Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is located 41 miles south of Monterey on Highway 1, and 12 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur. There are a variety of trails both short and long to hike here. A panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and its rugged coastline can be viewed form the higher elevation tails. From Overlook Trail you can view an 80-foot waterfall that drops from granite cliffs into the ocean or onto the beach, depending on the tide.
This lovely beach is near Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. You will drive along a narrow, winding road down to the parking area for the beach. This is a lovely beach with a rocky cliff, rocky outcroppings, a natural arch, and when the tide is out you will find tidal pools to explore. In some areas the beach had a top covering of purple sand striping the beach. In another area we explored tidal pools where we saw snails and hermit crabs. We also saw an anemone that when open had a sort of doughnut like shape. It was covered with a coating of small pebbles, and if lightly touched it would close up into a mound that you wouldn't know was a living thing if you hadn't seen them in their open state. So, we became aware that these were living anemones and were careful not to step on them when exploring the tidal pools.
You may get directions from one of the state parks in the area or the Visitor's Center.
Andrew Molera State Park is located 24 miles South of Monterey along highway 1.This is a large state park that has miles of trails that wind through meadows, across hilltops, and along beaches. Here we walked along the Big Sur River, then took a trail that led to a hill top and circled a small point which offered a nice overlook view of the Pacific Ocean. We saw wild flower such as morning glories, iris, and many we did not know as we hiked. There were so many beautiful plants that we felt as though we were walking along a garden path. From our high view we saw seagulls, brown pelicans, cormorants, and a grebe. The photograph was taken by my husband.
Lovers Point isn't a far walk or drive from the Cannery Row area and the runing trail passes it. From here you'll get wonderful views of the Bay and the animals who live there. Walk down onto the little beach and see the tidal pools. I met a sea anenome who was waiting for the tide to come back in and there are a ton of little fish and hermit crabs.
Up on the rocks, you'll see crabs hanging out in the sun and hiding in the dried seaweed. It's a nice spot to relax and enjoy the nature, or check out while running through.
Head north on Ocean View Blvd. There is a spot to pull off a car and park.
Huckleberry Hill is a great place to go for an afternoon hike. The park is 81 acres and the trails are clearly marked and easily accessible. After a steep climb to reach the top of the hill, trails are easy and offer some great views of the coastline. Most of the trails can be explored in a couple hours, so it's a great way to spend a rare sunny afternoon on the Monterey Peninsula.
The Preserve is located behind Veterans Park in Monterey. Use Veterans Park for parking your car and follow the signs for the nature preserve.
Near Colton Hall, you’ll find a strange attraction. The “Moon Tree” is a large Coastal Redwood whose seeds where taken into space as part of an experiment with Apollo 14 in the 70s. The seeds were planted in the park in front of Colton Hall and have since grown into an impressive tree.
Spend a day, or at least half a day, at Point Lobos State Reserve, which will rival any area along the central California coast for breathtaking beauty. There's several miles of trails you can hike with incredible views, and some places to have a picnic as well. Often times there's a ranger to answer questions and sell postcards and such. Take a coat, or wear several layers of clothing -- I about froze during my last walk there during the summer. Great for children (watch them along the cliffs, though), and you can usually spot sea animals along the south side of the reserve. Take Hwy One a few miles south of Carmel, there's a sign. Last time I went it cost $7 -- well worth every penny.
New York has the Empire State Building and Paris its Eiffel Tower. Monterey? Well, it's finest views are from Jack's Peak Regional Park, towering 1,068 feet above downtown Monterey just 3 miles away. From here you also have excellent views of airplanes taking off from Monterey Airport, about 1.5 miles away, and the Monterey Bay with the closest beaches about 2.5 miles away. You can also easily make out the power plant at Moss Landing (15 miles away) and on a clear day you can see Santa Cruz across the bay, almost 30 miles distant!
Jack's Peak has two picnic areas and 8.5 miles of trails for hiking or horseback riding. The forest area along the entrance to Jack's Peak, stretching all the way to Aguajito Road, is owned by the Pebble Beach Corporation and is almost as large as Jack's Peak Park.
