Mission San Juan Bautista


San Juan Bautista - Hollister Loop

The Mission at San Juan Bautista

The small town of San Juan Bautista is in San Benito County some 20 km inland from the coast of Monterey Bay.

Information board about the Mission

In 1797 it was the location chosen for one of the Spanish Missions which stretch in a line along the coasts of Mexico and California.

San Andreas Fault
The Mission's church View from the ridge alongside the Mission

A site was selected on a small ridge overlooking a flat plain. Unknown to the settlers this was the line of the San Andreas Fault.

During construction a number of earthquakes struck causing large cracks to appear.

Plaza Hall

Undeterred construction continued and a few years later work began on what was designed to become the largest church in the chain. Continuing earthquakes caused these ambitious plans to be scaled back.

Plaza Hotel

The church subsequently suffered damage from a fire and the effects of the 1906 earthquake.

Nowadays the Mission overlooks a square grassy plaza on the edge of town lined with wooden buildings from the 1800s.

Main Street ... no, 3rd Street

Leaving the plaza I set off up the main street ... which is called 3rd Street ... joined Highway 156 ... and headed east towards Hollister.

Highway 156

This is certainly not the best cycle route to Hollister but is the most direct and fortunately the highway has wide shoulders. It heads off dead straight across the agricultural land of the San Juan Valley.

Monster machine
Irrigation ... ... more irrigation ... ... and yet more irrigation

Crops stretch right across the flat valley floor ... and tons of water are used to irrigate them. Incredible mechanical monsters are used to harvest the resulting produce.

Parallel ... ... lines ...
... never ... ... meet
Sign to the recreation area at San Justo Reservoir Other cyclists on Union Road

After about seven kilometres I turned off to the peace of Union Road.

This climbs up a small hill and then descends back to the valley floor. Other cyclists were also enjoying this quiet backroad.

Turn off for Riverside Road

Approaching Hollister the signs indicated that my chosen route along Riverside was closed. I decided to risk it ... as normally you can pass most obstacles on a bike.

Memorial by the roadside

I found that the bridge over the San Benito River was undergoing repairs. But ... as there was no water in it ... I was able to ride across the dusty dried up river bed to the other side.

Bridge on Riverside Road Bridge on Riverside Road
Brick building, Hollister Veterans Memorial Building, Hollister

After dusting myself off I continued along Nash Road to the centre of Hollister.

The town ... which until recently relied heavily on agriculture ... is now expanding rapidly as commuters from the Bay Area seek affordable housing.

Hollister's City Hall

The town was established some 60 years after the Mission at San Juan Bautista ... but the founders didn't learn from their predecessor's experience as it was established on the Calaveras Fault which is a branch of the San Andreas Fault system.

Fire escape

The fault displays aseismic creep ... which means that the two sides of the fault slip over each other but generate relatively little seismic activity. Parts of the fault slip 12 millimetres a year.

Impact of the Calaveras Fault on 164 Locust Street ... from WikiPedia

Student geologists visit the town to trace the line of the fault and to view the offset pavements and distorted houses which it has caused.

Back on the 156

After exploring the town I cautiously re-crossed the fault and headed back west towards San Juan.

Heading back into the country on Highway 156

After a short section back on Highway 156 I turned onto Mitchell Road.

Haven't I been along Union Road before?

This leads away from the busy Highway back across the quiet agricultural plain.

Strange wooden tower More parallel lines

I cycled past fields of vegetables and fruit, past groves of fruit trees and past dusty fields that were being reploughed and tilled ready for the next crops.

The trail zig-zags along the edges of the rectangular fields ... crabbing its way back towards San Juan.

Tractor ... ... hidden ...
... in ... ... dust
Looking left at Freemont Peak in the Gablilan Range

To the right the flat valley floor ends abruptly at the Flint Hills and to the left the plain ends at the Gablilan Range which extends from horizon to horizon.

Rows of fruit trees

I passed a food massive processing plant and then turned along Prescott and the San Juan Highway to return to town.

Ridges running to the edge of the valley ... Flint Hills in the distance ... more of the Flint Hills
Background to Jim Jack's Cabin Jim Jack's Cabin

Back in San Juan I came across a memorial to Jim Jack ... 'the big-hearted Chinaman' ... alongside the simple cabin that he had built in the 1880s.

Jim Jack's Cabin's Window

From the cabin I headed up Third Street to explore the shopping centre.

Land Office

San Juan has no mall or fast food outlets ... the main street is lined by old wooden buildings from the late 1800s.

Masonic Hall

Many of the shops had wooden verandas ... but I didn't spot any pensioners in rocking chairs.

Land Office

San Juan Bautista receives many visitors attracted by its relaxed old-time atmosphere, antique stores and speciality shops.

Margot's Ice Cream Parlor Mission Cafe Z-Place
Two story wooden Masonic Hall Look's like the Bar is popular

Back in Mission Plaza I explored the old buildings built in the 1800s.

These include the Plaza Hotel, a settlers cabin, the Mutsun Indian Burial Grounds, the Plaza Hall, a stable which was used to support the stages which ran through San Juan, and the town galabozo (jail).

Socialising outside the Bar

I was lucky enough to be there on the first Saturday of the month when the local living history or historical re-enactment society meet to reconstruct scenes from the past.


A group of cowboys were camped on the plaza brewing coffee and a soldier and bar girl were hanging around outside the hotel.

After a rather gentle ride ... and a modest amount of culture ... I decided that it was time for an ice cream.


Kirby James