southeast of the tower. Hopeflly the mess on the summit can be cleaned up since it mars the otherwise beautiful scene.
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Re: Santa Lucia Trial (Pimkolam Summit)

Postby Elliott Robinson on Mon May 24, 2010 3:01 pm

Date Hiked: May 22, 2010
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Note: This is for the Santa Lucia Trail from Arroyo Seco Camp to Junipero Serra, not from Indians - I say "impassable" because it is closer to that than "difficult".

The trail is pretty normal for the area up to Last Chance Camp. Nothing out of the ordinary - poison oak, narrow track, etc. Beginning at Last Chance Camp there are many tags marking the trail for the next half mile or so. At that point they stop and the fun begins. This is where I describe the route as "impassable" rather than "difficult," because "difficult" doesn't quite describe the sheer wildness of the next six miles - you can get through but only with a great deal of tenacity, pain tolerance, and route finding luck.

Somewhere around 2,800' you begin following cairns that are far apart through meadow and talus (...there are no more tags except for a very few after you reach the dry creek beds at about 3,600, go over the saddle and down to the creek, then a few more show up that are difficult to track...) Through this VERY, VERY difficult section the vegetation is very thick and there are many places where there is almost nothing to help you find the right spot in the brush to crawl through. If you pick the wrong spot, that doesn't look too different from the right spot, its hours of bushwhacking. It's not infrequent to find yourself on your belly looking for man-made cuts at the stumps of the brush and other clues. Be prepared to crawl, curse, and make close personal contact with poison oak for a few hours.

Once you get past the dry creek bed and hit the ancient fire break at about 3,600' the brush has momentarily cleared due to the fire. This makes passage much easier than in the past. It's still very difficult going though, with a few options to get get mixed up and lose the track. For now, though, due to the fire the brush is not as ferocious as it once was. Once you're at the junction you feel as though you've reached a super highway.

After we reached the junction, 14 hours after leaving the car, we hiked up to the summit in the twilight...the wind in the trees was fantastic. Then off to Indians and up the Arroyo Seco Trail in the dark. We caught the sunrise just before the Coast Ridge Trail. Missed the cut-off to Trail Springs so went up and down the Cone Peak trail from the Cone Peak Road, then down Vicente Flat Trail to Kirk Creek. Feet were on fire at that point.

35 hours total.
Elliott Robinson

Re: Santa Lucia Trial (Pimkolam Summit)

Postby gfelsman on Sun May 09, 2010 10:33 am

Date Hiked: May 8, 2010
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

On May 8th, a large group of Sierra Club Hikers summited Junipero Serra Peak. The weather could not of been more perfect. sunny, cool and no bugs to speak of. The flowers were excellent all along the trail. Lupine was knee high on both sides of the trail to the wall just before the saddle and junction to Junipero Serra Peak.

When we started the tread was easy to follow needless to say when twenty people take the trip summit the tread and grass are definitely beaten down. Making the trail that much more pleasant.

Trail condtions are as follows:

    Junipero Serra Trailhead to Old Tractor clear. lots of flowers. The cows have made a mess of the tread in many section. Itis beginning to smooth out again.
    Old Tractor to "T" interesection clear.

    Then on to the Santa Lucia Trail marker sign, clear with encraoch brush. If you are tall you will have to duck under some manzanita. a few trees down easily traversed.

    Santa Lucia Sign to the saddle clear. The fire did a good job removing the thick vegetation. The swithcbacks are intact. The brush will cover good portions of the trail in another year or so.

    Once at the saddle the grade lessens and brush is minimal all the way to the saddle before you head to the back side of Junipero Serra Peak.
    As you traverse to the back side ther are burnt section and sections that were untouched by the fire. Many of the logs that once had to be climbed over and stepped around are now gone. The summit was just great. Great views and lots of trees to provide shade.

It should be noted Hunter Liggett has moved the check in station. It is now and the junction of Nacimiento Road. They are directing you to Vasquez Road to reach Indians.
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Re: Santa Lucia Trial (Pimkolam Summit)

Postby BradR on Sun May 02, 2010 9:32 pm

Date Hiked: April 30, 2010
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

Trail was in great shape; not much poison oak either.

Re: Santa Lucia Trial (Pimkolam Summit)

Postby riatch on Wed Apr 21, 2010 7:33 pm

Date Hiked: April 19, 2010
General Condition: Clear (no obstacles and tread well defined)

D.J. and I hiked from the Indians up to the summit of Junipero Serra Peak (aka Santa Lucia Peak aka Stoyakele aka Pimkolam Summit) on Monday, April 19, 2010. The good news is that the trail is relatively free of obstacles and the tread (which was difficult to find post fire) is now quite evident from the parking area at the Indians all the way to the summit. Continued and regular use of this spectacular trail will help to keep it in fine form for at least a few more years.

There are a coupla locations where brush encroaches on the trail. This occurs in the very few places where the fire did not burn brush. But just like the old days ... you just push through and soon you'll be in the clear.

I was encouraged to see that the pine forest on the northern side of the peak was not decimated by fire. The big ole Sugar Pines stand tall and proud. Certainly many young Coulter Pines perished in the blaze and we cleard a jackstraw pile of them that must have been toppled by snow. Many more will tumble in the ensuing years as these Coulters burned down to the roots. It will be interesting to see how this unique alpine forest evolves in the coming years. Already, smooth leaf Ceanothus is becoming entrenched. Will the many Coulter seedlings I saw be able to compete with the Ceanothus?

At the summit, the old lookout tower remains with much garbage and debris at its base. We walked over to the site of the pld Gilbert Anderson cabin location and all that remains is metal garbage. The outhouse is gone. The weird low lying storage facility near the cabin site is now another pile of metal and wood and cement garbage. I found a cache of camp gear on the south side of the summit. A clean-up of all the man-made materials on this summit is in order. It would be a worthy project for the VWA, the FS and any other interested parties to complete.

