Hidden Adventures: Pincushion Peak in Fresno County

Stephen Hicks Image
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
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For a hike that starts just 45 minutes from downtown Fresno, it's not hard to see why this hike is surging in popularity.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Those who have hiked to the top of Pincushion Peak can attest - it is steep.

To get there, head to the South Finegold Picnic Area found at the end of Sky Harbour Road. Parking is $10 per car but lawful public parking can be found just outside the gate.

"It's popular with our hikers, our bikers, equestrians and also people who like to kayak and canoe," says Steve Barber, supervising ranger for the Millerton Lake State Recreation Area.

Barber has seen that population soar.

"Once COVID hit and outdoor recreation was at a premium, we saw our visitation increase significantly," he said. "As far as hidden? It may have been at one point, but March and April of last year, we were on the map."

Busy on the weekends but during the week, you can see more wildlife than people.

Start on the San Joaquin River Trail, which can connect all the way to the Bureau of Land Management's San Joaquin River Gorge. But for this hike - we're heading 1.2 miles up to Pincushion Mountain.

"If you intend on doing this, make sure you come out early in the morning, bring plenty of water, make sure you familiarize your body with the stresses of hiking a trail like this," Barber said.

Shortly after starting out, make sure to close the gate to keep in the cows that are in the area. The trail then gradually climbs as you head around the mountain, but about a mile, you'll head straight up.

There are not one, but two steep sections. Slow and steady gets it done but feel free to stop and take in the ever-improving views.

"Alright, so you made it up the hard part, you made it up the two hills," Barber said. "Catch your breath here but do not stop. Head up that trail and in about five minutes' time, you'll be at the summit."

You have two options in this final stretch, head right for more of a trail or take the scramble up the left side for more of an adventure.

A climb of nearly 1,000 feet in a little over a mile, your reward is a 360 view of Millerton Lake to the south, Table Mountain to the east and on a clear day the Sierra Nevada.

While we hiked this in June, depending on the time of year, or the time of day, your views could tremendously improve.

For a hike that starts just 45 minutes from downtown Fresno, it's not hard to see why this hike is surging in popularity.

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