Communications Towers on the peak
The first tower on this site was erected in 1954 by KSBW-TV Channel 8 (NBC-Salinas). KSBW moved their primary transmitter to Mount Madonna above Watsonville in 1987, but they built the new $5 million tower here in 2002 and returned their transmitter. They also have a webcam operating from atop one of the towers, pointing over Salinas straight at Monterey.
The main KSBW tower is 401 feet tall, making its top some 3,479 feet above sea level, and their antenna is at 360 feet above the base of the tower. The other stations the broadcast from this Hearst-Argyle Stations-owned tower on Fremont Peak include KSMS (Univision-Monterey) with a 170 foot antenna, KDJT (TeleFutura-Monterey) also with a 170 antenna, and KQET (PBS-Watsonville) with a 150 foot antenna.
The nearby 350 foot tower on Fremont Peak is owned by Seal Rock Broadcasters, and it is home of their 260 foot antenna for KCBA Channel 2 (Fox-Salinas).
Today Fremont Peak still hosts a total of three main antenna towers, plus two smaller towers for microwave dishes.
The site is located just 12 miles from San Andreas Fault and often sustains 70 mile per hour winds.
The other Monterey TV stations broadcast their signals from Mount Toro, south of Salinas.
Fremont Peak's Plaques, Monuments, and Memorials
Controversial US Army officer and politician, John C. Fremont made camp on Fremont Peak (with some 60 US soldiers), & they claim he raised the first American flag on California soil on this peak in 1846. This was before CA joined the US so Fremont was trying to provoke the Mexicans into the war that eventually occurred.
The first of the Fremont monuments I saw was the Fremont Plaque. It tells the story of Captain Fremont's three-day encampment from March 6th through March 9th, 1846, in confrontation with General Jose Castro's forces encamped below at San Juan Bautista. Though Fremont was ordered by Consular officer Thomas O. Larkin to leave the area, this plaque claims Fremont left because he received a bad omen: his American flag blew down in the night. This plaque does not name who funded its construction.
The Fremont Monument sits about 50 feet from the plaque at the beginning of the Fremont Peak Trail. This monument describes Fremont's career from his occupations (naturalist, explorer, scientist, & captain) to his military (led the topographical engineers to this site, military governor of California, Major General in the Civil War) and political roles (CA Senator, Republican nominee for president). It also credits him with the name of San Francisco's Golden Gate, & names him the "Pathfinder of the West" & the "West's Greatest Adventurer." The plaque was placed by the Monterey Viejo Chapter 1846.
Finally, the Fremont Memorial stands at the very top of the peak. It consists of a flagpole & bronze plaque on a concrete pedestal that memorialize General Fremont's raising of the 1st American flag on California soil on this spot on March 4th 1846. Its date (the 4th instead of 6th) & rank of Fremont (General instead of Captain) are in contradiction to the plaque just 200 feet lower on the hill. This plaque was placed by the Native Sons & Daughters of the Golden West.
View the surrounding cities
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. Only the southeasterly view is limited due to the large TV, radio, and cellular towers on the neighboring hill, plus the Gavilan Range extending in that direction is pretty significant, maybe restricting the view to 10 miles. I have read that Fremont Peak was one of Steinbeck's favorite spots to visit to view his hometown of Salinas, and it's easy to understand why.
Monterey and Pacific Grove are 25 miles away to the southwest of the peak. Downtown Salinas is only 10 miles away, also the the southwest. San Juan Bautista is 6 miles away to the north, and Hollister about 9 miles to the northeast. Far off in the distance to the northwest you can just make out the northern end of the Monterey Bay at Santa Cruz perhaps 33 miles away.
See some wildlife
I saw a variety of wildlife at Fremont Peak despite being in the park just 2 or 3 hours including quail, lizards, squirrels, deer, and butterflies.
I saw a little covey of California Quail along the Valley View Trail. This small, ground-dwelling bird is actually the state bird of California!
Coast Range Fence Lizard live along the California coast from north of San Francisco to Big Sur. I saw dozens of these quick little creatures all over the trail as I approached the summit.
Common Sagebrush Lizards are found throughout the western US, and they feed on small insects such as ants. I saw just one of these lizards in the park, at the very top of Fremont Peak.
California Ground Squirrels tend to eat seeds, berries, roots, and leaves of various plants. On the main road through the park I saw dozens of these just hanging out prior to sunset.
Painted Lady butterflies are colored similar to monarchs, but are noticeably smaller, and have more white on the wingtips. They are considered the most widely distributed butterfly in the world.
Mule Deer inhabit the entire western US. I saw a few just as I entered the gate to Fremont Peak State Park, right across from aptly named Doe Flats Campground.
Hike to the top of Fremont Peak!
The Fremont Peak Trail runs from the last parking lot near the base of the peak, to the summit of Fremont Peak. The trail is less than a mile long, and a very easy hike except for a few steep, rocky sections near the top. The very beginning of the trail has the Fremont plaque and the Fremont historic marker. About halfway to the top of the peak, you will get your first views of Salinas and Monterey, and there is a strategically placed bench for viewing the Salinas Valley. Closer to the top, you'll cross the access road to the giant microwave and TV towers that dominate the mountaintop. The last 20 feet to the memorial flagpole, the trail virtually disappears and you have to scamper up some rocks to the relatively flat peak.
Fremont Peak is part of the Gabilan Range and stands 3,169 feet (966 m) above sea level. Its peak marks the border between Monterey and San Benito Counties and was previously called Gavilan Peak. From the summit you can see some 30 to 40 miles in all directions including Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas, Moss Landing, Santa Cruz, San Juan Bautista, Gilroy, Hollister, and other areas along the Monterey Bay, Salinas Valley, and San Benito Valley.
Fremont Peak State Park
The 37-acre Fremont Peak State Park is home to an observatory, four small primitive campgrounds, perhaps two miles of trails, and a few historical markers.
The observatory is operated by the Fremont Peak Observatory Association, and has been in operation since 1986. The observatory hosts public viewing and demonstrations about four times per month, usually Saturdays, from April through October.
The park has two group camping areas (Doe Flat and Coulter camp areas) as well as two regular campgrounds with a total of 20 campsites (Oak Point and Valley View). As its name implies, Valley View has a nice, but somewhat obstructed view to the east. Campsites are primitive with fire pits, water, picnic tables, and restrooms, but now showers that I saw. The fee to camp is $15, plus $4 per extra vehicle, and sites are first-come, first served.
Trails in this small park are generally in good shape, but very limited due to the size of the park. I walked the Valley View Trail and the Fremont Peak Trail. Both trails have large sections along the park boundary, which is a big barbed-wire farm fence.
Key historic sites include a historic plaque and historic marker, located just below the peak, commemorating John C. Fremont's mission to this peak in 1846. At the top of the peak is a memorial flag pole commemorating the first American flag that was ever flown over California at this site. There is also a historic cabin that had no information about why it is considered historic.
Entrance fee is $4 to park you car, and the entrance is unmanned so use the honor system.