Toro County Park is a small park to the southwest of Salinas, California. Its primary attraction seems to be the abundant picnic and BBQ areas which attract big groups and families on nice weekends. But beyond the picnic areas are some nice trails that get you up on ridge lines and summits with great views of the coastal ranges around Monterey.
Last weekend I headed out there with my friend Karl to hike a loop around several of the named peaks in the park. The hike was 12.3 miles long with 3500 ft of elevation gain.
I had been out there once before, on a hot day in 2008. We intended to hike all the way to Simas Peak on that outing, but the exposed ridge lines and steep climbs had us going through our water faster than expected and we turned around about 1/2 mile short of the peak.
This time, it was a cool foggy day and I knew we’d have a much easier time. Sure enough, we cranked up the Toyon Ridge trail and quickly found ourselves on top of Eagle Peak. Unfortunately the fog blocked any view, but I definitely enjoyed the comfortable hiking temperature.
From Eagle, we hiked on a bit further, then took a sharp left when we reached the Ollason Peak trail. This is about where I had turned around in 2008, but this time it was easy. The sun was finally out, but a cool ocean breeze made the hike comfortable and not miserable.
We’d continue along the ridge to Simas Peak, following it’s rollercoaster up and downs. Although the net elevation difference between the trailhead and the summit is under 1700 ft, my GPS read a gross total of 3500 ft of gain on the hike. The constant ups and downs really can add a lot of effort!
After tagging Simas, we looped back over Ollason Peak and back down to the trailhead along a nice gradually descending canyon trail.
If You Go
- This park gets HOT in the summer. The trails are largely exposed and steep. Bring more water than you expect to need, sunscreen, and a hat. I couldn’t believe the number of people I saw without a bottle or bag with basic trail necessities.
- The map provided by the park looks like something hand scribbled by a 5-year-old and then poorly photocopied. It is not very intuitive, there is no scale, and half the trails are missing. Be good at reading terrain and bring supplementary navigation materials (such as my track linked below) if this concerns you.
- There is an $8 admission fee on the weekends. However, there is free parking just outside of the park gates and you can walk in for free.