Hiking in Monterey is a beautiful and memorable experience that you should be sure to add to your bucket list! You can find everything in Monterey County from mountains and arid landscapes to coastline and city adventures. And there are hiking opportunities through it all!
The best part about this lovely central coast area is that you can find places to hike no matter what you are looking for. I’ll show you dog-friendly hikes, kid-friendly hikes, short and easy hikes, city hikes, hikes with spectacular views, strenuous hikes, and everything in between. So, if you plan on visiting the central coast, be sure to do some hiking as it is one of the best things to do in Monterey.
After spending the past few year hiking through California, I’m thrilled to share with you
some of my favorites hiking trails in Monterey County. Let’s get started and I’ll show you around the hiking scene!
20 Top Places for Hiking in Monterey County, CA [with map!]
Soberanes Canyon Trail
One of the top Monterey hiking trails is located on the coast and leads to a beautiful canyon with spectacular ocean views. The Soberanes Canyon Trail is located in Garrapata State Park off of the Famous Highway 1. In fact, it is one of the best stops on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip!
The trail is 2.8 miles out and back and is generally ranked as moderate in difficulty. If you are visiting in the summer, you are likely to see other hikers in the area as it is quite popular thanks to its location. It it opened year around, but keep in mind no dogs allowed.
If you are looking for opportunities for hiking in Monterey that will reward you with awe inspiriting views, Soberanes Canyon is for you. The trail, while not strenuous, may not be suited for super young kids that aren’t use to hiking. That being said, my four and five year old were able to handle it easy peasy!
Calla Lily Valley
Calla Lily Valley is an insanely beautiful and unique treasure along the central coast of California, located in Garrapata State Park. And the trail to reach this valley is among the best hikes in Monterey! This 1.1 mile easy loop trail only takes around a half hour to complete, perfect if you are pressed for time but still want to do some hiking in Monterey!
The best time to hike the trail to Calla Lily Valley is in February to November when the flowers are in bloom. The hike will only have you gain around 150 feet in elevation and you will be graced with wild flowers and ocean views! What’s not to love?
Garrapata Bluff Trail
The Garrapata Bluff Trail in Garrapata State Park is among the top hikes near Monterey for those looking for something quick and easy, yet still exciting. Only 0.5 miles out and back and only 36 feet of elevation gained, the Garrapata Bluff Trail takes less than fifteen minutes to complete.
This is a super popular trail, but on quieter days, you can’t beat the solitude and sounds of the ocean waves. Just keep in mind this isn’t one of the dog-friendly hikes in Monterey County.
While here, you will have Soberanes Point to the south, the stunning Garrapata cliffs to the north, and of course, views of the Pacific Ocean as well. If you love travel photography opportunities, you will love this trail! as the water and the rugged coastline are extremely photogenic.
This trail is basically a series of vista points where you can enjoy the views of the crashing waves up against the rocky coast. Hiking in Monterey is at its best here where you can see such famous views without a lot of effort. Coves, cliffs, a wooden bridge spanning a canyon, and a waterfall can all be seen on this hike.
Lupine Loop Trail
Lupine Loop Trail is perfect for those looking for hiking near Monterey CA. This 1.5-mile loop trail only gains around 70 feet in elevation and takes about thirty minutes to hike. Making this a fabulous place for some kid-friendly hiking in Monterey.
The loop starts at the base of Garland Ranch and follows the natural curve of the Carmel River, receiving direct sunlight for most of the trail. This is an easy flat hike that is perfect for those who don’t want something very strenuous.
This is also some of the best hiking in Monterey for those traveling with their dogs. Your doggos will love playing in the water and running along the path as you make your way along the trail. There are several places where your dog and you both can dip your toes in the beautiful clear water.
Condor Gulch Trail to High Peaks Trail Loop
Condor Gulch Trail to High Peaks Trail Loop is a long and strenuous trail in Pinnacles National Park. This is one of the best hikes around Monterey County for travelers seeking a challenge!
Pinnacles National Park is about an hour’s drive to the Pinnacles from the town of Monterey. The Condor Gulch to High Peaks Trail is 5.6 miles long and gains around 1,600 feet in elevation. One of the best features of this hike is the rock staircase carved into the mountain. Super exciting and a great photo opportunity as well.