10 typical view.JPG
16 remains of sign about 2 mi. in.JPG
30 big views.JPG
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Santa Lucia Memorial Park to Pinyon Peak

Postby TRAILS on Mon Jun 08, 2009 4:11 pm

Date Hiked: June 7, 2009
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Reported by piero:

Specific = This is actually a report of the Santa Lucia trail plus the route to Pinyon Peak.

Santa Lucia Memorial Campground to Junipero Serra Peak: wilderness freeway except a couple of spots.

Junipero Serra Peak to Pinyon Peak: Passable.
After the 2008 fires, the old roads are finally visible.
While there is much vegetation to walk around, it mostly burned, so there is relatively (relatively) little bushwhacking to do. The road on the Bear Mountain side (Santa Lucia rd?) is clear to Bear Mountain itself. There are about 100 meters where it is difficult to impassable: best is to drop down on the western side of the ridge. Then the road becomes visible again. Otherwise it would "passable" the whole way.
Pictures at
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Santa lucia Trail

Postby mikesplain on Wed May 27, 2009 6:38 pm

Date Hiked: May 10, 2009
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Reported by Becky Dees:

While most of the areas along the trail burned last year the vegetation is quickly recovering. The meadows are flourishing with fragrant wildflowers. So much so that the trail was difficult to follow in some areas. Paths are developing in the meadows but be carefull because some of the paths were made by wandering hikers and don't lead anywhere. The manzanita along the trails is starting to come back with 6 to 12 inch shoots at the base. The branches are dead, black and bent over the trail, so in several areas if felt more like a Hobbit tunnel than a hiking trail. We were backpacking in so it was especially difficult. Hikers are winding through the dead branches and braided trails are developing in some areas. The oak trees are sprouting new leaves but there are still dead limbs on some of the trees so keep an eye out. The streams were flowing and the water was clear and generally 6 to 18 inches deep.

Once you start up the steeper base of the mountain towards the summit, the trees dissapear and you are left with mostly dead manzanita and low lying flowers and grasses. There were only a few places to get shade along the way up to the top and they were far between. Make sure to bring lots of water. The pine forest has a thick layer of needles making it a little slick and very difficult to find the trail up to the observation tower. The forest is wide open now that the underbrush is gone so it is easy to make you way to the top even without a trail.

The wildlife was sparse. We only saw a few birds and lizards on our trip, although there was evidence of coyote and deer. The bugs have taken over so bring bug spray and a mosquito net.
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Post-Fire Report

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 1:43 pm

Date Hiked: May 1, 2009
General Condition: Passable (some brush and/or deadfalls, tread evident)

Conditions reported by: John Fedak
Survey date: 1-MAY-2009
Santa Lucia Trail to JSP Trailhead to start of chaparral:
Forested sections clear to difficult (routefinding),
Grasslands difficult to impassable (routefinding)
Chapparral to Summit: clear to passable

About 80-90% of the route to JSP has burned, making much of this route a hike through dead trees and/or chaparral skeletons.

One large section of chamise and one slope of pines escaped the blaze. Most everything else partially or completely burned.

The chaparral sections show rampant regrowth, with 6-18" of new shoots sprouting from the bases of the old skeletons and from the branches of the burnt oaks. The pine sections are not faring as well- whole stands of dead trees, a thick coat of dead needles on the ground, and few signs of seedlings/saplings.

The grasslands/lupine have been allowed to grow unchecked since the burn, leaving the tread faint to nonexistent in the meadows.

Undoubtedly use trails will quickly develop, but until that point routefinding will be very difficult in these sections. One will need to either be very familiar with the route of the trail, very good at following faint tread, and/or have a topo map/GPS marking the correct route

A similar situation exists with the ferns at the foot of the 2 mile point meadow

Once into the chaparral the routefinding issues are minimal and the trail is in good shape until just shy of the summit where the pine needles obscure the route once again.

The fire has actually made the section through the pines easier as all of the deadfalls have been cleared.

Artifact updates:
- All three trailsigns have burned (pieces of the 2 mile sign are still present, the saddle and "Pimkolam Peak" sign have burned to stumps)
- The tractor is much the same
- The tin hut is now a melted pile of rubble, but the nearby benches and fire ring are present. The outhouse was obliterated
- The lookout tower platform has been removed (apparently prior to the fire) The tank below has been split open.
- The "water" sign and nearby flagging survived

Pictures and trip report are here:
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Trail Conditions History 1998-2008

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 12:09 pm

Date Hiked: May 25, 2008
General Condition: Impassable (completely overgrown or tread obliterated)

Conditions reported by: Elliott Robinson
Survey date: 25-MAY-2008

Finally made my goal of hiking from Arroyo Seco campground to Kirk Creek via Santa Lucia to Arroyo Seco to the Coast Ridge Trail to Vicente Flat. The Santa Lucia trail between Last Chance camp and the junction with trail coming from Memorial Park is one of the more difficult around. Route finding is complex and you have to be willing to brave hours of walking through dense brush. Often the only way to distinguish trail from off-trail is you whether or not movement is physically possible. Needless to say be prepared for poison oak, and the occasional realization that maybe you missed something and are no longer on a path that leads anywhere. This route is a delightful test of coping capacity, stamina, and route finding. By the time you reach the junction you will know that you have felt the essence of the Santa Lucia mountains. The wild flowers and smell of mints make for a wonderful juxtaposition to the sheer difficulty of forward movement.

