POSTED ON November 9, 2019 | IN Hiking in wine country | BY Joe Becerra
Hiking the Bear Gulch Caves then tasting wine at Leal Vineyards
Hiking the Bear Gulch Caves, then tasting wine at Leal Vineyards

Hike in wine country – Pinnacles and Leal Vineyards

For those of you who love hiking and wine, put this trip on your schedule. The Pinnacles is one of our sixty national parks, but off the radar of most visitors to the National Parks. The city of Hollister is the main route to the Pinnacles East Entrance. In between Hollister and the Pinnacles are five lovely wineries to visit. Combine hiking and wine tasting with a one or two-night stay in Hollister. We enjoyed our stay at the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott. If you’re the camping type, make your stay at the campground at the Pinnacles.

Pinnacles National Park

Our day in Pinnacles National Park began at the East Entrance. This is the location of the main Visitor Center. The East Entrance is off Highway 25 about 35 minutes from Hollister, CA. From the visitor center, we drove to the Bear Gulch area 3.4 miles away. At Bear Gulch there is a picnic area, nature center, and the trailheads for several different hiking adventures. 

hiking in pinnacles and wine tasting
Amazing rock formations

The Pinnacles is a favorite spot for rock climbers. Rock climbers like the amazing craggy formations formed eons ago from volcanic activity and earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault. There are Condors, bats, woodpeckers galore, and other cool critters. During the Spring, wildflowers are abundant in the meadows.

We took the trail to the Balconies Cave and High Peaks trail. There are several options from these trails. We took a loop route for three miles, a moderately strenuous hike. Keep in mind we are not young folks; others may think it is an easy hike. Our hike took us through the Balconies Cave. The cave requires a flashlight. This is really an exciting adventure. Some spots in the cave require one to crouch low or even crawl to clear. Once out of the cave, beautiful views and astonishing rock formations make this hike a delight.

Reservoir Trail pinnacles
Reservoir Trail

For more information on the Pinnacles National Park

Hollister Wine Country

Hollister is a rapidly-growing area of San Benito County. Hollister is a farming town, growing many different crops. Vineyards are a recent addition to this area of the Central Coast. In the vicinity of the Pinnacles are five wineries. These are hidden wineries, tucked away from the crowds and masses. They are charming but, most importantly, they’re making delicious wines. 

Leal Vineyards

Leal Vineyards is the easiest winery to visit on the way back from the Eastern Entrance of the Pinnacles National Park. If you have enough energy following your hike, stop in at Leal Vineyards. Leal is open daily from 10 to 4 pm. Leal is a spacious winery with rolling hillside vineyards. Leal does indeed make excellent wines, but it is also recognized as a wedding venue. This is a beautiful spot. There are picnic tables outside the tasting room. 

Beautiful Leal Vineyards
Beautiful Leal Vineyards

The Leal Vineyards winemaker is Rob Simons. His focus is on Bordeaux and Rhone-style reds. The winery is boutique size, making 7000 cases of wine annually.  The days can be very warm in Hollister but the early mornings are often foggy and cool. In the afternoon, a cooling breeze kicks in. The grapes love this climate. The reasonable tasting fee is for a taste of 6 wines. Our two favorites were the 2012 Estate Carnavál Meritage and the 2013 Estate Hillside. Chances are you will like the wines at Leal Vineyards.

To get to Leal Vineyards from the Pinnacles, take Highway 25 for 26.7 miles. Turn right on Fairview Road, then turn right on Maranatha Drive.

We will cover the other wineries of Hollister in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

More on hiking and wine tasting

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