The Pinnacles have some of the most difficult hiking in Monterey as it is a higher elevation and it can get very hot here. So you should be sure to dress and pack appropriately. The direct sunlight is intense and the hiking trails are frequently 5-10+ degrees hotter than the parking lot and visitors center area. Bring plenty of water!
The closest town to this trail is Soledad where there are fast food restaurants and gas stations to fuel up for the drive. There are wineries and nice restaurants here as well if you want to spend a bit more time in the area.
Balconies Cave Loop Trail
Another hike in Pinnacles National Park that you can check out is the Balconies Cave Loop Trail. Some of the best hiking in Monterey CA, the Balconies Cave trail is one of the most popular trails in the national park because it is not too difficult and it takes you to the most exciting feature in the park, the caves!
The trail is about 2.6 miles out and back and gains less than 400 feet in elevation making it a moderately difficult trail. This is my favorite trail here and I’ve hiked it 7+ times now. It leads to a cave that you walk through before continuing the trail on the other side.
For families that are experienced hikers, this trail may work for you. I’ve been hiking with my daughters since they were toddlers and they started this trail when they were four and five and had no problem traversing the rocks through the cave with my instruction. However, for super young kids and those without hiking experience, this may not be the right choice for you.
You will need a headlamp to walk through the cave. While a flashlight will work, it is best to have both hands free for holding onto rocks while climbing in and out of the cave. The caves are a fantastic place to cool off which is very welcomed most of the year when the direct sunlight is so intense.
Old Pinnacles Trail Loop
One of the longest and most beautiful hikes around Monterey, the Old Pinnacles Trail Loop in Pinnacles National Park allows hikers to see a wide span of landscape and will hike up to more than 1600 feet in elevation. This trail is a whopping 9.3 miles long and can easily take six+ hours to complete, if not more due to stopping to eat lunch and enjoy the views.
When you are hiking in Monterey it is always important to be prepared but with this trail in particular you need to be sure that you have snacks and plenty of water with you.
A bottle of water or two is simply not enough. Especially in the summer! There is a place to refill your water at the Bear Gulch Parking Lot which is about a six-mile drive from the Old Pinnacles trailhead.
In order to get into the national park you will need to pay a fee or use your America The Beautiful Pass. If you don’t know about this pass, it is a pass you buy to get into the national parks; it is a one-time fee and gets you into any national park unlimited amounts of time.
Juniper Canyon to High Peaks
The last trail in Pinnacles National Park that I’m going to tell you about here is the Juniper Canyon to High Peaks Trail. Gaining around 1300 feet in elevation, this loop trail is 3.6 miles long and takes around three hours to complete thanks to the difficult rating.
The elevation gain is intense but it is made more tolerable with many switchbacks. The views are incredible and it features a small tunnel, cool rock formation, handrails, and a 200+ skinny set of stairs to reach the highest point. As one of the best trails in Monterey, if you have the time, don’t skip this trail!
When hiking in Monterey County, there is some wildlife information that you should have. In Pinnacles National Park, in particular, the more dangerous wildlife like mountain lions are rarely seen. Rabbits, squirrels, bats, bobcats, and deer are much more common.
Something to look out for when visiting in September or October is tarantula activity. This is tarantula mating season and the males can be seen scurrying around day and night looking for mates. Last September, I saw a tarantula crossing the trail in front of me! Tarantulas are not deadly to humans but you should still keep your distance.
Toro Park Hiking Trails
Toro Regional Park is home to some of the top hiking trails in Monterey County CA. This is especially true for families as they have many kid-friendly trails here. The park sits about six miles from downtown Salinas/thirteen miles from the Monterey Peninsula in Monterey County and rests between 620 and 2,480 feet in elevation.
The park is not only a top spot for hiking in Monterey with more than twenty miles of hiking trails, it also has riding trails, softball fields, horseshoe pits, mountain biking, playgrounds, and volleyball courts.
For travelers looking for something difficult, you should check out Ollason Peak which can be reached via the Bessie Canyon and Toyon Loop Trails. Rated hard in difficulty and coming in at nearly nine miles long, this trail can easily take you six hours to complete.
A shorter option here in Toro Regional Park is the Bessie Canyon Trail. Rated moderate in difficulty and coming in at just 1.7 miles, this trail can be done in less than two hours while still showcasing the beautiful rolling hills and mountains in the area.