A drizzling rain soaked all the leaves on the brush so each step brought a new small downpour of cold water, that I hope washed of the urushiol from the poison oak...although it did get mighty cold. From the campground to the junction it took far too long, close to 10.5 hours including a 2 hour diversion (I brought the GPS but forgot the map and was going forward by cairns, tags and memory - yes I'm foolish enough to have taken this trail more than once - I actually find it and it's deteriorated condition a wonderful way to get to know the range)

After the junction the rest is a freeway. Although its pretty exhausting to do the the other 25 or so other miles. I took a 3 and half hour nap on the Coast Ridge trail and made it to Kirk Creek 30 hours after starting.
Conditions reported by: rvehring
Survey date: 29-MARCH-2008

Section: Memorial Park to Summit Trail - Clear

Clear with some deadfall. Note: Trail routing is different from what is shown in Wilderness Press Big Sur map. Trail is routed through the vally instead of up the ridge.[Ed: The Wilderness Press Big Sur map is notoriously inaccurate]

Section: Summit Trail - Passable

Generally passable but some difficult spots. Encroaching bush, some deadfalls, faint tread near summit, still several inches of snow on north side.
Conditions reported by: Dave Halligan
Survey date: 16-FEBRUARY-2008

Section: Arroyo Seco Road to Last Chance Camp - Clear

Section: Above (South of) Last Chance Camp - Difficult/Impassable

The trail quickly changes from CLEAR to PASSABLE to DIFFICULT to virtually IMPASSABLE. The tread is faint to almost non-existent in many places, however, there are enough old cairns and ribbons tied to trees that we never lost the tread for very long. At times we had to crawl on our hands and knees to push through the brush. There are numerous, large deadfalls. The tread is dangerously washed-out in two places: once where it crosses a creek that is unamed on the USGS topo map but I think may be called Eagle Creek. The second place is where the tread crosses Roosevelt Creek. As one is ascending from Roosevelt Creek the brush, chamise, to be exact, does indeed become hideous, as has been described in other trail reports. In places we were only able to tell we were "on-route" because we noted that at some point long ago someone had cut a branch or had bent one back so that it now grew in an "s" shape.

The views from this trail are fabulous, but it would be easy for an inexperienced hiker to get lost or injured on this route. If you decide to attempt it, wear heavy clothing, heavy gloves, bring heavy-duty loppers, and maybe even a saw and a shovel.

Section: Summit Trail to Indians - Wilderness Freeway
Conditions reported by: Brian Remus
Survey date: 8-MARCH-2008

The hike to Junipero Serra Peak is about 7 miles long and you gain 4,000 feet of elevation. It is a lot of uphill, so take that fact into consideration before you hike it. I went with a friend backpacking up it and then we camped at the top, but we saw a few people making a day of it. At the trail head is was very warm and it was gorgeous blue sky weather. At the top ot was still blue sky but was about 25 degrees colder. At about 700 feet of elevation to the top we started seeing little patches of snow. At 600 feet of elevation to the top it was only snow, so we transitioned to snow backpacking. The last 2 miles was snow and ice, and without hiking poles I don't know how someone could have gotten beyond that point. I am from San Diego and this was the most snow that I have seen for at least 7 years. I actually almost slid off the mountain twice on the ice, but my hiking partner is from Quebec, Canada and he taught me how to cross snow and ice. Well, this made it possible to do, but I still fell about 10 times There is a shelter at the top that we camped in which was very lucky for us because it got about 18 degrees outside at night. But when we got back to the car I was extremely happy that I did the hike to the highest peak in the Ventana Wilderness. If you want to do the hike to the top either be experienced, go with someone that is experienced, or go with a backpacker from Quebec
Conditions reported by: piero
Survey date: 16-MARCH-2008
General: CLEAR

Section: Del Venturi Road to Memorial Camp - detour

I had to take the Milpitas detour to get to the camp.

Section: Santa Lucia Memorial Camp to Junipero Serra Summit Trail - Wilderness Freeway

Section: Junipero Serra Summit Trail - Difficult

Difficult when the trail moves to the backside, with 4cm of snow and several fallen trees. The trail is invisible for the last km (although it's fairly obvious where the summit is).

Section: Junipero Serra Summit Trail to Last Chance Camp - Impassable

Overgrown even by the worst (best?) standards of Ventana Wilderness. THe only way to figure out where the trail used to be is to look for branches that were obviously cut with human tools (a long long time ago presumably). [Editor's Note: Sounds like it is actually not quite impassable]

Section: Last Chance Camp to Waterfall - Difficult

Briefly well marked with cairns, but then again lots of bushwhacking.

Section: Waterfall to Arroyo Seco Camp - Wilderness Freeway

Lots of poison oak, though. More Details Trip Pictures
Conditions reported by: Dave Dailor
Survey date: 15-JANUARY-2008

Creek fords on Del Venturi Road were no problem. 6-8" of water.

Snow on backside trail - rock hard ice in some places - had to bushwack around these. Other parts, the snow was crunchy enough to walk on. No other real issues.
Conditions reported by: Josh and Emily
Survey date: 20-OCTOBER-2007
General: CLEAR

Section: Indians Campground to Summit Trail Junction - Clear

The first half of the trail from the parking lot near Indians until the junction with the spur trail to the summit is clear except for one deadfall blocking the trail, about 2 miles in. The deadfall is immediately after a dry creek crossing and reqires a quick detour. There is a little encroaching brush on this section but nothing serious. Poison oak was almost all dead now, and no ticks all day. No water anywhere along the route.

Section: Summit Trail to Summit - Passable

After you turn onto the spur to the summit there is much more brush, but still easily passable. Didn't have any trouble following the trail on the way up, but on the way down somehow got off of the main trail for a little bit, onto a much more overgrown trail that rejoined the main trail just before the spur junction. During the last mile or so, when you enter the pine forest section, there are quite a few deadfalls that can't be avoided. Trail becomes a little indistinct as you approach the summit, but can still be followed. Be sure to continue past the lookout tower to find the true summit.
Conditions reported by: Alex Matthews
Survey date: 7-APRIL-2007

Section: Arroyo Seco Campground to Girl Scout Camp - Clear

Minor poison oak but abundant ticks, especially on last year's dried grass. Descent through meadow is idyllic.

