Carmel's location along the coast and set against the backdrop of hills means it is the perfect destination to visit for people who enjoy spending time outdoors. The diverse landscape in and around this small coastal city means there is a lot to explore, and hiking is one of the best ways to see what the area has to offer. There are multiple hiking trails to explore, varying from pleasant coastal walks to more challenging trails that take you over varied terrain. Each of the hikes offers a different experience. Here is a traveler's guide to hiking in Carmel, California.
Point Lobos Loop Trail
The Adventures of Panda Bear lists the Point Lobos Loop Trail not only as one of the best trails in Carmel but also as one of the best trails in Monterey. It is located within Point Lobos State Reserve, and the full trail is 5.1-miles long. However, the trail is broken up into smaller sections, so it is possible to complete shorter sections of the trail if you prefer. Along the trail, you will see Sea Lion Point, Guillemot Island, Cannery Point, China Cove, and Weston Beach. You will also see wildlife, such as sea lions, sea birds, and lizards. It is important to note that there is a fee for parking at the trail's main parking lot.
South Plateau Trail to Bird Island
The South Plateau Trail to Bird Island is a manageable 1.6 miles, which is one reason it is one of the most popular hikes in the Carmel area. It is particularly popular amongst nature lovers and bird watchers, as there are many species of birds and other wildlife along the way.
Cypress Grove Trail
Cyprus Grove Trail is only around one mile long and has very little elevation gain. Therefore, it is one of the easiest hiking trails in Carmel. The loop trail is almost flat, and it takes you through cypress trees and wildflowers. There are views of Cypress Cove, Pinnacle Cove, and Headland Cove along the way. If you hike the trail on a clear day, you will also see the sea lions resting on sea lion rock, says All Trails. It is sometimes even possible to see across to the other side of Monterey Bay.
Soberanes Point and Whale Peak Trail
The Soberanes Point and Whale Peak Trail runs through Garrapata State Park, which is just south of the Carmel Highlands. It is a 1.8-mile loop trail that boasts scenic views and wildflowers. Not only is this a relatively short trail, but it is also an easy trail to complete. However, there are some steps along the way. One of the highlights of walking this trail is seeing the wildlife, including seals, whales, sea lions, and sea birds.
17-Mile Drive to Carmel Road Ride
The 17-mile Drive to Carmel Road trail is one of Carmel's longer trails at 7.7 miles. However, it is accessible for all skill levels. It is a point-to-point trail that features wildflowers and excellent views along the way. It starts at Pacific Grove and ends at Pebble Beach. Something to consider is that some sections of the trail are not considered stroller or wheelchair friendly.
Palo Corona Regional Park
An all-year-round accessible trail is Palo Corona Regional Park. It is a combination of several trails that make up one larger trail that is 5.7-miles in total. However, you can complete shorter sections of the trail if you wish, such as the Vistas Lobos, Inspiration Point, Pond Loop, and Laguna Vista Loop trails. There is also the option to extend your hike further. Although it is classed as an easy trail, there is an elevation gain of 817-feet if you complete the full trail.
Lace Lichen, North Shore, and Cannery Point Trail
The best time to walk this three-mile loop trail is between March and October, when the ground is dry. It is a fairly well-known walk, and it is suitable for most skill levels, so it receives moderate traffic. The trail is particularly popular with birdwatchers due to the multiple species of birds that live along the coastline. Some walkers have enjoyed seeing thousands of roosting pelicans and otters playing in the coves. One point to note is that dogs are not allowed on this trail, even on a leash.
Lower Ridge, Rhus, and Coffeeberry Loop Trail
The Lower Ridge, Rhus, and Coffeeberry Loop trail is a loop trail that is just under four miles, and it takes an average of two hours to complete the walk.
Bird Island Trail
At under one mile, the Bird Island Trail is one of Carmel-on-Sea's shortest trails, and it is accessible for most abilities. One end of the trail is close to Hidden Beach, and it passes by Vierras Knoll. It is a trail that takes you along some pretty spots on the coastline, and there are stunning views of the bay and the surrounding area. Like many of the trails in Carmel, it is a popular walk for birdwatchers. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted on this trail, even if they are on a leash. Most people can complete this walk in 20 to 30 minutes. It is a popular walk for dog owners, as dogs are allowed on this trail on a leash. The trail is also popular with runners and birdwatchers. However, bikes are not allowed on this trail.
According to the Hiking Project, one of the best trails in Carmel for experienced hikers is the Snively's Ridge trail. It is an out-and-back trail that is classed as difficult, as it requires climbing step fire roads to reach the top of Snively's Ridge. The payoff of putting in the effort to complete the trail is the breathtaking views. The trail is almost six miles long, and it covers predominantly uneven terrain.
Written by Dana Hanson
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