The old stage coach route between San Juan Bautista and Salinas is called Salinas Grade Road at the Jan Juan Bautista side and San Juan Grade Road at the Salinas side. This route is part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail that follows this explorer's 1200 mile overland route through Arizona and California to San Francisco.
Today this seldom-used road is a scenic and rural route that leads up some beautiful canyons and over he end of the Gabilan Range near Fremont Peak. The entire route between Salinas and San Juan Bautista takes only about 30 to 45 minutes. Notice the decades old concrete road bed that is still the primary road surface along many sections of this route.
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.
The Bataan Memorial in Salinas was dedicated in April 2006 for the 105 men of Company C 194th Tank Battalion of the Salinas and Pajaro Valleys. These men were stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, the Philippines was also attacked by Japanese forces, with the 194th being the first American unit to fight Japanese ground forces in WWII. After several months of continued fighting, the Americans were out of food and supplies and were forced to surrender, and they began the now-famous Bataan Death March along with 70,000 other Filipino and US solders. Only 54,000 reached their destination due to major abuses by their Japanese guards. Of the original 105 local men of Company C, 6 died in combat and 50 perished in the Bataan Death March.