Section: Girl Scout Camp to Indians Road Cutoff - Difficult

Clear-to-difficult. Lower section clear, with minor poison oak and abundant ticks. Note that USFS map and Wilderness Press maps show the trail hugging the creek but trail has been relocated high up on west slope. Views breathtaking, tread very narrow and exposed, but firm and level. In last mile before intersection with 5E03, where the trail levels and "descends" to the creek, poison oak has blocked the trail for dozens of feet at a time. Cut brush and laid across worst section in order to make it through. Tread disappears when it reaches the creekbed; you must follow markers (pink and green streamers, cairns, and silver tin blazes) back and forth across creek until a sharp right turn 200 yards past a fire grill takes you up towards the intersection in the saddle. The climb to the saddle varies from recently cleared freeway to hair-raising poison-oak encroachment. Tread is loose, off-camber duff. Ticks moderate.

Section: Indians Road Cutoff to Indians Road - Difficult

Passable-to-difficult. Alternating recent cleared sections with chest-height poison oak and brush completely crossing trail. Tread is loose, off-camber duff. Ticks moderate.

Section: Indians Road to Arroyo Seco Campground - Wilderness Freeway

With Indians Road it makes a scenic little loop but in this condition was not a good choice for a first overnight visit to Ventana. At first, we laughed: I could step over a lot of the poison oak, but my 11-year-old son could walk under the manzanita without bending over. When we got to the point where it was poison oak below the waist and manzanita mixed with poison oak above that, we got a tad frustrated. Our hats are off to the folks who do the trail clearing in Ventana, though. It makes all the difference.

Conditions reported by: EW
Survey date: 3-MARCH-2007
General: CLEAR

Section: The Indians to mileage sign (2 miles) - Wilderness Freeway

We were surprised to find 2 streams that usually have a significant flow this time of year to be bone dry. The stream just before the mileage sign had a decent flow on the way up, even better on the way back down (likely due to snow melt). A large bay tree has fallen across the stream, necessitating a minor detour above.

Section: mileage sign to Summit Spur Trail - Clear

Ascending this trail, we noticed a few snowy patches in shaded areas. No major obstacles, minor brush encroachment, but beware of yuccas underfoot.

Section: Santa Lucia Trail junction to summit - Clear

From the prominent saddle across numerous switchbacks and up to a second saddle, some encroaching brush; mostly chamise, cenaothus and scrub oak. We only trimmed a bit of this portion, A little more lopping could help keep hikers from causing off camber tread by "detouring" below brush. Again, watch for yuccas!

Reaching the second saddle, the trail rounds Pimkolam's NW slopes- a good amount of snow accumulation obscured the rest of the route. Major amounts of snow had brought down lanky Ceanothus bushes aside the trail. We essentially lopped and clipped our way through, ducking any falling blocks of snow inadvertently knocked loose. Only one deadfall had to be circumvented, I suspect there are more, but 1-2 feet of snow "leveled the playing field", so to speak. The only real danger we encountered came in the form of large blocks of "widowmaker" ice, heated and consequently freed from the pines above by the afternoon sun. We only cut as much as was needed to pass through on our ascent.

The summit was amazing as ever and we found a fine (albeit small) snowless patch to spend the night. A very snowy Cone Peak illuminated by the full moon was nothing short of magnificent. The last signature in the cabin / summit log was a full month old. We took our time descending the summit spur (Sunday 03/04/07), lopping and clipping enough so that it should remain clear for the season, barring another batch of heavy snowstorms.
Conditions reported by: Robert Swedberg
Survey date: 29-DECEMBER-2006


Perfect day, beautiful hike from The Indians to Junipero Serra Peak where the view to about 120 degrees of ocean is a fantastic treat. The Sierra Nevada are faint in the distance, and the Ventana features can be seen on the way up from the North slope. In winter, do leave early to do this 12 mile round-trip before dark, and bring plenty of water as you will work hard, and you are away from water sources for most of the trek. Our party of 6 - ages 21 to almost 57 (me) had a fairly easy hike for hikers in relatively good shape, though the last couple of miles are fairly steep, and the North face had about 6" of snow, making trail sometimes difficult to see when snow is fresh. However, the trail is generally clear and well marked. (Unsolicited: Make your donation to the VWA for the great work they do to keep this trail maintained!) We saw Bobcat and Mountain Lion tracks, as well as Bear scat. Watch out for poison oak at stream crossing before switch-backs at Government Camp. Poison Oak is almost nude in winter, so it is easy to brush the potent sticks near the trail, though the trail is really very clear.
Conditions reported by: Gary Felsman
Survey date: 6-MAY-2006
General: CLEAR

Section: Indians Road to Junipero Serra Peak - Clear

It was a bit hazy in the morning with lots of flowers and rushing sterams along the way. The weather was perfect cool and crisp.

The trail itself is clear with encroaching brush as you head for the first saddle, the junction to Junipero Serra Peak. On the peak trail itself there is encroaching brush to the second saddle. All in all we had a wonderful day.
Conditions reported by: JDoelman
Survey date: 1-APRIL-2006

Section: Arroyo Seco Road to 2 miles past Last Chance Camp - Passable

Someone has done a good job clearing most of this section recently.

