Treasures and travel in San Benito County
Pinnacles National Monument, Mission San Juan Bautista, Hollister Hills SVRA and the Wine Trail are all within your reach.
Pinnacles National Park
Traveling south along historic Highway 25 will bring you into the beautiful backcountry of San Benito County, hugging the San Andreas Fault Line as you wind through the foothills. In fact, this fault line is the star of the show as you pull into Pinnacles National Park. Towering spires of rock and the sloping Gabilan Mountain Range covered in chaparral make way for the powerful fault line that cuts through the park. Established as an official National Park in 2013, the 26,000 acres and nearly 30 miles of hiking trails have long been a favorite haunt for outdoor enthusiasts and locals alike.
Pinnacles National Park has trails for every level of hiker: from the experienced backpacker to the young adventurer. Local favorite trails include the Moses Spring trail to Bear Gulch Reservoir (take the seasonal detour along the short Bear Gulch Cave Trail for some spelunking). The High Peaks Trail is another favorite route, aptly named for the incredible views from the top. Pack a lunch and enjoy the vistas; you might get lucky and spot a California Condor. These huge birds are endangered, and split their time roosting between the park and Big Sur.
Mission San Juan Bautista
San Benito County is steeped in local history, but the small mission town of San Juan Bautista is where you will find a historical site dating prior to California’s statehood. Mission San Juan Bautista was established June 24, 1797 by Father Lasuén. It is the fifteenth mission built on the West Coast and named after Saint John The Baptist, sitting at the edge of the San Andreas Fault Line. Though a couple of large earthquakes had damaged portions of the buildings, the Mission has been expertly restored and now holds church services every Sunday.
Just one street over from the main thoroughfare of San Juan Bautista, the Mission is an easy walk to the Spanish style downtown. Nearly 50 historical buildings can be found on Third Street and in the surrounding neighborhoods; take a self guided walking tour to visit all of these incredible sites. If you are looking for more modern comforts, pop into any of the local antique shops or settle into a local restaurant or brewery. San Juan Bautista’s local culinary scene features authentic Mexican restaurants, breweries, wine bars, a BBQ joint, and even Japanese cuisine.
Hollister Hills State Recreational Vehicle Area
If you are searching for an activity that gets your adrenaline pumping, look no further than Hollister Hills State Vehicle Recreation Area (SVRA). The first SVRA established in California, this park is home to 6,800 acres of trails that criss-cross the San Andreas Fault Line. With elevations ranging from 660 to 2,425 feet above sea level, there are plenty of trails for every level of rider. Bring your dirt bike, ATV, or off-road vehicle: “The Hills” has a trail for them all!
Though the park is known as a recreational vehicle haven, it also features hiking, biking and equestrian trails. The recently opened Mudstone Ranch is a non-motorized section of the park and provides 13 miles of hilly terrain with incredible views of the town of Hollister below. For a more rural experience, go to the back of the park and explore the Nature Area. Bring the dog and traverse the 5 miles of lush trails that wind into the hills.
Wine Trail San Benito County
The San Benito Wine Trail meanders through the Gabilan Mountain range along Cienega Road, just past Hollister Hills SVRA, and back around to the outskirts of Hollister. A hidden gem among wine regions, San Benito County offers incredible sips in beautifully rural landscapes.
If you are making your way south on Cienaga, your first stop will be DeRose Winery. The tasting room is also where the wine is made, and you can see the huge silos lined up opposite the tasting counter. Recently an outdoor seating area has been added where you can sit back and enjoy your flight. A few minutes down the road will bring you to Eden Rift Vineyards, home to a verdant valley flanked by rows of neat vines. This deeply-rooted property has been producing wine since the mid-1800s. Swirl a glass and settle into an Adirondack chair on the lawn, and take in all that Cienega Valley has to offer.
From Eden Rift Vineyards you will make your way south to Calera Wine Company. Perched on the side of a hilltop, Calera enjoys grand views of the neighboring Diablo Mountain Range. With indoor and outdoor seating and plenty of incredible views to go around, Calera is the perfect place to unwind in the afternoon.
Cienega Road meets Highway 25, which you will take back to Hollister. A short jaunt down Fairview Road leads to Leal Vineyards. The posh tasting room and comfortable outdoor couches invite you to stay a while. Take your tasting up to the Olive Grove for a full view of the gorgeous grounds, settling at a table under the olive trees or challenging friends to a game of bocce ball. Just a few minutes from Leal Vineyards is Guerra Cellars, a charmingly rustic winery that reminds you of relaxing in a good friend’s backyard. After gathering your flight from the barn-turned-tasting-room, stake your claim on a couple of lounge chairs and enjoy views of the foothills. During the summer, stay for the live music performances at their amphitheater on the property.