San Jose, California
Pacheco, State Park
San Benito County
Pacheco is located at an environmental crossroads of the coast range, Diablo Range and the San Joaquin
Valley. Blue oaks and valley oaks dot the park’s grassy slopes. The trees are a tip-off that it gets mighty windy in Pacheco
State Park. Squat, flag-shaped oaks bow to the east, sculpted by the prevailing winds into picturesque poses. An even more
obvious wind indicator than the stunted oaks are the multitude of wind turbines strategically placed on Pacheco’s ridges.
During the March through October “wind season,” Pacheco Pass is a veritable wind tunnel that whirls the propellers of nearly
200 windmills. Pacheco State Park earns a portion of the revenue from the 21 million kilowatts a year generated by the private
utility that owns the windmills. Thanks to this revenue, Pacheco is a rarity in California’s impoverished state park system—a
park that actually has adequate funds for its maintenance. Although Pacheco seems far removed from the coast, the Pacific plays
a significant role in the area’s odd weather. An indentation in Monterey Bay that puts the Pacific only 50 miles as the gull
flies from the park, the park’s location at a gap between mountain ranges, and strong westerly winds all combine to bring heavy
coastal fog to the park during hot summer days. Pacheco is a fairly dry park, though you might guess otherwise from the number
of lakes depicted on the park map. Nun, Diamond, Bear’s Hide, Wolf, Dinosaur, Mammoth and many more lakes are actually tiny
reservoirs, originally created to serve as cattle watering ponds. Botanists have counted some 15 species of native grasses in
the park. Hikers frequently spot mule deer, ground squirrels, black-tailed hares and feral pigs in the park. More elusive
animals include badgers, skunks, gophers and voles.
Directions: Head south on US-101 through Morgan Hill to Gilroy. Take the 10th Street/CA-152 East exit. You will be on
CA-152 for about 25 miles (past Casa de Fruta). Turn right on Dinosaur Point Road. Don't miss this turn; you will find it
difficult to turn around on this stretch of road. Follow signs to the parking lot.
DRIVE TIME: 1 hour. PARKING $5 - NO DOGS allowed on trails.
We will be hiking along the Spikes Peak Trail. Last time we did this hike we came up the other side. Some of you might remember the grueling hike to the peak. Trust me, this way is much easier, so no worries. At the picnic table we will take a left along Canyon Loop West to Canyon Loop East. We will find shelter from the wind to have o ur meeting then follow Pig Pond Trail to complete the loop back to the parking lot.
LEVEL: 2.5, MILES: 6, ELEVATION: 600 ft., HOST: Anna J.
We will be hiking rain or shine. This is a winter hike so remember to dress in layers. Bring a raincoat, gloves, possibly a scarf and a hat if you have them. Though the windy season officially ends in October, the land is exposed so plan on being cold and possibly getting wet. Bring something to sit on. Bringing a change of clothes & shoes to leave in the car, for when your through, may be a good idea. It's a long drive home; especially if your wet. As always bring plenty of water and some food. A thermos full of your favorite hot beverage is always nice.