The California State Parks staff at the San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area will resume leading the “Path of the Padres” hikes on some Fridays and most Saturdays and Sundays from March 2 through April 28.
The popular hikes begin at the Los Banos Creek Reservoir boat launch ramp at 8 a.m., and hikers return to the ramp at approximately 3:30 p.m. on designated dates. A pontoon boat carries passengers for 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.
Visitors will have the opportunity to see some of the native plants that grow along the creek including beautiful displays of wildflowers. Some of the animals that are drawn to its waters, such as wild pigs, deer, coyotes, pond turtles, and even bald eagles might also make an appearance.
The “Path of the Padres” got its name because it was the original 35 mile-long path through the Diablo Range taken by the padres during the 19th century as they came from Mission San Juan Bautista along Los Banos Creek and into the Central Valley. The name Los Banos refers to the many springs along the border of the namesake city. The Spanish missionaries who first settled in Los Banos left very detailed and descriptive accounts of the baths in their journals; these journals were the original inspiration for the start of today’s Path of the Padres hikes.
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’s 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.
Throughout the hike, the natural and historic features of the area are pointed out and discussed by the hike leader. The lunch stop is near the historic “baths,” deep pools in the creek, carved in bedrock, which gave Los Banos its name.
As early as 1805, the mission padres and accompanying soldiers washed and rested here at Los Banos del Padre Arroyo, now simply Los Banos Creek.
Participants have the option of taking a side trip up a steep hill for a spectacular view of the Menjoulet Canyon and the proposed site of the Los Banos Grandes Reservoir. The canyon floor is covered with 576 acres of old growth Sycamore forest, described by Department of Fish & Game biologists as the largest and most intact natural community of its kind left in California. Binoculars add greatly to enjoyment of the scenery, and may help hikers spot falcons and eagles in the area.
These hikes are open to the public, ages 6 years and older, by advance reservation only.
To make a reservation, call (209) 826-1197 Monday through Friday from 9 A.M. until 4 P.M. Fees are $12 per person over 12 years old, and $7 per child ages 6 to 12 to confirm the telephone reservations.
A family of five may reserve space for two adults and three children for $30. Space may be limited, so please reserve a spot early.
On the day of the hike, visitors must pay the state park day use parking fee of $10 per car upon entry. Scheduled hikes may be canceled if the minimum number of 10 hikers is not met. Refunds or other reservations will be made. For more information please call (209) 826-1197.