Duration: 2-3 days
Distance, elevation gain/loss:
one way to Pacheco Falls: 9.3 miles, +2670/-2150 feet
day 2 (extended trip): 9.5 miles, +2420/-1620 feet
day 3 (extended trip): 6.3 miles, +410/-1750 feet
Trailhead: Hunting Hollow on Gilroy Hot Springs Road
Permits/fees: Backpacking permit and parking fees required; self-register for Pacheco Zone (and Grizzly Gulch Zone)
• Steep climbs and descents
• Spectacular Pacheco Falls
• Panoramic views
• Optional trip extension to a remote part of Pacheco Zone.
• Some trails may be obscured by brush, tall grass, and fallen trees
• Best hiked in winter and spring
Elevation - roundtrip
From the parking lot, cross/ford the creek, and climb the very steep Steer Ridge Trail through meadows and mixed forest. For an easier albeit longer alternative, use the Jim Donnelly Trail. 1.4 miles in, take a well deserved break in the shade of an old bay tree. Continue along Steer Ridge. A barren area east of Willson Peak offers one of the best displays of spring wildflowers. You will find poppies, bird eyed gilias, and cream cups.
Turn left onto Serpentine Trail and descend down to the creek. Follow the Grizzly Gulch Road along the creek heading downstream. Tule Pond will be on your right and Tule Pond Trail starts just past.
Cross the creek and start climbing through open oak woodlands, following the crest of a minor ridge. The grade becomes increasingly steep as the trail enters chaparral - covered slope near its end at Wasno Road.
Turn right, and in 0.3 miles you will reach the Wagon Road, with a vault toilet at the junction. A spur road leads down to Wasno Pond.
Continue north on Wagon Road and enjoy the views of ups and downs of Center Flats Road, distant ridges to the north, and glimpses of Hurricane Pond in Canada de la Dormida.
At the signed junction, turn right onto Live Oak Spring Trail. Continue on this shaded, rarely used trail to Pacheco Falls Trail, descending past Wood Duck Pond (camping spot) to Pacheco Creek.
From the falls, take a loop hike via Pacheco Camp, Pacheco Ridge Road, Walsh Trail, and Center Flats Road. Camp at Wasno or Tule Pond, and return the next day.
Pacheco Ridge offers dramatic views of the rocky summit of Walsh Peak. Steep Walsh Trail crosses the canyon of Pacheco Creek near Walsh cabin. Center Flats Road is a roller coaster with many short steep grade. It meanders over one of the truly remote parts of the park. This entire route provides very little shade.
Return via Wagon Road, Willson Camp, and Lyman Willson Ridge Trail. To avoid multiple creek crossings along Hunting Hollow Road, use the Connector and Jim Donnelly trails.