Walking San Benito: Tres Pinos

This is the sixth in a series of articles in which local adventurer Jim Ostdick will introduce readers to the many walking opportunities throughout San Benito County.
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Tres Pinos School. File photo.

If you are looking for a good breakfast and a moderate six-mile hike with terrific country views, grab a friend and try out this tour of Tres Pinos on Airline Highway south of Hollister. FlapJacks Breakfast and Grill next to the Post Office serves a mean, hiker-size dish called Blueberry Flapjacks Fantasy. It’s the perfect fuel for a casual walk through town, up Quien Sabe Road and back, over to the Tres Pinos Creek crossing on Southside Road, and a round trip to the Tres Pinos Union School on the community bike path.

On a cool, overcast Thursday morning, I met Ridgemark resident and fellow retiree Mel Tungate at FlapJacks to chow down and get acquainted face to face for the first time. Our shared interests of hiking and bicycling pages on social media prompted a meeting to talk in person. His children were just a little too old to have been at San Benito High School during my tenure there, but I recognized several of the names of their favorite teachers. I was happy to hear that he had hiked a section of the Pacific Crest Trail in Southern California, so we traded trail stories about that as well.

After some righteous breakfast grub, we decided to walk a few blocks to the end of town and head east upgrade on Quien Sabe Road through the long, rolling, grassy foothills leading up to the Diablo Range. The sun was out by then, warming and brightening the morning. Looking back at town, the Immaculate Conception Church tower was the lone multi-story building in sight. Views to the west were unbroken all the way to Fremont Peak and beyond.

The road (why is it called “Quien Sabe,” you ask? Who knows?) becomes narrow and winding as you gain elevation, so walk on the left and be prepared for a car or truck coming your way once in a while. You won’t see much traffic, but there is plenty of room to step off and get out of the way if you need to bail. For the most part, all you will see are cattle grazing on the plentiful grass or splashing down into a stock pond for a sloppy drink of water. Or red tail hawks soaring. Or maybe, if your timing is right, local paragliders doing the same thing. You can extend this hike by continuing up the road as far as you want. On this day, we walked uphill for 30 minutes and turned around back into town.

Retracing our steps, we passed by the restaurant and turned left on Southside Road across from the Tres Pinos Country Store. I was curious to see if there was any water left in Tres Pinos Creek about a half-mile away. Sure enough, there was a small flow at the crossing, just enough to wet the road and color the wash. Keep a sharp eye out. If you look in the creek bed or in just about any location along the San Benito River, you might be lucky enough to find a rounded river rock containing pecten fossils (ancient mollusc bivalves of Miocene age), washed down from the Monterey Formation far upstream.

Walking back toward Airline Highway, turn north (left) on the community bike path that leads just over a mile to the highway crossing to Tres Pinos Union School. There you can turn around and head back to town to finish the hike. We were fortunate enough to meet a local walker/runner this sunny day, a young mother named Brenda who was pushing her infant daughter along the path in a sturdy jogging stroller. A San Benito High School graduate, she hikes and jogs regularly on the bike path to stay in shape, an inspiration to other moms and to old retired guys, too.

Tres Pinos is seven miles south of Hollister on the way to the Pinnacles National Park. In addition to breakfast at FlapJacks, food and drinks are available at the La Fogata Mexican Restaurant, the 19th Hole, and the Inn at Tres Pinos. Check online for days and hours they are open.

For a location map of Tres Pinos, click here.

Jim Ostdick

Jim Ostdick is a retired Earth Science teacher and travel writer. A resident of San Juan Bautista since 2005, Ostdick's primary interests are California geology, energy conservation, outdoor recreation, and human-powered travel. He is the author of Palomino and the Dream Machine: A Retired Dude's Bicycle Tour Around the Lower Forty-Eight United States (, 2015) and Palomino Nation: My 2016 Crazyass Walk Across America (, 2017). [email protected] Palomino Dream blog Palomino and the Dream Machine Palomino Nation