OverviewIf it weren't for the fact that the often-graded South Coast Ridge Road traverses to within 1/4 mile of Alder Peak's summit, this mountain would see a lot more notoriety than it does. For one thing, the views are spectacular. From the summit one can peer deep into the Ventana Wilderness, past the identifiable peaks of Junipero Serra, Cone Peak, and South Ventana Cone to the north and northwest. To the north, east, and south one can take in the immensity of Fort Hunter Liggett--the largest US Army Reserve Command Post at over 165,000 acres, most of which are viewable from the top of Alder. To the south, the views stretch across Silver Peak and its namesake wilderness and down the lower and more southern stretches of the Santa Lucia Range. And to the west, oh to the west. To the west lies the big blue Pacific. The finest ocean around.
Getting ThereReaching the summit of Alder Peak can be a simple 1/4 mile walk up from the South Coast Ridge Road or the highpoint of a number of longer hikes beginning near Hwy 1 and climbing up through the Silver Peak Wilderness.
To reach the South Coast Ridge Road, drive 37 miles south of Big Sur to the Willow Creek-Los Burros rd on the east side of Highway 1. If you get to the abandoned Salmon Creek Station you have gone too far.
Follow Willow Creek-Los Burros Rd to the three-way signed intersection at the top of the ridge. A right turn here (south) will take you along the ridgetop to a turnout just west of Alder Peak. Park here and hike up the fire break to the summit.
Alder Peak via the Buckeye Trail, Cruickshank Trail, or Salmon Creek trails: One can reach Alder Peak via the beautiful trails leading up from Highway 1 through the Silver Peak Wilderness. Just choose your route and follow it to its terminus with the South Coast Ridge Road. From there, one can simply follow this dirt road the above mentioned turnout and walk up from there. A good hike would be to go up the Salmon Creek trail, bag Alder Peak and Silver Peak, and then follow the Cruickshank Trail/Buckeye Trail back to Highway One. The distance from the top of the Cruickshank or Salmon Creek trails to Alder Peak is around 3 miles one way.
Red TapeAlder Peak is located in the Los Padres National Forest. Currently, no permits are necessary, unless of course you'd like a fire. In that case a Campfire Permit is required by the USFS. However, in light of 2007's massive Basin Complex fires, it might be most considerate to keep your pyromania to a minimum.
CampingThe Silver Peak and Ventana Wildernesses have great camping. However, water is always an issue. Call the Ranger Station to inquire about recent conditions. Also, there are nice primitive sights along South Coast Ridge Road.
External LinksVentana Wilderness Alliance - VWA does great work in the Ventana and Silver Peak Wilderness areas. Their forum and trail report pages provide useful and timely information regarding trail conditions, water conditions, and other pertinent information.
Friends of the River - Friends of the River is working with VWA and others to get several rivers and streams in the Santa Lucia range protected as Wild & Scenic. Several of the fantastic watersheds located near Alder Peak, including the entire Willow Creek drainage, would be protected by this legislation.