Panoche and Beyond
Panoche (pronounced pa·no·che (-chē)) is an unincorporated community that boast a population of 8! It is located along Panoche Road (J1) off SR25 in the southern part of San Benito County, over an hour drive from Hollister. A beautiful rural valley that was once a stagecoach road from Hollister to the quicksilver mines at New Idria a bit further down the road, the area is home to a few homes and businesses.
One business to visit is the casual Panoche Inn. This bar and restaurant offers cold beverages and homemade sandwiches to the many motorcycle and bicycle enthusiasts and birders who stop by for refreshments and some local conversation. Bring a few extra dollar bills (and a camera) for the signed dollar bill-filled ceiling that visitors have tacked up over the years. Occasionally the money is removed and donated to a local non-profit and the ceiling art starts all over.
Continuing along J1 is Mercey Hot Springs. Relax in their pool & soaking tubs while gazing upon the surrounding golden mountains. You can visit for just a day or plan to stay longer by renting one of their cabins or camping out under the stars.
Ride off-road vehicles at a nearby Bureau of Land Management tract or visit the Little Panoche Reservoir Wildlife Area, which is 828 acres in the arid foothills. Wildlife abounds in the foothills including over 100 species of birds like the Yellow-billed Magpies, Golden Eagles and of course, the California Condors.
The New Idria Mercury (Quicksilver) Mine, which was discovered in 1825, then the world’s second largest quicksilver mine, closed in the early 1970s resulting in an abandoned ghost town. There are more than 100 standing buildings in various stages of decay. In its peak, the town had a school, post office, several saloons and over 300 people called New Idria home for many years. (No services available.)