Silver Peak is the eponymous peak of the Silver Peak Wilderness
, a federally-designated wilderness of 31,555 acres within the Santa Lucia mountains of the Los Padres National Forest
The peak is named for "the silvery sheen of the chaparral vegetation that covers its slopes", according to the USFS wilderness map.
The Silver Peak Wilderness is located south of the Ventana Wilderness, on California's central coast, north of San Luis Obispo. The following seem like the two most obvious ways to approach the peak :
- Highway 1: the Salmon Creek Trailhead is 70.6 miles south of Carmel Valley Road, about 100 yards or so south of the old Salmon Creek forest service station (no longer in use). There is a turnout with room for a number of cars.
- Nacimiento-Fergusson Road: this road connects Highway 1 with Fort Hunter-Liggett. Near the crest of the road, about 7 miles from Highway 1, take the South Coast Ridge Road 19.2 miles to the junction for Lion's Den / Cruikshank trail. South Coast Ridge Road is said to be a rough 4wd road, narrow and steep, impassable in wet weather. I have never driven on this road, so beware ..
The easiest way to hike the peak is via Silver Peak Road, an abandoned fire road not listed on most maps, but found in the Sierra Club trail guide (see below). It's about a mile from the junction of the Cruikshank trail to the summit area, which was marked by a cairn leading up a short path through chaparral to the USGS marker and register.
The junction of Silver Peak Road and the Cruikshank trail is about 0.4 miles from Lion's Den camp, 0.9 miles from South Coast Ridge Road, and 2.5 miles from Silver Camp, at an elevation of 3070'. The junction is not signed except to point the hiker along the Cruikshank trail.
From Hwy 1, one could hike up the Salmon Creek trail 5.7 miles to South Coast Ridge Road, then 0.1 miles along the road, and then 0.9 miles on the Cruikshank trail (past Lion's Den camp) to Silver Peak Road.
A reasonable cross-country route from the summit down to Buckeye camp supposedly exists, making for an interesting loop, but I haven't gone that way.
No wilderness permits are presently required for overnight travel, but use of camping stoves or campfires requires a free California Campfire Permit
, available at any USFS or BLM office. The USFS office in Big Sur is a good place to stop for information and permits.
Maps and Trail Guides
A new map of the Ventana and Silver Peaks Wilderness (2007) is available from the USFS via their online map store
. This map may also be available from local REI's and outdoor shops.
The Trail Guide to Los Padres National Forest Northern Section : Ventana and Silver Peak Wilderness
, 7th edition, 2003 (ISBN 0-9650652-0-0) is a useful resource, with trail mileages and descriptions. It's available at area REI's (also online
) and outdoor stores.
Other maps and guides are listed on this VWA page
External LinksVentana Wilderness Alliance
- trail conditions, info and forum
Like the Ventana Wilderness, the Silver Peak Wilderness is best hiked in late fall through early spring. Summer brings biting flies, rattlesnakes, and scorching temps.
Trail maintenance within the Silver Peak Wilderness seems to have improved dramatically since I first hiked here in 2002. It's rugged terrain though, and you can expect thick chaparral in places, occasional trail washouts, and blowdowns, depending on conditions. Sturdy boots and possibly trekking poles could be handy.