Section: 2 miles past Last Chance Camp towards Junipero Serra Peak - Difficult

Continuing towards Junipero Serra Peak the going gets difficult, some would say "impassable". It is very brushy and tread is difficult to follow. A rock cairn is almost always nearby if you are on the correct 'trail'. On JS Peak I found about 2' of snow on the north facing slope near the top.
Conditions reported by: Kirk Runder
Survey date: 24-JANUARY-2006

I was a little anxious when fording the San Antonio River on the Del Venturi Road with about 6 to 8 inches of water, but made it over them without incident. There were no other cars in the parking area, and I had the trail all to myself. No problems following the trail. I had to climb over a couple of large deadfall trees. A few ticks tried to hitch a ride on me, I recommend frequent tick checks. I encountered hard packed snow on the shady back face of the trail. The snow slowed my ascent a little, butI had no problems proceeding with just my hiking boots. Luckily there were already footprints, otherwise the trail would be difficult to follow. It was a particularly warm and clear January day, and I could see all the way to the snowy peaks of the Sierra - awesome!
Conditions reported by: Matt
Survey date: 14-JANUARY-2006

I passed the trailhead and parked in the campground area. There was a trailhead sign. On my return, I arrived initially at the official Santa Lucia Trail...

The trail was marked well, but in the rain, puddling, surface water, and mud was abundant. I left the oak woodlands and grassy areas and passed an old tractor on the right... A trail sign read 4 miles to Junipero Serra. I question the accuracy of the total mileage. If that were 4 miles from that point then I would have had to walked only 2 miles, but I would suggest it was at least 3 miles to that point...

Anyway the chapparal covered the mountain and hail began to become quite evident as I approached the junction of the other trail (forgot the name)[Ed: The Santa Lucia Trail (5E03) continues towards Arroyo Seco Campground, the more heavily used spur (6E01) goes to Pimkolam (Junipero Serra Peak)]. As I climbed higher the snow began to get heavy and fir and pine created a beautiful effect. Luckily I had polypro and goretex but I was extremely wet. Snow and ice covered the top. The ladder to the top of the lookout was frozen solid... I ran down to keep warm. As I passed the 3 mile point I began to warm up....

Great hike in the winter, but be prepared.... Watch for rising water at the two stream crossings...
Conditions reported by: John Fedak
Survey date: 7-MAY-2005
General: CLEAR

Section: Trailhead to Saddle - Clear

- Lupine in bloom in all the grassy fields.
- Lower elevations are still a bit marshy but this should subside as the season progresses.
- A use trail has developed around the large downed tree mentioned in my prior report.
- Significant clearing of the upper chapparal sections of the trail. Almost no encroachment remains.

Section: Saddle to Summit - Clear

- Snow is completely gone for the season
- Substantial pruning of the early chapparal sections past the saddle. Enroachment substantially reduced.
- Down trees/branches have been almost completely cleared from the upper pine section. Most everything that fell on the trail this winter is now gone. A few large down trees remain from prior seasons.

Conditions reported by: Paul Danielson
Survey date: 10-MARCH-2005

Section: Arroyo Seco to Last Chance Camp and Connector to Arroyo Seco-Indians Road : CLEAR

Basically the same as noted by Vince Manning in his March 16 2001 report listed below. i.e., CLEAR.

My update would add the following: Quite good condition and possibly recently worked on, to a point just before descending to the creek. Then begins a short section of poison oak encroachment. When one hits the creek one begins a set of eight creek crossings with flags and cairns to mark the way, except for the first crossing where one must do some educated guessing. The trail ascent to Last Chance Camp is clear but not recently maintained.

Section: Last Chance Camp to "Bluff Camp" : PASSABLE?

The tread is harder to follow above Last Chance Camp and especially after the next creek crossing as one ascends the east slope. It is marked by brush-covered narrow tread with several slipouts. I ended my hike at unofficial "Bluff Camp" where the trail levels out before heading south and up toward the Santa Lucia/Eagle Creek divide. I understand that is fairly brushy.
Conditions reported by: John Fedak
Survey date: 16-JANUARY-2005

Section: Del Venturi (Indians) Road

The Del Venturi Road creek crossings were closed and I needed to take the long route around Milpitas Road to reach the trailhead. Section: Memorial Park to Junipero Serra (Pimkolam) Peak (Difficult to Impassable)

The recent storms have not been kind to the Santa Lucia Trail. The lowlands near the trailhead were marshy and wet. There is one large new down tree about a quarter mile before the midpoint trailsign but the trail is otherwise clear to the saddle. Lots of seasonal streams active that will be dry later in the season.

The snowline started shortly after the saddle, building to perhaps 2-3 feet by the summit. There are a great deal of newly down trees and branches on the wooded backside section of the trail and in many places the trail is actually a snow bridge atop the underbrush. Routefinding will be difficult for those not very familiar with the route (assuming there is new snow to mask my tracks). Snow conditions were poor and there was much postholing (esp later in the morning).

Trip Pictures
Conditions reported by: dave nelson
Survey date: 06-NOV-2004

Section: from Memorial Park trailhead past jct. of spur to summit, NW into Eagle Ck. drainage

The trail leading nnw from the intersection/saddle below spur to Pimkolam is pretty easy to follow as far as Eagle creek now after a bit of clipping. This trail goes through a lot of mixed chaparral and a bit of live oak forest in Eagle creek where, after 7 miles from the trailhead, there is a good campsite on a stream terrace complete with 2 bazillion ladybugs. The saddle between Roosevelt and Eagle Creeks provides stupendous 4000¹ elevation views of the Indians, the Rocks, all the south coast ridge peaks and the Arroyo Seco headwaters. There are two slide areas that weren't too difficult thanks to rains which helped pack the loose soil. There is reliable water in Roosevelt creek but other places were flowing possibly due to the 8 plus inches this area has received recently.

