Junipero Serra Peak
Revised 27 Mar 2012 - please send updates to the webmaster
Call Los Padres National Forest office in King City (408-385-5434) and the Range Control office at Fort Hunter Liggett (408-386-2403) for further info. (Area codes may have changed!)
The trailhead is a 150 mile drive from San Jose and the drive is not that bad either. The hike is 12 miles roundtrip and should not take more than 6 hours, round trip, including all halts.
|As an aside, many maps show Milpitas going east beyond Del Venturi and intersecting Jolon Road - but there doesn't seem to be a way civilians can save mileage by going that way. It also looks like Arroyo Seco Rd from Greenfield would be a direct way to reach the trailhead, but Andrew Heinemann said in 2009 "This road is paved only until the Arroyo Seca campground. The remaining 18 miles of road to Memorial campground at Indians is all dirt and closed to motor vehicles."|
The trail is very well described in 'California County Summits' by Gary Suttle. Ron Karpel's trip report on this hike has a small blurb at the bottom which describes how he gets to the trailhead.
Do check with the rangers on the latest conditions. The stream crossing may be closed if the water level is high. The stream always goes over the road, but when it has rained a lot, it becomes un-driveable and they shut a gate leading to the stream. Ron also describes an alternate road that we took that day when we too noticed that the gate was closed.
The trail is very pretty, kind of meanders along for about 2 miles to a marker. Then it climbs steeply for the next 2 miles till another marker. After that it climbs, not as steeply for the next 2 miles till a forested summit. The summit has a fire tower lookout. Downside: The ticks, their name is legion.
A good map of the area will show you the backroads/4wd roads -- there are two different final approaches since the paved road is not always open due to a couple of creek fords -- and the campsite mentioned below is off on a side road. The 4WD roads mentioned on the map are all pretty much passable with 2WD for where you want to go.
Roads (waypoints from GPS route JUNIPERO DRIVING):
NOTE: The heavy black line is a GPS track log from Greenfield to the trailhead, with labels showing waypoint names.
TO GET THERE: Take Hwy 101 south from San Jose past Salinas. It's about 150 miles from San Jose to the trailhead, and it will take at least three hours for most drivers. Some people carpool in Morgan Hill, meeting up at the Carl's Junior east of Hwy 101 on the East Dunne Ave exit (waypoint EDUNNE), parking in the back lot to avoid drawing attention. If the schedule worked out, you could also take CalTrain to the Morgan Hill stop (waypoint MORGAN), which is about a mile from waypoint EDUNNE.
If you need to buy an Adventure Pass (technically required for day use as of 2004) you can stop at El Camino Liquors in the town of Greenfield (waypoint GRNFLD). This store opens early enough to pick up permits on the way. It's on the southwest corner of El Camino Real and Elm, 5 blocks south of Hwy 101. There are three Greenfield exits - exit at the first one and get back on at the last one to minimize mileage. It is 50 more miles to the trailhead from Greenfield.
Continue south on Hwy 101 to within 1 mile of King City. Just before 101 crosses the Salinas River to King City, exit southbound on Jolon Road (waypoint JOLON). This is a right turn and may appear to take you west at first. A short distance away is a convenient Chevron station. Go about 17 miles south to the Hunter Liggett Military Reservation entrance (waypoint HUNTER) which may be marked Mission Road. Turn right (south) on Mission Road and prepare to stop at the entrance kiosk. The guards are armed, and will want to see your car registration, proof of insurance, and driver's license FOR EVERYONE IN THE CAR (not just the driver).
Mission goes southwest, then northwest toward the developed part of the Reservation. Five miles from the entrance, just as you get distracted by signs pointing right to the commissary, turn left at the sign for Del Venturi Road (waypoint VENTUR). This turn may dead-end at a creek crossing, in which case you'll come back to this intersection and continue as if you had never turned left.
Less than half a mile southeast from the turn onto Venturi you'll cross a cattle guard and drop to a wide (hopefully shallow) creek crossing. This is a paved ford, but if the water is deep they'll close the gates near waypoint CREEK1. 4WD is not required most of the time. There is a second creek crossing (CREEK2, of course) 7 miles later. The paved road turns into Milpitas Road at waypoint MILPIT, which looks like a 'T' intersection on most maps. This is where the dirt route below rejoins the paved route. Stay on Del Venturi / Mission exactly 13.0 miles from Mission Road and you will see a National Forest entry sign.
IF YOU WISH TO CAMP: Precisely 2.0 miles from the National Forest sign is a dirt road to the left - take that and go all the way to the end-- there is an outstanding campsite next to a creek and in the middle of a meadow of beautiful wildflowers which may be there still due to the rainfall. Note you should pass a sign describing gun rules on the east side of the road. If you go past the one lane bridge on the paved road you have gone too far for the campsite.
FOR THE TRAILHEAD: The parking lot is 10 miles past the second creek crossing, which is very near where the dirt Milpitas Road joins the paved Del Venturi and continues west as the paved Milpitas Road. Go over the one-lane bridge and continue beyond the homes on the west side of the road. You will see a trailhead sign on the east side of the road - indicating a trail but not specifically the Santa Lucia trail. Turn right onto a short dirt road, ending at a gate and a sign marking the Santa Lucia trail (waypoint JUNCAR).
ALTERNATE ROUTE: Occasionaly Del Venturi road will be closed if the creek crossings are deemed unsafe. If this is the case, there is a way around the creek crossings (a dirt road will take you around the gates to Milpitas Road without using Del Venturi). Go back from the stream crossing (waypoint CREEK1) to Mission Road (waypoint VENTUR), and turn left. Follow Mission northwest until it makes a sharp curve around to the right. At this point go straight and take the right-most road through a cattle guard and past Mission San Antonio on the left. Do not take the road that goes into the mission. The road is in good shape with some potholes and ruts to avoid. Any car should be able to make it.
The following mileages are starting from the turn off from Mission Road: After 1.2 miles the pavement ends. At mile 5.2 there is a road going off to the right called Mission Creek Road. Do not take this road. At mile 5.3 there is a large spigot and another road sign on the left with the name Milpatis Road. Continue and at mile 9.7 you will come to Del Venturi road just past the second creek crossing. Turn right here and drive another 9.5 miles to the trailhead.
Trail (waypoints from GPS route JUNIPERO HIKING):