Fremont Peak State Park

The sole reason why travelers should take out time to drive down to the Fremont Peak State Park is the magnificent panoramic view obtained from this place. Lovely hiking trails of the park fall on the grasslands of the highest peaks of Gavilan Range from where you get to see the unrestrained landscape of the Monterey Bay. The other sceneries to look at from the park include long-stretched Salinas Valley, San Benito Valley and also the eastern section of the Santa Lucia Mountain ranges. The park features dense uninhibited forests of Oak and Pine trees that house several species of mammals and birds. Visitors are allowed to enjoy adventure-staying in the forest in terms of camping or picnicking.

There is an Astronomical Observatory in the Fremont Peak State Park wherein a 30 inch reflecting telescope is available for public viewing programs on scheduled evenings. Generally astronomy based educative and entertaining programs are organized on the evenings of fall, summer and spring which starts from April and continues till October. On the moonless Saturdays, most of these programs are held at around 8 p.m. You are supposed to arrive to the observatory before sunset; otherwise the vehicle lights might hamper the vision of the astronomers. The astronomers working out here are approachable and sociable enough to explain things to the visitors although you are not allowed to touch the gadgets and telescope in use. There are certain restrictions and courtesies to be maintained inside the observatory.

The admirers of history can treat themselves taking a glimpse at the olden times in this park and watch the part played by Captain John Charles Frémont in the drama “California’s struggle for statehood”. In 1846, Frémont camped at a place close to the Monterey wherein he built a small fort and planted the flag of America at the tallest peak of this region. Before the name of Captain Frémont was linked with the mountain, the peak was known by the name Gabilan Peak, derived from a Spanish word that means hawk. The department of state parks acquired this peak in the year 1936. An annual event named “Fremont Park Day” is celebrated every year which is a traditional picnic sponsored and arranged by the “Native Daughters of the Golden West” and the “Veterans of Foreign Wars”. It is a commemoration of the flag-raising expedition of Captain Fremont. Let the children play engaging games arranged for this occasion; also enjoy the picnic lunch served to families.

The northern slopes of the Fremont Peak are shrouded with toyon, scrub and manzanita oaks. But the southern slopes are comparatively exposed and cloaked with lush green grasslands that get sprinkled with dot-like wildflowers featuring different colors in summer and spring. The upper ridges are masked with Madrone and Coulter pine trees wherein birds like hawk, eagle and turkey vulture fly high. The birdwatchers have spotted over 100 species of birds in this park. A short walk at the trails of the Fremont Peak State Park will surely satiate the nature lover in you. The trailhead starts from the Highway 101 at the northern part of Salinas and ends at the Highway 156. The road travels quite a few miles towards the San Juan Bautista town. From the outer reaches of the town, you can take the 11 miles long road to the State Park.

If you are fond of hiking, take the trail starting right from the parking lot of the State park. It is half a mile long but features signs with hiker’s symbols. The trail does not move towards the peak; instead it plunges down and then climbs up from a gulch before toggling to the astronomical observatory in the park. There is also a road initiating from the parking lot which moves down to join the Peak Trail which is actually a bridleway contouring the mountains. The trail climbs up to the saddle meeting a summit that further mounts to the rock-strewn Fremont Peak. The returning road features communication facilities.

The park is open round the year from 8 am in the morning and closes after one and a half hour of sunset. All required information about the park and events can be obtained at 831-623-4255 and about the Astronomical Observatory at 831-623-2465. San Juan canyon Road leads to this park which is about 11 miles drive from San Juan Bautista. Weather is changeable at the park; hence wearing layered clothes is suggested. If you are a first time visitor to California, check out the Fremont Peak State Park for an outstanding hiking and astronomy experience.