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Santa Lucia Range
Mountain Range
View from summit of Cone Peak, one of the highest coastal mountains in the lower 48 states
Country United States
State California
Region Monterey County
San Luis Obispo County
Coordinates 36°3′3.861″N 121°28′8.769″W / 36.0510725°N 121.4691025°W / 36.0510725; -121.4691025
Highest point
 - elevation 1,784 m (5,853 ft)
Timezone Pacific (UTC-8)
 - summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
Topo map USGS Cone Peak
location of Santa Lucia Range in California [1]

The Santa Lucia Mountains or Santa Lucia Range is a mountain range in coastal California, running from Monterey southeast for 105 miles (170 km) to San Luis Obispo. The highest summit is Junipero Serra Peak, 1,784 metres (5,853 ft)[2] in Monterey County. It is part of the Pacific Coast Ranges.



The first European to document the Santa Lucias was Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542 while sailing northward along the coast on a Spanish naval expedition. Cabrillo originally named the southern portion of the range the Sierras de San Martín, as he was passing the area on 11 November, the feast day for Saint Martin. He named the northern part Sierras Nevadas because there was snow on it.[3]

The present name for the range was documented in 1602 by Sebastián Vizcaíno, who had been tasked by the Spanish to complete a detailed chart of the coast. Passing by the range on 14 December, he named the range Sierra de Santa Lucia in honor of Saint Lucy of Syracuse.[3]


Like all other Pacific Coast Ranges, these mountains are close enough to the Pacific Ocean and high enough to force incoming moisture upward, making the west side wet and fit for conifers to grow. This creates a rain shadow over Salinas Valley to the east, which is considerably drier. The higher peaks receive some snowfall during the winter.

The climate is classified as Dry Summer Subtropical, or Mediterranean. Rainfall varies from 16 to 60 inches throughout the range, with the most on the higher mountains in the north; almost all precipitation falls in the winter. During the summer, fog and low clouds are frequent along the coast up to an elevation of several thousand feet. Surface runoff from rainfall events is rapid, and many streams dry up entirely in the summer, except for some perennial streams in the wetter areas in the north.[4].


The rock of the Santa Lucias is dominated by granitic basement of the Salinian Block, between the San Andreas Fault and Sur-Nacimiento Fault. According to plate tectonic theory, the core of the Salinian block formed as part of the same batholith which forms the core of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Peninsular Ranges of Baja California. It was broken off the North American Plate and transported north by the action of the San Andreas Fault from an original position. It is predominantly Mesozoic granitic and pre-Cretaceous metamorphic rocks. There is some Cretaceous sedimentary rock of the Great Valley Sequence, considerable Miocene marine sediments, and some other Tertiary sediments. Units west of the Sur-Nacimiento fault are dominated by rocks of the Franciscan Assemblage.


The west slope of the range facing the Pacific Ocean is moist with good forest growth including Coast Redwood, Douglas fir, Ponderosa Pine, Pacific Madrone and the local endemics Santa Lucia Fir (Abies bracteata) and Gowen Cypress (Cupressus goveniana var. goveniana), while the east side is drier, with chaparral and open woods of pine (including Coulter Pine and Gray Pine) and several species of oak. These mountains are home to the southernmost native stands of redwood trees, since the climate gets drier towards the south. This range is the only known habitat of the Vortriede's spineflower.

Major peaks

  • Junipero Serra Peak, 1,784 metres (5,853 ft)[2]
  • Cone Peak, 1,571 metres (5,154 ft) [5]. Cone Peak features one of the steepest coastal elevations in the lower 48 United States, rising nearly a mile (1,609 m) above sea level, only three miles (5 km) from the Pacific Ocean. Mount Angeles in the Olympic mountains rises 6,450 feet from the sea in eight miles.
  • Ventana Double Cone, 1,477 metres (4,846 ft) [6]
  • Mount Carmel, 1,344 metres (4,409 ft) [7]


The Santa Lucia Highlands American Viticultural Area, a producer of California wine, is located in the region.


External links

  • Ventana Wilderness Alliance — Dedicated to the protection, preservation, enhancement and restoration of the wilderness qualities and biodiversity of the public lands within California's northern Santa Lucia Mountains.


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