The campsite is a good base from which to push farther into the Santa Lucia creek drainage where the trail follows a roadcut through brush for a ways before descending into more open terrain. Bring loppers or clippers.
Conditions reported by: jdoelman
Survey date: 15-APRIL-2004

Section: Indians-Arroyo Seco Road spur thru Last Chance to Santa Lucia Peak

Myself and two friends followed the Santa Lucia trail on the same route I followed on March 15, 2003. We camped at Last Chance Camp. Overall the trail is in slightly better condition than it was 1 year ago as we did some trail clearing along the way to Junipero Serra Peak.

One notable bad section of trail exists just north of Roosevelt creek. In this section the chamise is totally covering the trail and serious effort is required to push through it. This trail is really brushy, and difficult to follow in places.
Conditions reported by: Alex
Survey date: 15-MAR-**2003**

Section: Arroyo Seco Campgrounds towards Junipero Serra Peak

The section from Arroyo Seco to the Adobe hut is fine, although a bit frustrating because you go up a hill only to descend to the road again. From the hut, cross the stream (don't do what we did and go up the trail to the east (actually north) of the stream).

From the hut to Last Chance Camp was overgrown but passable, with numerous borderline rock-hoppable stream crossings.

After Last Chance, the trail grows fainter and fainter. It is passable up to a gorgeous valley with a lovely waterfall, and then keeps climbing. Unfortunately, the trail continues to fade into thicker and thicker brush as you ascend. Some ribbons helped us find our way for a while, but soon we were hacking our way though lots of prickly brush, and, as we later discovered, poison oak, with no discernible trail. We gave up well short of the peak. I wouldn't recommend trying to get through to the peak this way.
Conditions reported by: Rob Yang
Survey date: 23-NOV-2003
General: CLEAR

Section: Memorial Park trailhead to summit

I just day-hiked from Memorial Park to the Pimkolam summit. The trail is mostly in fine shape, and it's always enjoyable to climb from the oaks, grassland, and sandstone formations up through the chaparral, and then enter an open forest of sugar pine and Coulter pine near the top. There was even a dusting of snow or frost in some of the cold shady places on the north side of the peak. The views were grand.

On the way down I did some clipping and sawing to take out some of the always-encroaching brush, but noted the sun heading for Cone Peak and wanted to be back before dusk.

I would say the worst of the brush was between a half-mile and a mile on either side of the saddle where the summit trail branches off from the main Santa Lucia trail, and these places were fairly intermittent.
Conditions reported by: Paul Tuff
Survey date: 12-MAY-2003

Section: Arroyo Seco Campground to Last Chance Camp

I took the Santa Lucia trail from the trailhead across from the parking area near the Arroyo Seco campground. It was in fair shape, although a bit eroded in places. As the trail descends towards the old girl scout camp, it passes through a lovely meadow full of oaks on a plateau above the creek. I'd never even heard of the old Forest Service adobe before, so I was surprised to see it. I continued along the trail, crossed the creek and passed the Santa Lucia Trail sign to continue upstream to the beautiful waterfall and what will be a great swimming hole when the water warms up. I then backtracked and climbed out of the valley on the old Santa Lucia trail and continued to where the trail hits the creek. I found the stove at what I assumed was Last Chance camp and continued upstream from there hoping to find the waterfall mentioned in the trail guides, but didn't know which way to go when the creek split in two (anybody know which way to the waterfall?) The trail along the creek is pretty bad, and the poison oak there and elsewhere on the trail is profuse (good thing I'm nearly immune to it). I hiked back and noticed from the trail another small waterfall and nice swimming hole down on Santa Lucia Creek a bit upstream from the other one I mentioned. Can't wait to explore them! Once back at the trail crossing near the old Camp Cawatre, I climbed the other trail that leads directly to the top of the ridge (which has a nice view of the first waterfall) and descended the very faint trail to the oak-studded valley and from there to the primitive campgrounds near the lake below the main campground. The grass was green, there were flowers everywhere, it was clear and warm, and after 6.5 hours, I'd had a beautiful hike!
Conditions reported by: Ricardo Villanueva
Survey date: 15-APRIL-2003

Section: Arroyo Seco Campground to Santa Lucia adobe (ex G.S. camp)

Currently, rockfalls have closed the dirt road out of the campground at the end of the paves Arroyo Seco road. Normally you can drive for miles down this road to access various trailheads.

The first trail, right out of the campground, Santa Lucia, is initially clear, becoming overgrown. It also is spotted with landfalls. Beware, the trail is treacherous along the ridges as soft ground ready to collapse with any weight looks the same as more consolidated ground (crushed granite and other debris ) along the trail. A walking stick to probe the trail is essential.

Also, there are boars in the area, the females with piglets should be avoided, although they were not overly aggressive with me (I NEVER would get between them and their young).

The irony is that the Santa Lucia trail after some 600 feet of elevation or more (depending on up and down) takes you in about two hours to the same place as the closed (for vehicles) dirt road below. For hikers with limited time, the Santa Lucia is a waste.
Conditions reported by: Jan Doelman
Survey date: 15-MARCH-2003
Specific: I-AS Road spur to Santa Lucia Peak

The decsent from the closed Indians - Arroyo Seco Road to Last Chance camp was easily followed but a bit brushy. There is some poison oak to contend with prior to arriving at the camp.

There is a rather spectacular water fall on Santa Lucia Creek about a mile upstream of Last Chance camp.

Continuing toward the Junipero Serra peak the trail becomes more and more faint. The tread of the trail is lost in some spots. The good news is that in these places the trail is fairly well marked by accurate cairns. Care must be taken to not stray too far from the last cairn and to not make any radical changes in direction unless a cairn is nearby. (ED. note: Old rock cairns are located in a long grassy meadow toward the upper reaches of Santa Lucia Creek watershed.)

Venturing further towards Junipero Serra Peak one crosses a saddle and now the tread is on the remnants of a jeep road, or tractor trail. Brush is thick. Proceeding past the end of the jeep road, the tread becomes very very faint (lost?). Missed one very obscure switchback and later noticed that it was actually marked by a pink flag.

