Pinnacles National Park: rocky towers
Mile 42.7: Turn right into Pinnacles National Park, then stop 3 miles in at the Peaks View parking area for a short walk. California poppies line the dry creekbed here, and there's a good view of the park's signature High Peaks, the tallest at 2,720 feet.
Mile 47.9: Continue to the visitor center; inside are interesting displays on wildflowers, bats, birds, and the San Andreas rift zone, the shifty creature responsible for the area's dramatic geology.
Several hikes leave from the visitor center area. Along Bear Creek, the out-and-back Bear Gulch Loop (a mile one way) is a favorite ― a moderate trek with lots of colorful spring blooms, including Indian paintbrush, shooting stars, and sweet-scented chamise. Here, finally, find a shady spot by the creek and break out that picnic. Or head the other direction a half-mile on Moses Spring Trail to descend the steep stairs into Bear Gulch Cave. For a challenging trek, tackle the High Peaks-Bear Gulch Loop ― the 6.7-mile trip takes several hours, climbs 1,600 feet, and has stupendous views.
Mile 66.1: Back on State 25 after leaving the park, turn left onto Old Airline Highway to begin your wine-tasting detour. The patched, bumpy road will lead you past post-fence-lined ranches, sun-bleached barns, and fields of greens.
Mile 73.5: At the end of Old Airline Highway, turn left on Cienega Road; you'll pass Limekiln Road, then Grass Valley Road. The hills are steeper here and chaparral denser.
Next: The way back home: wine and a mission