U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
|Hollister Field Office|
View of Panoche Creek
Special Area: Within the boundary of the Panoche Hills are two Wilderness Study Areas (WSA's) and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The main road through the Panoche Hills bisects the two WSA's. The BLM manages the WSA's to maintain their wilderness qualities - vehicle travel off of existing routes is not allowed. The ACEC was established in recognition of the rare species habitat for plants and animals, historic resources, and the significant fossil record. If you would like more information about these designations and how they might pertain to you please contact the Hollister Field Office at (831) 630-5000.
Recreation Opportunities: hunting, target shooting, rock hounding, dispersed camping, horseback riding, wildlife/wildflower viewing, hiking, bird watching, stargazing, and geocaching.
New Day Use Area at Panoche Hills
Camping: Dispersed camping is available in the Panoche Hills. There is no camping within 200 yards of any wildlife watering improvement. You must park within 15 feet (roughly one vehicle length) of any roadway when camping or leaving a vehicle unattended to minimize habitat and vegetation impacts. Although no reservations or fees are required, there is a 14 day camping limit within any 28-day period. Please remember to bring a shovel with you for both personal sanitation and fire prevention purposes. Please utilize good camping ethics, and remember to pack out your garbage when you leave.
Hiking: No developed trails
Wildflowers Bloom in the Moreno Shale Soil of the Panoche Hills
Rock Hounding: The marine shale contains significant fossil resources, both vertebrate and invertebrate. Collection of vertebrate fossils (anything with a backbone) is not permitted. Hobby collectors may take home specimens of petrified wood, clams, snails or other invertebrates for personal enjoyment. Shards and plates of gypsum, a translucent glass-like mineral that formed in the marine environment, can be found throughout the area.
Stargazing: Stargazers are drawn to this area because of the wide open spaces and unencumbered views of the night skies.
Wildlife/Wildflower Viewing: These hills are green and resplendent with wildflowers in the Spring, which is the best time of year to visit. Check out the special feature: "Wildflowers in the Panoche Hills" featured in BLM California News.bytes Extra Issue 422. The steep, grassy hills are home to endangered species such as the San Joaquin kit fox, the giant kangaroo rat, and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard.
Restrictions: Know Before You Go - Safety and Regulations
Because of the presence of rare animals and fossils, and because of the special designations in effect for these areas, the BLM implements the following restrictions:
Fire Restrictions: April 15 through beginning of upland game bird season
Directions: From Interstate-5, take the Mercy Hot Springs exit County Road J-1/Little Panoche Road. Continue west past the Little Panoche detention dam. In 8 miles, you will see a BLM sign on the left indicating the entrance to the Panoche Hills.*
From State Highway 25, take Tres Pinos Road at the town of Paicines and head east; this becomes Panoche Road. Travel 28 miles then turn left onto Little Panoche Road near the Panoche Inn and continue for approximately 8 miles. A good landmark is the Mercy Hot Springs Resort almost directly opposite the access point.*
*Please be aware that the first 3 miles of Panoche Access Road is simply a public easement for access across private property. Do not stop to access the lands until past the "Now Entering Public Lands" sign near the top of the grade.
Rick Cooper, Field Manager