East Molera Trail to Post Summit

It was a perfect day for hiking - sunny, incredibly clear, and just warm enough to hit the trail in shorts. Here's the route we took. The trail starts on Highway 1 and crosses the east side of Andrew Molera State Park and then the turn-around point is just across the park boundary atop 3,455 foot Post Summit. Round trip is 9 miles and involves over 4100 feet of climbing with an average grade of about 14%, although that last mile is about a 19% grade. The views at the top are worth the effort, so let's go!

Here's Dave at the trail head. Parking is easy, there's usually a spot available in the turnout where the trail starts or in other turnouts nearby.

The trail starts off with a gentle climb through some oaks and then breaks out into open grassy or scrubby areas for the rest of the hike. Dave is way out in front as usual, he's fast out of the gate and I need some time to get warmed up before I find some zip. You can see the diagonal slash of the trail climbing the hill ahead.

Looking back after climbing just a few hundred feet from the highway (520 feet here) the view of the ocean is starting to expand.

Another 40 feet of climbing and the view expands even more. Highway 1 is visible just to the right of center and the unpaved Old Coast Road can be seen winding up and over the hill to the right of the highway.

Once you start climbing the trail up the first good hill it starts to get a bit brushy but is clear enough to continue hiking in shorts.

Ah, I think that our destination is finally coming into view. And there's Dave, a tiny speck of orange on the trail ahead on the left side of the photo (you may have to click on the photo for a larger view to see him).

Looking back. At 1200 feet we are now looking down into the west side of the park.

We are coming up to the edge of a grove of redwood trees that extends down into the valley on the other side of the ridge. Some of the trees are showing the scars from the Basin Complex wild fires that burned through here in the summer of 2008.

The first glimpse of beautiful Pico Blanco, so named because it is one massive cone of white limestone and marble.

There's a few grand old oak trees atop the ridge nearby.

Looking back at the redwood trees and the ocean off in the distance.

Dave is gazing longingly at Pico Blanco, he would really like to hike to the top.

But not today, there are no trails from here...

to there...

We are at 1840 feet now and the ocean view continues to expand. You can see Point Sur jutting out into the Pacific in the center of the photo. The point is home to an historic lighthouse which is now a state historic park. Guided tours are available, including an occasional moonlight tour and a couple of ghost tours in October.

Now we get to hike across some grassy ridges. Rain has been scarce this winter so the grass isn't very high and there aren't many wild flowers.

There's a bit more up and down to navigate before we tackle the final ascent to the summit.

Point Sur is getting smaller. Highway 1 is looking like a thin ribbon.

More climbing...

Pico Blanco still dominates but is shrinking.

Ah ha! The summit is near! But we will cheat a bit and skirt that bump in front of Dave.

Pico Blanco is even further away.

The final rocky scramble up to the summit. Dave is, of course, in the lead!

I'll catch my breath on the way up while I admire this Indian Paintbrush.

Almost there, but someone beat Dave to the top today.

Pico Blanco is looking so far away.

And to the south, the Ventana Wilderness is looking rather, well, wild...

The Big Sur coast is looking dramatic and oh so beautiful, as usual, but especially so on such a clear day.

The conqueror surveys his domain. Can you make out Point Sur?

A sign of a previous conqueror keeps us company as we enjoy a well deserved lunch.

I just can't resist another shot of Pico Blanco, it is such an icon on this part of the coast.

Lunch is over and it's time to head back the way we came.

Another shot of the view to the south. There are a more beautiful hikes awaiting us there...

And yet another shot of Pico Blanco, this is one of my favorite photos of it this day.

Here's the top of the bump that we skirted on the way up to the summit. At 2640 feet it has beautiful views and is a good turnaround point if you don't want to do that final scramble up to Post Summit.

It's difficult to not take photos of that massive hunk of limestone, but the changing views of it are one of the best features of this hike.

Really, truly, you should go see it yourself...

Sidalcea, I don't know what species, is one of the few wild flowers putting on a bit of a show.

An eerie looking burnt out trunk in the redwood grove caught my eye on the way down.

One last look at the peak and the moonrise over the ridge as we near the end of the hike.


  1. Very nice hike to Summit Post and great photos. How long did it take?

    1. We spent 5:49 on the trail, but actual hiking time was only 3:48.

  2. Nice pictures. Does the east molera trail dead end, or does it meet another trail?

    1. It does dead end, technically at the park boundary, but you can continue on to the top of Post Summit, but that is truly the end of the trail. I think that it was once possible to get to Mount Manuel from there but that trail has disappeared.

  3. It does not dead-end, I just completed (07/15-16/2015) the East Molera Trail to Mt. Manuel. I met one other man on the trail going in the opposite direction too. Yes, the trail is hard to follow and heavily overgrow. In some spots it appears maze-like, I followed more than a few dead-ends through very heavy brush. I'm no mountain man and I am 57 years old, and found it difficult, but a relatively young trailblazer could easily do this as a day hike.

    I recommend starting a Molera, mainly because it is mostly overgrown on the Manuel end, and by the time you hit the overgrowth you're pretty much committed to moving on because it's too late to turn back. I always have to start late because I take the 22 bus to Big Sur, so I have to pack loads of crap to camp the night. Having a heavy pack made it really tough to get through many areas, but I nonetheless did it. Email b@nnon.us if you have questions.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Ron, If I could type I wouldn't have to delete my own comments...
      Thanks for the info, it's good to know that it's still possible to get through. You're a tougher 57 year old hiker than this one!