As you head inland from the Pacific Coast, following the Carmel River upstream to the secluded village of Carmel Valley, there’s little to suggest that you are just on the edge of one of California’s largest National Forests and wilderness areas. The low hills on the side of the valley, forested and untamed, give way as you turn south to higher and more rugged peaks, the northern edge of the Los Padres National Forest. Its 1.75 million acres of wild land and wilderness between Monterey and Santa Barbara contain some of the least accessible peaks along the entire Central Coast.

For an early April hike we headed up Cachagua Road and then followed a short dirt road to a trailhead at Los Padres Reservoir. Our destination was Blue Rock Ridge, five and a half miles beyond the dam, uphill, and just at the edge of the Ventana Wilderness. The trail switchbacks steeply up and up before topping out on the ridge just across from the massive flank of Uncle Sam Mountain, 4766′.

For a while as we followed the ridgeline towards its highest point we wondered how the ridge got its name. The forest had been partly cleared and we moved in and out of grasslands and oak woods. And then, just near the peak, a surprising outcropping of blue rock, made it clear. The USGS describes the “bald knob of dark green to black serpentinite” as “one of the better exposed serpentinite blobs in the Santa Lucia Range”. Set against the darker trees, their leaves just emerging with, Blue Rock Ridge finally lived up to its name.

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Agency: U.S. Forest Service
Location: Los Padres National Forest