Steinbeck's favorite view -- Fremont Peak
About six miles north of Salinas you might notice Fremont Peak, a 3,169 foot summit, standing alone and bristling with several tall antenna towers. The 33 acres around the peak are designated as Fremont Peak State Park. This tiny park is home to an observatory, several small primitive campgrounds, perhaps two miles of trails, and a few historical markers. From the summit of Fremont Peak, you can see about 30 miles in every direction: Hollister, San Juan Bautista, Santa Cruz, Moss Landing, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas and just about everything in between.
The peak is named after controversial US Army officer and former California Senator, John C. Fremont, who made camp on this peak (with some 60 US soldiers) in 1846. It is claimed he raised the first American flag on California soil on this peak during this visit, despite orders to depart the area immediately to prevent war between the US and Mexican-controlled California. Fremont was later named the first military governor of California, was one of California's first senators, and failed in a bid for President of the United States as the first-ever Republican candidate.
Though the peak is just miles from Salinas, the only way to the park is via San Juan Bautista, some 20 miles away. The park is then located another 11 miles south of San Juan Bautista. From 156 in San Juan Bautista take The Alameda just a 1/4 mile south to Mission Vineyard Road, then a quick right onto San Juan Canyon Rd for the rest of the drive. The route is pretty well marked.
Entrance fee is $4 to park or $15 to camp. Unlike many California State Parks, no free parking is available outside the main entrance to the park.