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Hike reminiscent of 1800s missionary trail

Hike reminiscent of 1800s missionary trail

The "Path of the Padres" takes its name from the 35 mile long trail walked by the missionaries in the early 1800s as they traveled from Mission San Juan Bautista through the Diablo Range along the ...

POSTED February 4, 2011 9:32 p.m.

The trail that winds through the San Joaquin Valley, which was blazed by the Yokut tribe and fortified by the soldiers and missionaries who followed in their footpaths, is re-opening again for the popular “Path of the Padres” hike.

The California State Park staff at San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area will again be leading the "Path of the Padres" hikes on some Fridays and most Saturdays and Sundays starting Feb. 26 and continuing through April 23. 

The “Path of the Padres” takes its name from the 35 mile long trail walked by the missionaries in the early 1800s as they traveled from Mission San Juan Bautista through the Diablo Range along the Los Banos Creek and into the Central Valley. 

The five mile round trip trail takes hikers on a historical journey, opening their eyes to the lives and experiences of the Native Americans, the Spanish missionaries, gold miners, and cattle ranchers who at one point or another in time were drawn to the cool waters of the creek’s deep pools.

For nature lovers the trail provides ample awe inspiring views of fields of wildflowers, old-growth forest, and for the lucky, sightings of deer, coyotes, and wild pigs roaming the landscape.

The hike begins at the Los Banos Creek Reservoir boat launch ramp at 8 a.m. and returns to the ramp about 3:30 p.m.  A pontoon boat ferries passengers for about 30 to 40 minutes to the west end of the reservoir.  Along the way, short stops are made so the hikers can observe wildlife along the shoreline. Throughout the hike, the natural and historic features of the area are pointed out and discussed by the hike leader.  

The group leaves the boat at the west end of the reservoir for a five mile round trip hike.  Here one can see the area where, in the early 1800s, the Spanish padres from Mission San Juan Bautista camped on their way to the Central Valley.  The area was originally named “El Arroyo de los Banos del Padre Arroyo,” which translates to “The Stream of the Baths of Padre Arroyo.” Padre Felipe Arroyo de la Cuestra stopped at the creek to bathe while on the journey.

This hike is moderately strenuous and will take about five hours. Participants must be in good physical condition.  Because Los Banos Creek is crossed several times during the hike, footwear may get wet.  Layered clothing and sturdy footgear should be a priority.  Hikers should carry a lunch and a minimum of two quarts of water or more if it is a hot day.  The hike traverses country that can be very hot and dry, depending on weather conditions, so a hat and sunscreen are recommended. Binoculars add greatly to enjoyment of the scenery, and may help hikers spot falcons and eagles that may be seen in the area. The lunch stop is near the historic deep pools in the creek, carved in the bedrock.

The adventurous and fit can opt in for a 700-foot climb to the summit of a hill with an impressive view of Menjoulet Canyon and a native Sycamore grove. The Department of Fish and Game biologists describe it as the largest and most intact natural community of its kind left in California. 

Reservations are required for the hikes and they will be accepted at the park office.  To make a reservation, call 826-1197 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. A reservation fee of $12 per person over 12 years old, and $7 per child age 6 to 12 is required to confirm the telephone reservations.  A family of five may reserve space for two adults and three children for $30.  Space is limited.  On the day of the hike, visitors must pay the State Park day use parking fee of $10 per vehicle upon entry.  Scheduled hikes may be cancelled if minimum number of hikers is not met. Refunds or other reservations will be made.  For more information, call 826-1197.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002

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