I chose this particular park since it was a local state park that offered camping that still offered plenty of Saturday camping spots. We visited here on July 4th since Big Sur Stat Park was closed. What a treat we had.
“This park features expansive views of Monterey Bay, from its hiking trails in the grasslands of the higher peaks of the Gavilan Range. Other views include the San Benito Valley, Salinas Valley, and the Santa Lucia Mountains east of Big Sur. Pine and oak woodlands in the park are home to many birds and mammals. There are camping and picnic facilities in the park. The park also features an astronomical observatory with a 30-inch telescope, which is open for public programs on selected evenings.”
Information can be found here.
Let is soak for a second, you have these beautiful 360-views, and somehow this is a landmark because John Fremont raised his flag on land that isn’t his land?
I’d like for you to read the history before embarking on the peak.
Native People For thousands of years, the Ohlone people (also known as “Costanoan”) lived in this area. After 1769 with the Spanish arrival, the next several decades saw a drastic decline in the native population due to food shortages, crowded conditions, and epidemics of diseases to which the Ohlone had no immunity. By 1850, fewer than ten percent of the Ohlone people remained.
“In 1769 the native people’s lives were disrupted by the arrival of Spanish missionaries and soldiers who came to colonize the area and bring the native people into the mission system.” You can still visit the Missions in San Juan Bautista.
“In 1846, while California was still part of Mexico, Army Captain John C. Frémont of the Topographic Engineers led a small exploratory force to California, arriving in the Salinas Valley in March.” Allegedly he was surveying the land.
Guess what happened next?
“Suspicious of Frémont’s motives, Mexican Commandante General José Castro ordered him to leave the settled areas of California immediately.
Frémont, believing that Castro had previously granted him verbal permission to remain, refused. “
Making of a “Landmark”
On March 6, 1846, “Sensing an incident was coming, Frémont’s party headed up to a nearby peak, where they built a makeshift fort and raised a U.S. military flag on Gabilan (Gavilan) Peak (Fremont Peak).
Castro, meanwhile, assembled a group of 200 soldiers in nearby San Juan Bautista.
Fremont He unfurled his colors and for four days awaited the attack of a force of Californians. In Monterey, U.S. Consul Thomas O. Larkin attempted to intervene in order to avoid a conflict.
The battle did not materialize by the night of March 9. Frémont decided to leave his encampment, and departed for Oregon as he undoubtedly realized his precarious position.
A powerful windstorm blew down the flagpole and may have provided Frémont further impetus to abandon the summit. ”
“During the Mexican-American war, Frémont led the California Battalion, but in 1847 U.S.
General Stephen W. Kearny censured him for his “conduct in California.” Frémont was arrested, court-martialed, and found guiltyof mutiny, disobedience, and “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.”
President Polk – Now Fremont is a Good Guy
“President James K. Polk later removed the charge of mutiny, and Frémont became a U.S. Senator representing California’s Mariposa area. In 1856, he ran unsuccessfully for president. As early as 1890, the raising of the flag by Frémont was celebrated on Fremont Peak. The Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West placed a commemorative plaque there in 1926.”
Doesn’t this seem odd how this peak is a landmark of someone refounding land for the second time, and after being allowed to survey someone else’s land and getting ask to leave he wanted to put the American flat on that peak? I don’t understand how it is a landmark. Do you? Let that sink in when you visit this park.
All of this information can be found here:
Since we were camping this trip was much easier to plan. It is only 1.2 miles roundtrip. We had visited this park before, which has made this hike a lot more easier to do.
I don’t recommend doing the night hike if you have yet hiked up this peak. There is a lot of rock scrambling, trails that haven’t been brushed that could be felt that a bunch of critters are nearby, and trail that seems narrow due to the unkept trail.
Make sure you have the map handy on your phone since it is quite easy to get lost and miss the trail. They had installed a wooden map, which is now removed. Therefore, there is no map upon arrival. It is a self-serve park. If you don’t have a California State Park’s Pass, you will need to pay $6 for parking, and it will need to be cash.
Lots of Elevation
1.5+ Liters Total
1.5 L Reservoir/Camelback
or 2x 20oz Water Bottle
Parking available near the Historical Plaque and Historic Building
Water for Hiking Mileage Ratio
5 miles = 1 liter minimal
2 hours = 1 liter minimal
Goal Hike: 1,2 Miles, lots of elevation, 1 hour
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,
The hike we did was 1.2 miles. I’m glad we did a test day-hike on July 4th. We got a little bit lost and took a lot longer to hike and down.
The rock scrambling is what scared me the most, and it does make a difference on what side you chose to climb up and go down. It can get hot since you are summiting a peak, and it is in the valley.
- Do a day-hike before attempting a night-hike
- Day-Hike: Arrive as early as possible to avoid the heat
- Download a Map because there are no maps available
- Night Hike: Arrive with plenty of time to see the sunset.
- Night Hike: Night Hike: Book a campsite to not drive home at dark, and a pro, you can see the stars all night long
If you start or drive-by from the fire road, you will see parking spaces near the Valley View Campground. You will spot the previous wooden map, and area to self-register to park.
Per the map, you can walk straight, which is a road that leads to the Historical House and Monument. You will find the nearby parking lot closest to the trailhead.
You will continue walking and pass the closed gate to road traffic, but it is open to foot traffic.
The trailhead sign is hidden and surrounded by a bunch of overgrown plants. It isn’t easy to find at first glance.
It begins cresting along the mountain with goregous views of the valley.
There are mix of sunset and day hike photos. It’s unbelievable to see the difference.
You continue to crest around the mountain.
When you reach the radio towers, you can take a left or right to climb up the mountain. I prefer to take a right and go towards the stair steps. The rocks are there for you to make it easier to climb up. If you go to the left, it is mainly gravel, and it isn’t easy to go up or down. It is the reason it is important to test the trail during the day to know what paths work best. It makes a tremendous difference.
It was getting closer to 8 pm, and the sun was just about to set. We wanted to climb higher, but there were about seven other people on top, and we decide to watch it set and then hang out afterward.
Thank goodness we have been there before because we were able to climb up quickly without an issue.
Caution: the rocks on top are slippery, which is the reason shoes with traction is a must!
What the difference between day and night. I’m glad I read history, and I could not imagine what ran through Fremont’s head when he was there for two weeks.
I can’t imagine what the Spanish thought too; they know it is a beautiful view, and on clear days, you can see the Monterey Bay. They knew what Fremont wanted, the land they stolen from the Native Americans.
Descending down is a bit tricky. Once again a few of the rocks are slippery. I recommend three points of contact. No shame. I felt like an upside down spider.
When you are descending, I recommend staying to the left and sticking to the rocks versus treading down the gravel and steeper side.
It is the reason I said it is best to test the hike before attempting the night hikes
With an excellent headlamp, the trek down worked out great. We spotted a dad with two kids. The kids found a scorpion with a black light. Pretty neat! It is glowing in the picture below.
It was nice knowing we had a campsite and not dealing with the 20-minute drive down a windy road. There were several stars, and I haven’t seen that much since we had visited Tahoe National Forest.
I highly recommend this hike and spending one-night camping. Preferably it would be best to do it any other night than Friday or Saturday.
REMINDER: LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND
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.