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Los Gatos Creek Road/Coalinga Road

In late December of 2016 I was traveling through the Diablo Range and wanted to try Los Gatos Creek Road/Coalinga Road as an alternate to CA 198.


I started the day out with taking CA 198 to the 33 junction north of Coalinga.  From there I took Shell Road, Oil City Road, Palmer Avenue, and Derrick Avenue to reach Los Gatos Creek Road.




As a singular route Los Gatos Creek Road and Coalinga Road are a roughly 46 miles in crossing the Diablo Range to CA 25 just north of Bitterwater in San Benito County. 

 
The Fresno side of the route is signed as Los Gatos Creek Road and the San Benito side is Coalinga Road.


The entire route through the Diablos is paved.  The Fresno County side is pretty high quality with a center stripe the entire way along with a very gradual grade up to the the Condon Peak recreation area and San Benito County.




After crossing into San Benito County the route becomes Coalinga Road and is a single wide lane with no center stripe.  I should note that it was about 20F outside when I made this trip and the shaded areas of the roadway in San Benito County were largely frost covered.


Interestingly between Coalinga and the Clear Creek Management Area there are plenty of ranch homes or at least just as many if not more than CA 198 to the south.  The Clear Creek Management Area has naturally occurring asbestos fibers which are actually hazardous to travel in during the dry summer months.  .Areas north of the Clear Creek Management Area have additional hazards from the New Idria Mercury Mine which is a ghost town and Super Fund site. 



Despite Coalinga Road being narrow I didn't really have much issues with surface quality aside from the couple miles between the Clear Creek Management Area and Hernandez Reservoir.  Essentially the issue wasn't so much the asphalt quality but rather surface ice/frost on the road and a large quantity of rock fall.  Coalinga Road has a very steep uphill grade westbound past the Hernandez Reservoir up to the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area.



The Hernandez Dam is a pretty interesting topic to me.  NE2 from AAroads shared a 1939 State Highway Map showing that there was a populated place called "Hernandez" where the reservoir is now.  Apparently the reservoir was built in the 1960s to impound the San Benito River and Hernandez disappeared off the State Highway Maps by 1967.  Hernandez wasn't shown in the 1896 San Benito County Map but is present on the State Highway Map in 1918.  Its strange that I can't find any mention of Hernandez anywhere on the web but that seems to be the case with almost every previously populated place in San Benito County aside from New Idria.  Regardless here is links to the previously mentioned maps:

1939 State Highway Map

1966 State Highway Map

1967 State Highway Map

1935 San Benito Topographical Map

1918 State Highway Map

1896 San Benito County Map

I was able to find this transformer box with "Hernandez Dam" near the Laguna Mountain Campground.


Coalinga Road gets keeps getting more windy and even fords a creek up to about 3,000 feet above sea level at Laguna Mountain.




Laguna Mountain has some fantastic views of the Diablo Range.  I'm to understand the peak is 4,462 feet above sea level.



Coalinga Road sharply descends from Laguna Mountain through Miller Canyon where there is some sharp hair pin curves.


Coalinga Road levels out onto a placid valley filled with ranch lands.


The 1939 Map showed that the previous alignment of Coalinga Road used what is now Old Hernandez Road.  Old Hernandez is closed off now but popped out to the northwest at San Benito at CA 25.



West of Old Hernandez Road, Coalinga Road becomes a two-lane road again all the way to CA 25.


Comments

Anonymous said…
I live in the Central Valley but my office is in Monterey County.
Every week I have often commuted on this road for almost 20 years. The scenery and the views are fantastic. The road surface can be problematic. Be careful if the weather is bad. In the 2023 storms, I wouldn't advise it. 198 is closed from Coalinga to the 25.

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