Jack’s Peak County Park
Jack’s Peak County Park is home to one of the best Monterey Bay hikes. There are over eight miles of horseback riding and hiking trails here at Jack’s Peak Park where you can go through the winding pathways in the cathedral-like forests before reaching spectacular ridge-top vistas with Monterey Bay views.
Open all year around, hiking in Monterey is possible no matter what time of year at Jacks Peak. I know when I travel, epic views if one of my top bucket list ideas no matter where I’m at. If you are the same way, Jacks Peak has got you covered!
There are picnic tables here so bring a quick lunch with you or some snacks and you can enjoy a meal under the tree canopy. I see deer almost every time I’m picnicking here with my daughters so wildlife viewing is another plus of visiting Jacks Peak.
Fort Ord National Monument
For those looking for dog-friendly hikes in Monterey, Fort Ord National Monument is a diverse habitat with a lot of history and more than eighty-six miles of hiking trails. Encompassing more than 14,000 acres of land, this area is managed by the US Army and the Bureau of Land Management.
If hiking in Monterey means something short and simple, consider hiking the Engineer Road Loop which is only two miles and takes around a mile to complete. On the other hand, you can do something a little more difficult by taking Trail 41 and Trail 36 Loop. This path is 9.5 miles long and can take four or five hours to complete.
Fort Ord was formally founded in 1917 for Army infantry training for soldiers heading overseas in the two world wars. Today, you can see remnants of the training grounds and hike across them as well.
California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery Hiking Trails
This is my favorite Monterey walking trail that isn’t on the waterfront. Across from the California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery is a series of hiking and biking trails that are some of the most dog-friendly trails in Monterey. (Kid-friendly too!)
What I love so much about these trails is that they are away from the hustle and bustle of Monterey. While I love the city and the busiest of the coastline, sometimes you just need to step back and enjoy nature without being surrounded by people. You will likely run into one or two people here at these trails but it has never been busy in the two years I’ve been hiking here.
The trails here are mostly sand and you can find both flat trails and some that are more strenuous with elevation gain. If you are looking for hiking in Monterey which is off the beaten path, this is where you need to be!
Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail
Monterey Recreational Trail is a mega-popular trail along the Monterey Bay. If you have done any research at all about what to do in Monterey you will have probably seen a picture of this trail, also referred to as the Monterey Peninsula Trail.
Stretching eighteen miles from Castroville to Pacific Grove, this trail is among the most popular places for hiking in Monterey. Most visitors to the peninsula choose to leisurely walk along a small portion of this trail near the busiest part of Monterey as it gives you water views and showcases some of the city’s top points of interest.
It is also quite popular for visitors to rent bikes or canopied quadricycles to peddle along this trail. (You can rent the, from Adventures By The Sea.) This is an all-paved path that is easy to access. There are parking lots, parking garages, and roadside parking all throughout Monterey.
If you are traveling with kids, this is an easy place for them to walk and also an easy place for you to push a stroller as well if you need. A dog-friendly trail, you will find many furry friends on this trail. One time, I even saw a man who had a donkey on a leash. You never know what you will find! Bottom line, this is some of the best Monterey Bay hiking.
McWay Falls Overlook Trail
Looking for a Monterey hike with waterfalls. Well, McWay Falls is one of the top waterfalls near Monterey CA and you can reach it on the short and easy McWay Falls Overlook Trail. The entrance for the trail is along the Pacific Coast Highway near Big Sur. Less than half a mile long, this is one of the easiest trails for hiking in Monterey.
The trail is mostly sand and very kid-friendly. You will follow a tree-lined path and walk through a round tunnel before reaching the overlook. McWay Falls is one of two waterfalls that fall into the ocean during high tide. (The other is Alamere Falls!) This is a must-see sight for those taking a PCH road trip.
Point Lobos Loop Trail
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is home to some of the best hiking trails in Monterey CA. A very popular attraction in Monterey County, the parking for Point Lobos fills up very quickly so you will want to be sure to get there as early as possible so you can get a good parking spot.
If you get there later, there is roadside parking but it is not super close to the park so you will have to walk along the highway a bit before you even reach the entrance gate to the park. And this parking can fill up pretty quickly as well.
