Trails to Explore

Monterey County's iconic vistas and system of protected lands make it a marvelous place to live, and more so if you like hiking or running on trails! During the trail mile challenge for this year's Race for Open Space, why not explore a new trail or two? We asked community members and Big Sur Land Trust volunteers what their favorite public lands to run are in Monterey County so that you can get out and find your wonder across the county.

Note: Please follow county and state COVID-19 guidelines in terms of social distancing and masking. Run at your own risk, be mindful of potentially poor trail conditions, and note potential trail closures on any of these lands. Be especially mindful to stay off muddy trails or trails you suspect will be impacted by any recent rainfall in order to protect these lands and the habitats they contain.

Carmel and Carmel Valley

1. Garland Ranch Regional Park

Big Sur Land Trust acquired and transferred this gem of a property in Carmel Valley to Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District so that the public can access all that it has to offer. From majestic views to diverse flora and fauna, this hilly park is a local favorite for runners and hikers alike. It is also home to the Kiwanis annual Carmel Valley Fiesta - Mountain Run, which traditionally offers 2.25-mile and 7.7-mile options. You can click that link for more information and a basic course map. Volunteer and Wednesday Night Laundry Runner club president Emily Cole also scouted out a couple of other lengths (3.1 and 6.1) for you to explore. Note that some of the trails here are quite steep, and expect ~300-600 feet of elevation gain if you check out Emily's routes. Click for Google directions.

2. South Bank Trail

Owned by Big Sur Land Trust and maintained by Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, this paved trail is very popular among locals looking for a gentle, nearly-flat place to take a walk among trees and fields. The Carmel Valley Athletic Club traditionally hosts their annual Turkey Trot 5K on this out-and-back trail. If you find yourself just shy of 5K on the trail, doing a loop around the grassy field will help complete your goal--or continue onward past the end of South Bank Trail to run around the front country of Palo Corona Regional Park. Click for Google directions.

3. Palo Corona Regional Park

The nearly 4,500-acre Palo Corona Regional Park is owned by the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District and its conservation was made possible through the efforts of the Park District, Big Sur Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and the State of California (through several of its agencies). It provides habitat connection to 9 previously-protected conservation properties: Garrapata State Park, Joshua Creek Ecological Preserve, Mitteldorf Preserve, Glen Deven Ranch, Point Lobos State Reserve, Santa Lucia Conservancy lands, and the Ventana Wilderness. It also lies adjacent to Big Sur Land Trust's Carmel River FREE project site. The park is broken up into front-country and back-country hiking trails. No permit is required to access the 3+ miles of front-country trails by entering through Rancho Cañada or by walking/biking to the South Bank Trail entrance. For the Race for Open Space, the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District and Big Sur Land Trust are partnering to manage access to the back country on April 17, 18, and 24 for registered runners only. Click for Google directions to the Rancho Canada entrance and click here for a trail map.

4. Mission Trail

The Mission Trail Nature Preserve is a 34-acre park owned by the City of Carmel-By-The-Sea. It contains 3 miles of dirt trails, a native plant garden, and various habitats including a Monterey pine forest, coast live oak woodland, wetland, willow riparian corridor and a coastal prairie. The Preserve was designed as a nature park in 1979 for passive recreational use, including dog walking. Click for Google directions; there are a few different trailheads to pick from.

South Carmel/Big Sur

5. Garrapata State Park

Description forthcoming. Thanks for your patience!

6. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

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7. Andrew Molera State Park

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Fort Ord National Monument - Various Locations

Owned by the Bureau of Land Management, Fort Ord contains more than 86 miles of paved, gravel, and dirt trails--how many of them will you explore during the Race for Open Space? With numerous trailheads, Fort Ord is one of the most accessible places to run if you live on or near the Monterey Peninsula or in Salinas. At "the Ord" you will see a huge diversity of plant life and animals in habitats that include stream side corridors, grasslands, maritime chaparral, oak woodlands and seasonal pools. Read on to learn more about accessing Fort Ord from a variety of trailheads, and click here for a trail map.

