Jacks Peak Park: Day Hike (4 miles)

My goal is to hike once every week. On Sunday, June 21st, we visited Jack Peaks Park. It is the highest point on the Monterey Peninsula, rising 1,068 feet (325 m) about Monterey and Carmel. The park encompasses 525 acres under control of the Monterey County Parks Department.

It is a 20-minute drive from Stephen’s parent’s house, which we were staying because of father’s day. Therefore it was the perfect local like.


“The park is part of the Pueblo Lands tract acquired in 1859 by Scottish immigrant David Jack. The first 55 acres (220,000 m2) that were to become the park were purchased by Talcott and Margaret Pardee Bates in 1964. They sold it to the Nature Conservancy, who eventually sold it to Monterey County. In 1971, the county purchased the remaining acres for the park from Del Monte Properties. The park opened in January 1977.” I found this information from Wikipedia, which was sourced from a poster at the Park. What is strange is that it is difficult finding information from the Pueblo Lands tract.

Pueblos were under Spanish and Mexico law. It’s difficult to comprehend how this land was acquired. It’s unfortunate there is no information about the natives who lived there first. I wish I could research more about it. Here is an article I found. http://www.csun.edu/~jsides/FALL2010/Reich.pdf

From Article Page 17: “Most of the time, the California Supreme Court expressly facilitated land alienation, and in no case so dramatically as in Monterey v. Jacks (1903), when it upheld Monterey’s sale of its pueblo lands in their entirety. Scottish immigrant David Jacks made a fortune in land speculation in the Monterey area between his arrival in 1850 and his death in 1909.143 His most ambitious acquisition was the 1859 purchase he made with his partner, Delos Ashley, of all the city’s pueblo lands. The bankrupt city conveyed the tract to satisfy its debt to attorney Ashley for obtaining its title confirmation before the U.S. Land Commission. By 1879 Jacks was so hated for his control of property in and around Monterey that visitor Robert Louis Stevenson would write that stagecoaches were regularly stopped by “disguised horsemen thirsting for [Jacks’s] blood.’”

Crazy how there are two different perspectives of this land acquisition. I am not surprised there isn’t more information about David Jacks because he was hated.

From the website: “Jacks Peak Park has much to offer the outdoor enthusiast. Almost 8.5 miles of horseback riding and hiking trails wind through cathedral-like forests and to breathtaking ridge top vistas. The Skyline Self-Guided Nature Trail traverses the summit of Jacks Peak and features fossils from the Miocene epoch.” All of this information can be found here..


The night before our hike, I downloaded the map to my phone and planned it on my desktop. I want to go one of the longer hikes (6 miles), and the map seemed difficult to comprehend. There is no detailed information on google maps or on website.

Thankfully it looked like a small park. It offers 8 miles of trails but it is deceiving because if you did one loop, the most you probably could do is around 6 miles if you got lost. It all eventually leads to the parking area.

Bonus: Since it starts from the peak, there is not much elevation. That was a relief and it didn’t put as much stress prepping for the hike. Actually, we felt laidback about prepping.

Even if we studied this map, the other non-popular trails are confusing and we lost orientation of our location. Luckily the park is small and we still did our 4 miles.


All of this information can be found here.
Hikes and Trails PDF Please download since they are not currently providing paper maps.


4 miles
Minimal Elevation

2 Hours

1+ Liters Total
1.0 Reservoir/Camelback
2x 20oz water bottle

Quest Protein Bar

Lens cloth
Tissue Pack
Nuun Endurance

Running Shoes
Hiking Skort
Dry-fit Top


Small Parking Lot that didn’t fill up at 10am on a Sunday, Father’s Day

Water for Hiking Mileage Ratio

5 miles = 1 liter minimal
2 hours = 1 liter minimal

Goal Hike: 6 Miles, 420ft elevation, 2-3 hours
1.5+ Liters of Water

Hot Hikes: Water to Hiking Mileage Ratio:
5 miles = 1 Liter of Regular Water;
1 Liter of Water with Electrolytes,
preferably Nuun Endurance maybe with Caffeine for a mid-hike energy boost.


The hike we did was about 4 miles that included the backtracking. It probably would have been 3.75 miles without changing directions.

Fun fact: Google Maps does not have all the trails listed, so it is crucial to have a copy of the map because you will get lost if you want to walk further than the “Skyline” or “Coffeeberry” trail.

My Recommendation

  • Bring Cash for Entrance fee: $5
    • When we arrived there was no one in the booth so we were forced to pay cash
  • Arrive early on the weekend or go during the weekdays
    • There was plenty of parking at 10am, maybe it was fluke. Regardless always best to arrive earlier.
  • .Have a digital or print map with you, and make sure you start off the right spot.
    • It can get confusing.


We started at Jacks Peak parking lot. We waited until we arrive to determine where to start. We took the Skyline trail, which is near the restroom because it was the scenic and most marked trail, and we wanted to do the one everyone does first.

It was beautiful seeing all these vista points at every corner. Breathtaking despite the fog stole some of the show.

One highlight is an easy trail, mostly flat, and .8 miles. I’d recommend anyone to hike this trail even if they want a quick view who is nearby downtown and doesn’t want to drive down to Big Sur.

At the junction, we decided to continue hiking instead of going back to the parking lot.
The trail became the “Iris Trail”. We saw several dewey spider webs and continued to see beautiful views of Monterey, Carmel, and the mountains.

We arrived at a junction and felt disoriented. The sign was confusing. Going straight or taking a left was the “Rhus Trail” because it is a loop.

We decided to go straight because I wanted to do a longer hike. If you took a left, it would lake you back to the parking lot and make it a 2 mile hike.

As we continued to go straight, and we hit the road where we entered. Didn’t expect to pop out to the road! We crossed the road and we tried to find the trail. We found the the Monterey Group Picnic Area, which helped us identify our location.

We walked passed the Maintenance Yard and Toll station.

Soon we saw the trail again, and it led to the Lower Ridge Trail.

On we go with more glorious views of Monterey Bay. At that point, we were content. We know we are heading towards the car.

Luckily Stephen is more observant with the outdoors and noticed a junction without a sign. We decided to take a left, which went uphill.

Good thing we did because it was the trail we needed to take to get back to the restroom (starting point.

If we had missed it, it would have tacked another 1.0 miles the most.

We would have connected with the “Coffeeberry trail”, and we would take a left and head towards the Skyline trail, which is where we started. Therefore, thankfully missing a turn isn’t the end of the world in this park.

Next time, I would love to do the entire loop and hike onto the Madrone Trail, Early Moser Trail, and go to Band Trail Point. That would probably tack on another 2.0 miles, and 6 miles isn’t so bad when there isn’t much elevation gain.

Aside from that, it was a beautiful and easy hike. We loved how it is quiet and not frequented. I would call it a local gem!

If the parking fee is an issue, there are parking spots before the toll. It requires a hike up. People park at the base for free and run up there.


Lastly, please remember to leave LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND and leave it better than you found it. Pack your trash. You brought it in, and you can take it out and properly dispose of it.

3 responses to “Jacks Peak Park: Day Hike (4 miles)”

    • thank you! It means a lot. My goal is to share my strategy, prep, and thought-process prepping for a hike and what we think we are hiking, especially when we get lost.

      I don’t really see the strategy or thought-process blog posts online. My day-job involves strategy all-day, every-day, therefore I cannot help but write about it. It’s in my nature. 🙂

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