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Very strenuous with lots of wildflowers and sweeping panoramas from the most remote trail on the northern peninsula.


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Map Key

3.6

Miles

5.8

KM

Point to Point

1,814' 553 m

High

1,208' 368 m

Low

625' 190 m

Up

970' 296 m

Down

8%

Avg Grade (5°)

47%

Max Grade (25°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Views · Wildflowers

Need to Know

Except for docent-lead hikes, the Peninsula Watershed is not open to the public. The boundary is fenced and clearly marked. The "Peninsula Watershed Management Plan, Final Environmental Impact Report" requires effective enforcement and monitoring and "substantial user fines and other penalties." Don't be tempted.

Description

This wild, remote trail was originally created to maintain the power lines that run just outside of, and below, the crest of the Peninsula Watershed. However, now even some of the parts that are not overgrown are so rough that I doubt that even a jeep could traverse them. There are no technical difficulties, but the trail is very strenuous, with many ups and downs so steep that footing is difficult. Just reaching the start of the trail requires a strenuous climb up Montara Mountain.

Previously, parts of the trail were totally overgrown, but recently a path was cut though the brush. Few know about the trail, so it is rarely used. There is not only no water and little shade on the trail, but neither are found on the long approach and exit trails. Carry more water than you think you'll need because dehydration could be fatal.

The trail starts just before the last switchback to the top of Montara Mountain. From there, a rough road drops into Montara Bowl. Just before the bottom, a trail has been partially cut through the creek willows. It goes up the bowl to the edge of the Watershed and then straight up the hill to a power pole in the notch east of South Peak. As of March 2019, the quarter mile at the bottom of the bowl and the first section climbing the hill need to be recut, or they will quickly be overgrown. However, volunteers will probably work on this in the next couple of months.

South Peak is one of my favorite spots—very isolated with sweeping panoramas and a profusion of wildflowers. You cannot reach the actual top without wading through poison oak, but it is possible to hike around South Peak to the west side. From the notch, the trail drops sharply down about 500 feet in elevation to the power pole at the south-west boundary of the watershed. It was possible to get to this point in previous years, although it required some effort to squeeze through the brush and stay out of the poison oak. What is new is that a trail has been cut through the formally impenetrable brush that covered the road as it gradually climbs to the junction with the Spine Trail.

For the next half mile the trail drops steeply into gullies and climbs back out. Without trekking poles, it would be difficult to keep your footing on some parts even when climbing uphill. After that, the ups and downs are not as bad, as the trail climbs to a high point at about 1,530 feet and then drops to Deer Creek Road. I recommend another mile of climbing to the cell tower on Peak 1,790.

Flora & Fauna

In the spring and late summer, a wide variety of chaparral wildflowers grown along then trail and in many places the road itself is beautifully covered with flowering grasses. There are deer, bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions in the area, but they are rarely seen.

Contacts

Shared By:

Lee Watts

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 4 votes

#11795

Overall
  4.0 from 4 votes
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Trail Rankings

#1,158

in California

#11,795

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6 Views Last Month
833 Since Feb 22, 2019
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Photos

Rancho Corral de Tiera from North Peak.
Jul 17, 2022 near Montara, CA
Scarper Peak from below South Peak. Scarper Road runs downhill in the left foreground and then is the smaller road running up the center. The wide road on left side is in the San Francisco Watershead.
Feb 24, 2019 near Montara, CA
Montara Knob and Peak Mtn from the Montara Bowl.
Feb 24, 2019 near Montara, CA
Scarper Road was created to maintain the power lines. Because it runs below the SF Watershead and parallels the power lines, it has many steep ups and downs as it crosses gullies.
Feb 24, 2019 near Montara, CA
Road covered with flowering grasses in late spring
Feb 24, 2019 near Montara, CA
Flowers everywhere in mid-late spring and early summer
Feb 24, 2019 near Montara, CA
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Current Trail Conditions

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Check-Ins

Apr 9, 2021
Michael Jacobs
Jul 29, 2020
Rudi B
Hiked Spine, Skarper Rd, South Peak and Alta Vista. There is now an approach to South Peak from the East. No poison Oak. 12mi — 4h 00m
Apr 26, 2020
Amar Pai
We did Spine Trail - Scarper Rd - Alta Vista Trail. Loads of poison oak, wear thick long sleeved clothes and be prepared for uphill bushwhacking. 7.8mi
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