From here to the trail junction to get to Junipero Serra Peak is hideously brushy. Imagine standing up lowering your head and putting both forearms in front of your face and pushing with all your might. Arms and legs got scratched. It is uncomfortable to have a variety of leaves and sticks and such down the back of my shirt.

The cabin on the peak is in good shape, clean, no mice. Care should be taken to keep it clean enough to prevent red ants from coming in.

The next day, it was a tough call to go back the same way. I found the disgust of the previous day was partially due to being tired from the uphill.

Happy Trails?
Conditions reported by: Robert Walton
Survey date: 29-Dec-2002

The trail was covered by several inches of snow beginning several hundred feet below the lower saddle and the junction to Arroyo Seco. This was no problem. Above the saddle, the snow deepened to six or eight inches on the trail. Above the switchbacks with about a third of a mile to go to reach the ridge to the left of the summit, snow deepened to eighteen inches. It was cold and unconsolidated snow, quite difficult to walk through. Ice and snow-burdened chemise bent down to cover the trail. My son Jonathan crawled through and beneath this mess on his hands and knees and reached the ridge. The rest of our party demurred emulating him and upon his return we all headed down.

Even without the snow and ice, the brush on this section of the trail is an obstacle. Some prudent pruning would improve the experience for all!
Conditions reported by: Kelsey Jordahl
Survey date: 13-OCT-2002
General: CLEAR

Most of this trail is in fine shape, and I would rate it as WILDERNESS FREEWAY. The exceptions are some places on the switchback section through chaparral both before the trail junction at the saddle and on the summit spur trail above it. In the chaparral, encroaching brush, especially chemise, on the uphill side of the trail is starting to encourage hikers to step off the trail causing erosion. This problem is not yet serious, but may cause more damage to the trail in the future if the brush is not cleared (the chemise is usually too thick to deal with effectively with hand clippers).

The deadfall on the last 1/4 mile or so before the summit is still a bit of an obstacle.

The summit lookout area has been cleared by helicopter crews. Nearly all of the wreckage of the old lookout cabin has been removed from the top of the lookout platform and the surrounding area.
Conditions reported by: Christopher Randall
Survey date: 12-January-2002

Just got back from a delightful mid-winter gem of a hike up to Junipero Serra Peak from Indians Road. Because of the very mild winter storms that hit earlier in the month, there was almost no snow at all on the trail. The tiniest bit of snow on the north part of the trail.

For being out of good conditioning, I did a pretty good job, attaining the summit in about 6 hours. An hour and a half of that was me getting lost up at the 4,170' saddle because of a very faint and totally unreliable direction sign. In addition, I had a bit of a compass flub, and headed down the north-facing trail around the BACK of the ridge that you head directly up when you take the CORRECT trail, to the northeast. Jeffrey Shaffer's book says to avoid the northwest-facing trail (which I mistook for the TRUE trail, which actually faces northeast) After about an hour of bushwhacking down the Santa Lucia trail (seeing some of the fluorescent pink ribbons), the trail seemed to come to an abrupt "end" where the brush was too thick to continue. (ED. note: This section of the Santa Lucia Trail continues northward to end at Arroyo Seco.) This is where my fears were confirmed that I had indeed chosen the wrong trail. I headed back to the saddle, and followed the trail directly up the ridge toward the peak.

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 posted in an earlier post, the summit tower has indeed been vandalized. Lots of broken glass and other yucky stuff lying around. (ED. note: Most of the lookout cabin blew off its tower during the winter storms of 1995) 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 talks about it. Inside where about four different 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.

Just a note. 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
Conditions reported by: Mark Alderson
Survey date: 13-APRIL-2001

Yesterday, April 13, four of us hiked to Serra Lookout. Trail was clear, but we had to push through some brush. We started at 9:15 AM and come out at 4:45 PM. It took us 3:30 hours to the top, and 2:45 out. We encountered snow 40 minutes from the top. Didn't spot a single tick, but, alas, one person found one while showering last night. Lupine in full bloom. Great hike - our first time. Mark Alderson with Anne Secker, Mike Masuda and Carol DeVries
Conditions reported by: Katherine Dollard
Survey date: 01-APRIL-2001

Yesterday I hiked to the top of Pimkolam/Junipero Serra Peak from The Indians with a small group from the Santa Lucia (SLO) chapter of the Sierra Club. The trail was easy to follow almost the whole way to the summit. One small stretch of trail just yards from the top was obscured by a large patch of snow, but that will not be for long. Above the saddle, particularly above the switchbacks, it was often necessary to push through low brush that was overgrowing the trail - easy enough for those of us in long pants. Once the trail swung around to the north side of the peak, it was well brushed, with a path cut around the up hill side of the largest deadfall, but there were still a number of patches of snow to be slogged through which had been overlain with branches - for better footing when the snow was much deeper, I assume.

I am happy to report that as far as I know, no one picked up any ticks and the poison oak (in the oaky section paralleling the creek) was mostly easily avoidable. From Indians to the creek canyon were many meadows of goldfields, and fragrant lupines with scatterings of paintbrush. The granite rock formations formed a backdrop for light blue clouds of sweet smelling ceanothus.

Word had it that the trail's good condition is due to Steve Chambers' efforts, for which we were all very grateful. A big thank you!
Conditions reported by: John Wang
Survey date: 24-MARCH-2001

I hiked to Pimkolam Peak summit tower and back from Memorial Park in about 6.5 hours. It was a beautiful and clear day with temperatures in the 70's up to the saddle and in the 60's for the Coulter and sugar pine forest. There was packed snow on the trail above 5,460 feet to just below the summit, but nothing sneakers couldn't handle. I didn't encounter any ticks. There was quite a bit of brush on the upper parts of the trail causing minor skin abrasions/scratches on my legs and arms but the trail was always evident. The structure on the summit tower has collapsed and tower platform now consists of a scattering of wood planks, collapsed walls, broken glass, and exposed rusty nail heads. It is, however, still a nice place to relax in the sun, especially if you bring a foam pad to relax on. Overall a beautiful day and a beautiful hike though some additional brush clearing would make this trail even more enjoyable.