The fee is ridiculous at $3 or $4 per vehicle, or $50 for an annual permit. ($50 used to get you a National Parks Pass enabling you to visit all 400-some National Parks for a year, so this seems a little steep to visit some podunk regional park!).
The main entrance to Jack's Peak Park is from Olmstead Rd, off Rt 68 near the Airport. From Monterey turn right on Olmstead, go a mile, and turn onto Jack's Peak Dr on the left. The fee area of the park is 1.4 miles from this entrance, but there is a small parking area just a quarter mile from the fee gate for cheapos like me! This parking area has some great views. From Hwy 68 to this entrance the route is well marked.
There is a hidden back entrance to Jack's Peak Park from Loma Alta Rd off Aguajito Rd, about a mile from Hwy 1. This is not a vehicle entrance, pedestrians only & you can't park within the last 1/2 mile before the end of the road, which is just 1/4 mile from the crest of the mountain.
Jack's Peak is also one of the prime spots to catch Monterey's Fourth of July fireworks show (for $1).
Located about an hour from Monterey is beautiful Pinnacles National Monument. The relatively small park consists of 26,000 acres of land filled with wilderness, trails, canyons, towering rocky peaks, and caves. Why is this area so different from the surrounding hills? The area we know as Pinnacles was the site of an ancient volcano along the San Andreas Fault. Over millions of years, the weather and tectonic activity have shaped the volcanic remains into steep cliffs and rocky peaks we enjoy today.
Pinnacles National Monument is located 10 miles east of Soledad and about 35 miles from Salinas. Entry costs $5 per vehicle or $3 for walk-ins. Free entry with an annual National Parks Pass, The America the Beautiful Annual Pass, and Golden Eagle Pass.
See my Pinnacle National Monument page for much, much more about this national park that is just down the road!
Various small gardens are in abundance around Monterey, most are near historic buildings such as the Customs House, Colton House and various historic adobes. Even though many of these gardens are near the big tourist areas, they seem to be really off-the-beaten-path locations where you will most likely be the only person around. We visited the gardens behind California's First Theater, Friendly Plaza beside Colton Hall, Monterey Museum of Art, and Casa Soberanes. The Casa Soberanes garden is one of the oldest gardens in town, created in 1907, it feature an easily recognized blue gate, along with terraced borders of abalone shells, antique bottles and whalebone.
On other occasions since then, I have checked out the First Brick House located just off the recreation trail at Heritage Harbor--this is one of the most secluded of the garden, especially at 2am when I occasionally wander through after the bars close. Probably the most visited, and not-secret of the secret gardens is the Custom House Garden, located between Custom House Plaza and Fishermans Wharf and filled with a variety of cactus originally planted in the 1920s. Maybe the least-visited gardens in town are the Arizona Garden and Rose Garden at the Naval Postgraduate School; the Arizona Garden contains a variety of cacti from Sonora, Mexico and was created in the 1890s.
Here is my late-night video at the fountain at Heritage Harbor (http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=2022328269)
Two unique areas on the top of the hill between Monterey & the Presidio...Veterans Parks, which I ust recently found, & Huckleberry Hill Nature Preserve, which not too many people know about.
Veterans Park is located at the upper end of Johnson Street, from downtown via Madison or Jefferson & following the signs (1 mile). This park has your typical picnic tables & playgrounds of a city park, but also a campground with 40 sites & a large lawn area for playing catch or letting your dog take a dump before playing catch. There is plenty of parking, public restrooms, & a few little hiking trails.
Even more off the beaten path is Huckleberry Hill Nature Preserve. This 81-acre park is very close to Veterans Park, in fact they are connected by a short hiking trail called the Presidio View Trail at the back of Vet's park next to the Presidio fence. The parks are about 500 feet apart, and the narrow trail runs between the Presidio fence and some fences along private property then up a steep set of stairs into the preserve. Huckleberry Hill has about 2.5 miles of maintained trails and dirt roads set aside for hikers. There is no vehicle access to this park, and the closest parking is at Veterans Park. The city has a 25-year lease on the Huckleberry Hill area from the Presidio as a nature preserve and for other passive park uses. Some of the trails are very steep, and all are dirt.
