A Nice Day TripWe were looking for something to do while we wait for the snow to melt in the High Sierras. Prestor suggested Fremont Peak, about 100 miles south of San Francisco and roughly 10 miles west of Hollister. It’s the highpoint for a wide area. The peak looks like a real summit being rather “pointy”, and the view from the top is rated a ten in the book, “California Hiking”. It’s also of historical interest, as the mountain page suggests.
I picked Prestor up at 8:30AM in downtown San Francisco and we headed south on Highway 101 towards the town of San Juan Bautista at the foot of the mountain. It was freeway driving most of the way to SJB, then it was a pleasant ten-mile drive up a narrow winding road the rest of the way to the state park and the summit trail. We paid our $6 park fee and picked up a park brochure from the kiosk. You can also download the brochure in advance from the internet at http://www.parks.ca.gov, navigating to Fremont Peak Park and clicking on the link to pdf brochures.
Once there, we eventually found an old outhouse somewhere between the lower and upper parking lots, but its location wasn’t obvious. The brochure also shows facilities at the Oak Point and Valley View Campgrounds, and at the Madrone Picnic Area.
We walked up the Peak Trail to the top. The hike only took about twenty minutes, even with us taking our time. We saw 4 other people on the trail; curiously, none of the other 4 went all the way to the top. Near the summit the trail is class 2, meaning most people will use their hands for balance at times. If it were wet, the rock would be quite slippery, as it was somewhat slippery even when dry. As I suspected, parts of the trail were close to being overgrown with grass up to 4 feet high. This is not good for those who are allergic to grass as I am. It also increases the likelihood of picking up ticks, although I didn’t find any on me when I got home. And of course, high grass is a great hiding place for rattlesnakes. I have seen them on other hikes, but not on this one. This time of year the Poison Oak was bright green and shiny, and there was a sign warning about that, too.
We lounged around on the rocks at the top, at just about noon, and had some lunch. The temperature was very comfortable and with a light breeze. As promised, the view was great with 360 degree vistas of Salinas, Hollister, San Juan Bautista, the surrounding hills, and out to Monterey Bay.
For parties wanting a longer hike, other trails could be taken further down the road which would link up with the Peak Trail near the summit. Use of those trails could turn the trip into more of a 4 or 5 hour (round trip) day, although I have no idea what kind of condition the other trails would be in.
Other activities in the park include an observatory site where star gazing with telescopes up to 30 inches (that’s pretty large) is available at certain times during the month. See fpoa.net, (831) 623-2465, for information on that.
We looked hard trying to find the observatory from the Peak, but couldn't be sure what we were seeing. We were trying to find a structure with a dome that would open up to allow observation. There wasn't any. Later, using the map and hiking around, we determined that it was the building south of the ranger station with the prominent blue metal roof. Apparently they just store telescopes in the building and then move them outside at night to observe.
After the hike we spent a pleasant hour touring the old mission back in the town of San Juan Bautista. The mission was founded well over 200 years ago and is still used as a residence and for religious services. See oldmissionsjb.org. There’s also a museum across from the mission in an old hotel that looked interesting although we didn’t take the time to look into it.