Continuing my exploration of Big Sur's backcountry hikes, I embarked on the Post Summit trail. While approximately 90% of this hike is within Andrew Molera State Park—a favored destination for shorter hikes and beachcombing—the steepness and remote nature of this summit make it a hidden gem for those seeking solitude in Big Sur. It's worth noting that the summit lies just outside the park boundaries, within the scenic expanse of Los Padres National Forest. Here's my trip report
Post Summit Overview and Trailhead Information
Post Summit is at an altitude of 3,456' and just 3.25 air miles from the Pacific Ocean. The only real option for reaching the summit is via the East Molera Trail in Andrew Molera State Park. If you park within the state park, its a $10 fee. There's a small turnout with room for a handful of cars on Highway 1 if you wish to avoid the entrance fee. In either case, the hike starts at an altitude of 49' so it's pretty demanding. There's very little shade on this hike and no reliable water sources. It took me about 4.5 hours to hike the trail.
Here's a map of my route followed by the elevation profile:
Post Summit Trip Report
Having an annual pass, I simply parked at Andrew Molera State Park. From the parking lot, I proceeded southeast, following the trails that ran parallel to the highway. After a while, I came across the underpass that connected the park to the East Molera Trail. It felt a bit strange as the trail meandered through some park residences, creating a sense of trespassing. Nevertheless, I located the underpass and began the grueling ascent up the East Molera Trail.
The initial 1.8 miles of the trail involved a steep ascent through the park, leading to an open ridgeline. While certain sections of the trail were overgrown, it did not present the classic bushwhacking experience of the Ventana Wilderness. Upon reaching the ridgeline at an altitude of approximately 1,600 feet, the terrain became less steep. The ridgeline, likely a result of previous ranching activities, offered unobstructed views in every direction. Notably, the prominently conical summit of Pico Blanco stood out as a glorious sight. While not the tallest or steepest peak in the San Lucia Mountains, Pico Blanco is renowned for its aesthetic appeal and significance in indigenous cultures. Unfortunately, the summit is located on privately owned land, with huge mining potential.
After gaining the ridgeline, the trail is less steep with some undulations along the way. I was pleasantly surprised by the trail's clarity, as trails in the Ventana Wilderness are often notoriously difficult to follow and overgrown. Nonetheless, I navigated along the trail with ease. Around the 4.0-mile mark, the trail reaches a false summit southwest of Post Summit, situated at an altitude of approximately 2,500'.
From there, the trail takes a sharp turn to the north and ascends steeply for the final mile towards the summit. This section appeared more scrubby and overgrown compared to the previous segments. Thankfully, the trail remained mostly clear, tracing the formal boundary of the Ventana Wilderness before finally reaching the summit of Post Summit at an elevation of 3,456'. My odometer indicated a distance of 10 miles.
Summit and Descent
Upon reaching the summit, Post Summit offered excellent panoramic views of the western edge of the Ventana Wilderness. Ventana Cone and South Ventana Cone came into view on the eastern horizon, enticing me to explore them in the near future. To the south, Cone Peak, albeit faintly visible, stood approximately 23 miles away. Point Sur and the majestic expanse of the Pacific Ocean provided a picturesque backdrop to the west. Finally, gazing towards the northern horizon, I could spot Mt Carmel and the renowned Pico Blanco. For a relatively humble peak, Post Summit had awesome views.
I didn't find any summit register unfortunately. After a quick lunch I made my way down. Routefinding was not challenging so I enjoyed the constant views of Pico Blanco as I made my way back. The steepness of the descend made it take about as much time as the climb.I made it back to the trailhead with daylight to spare. Following Post Summit, I camped out at Big Sur State Park another night.