Across Hwy 68 from Monterey's Huckleberry Hill Nature Preserve is Pebble Beach's Huckleberry Hill Natural Area. Though the parks are only separated by a small, but busy road, there is no access between them. To get to the Pebble Beach Huckleberry Hill area, you must enter Pebble Beach via 17 Mile Drive's SFB Morse Gate (or any other gate on 17-Mile Drive). There is also a small parking area along Hwy 68. The Huckleberry Hill Natural Area is owned by the Pebble Beach Corporation with an easement to the Del Monte Forest Foundation.
The Lower Presidio Historic Park on the US Army's Presidio of Monterey along Corporal Ewing drive is a hidden gem that offers a stunning view ("million-dollar view over Monterey Bay" according to the woman who told me about it). Once part of the military side of the Presidio, this park has been opened to the public and is accessible from the Fisherman's Wharf via Pacific Street to Artillery Street or from the Cannery Row area just up Private Bolio Road from Lighthouse Ave and to the left before the military gate.
Here you will find a statue of Father Serra who led the California missions in their early years, along with a massive monument to Commodore John Drake Sloat who captured Monterey from the Mexicans in 1846. The park also houses the Presidio of Monterey Museum in the post's old ammunition storage area, and you can find remnants of Fort Mervine (built 1846-49, named for Navy Capt William Mervine "who directed the raising of the American flag over the Custom House in 1846."), but nothing remains of the Spanish El Castillo, a gun emplacement separate from the main Presidio.
This park consists of 26 acres which the city leases from the US Army. I hope the lease is cheap, because nobody uses this area unless they're lost or looking for the Goodwill guy. Good news: the city just built a pedestrian bridge to connect Old Town to the Lower Presidio and New Monterey. Once complete, travel will be easier, but there is still some cleanup to be completed in this area before it becomes a full-fledged tourist attraction.
This is a great place to catch the city's 4th of July fireworks while avoiding the massive crowds along the beach.
This park was designed by the creator of Dennis the Menace. It has a real locomotive train engine, large slides, a living maze, tunnels, and original "play structures" to climb on, a rope bridge, hedge maze, sand and grassy areas – toddlers won't want to leave. I took my kids there often.
Open daily 10 a.m. to dusk, summer supervision. Closed on non-holiday Mondays November - May.
on Pearl Street
Off in the distance to the northeast from Monterey you might notice Fremont Peak, a 3,169 foot summit, standing alone and bristling with several tall antenna towers. The 33 acres around the peak are designated as Fremont Peak State Park. This tiny park is home to an observatory, several small primitive campgrounds, perhaps two miles of trails, and a few historical markers. From the summit of Fremont Peak, you can see about 30 miles in every direction: Hollister, San Juan Bautista, Santa Cruz, Moss Landing, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas and just about everything in between.
The peak is named after controversial US Army officer and former California Senator, John C. Fremont, who made camp on this peak (with some 60 US soldiers) in 1846. It is claimed he raised the first American flag on California soil on this peak during this visit, despite orders to depart the area immediately to prevent war between the US and Mexican-controlled California. Fremont was later named the first military governor of California, was one of California's first senators, and failed in a bid for President of the United States as the first-ever Republican candidate.
Entrance fee is $4 to park or $15 to camp. Unlike many California State Parks, no free parking is available outside the main entrance to the park.
The park is located about 35 miles from Monterey and 11 miles south of San Juan Bautista. From 156 in San Juan Bautista take The Alameda just a 1/4 mile south to Mission Vineyard Road, then a quick right onto San Juan Canyon Road for the rest of the drive. The route is well marked.
The Frog Pond Wetland Preserve in Del Rey Oaks is maintained and operated by Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District. This tiny 17 acre park is open for pedestrians only and has about one mile of hiking trails. The park is surrounded by houses or road on all four sides, and has a variety of habitats including a freshwater pond, small grassy meadows, marshes, and oak woodlands. Animals include the Pacific tree frog and mallard ducks.
The only public entrance is on Canyon Del Rey Road between General Jim Moore Blvd & Highland St. From Monterey, take Fremont or Del Monte toward Seaside, and turn right on Canyon Del Rey. Roadside parking for perhaps 4 or 5 cars is available on berm of the north side of the road.