8. Creekside Terrace Trailhead: Highway 68 near the Reservation Road/Portola Road Intersection

The Creekside Trailhead information is forthcoming. Click for Google directions.

9. Badger Hills Trailhead: Highway 68 across from Toro Place Cafe

The Badger Hills Trailhead information is forthcoming. Click for Google Directions.

10. Inter-Garrison/Gigling

Information forthcoming.

Monterey/Pacific Grove

6. Veterans Memorial Park

From Veterans Memorial Park, there are a couple of areas you can explore: Huckleberry Hill and Quarry Park Trail. Huckleberry Hill starts near the intersection with Skyline Drive and is well-known for the 185 stairs you must climb before being able to access additional trails. If you're looking to log some big elevation, this is a quick way to do it! Unpaved trails throughout the park offer scenic views of the Monterey coastline. Click here for a basic trail map. Quarry Park Trail starts from the Veterans Park parking lot on the south side and includes a short paved section. The 1.2-mile out-and-back trail passes by some homes before descending into the old quarry, which was dug out to provide rock for the Monterey Breakwater. Click for Google directions to Veterans Memorial Park.

7. Iris Greenbelt

Iris Canyon Road is a low-trafficked paved road adjacent to Monterey Peninsula College and just south of Dennis the Menace park. It is surrounded on both sides by verdant greenery as the canyon traps water from fog and rain. It functions as a connecting route between Monterey and other areas of the Peninsula. Out and back the greenbelt is about 1 mile. You can use the greenbelt, however, as part of a longer run on primarily paved surfaces. North of the greenbelt you can loop around Dennis the Menace Park and connect to the Recreational Trail. South of the greenbelt you can cross under Highway 1 and turn right on Barnet Segal Lane for access to roads leading to Jack's Peak, Pebble Beach, and Carmel. Click for Google directions and watch out for traffic.

8. Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail

Start and end wherever you please along the 18-mile recreational trail, which starts in Pacific Grove and ends as far north as Castroville. Monterey and Pacific Grove's section of this trail are primarily paved, with some unpaved areas in Pacific Grove. The popular trail is mostly flat and hugs the coast, allowing for wildlife sightings likes harbor seals, sea lions, a variety of shorebirds, and sometimes even whales and dolphins. The Wednesday Night Laundry Runners club starts and ends their wintertime runs on this trail in the parking lot across from the Naval Postgraduate School. Click for Google directions.

9. The Rail Trail

This 1.4-mile dirt path (with wood chips in some locations) is actually the Southern Pacific Railroad Right-of-Way and passes through residential neighborhoods on the west side of Pacific Grove. The trail is still owned by Union Pacific and is leased by the City of Pacific Grove for recreation. The trail passes through the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course, crosses Lighthouse Boulevard and then runs through forested neighborhoods before crossing Sunset Drive. The final stretch of trail leads to 17 Mile Drive along the Links at Spanish Bay golf course. Click for Google directions (observe the dashed path on the map).

10. Jack's Peak Park

Owned by the County of Monterey, this park provides beautiful views of the Monterey Bay, Peninsula, and Carmel Valley. It contains fossils from the Miocene epoch as well as one of the only remaining natural stands of Monterey Pine trees in the United States. With nearly 8.5 miles of trails for you to explore, you may be tempted to visit this beautiful area more than once during the Race for Open Space. There is a $2 entrance fee for people and dogs alike. Click for Google directions to the entrance and click here for a trail map.

Pebble Beach/Del Monte Forest

9. SFB Morse Botanical Reserve

Created by the Del Monte Forest Conservancy to protect the endangered Gowen Cypress, the Morse Botanical Reserve is a completely forested wonderland in Pebble Beach near Poppy Hills Golf Course. This area is traditionally home to the Pebble Beach Zombie Run and Emergency Preparedness Fair. The trails are all unpaved and mostly fire roads. The structure of these fire roads and trails makes it easy to create a looping route for your run, be it 1 mile, 6 miles, or more. Wintertime can bring muddy and slick conditions in this area, so be prepared for potential slips or to call off a run due to trail conditions for your own safety and to help protect the trail and the surrounding natural resources. Click for Google directions.

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