Ventana Wilderness: Junipero Serra Peak
Hike: Junipero Serra Peak via Santa Lucia Trail
Where: Ventana Wilderness
Trailhead: Santa Lucia Trail
Duration: 4 hours
Length: 4 miles
Gear: Outdoor Research Ignitor Tee, REI Sahara Convertible Pants, Boreas Topaz 25 Daypack, Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles, and Ahnu Sugarpine Waterproof Boot
Cost of Parking: Free
Drove down this past weekend to Los Padres National Forest with every intention to bag Junipero Serra Peak. (For the record, the drive down at night is gorgeous with millions of stars as far as the eye can see, so that was worth it in itself.) Did I bag it? Not even close. I underestimated the scorching sun, unforgiving heat, lack of shade, and desolate dryness of this side of the Santa Lucia Range.
We started our hike in the early AM but began to struggle to find our way. We started at the trailhead at Memorial Park Campground a stone’s throw down the road but found our route quickly unpassable. We then drove to the Santa Lucia trailhead and started yet again into the hills. The hike was incredibly scenic with large, inviting boulders and ridiculously cool rock formations, but nary a drop of water was to be found. The grass was yellow and dry. The bugs were out in full force, buzzing around my sweaty face. The first mile or so was fairly mellow, but then we encountered a ton of brush and had to route find again which slowed our pace down significantly combined with the heat. After making little headway up the trail, we decided to turn around and try again another day. Probably in the middle of the night, in pouring rain, or in the dead of winter. This trail in the summer is not for the faint of heart. All in all, it was a pretty miserable experience, but I will be back to tick this off my list in the future.
If you plan on tackling this, start early when it’s cool out and wear long pants and layers! The ticks are partying right now, and the brush is kind to no one.