For those looking for hiking in Monterey in the more popular areas, you will want to head to Point Lobos as this famous area is one of the most beautiful spots on the central coast.
The Point Lobos Loop Trail is rated as moderate in difficulty as it is 6.4 miles long and gains around 680 feet in elevation. The trail will show you the best that Point Lobos has to offer. You should be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen as most of the trail is exposed to the sun.
North Shore Trail
One of the best hikes in Monterey CA, the North Shore Trail is a strenuous 1.4-mile trail through pine forest that gives you lovely rocky coastline views. You can reach this trail in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve by parking at Cannery Point which is on Whalers Cove.
The parking area here at Cannery Point has a picnic area and it is also a popular spot for scuba divers to get into the water at Whalers Cove. So, this is perfect for some people watching and having a picnic lunch after your hike!
This trail provides some hiking in Monterey that won’t soon disappoint. However, you should know that this trail is mostly stairs so you should be capable of going up a lot of stairs to hike this trail. There are also a lot of rocks and tree roots as well so super young kids may not be able to hike this trail with ease.
Asilomar Coast Trail
If places to hike in Monterey CA on the water peaks your interest, check out the Asilomar Coast Trail. This scenic stretch of coastline is a very popular destination on the Monterey Peninsula. Locals love walking their dogs by the water here as well!
The trail was founded in the 90s and it has successfully been a destination for those looking for a high-quality recreational opportunity near the water. There is parking available along the road on sandy shoulders near the trail.
Hiking in Monterey is really at its best when you have spectacular water views and you have that on the Asilomar Coast Trail! The loud crashing waves put on quite a show up against the rocky coastline. You may also see some wildlife like seal lions, dolphins, seals, sea urchins, and more along this trail.
Pebble Beach Hiking
The world-famous Pebble Beach is home to some of the top hiking trails in Monterey. The best news for visitors who want the benefits of a hike without having to put in much effort is that there are many trails in Pebble Beach that are less than a mile away.
Some of the shorter trails at Pebble Beach that you could try out include the 0.65 Shell Beach Trail which passes through a large Monterey Cypress Grove and the 0.27 Pebble Beach Trail which passes through meadow and pine tree before reaching a sandy cove.
For something a little longer, check out the three-mile Bluff Top Trail. This trail runs along the edge of Gualala Point Regional Park. You will be able to Cypress groves, meadows, and sandstone formations along the trail.
Visiting Pebble Beach is a must for a lot of people visiting the central coast. If this is the case for you, you can accomplish this bucket list item while also getting in some hiking in Monterey.
Andrew Molera State Park Hiking
Andrew Molera State Park offers top-notch hiking in Monterey County. Located just north of Big Sur, this state park is right on the water and the Point Sure State Marine Reserve. You will find trails here to fit. the needs of everyone in your traveling party.
Are you a serious hiker? The East Molera Trail to Post Summit in Andrew Molera State Park is a real beast to tackle. Adventurous hikers will love this trail! It is a 9.1-mile trail out and back that gains around 3,805 feet in elevation. It rewards you with marvelous views of the blue ocean down below.
For everyone else who is looking for something quicker and easier, you have a couple of great options. First is the Bobcat Trail which is rated easy and is only 2.6 miles long. Next, is the Andrew Molera Beach Trail which takes you 2.1 miles to a stunning rock and sand beach.
Carmel Beach Walk
A little different than most hiking trails in Monterey, Carmel Beach Walk follows along the seaside village of Carmel and offers stunning ocean views. The pathway, also called the Scenic Bluff Path, is 3.5 miles long and runs alongside Scenic Drive.
One of the top things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea is to either drive along Scenic Drive or walk. If you choose to walk, you can see all of the sights just on foot as opposed to in the car. The water views here are mind-blowing! It is some of the prettiest and bluest water in the area.
Hiking in Monterey County comes with so many different options, there truly is something to fit everyone’s needs. If you plan on spending most of your time in the Carmel-By-The-Sea area, you won’t want to skip this trail!
Hiking in Monterey Map
Hiking in Monterey is something you will want to make plenty of time for when you are looking for things to do in central coast California! From the bay views and wildlife encounters to the challenging mountain peaks and arid landscapes, you really can have it all here.
Which of these awesome places to go hiking in Monterey will you be visiting first? We would love to hear from you!
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