Condon Peak Recreation Area is a Bureau of Land Management site, situated on the border of the Clear Creek Management Area, in the State of California. Condon Peak reaches an altitude of 4970 feet, and the slopes of the mountains are covered in grass, shrubs, pine, and oak, with numerous rocky outcroppings, steep inclines, and gentle, rolling terrain.
The recreation site is popular for deer hunters in the August hunting season who camp or park vehicles here to access the surrounding wilderness. California Quail and Mule Deer are the main quarry for hunters in this wilderness area. Other recreational activities at the BLM site include hiking, wildlife viewing, and stargazing. Wildflowers paint the slopes in the area during the spring and early summer, and dark skies at night facilitate celestial observation.
Overnight camping is supported by the small campground located here, which can accommodate primitive tenting and RV camping. The campground is open all year round and is relatively quiet, while still accessible off a main paved route. Many backroads and designated trails in the region are used by off-road and ATV enthusiasts who can use the Condon Peak Recreation Area as a base when visiting the area.
This region of California abounds with great wilderness areas and parks. While staying in or near Condon Peak Recreation Area be sure to take in the Pinnacles National Park to the northwest, Sierra National Forest and Sequoia National Forest to the east, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to the west, or BLM San Benito Mountain Research National Area just north of Condon Peak Recreation Area.
The nearest services and amenities are only a 27 mile, 45-minute drive away in Coalinga, California. From Coalinga take Derrick Avenue north to Los Gatos Creek Road, and head west. Proceed for 21 miles to the Condon Peak Recreation Area entrance on the north side of the road. The Los Gatos Creek Road is a well maintained and paved two-lane highway which is appropriate for RV travel. The recreation area is gravel surfaced and situated on a gentle slope. Larger RVs may have some issues accessing campsites due to the inclined surfaces, but the campsites are large and open, with no overhanging vegetation to impede RV units and slides.
Alternatively, you can approach the Condon Peak Recreation Area from the larger city of Hollister, California, 66 miles to the northwest. Around July 4th, this city is known for its world-famous motorcycle rally, and traffic congestion can be an issue if you are traveling this route at the same time as the rally. Traveling from Hollister, take State Highway 25 south and then take the Coalinga Road south and east at the junction of Coalinga Road and the Airline Highway. Continue on the Coalinga Road to the entrance to Condon Peak Recreation Area on the north side of the road. The access point is situated at the San Benito-Fresno County line. The Coalinga Road is paved and accessible for RV units, however, the route is very winding and larger RV units will need to negotiate blind turns with care.
To access and use the Condon Peak Recreation Area, either for casual day use or overnight camping, you will require a vehicle permit for the Clear Creek Management Area. These are available online at Recreation.gov, or can be purchased on-site, at a self-serve station.
The BLM managed Condon Peak Recreation Area provides a day-use area and overnight campsites for visitors in the Clear Creek Management Area. The campground is open all year round, and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Users and campers require a vehicle pass, which is available online or at the self-service kiosk situated at the campground.
The campground is located just north of a paved highway and features a short gravel access and gravel-surfaced sites on a gently rolling hillside, situated at 2920 feet, at the base of the mountain.
There are no RV hookups, water supply, or RV dump station on-site, and camping at this BLM campground is primitive. There are vault toilets, and each campsite has a picnic table and firepit with a grill.
At the campground, you will find six campsites available, which can accommodate tent camping or RVs for a maximum stay of 14 days per visit. Pets are welcome but must remain leashed. During the August summer deer hunting season, this is a popular location for hunters, and finding a spot may be more difficult. ATVers and OHV enthusiasts also make use of the campground which is near designated off roads, ATV areas, and trails.
Summer mule deer hunts in August attract many recreational users to the Condon Peak Recreation Area, to park vehicles while on hunting excursions into public lands nearby, or for overnight camping. Please note there is no shooting within 150 yards of the developed campground. Night hunting is prohibited and vehicles must remain on designated routes.
Hunting of wild pigs in the region takes place throughout the year, and there is also small game hunting in the region. You will require a vehicle pass to use the Condon Peak Recreation Area and must have a valid hunting license.
Hiking and mountain biking are a great way to explore the natural wilderness region surrounding the Condon Peak Recreation Area, providing you are up for some elevation changes and rugged terrain. Ensure mountain bikes are in good mechanical condition with appropriate wide, nubby tires, to handle the rocky natural trails and steep inclines. Wear good hiking boots to negotiate climbs and protect you from scrub brush on the slopes of the mountainous landscape. Take plenty of water, especially in the summer when hiking or trekking is strenuous due to very hot conditions.
The San Benito Mountain Natural Area to the north makes for excellent hiking and cycling opportunities, as the area has restricted vehicle use. Avoid old asbestos mine sites and seams, which are hazardous, and be aware that in dry, windy weather, the presence of asbestos outcropping in the area creates hazardous conditions if the material becomes airborne.
The Condon Peak Trailhead extends from the Condon Peak Recreation Area and provides an excellent route to climb the peak. The trail is just outside of the area of high-concern, where hikers need to take precautions, to avoid exposure to asbestos.
The trailhead is half a mile up the dirt road, past the gate at the campground. From the roadside trailhead, a steep trail veers off to the left. The trail extends over sandy ground, along a barb wire fence, with steep elevation changes, and footing can be hazardous. At steeper elevations, the trail peters out and you need to make your way through dense vegetation scrub, and over rocky outcroppings to reach the higher elevations.
You can then descend to the east side where the trail turns into a dirt road, and runs along the ridge, providing excellent views of the surrounding wilderness. If you head off the road to the right on foot, you can reach the summit of Condon Peak. The road is also open to ATVers who can access the peak area.
The collection of mineral specimens - for personal use only - is permitted in public lands. Hobby rockhounds will find a treasure trove of interesting geological finds in the Condon Peak Recreation Area, with over 150 semi-precious stones and gemstones found in the region, especially along the Clear Creek’s rocky shores.
Keep an eye out for sandstone, gneiss, serpentine, jadeite, siltstone, cinnabar, topazette, tremolite, and neptunite. Benitoite, a rare and precious gemstone is commercially mined in the area and finds of these phosphorescent specimens are highly prized. Fossilized shells can also be found embedded in rock specimens found in the region.
ATVers are permitted in the region, providing they have acquired a Condon Peak All-Terrain Vehicle Permit, which is available online, or from the self serve kiosk at the recreation area. The permit is valid for seven days from the entry date. ATV drivers must be a minimum of 16 years old.
The Clear Creek Management Area provides exceptional off-road, dirt biking, and ATV terrain. A variety of routes are open to ATVers that thread the area and vary from some easy recreation trails to a larger number of more challenging rugged off-road terrain.
Several alpine ski resorts are within easy driving distance of the Condon Peak Recreation Area, the nearest being the China Peak Mountain Resort, a three-hour drive northeast of the BLM area. Area ski resorts provide groomed runs and chair lifts for skiers and snowboarders, on hill accommodations, equipment rentals, and lessons.
Ski resorts feature a variety of runs for beginner, intermediate, and expert skiers and snowboarders. Glide down the slopes of the mountains in this central California area during the winter, and enjoy the snowy landscape, magnificent views, and downhill thrills.