More information and pictures are available at my website:
Conditions reported by: Rich Popchak
Survey date: 25-FEB-2001

We were thwarted in our effort to summit Pimkolam on Sunday, February 25, 2001 due to heavy snow about a half mile below the summit.

The trail was covered with snow starting about 100 yards above the Saddle (at the 4 mile mark from the Indians) and it got worse with every step of ascent. Still, the trail was easy to follow.

It wasn't until we were in the head-high, scrub oak forest on the north side of the mountain (just a few hundred yards from the Sugar and Coulter Pine forest) that we were stymied. The heavy snow brought down old burned out snags along with the head-high scrub oak. Imagine trying to crawl through 4 feet of snow with 3 to 5-inch oak "rebar" horizontally and vertically placed within.

I don't think all the oak will spring back to an upright position once the snow melts. Coupled with the downed snags, the trail will not be easily "passable" until someone does a little work with a bow saw.
Conditions reported by: Vince Manning
Survey date: 16-MARCH-01

The Santa Lucia trail from Arroyo Seco campground to about one mile past Last Chance camp is clear to passable. We just day-hiked and returned via the steep connector to Indians Road, which was brushy but passable.

Most of the route was without poison oak but there are a few sections where you have to be careful. The few fallen trees are small and easily passed. The creek crossing at the abandoned girl-scout camp (camp Cawatre) was wet.

Much of the trail is lost in the section, well upstream of camp Cawatre, where it crosses the creek eight times in half a mile. There was not one dry crossing and all were about knee deep. It is marked somewhat with cairns and flags but for the most part you just have to find your way along the creekside. This section is passable to difficult.

Where the trail climbs out of the creek was well-marked. Last Chance camp was in great shape. A ton of bagged trash was sitting at the Marble Peak trailhead. It looked like it had been there for a week or two and animals scattered some around. I wondered how that much trash got there since the road is closed. Maybe from a fire rehab crew? (ED. note. The bagged trash at the Marble Peak trailhead is more than likely left from the numerous high school wilderness groups which use these trails annually).
Conditions reported by: Steve Chambers
Survey date: 28-APRIL-1999

Last week Dave Nelson and I backpacked on the Santa Lucia trail from Indians Station- Memorial Park thru Roosevelt, Eagle and Santa Lucia Creeks meeting the closed Indians - Arroyo Seco Rd at the "second saddle". The conditions from last year are the same as this year (see below). The trail is faint and hard to follow thru the '95 flash flood scour of upper Santa Lucia Ck. I flagged most of that part with bright pink ribbons. Please leave them until a more clearly defined tread is evident.

A quarter mile north of Last Chance Camp the trail is 50 feet directly above Santa Lucia Ck. In this section the tread has slipped away leaving a piece about 8 inches wide by 6 feet long. Its almost a sheer 50 foot drop to the creek. Be careful.

I plan to patrol,later this month, the part of this trail from ex-camp Cawatre upstream to its junction with the spur to the second saddle.
Conditions reported by: Steve Chambers
Survey date: March 1998

From the summit spur (at a saddle) thru Roosevelt and Eagle Creeks:
-Passable, watch for a quick switch back (left) when nearing Eagle Ck. Tread along Eagle Ck. can be faint due to fallen leaves.

Divide at Eagle Ck / Santa Lucia Ck. to Indians- Arroyo Seco Rd. -Passable with one difficult section.-

-3/4 mile north of above divide, follow the OLD rock cairns through the grassy finger meadows, as no tread evident.
-1/4 mile north of finger meadows, the beginning of two flash flood scours from the floods of 1995. First, the trail follows the smaller scour for 150'-200' and meets the granite boulder WALL of the much larger scour. Look for human built rock cairns and maybe flagging as the path crosses diagonally down. On the north side look for flags/rock cairns marking the tread. Pre-'95 this was a very small creek.
-Following tread N/W for 150 yds. the scour has carved away the trail again for 200' or so. Re-find it on the edge of the grassy slope.

Junction- spur trail to Indians Arroyo Seco Rd.
-Passable but brushy, tread very evident.

Above junction north to Arroyo Seco Campground
-Impassable during high water, passable but challenging at other times. Trail drops steeply from the junction to meet Santa Lucia Ck. It crosses the creek 8 times before leaving the creek on the WEST wall of the canyon. Downstream of the last crossing the creek drops over waterfalls and thru narrow rocky gorges.
-Follow the dirt road through ex-camp Cawatre (GSA) to reconnect with foot trail to the AS Campgrounds.
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Santa Lucia Trail

Postby Site Administrator on Tue May 26, 2009 12:07 pm

* USFS Trail # 5E03
* Parking: Arroyo Seco Campground, Memorial Park
* Watershed: Arroyo Seco River, Santa Lucia Creek, Eagle Creek, Roosevelt Creek
* Junctions: Spur to Indians-Arroyo Seco Road, Santa Lucia Peak Trail (6E01)
* Connects: Memorial Park with Arroyo Seco Campground
* Camps: Last Chance Camp

Please note that this thread covers reports for the Santa Lucia Trail between Arroyo Seco Campground and Memorial Park.

To submit reports for the trail to the summit of Santa Lucia Peak (also known as Sta'okale/Pimlokam Summit/Junipero Serra Peak) please visit the Santa Lucia Peak Trail thread.
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