Because It's There. Maybe that's the only reason anyone would really want to climb to this summit. This hike is a good workout, with 2,380 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead at the Bottcher's Gap campground (2,050 feet) to the Mt. Carmel summit (4,430 feet). On Jan.25th, I stuffed 20 pounds into my new daypack, and did this hike as a training exercise. The total round trip distance is about 10 miles. My total car-to-car time was 5 hours 20 minutes, which included a lunch break. It was a beautiful day on the Big Sur coastline, but with a stiff breeze and temperatures near 40 degrees, an unprepared hiker could get a pretty good chill up near the summit.
Mt. Carmel is only a few miles south of the Monterey Peninsula, so this can easily be done as a day hike from anywhere in Silicon Valley. From Highway 1, turn east on Palo Colorado Road, which dead-ends at the Bottcher's Gap campground. It will take about 25 minutes to drive the 7.3 miles up this narrow, winding, paved road. There is a $5 fee to park in the lot at the campground.
From the trailhead at the Bottcher's Gap campground, it's a steady uphill climb on a good trail to Skinner Ridge. Once on the ridge, the trail levels off for a ways, and then drops a couple of hundred feet to the junction with the Turner Creek Trail. Then it's another uphill slog to Devil's Peak at elevation 4,160 feet. The last stretch from Devil's Peak to the Mt. Carmel summit is less than a mile, and not very steep, but it is a bit of a bushwack. The tread of the trail at ground level is fine, and your legs can charge ahead at top speed. Above about thigh level, the brush has overgrown the trail and is in need of some serious trimming. It's not difficult to push through, but I'd definitely recommend long sleeves and long pants.
This entire hike is somewhat claustrophobic to those of us more used to hiking in an alpine or desert environment. Much of the hike has no view beyond the vegetation beside the trail. On the bright side, all of this vegetation would offer a significant amount of shade if you're hiking this trail on a hot day. The best views are from around Devil's Peak, which is 4 miles from the trailhead. Standing atop the large boulder pile on the summit of Mt. Carmel also offers good views, but nothing much that can't also be seen from Devil's Peak.
As a side note, the USGS monument set midway up the rockpile on the Mt. Carmel summit gives an elevation of 4,430 feet, which is in conflict with the elevation of 4,417 feet shown on the Topozone map.
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