Starting from Monterey Peninsula Airport, take Highway 68 east (inland).
The last convenient stop for fuel (gas or snacks) is just past the airport at Canyon del Rey Blvd; neighboring Tarpys Roadhouse restaurant is a stone-built complex that includes the Ventana Vineyards tasting room.
Continuing on Highway 68, look on the left for the entrance to the Laguna Seca Recreational Area. In addition to extensive campgrounds (RV and tenting), it features miles of mountain bike, horseback, and hiking trails. Its also the home of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a world-famous 2.3 mile track for sportscar, motorcycle, and Formula racing, and the 24 Hours of Adrenalin and Sea Otter Classic bike races.
- Barely a mile further, on the left, is York Road, which leads to Laguna Seca Golf Club, one of the best values for golfers in the area.
Less than a quarter mile past the Laguna Seca gates, on the right, is Laureles Grade a scenic road that connects Highway 68 to Carmel Valley, reaching an elevation of 1284 feet for views of both the Salinas Valley and the ocean.
A few miles further, on the right, is Corral de Tierra (small group of shops). This road leads into a mix of agricultural, viticultural and residential lands that was made famous by John Steinbeck. He recalled the Spanish explorers name for the gentle valleys in his 1932 collection of stories, The Pastures of Heaven.
Pass the exit for River Road and continue a few miles further to Spreckels Road; exit here, and make an immediate left under the road, to visit The Farm.
- Between Corral de Tierra and River Road, the highway passes between the Laguna Seca recreation area (off street parking, on the left) and Toro Park, a county park (entrance on the right). Both offer picnic opportunities plus hiking and mountain biking trails.
After visiting The Farm, backtrack on Highway 68 a mile to River Road. Exit and make an immediate left under the road on to River Road (County Road G17). This road forms part of the signposted Salinas Valley Wine Country route: look for white painted finger posts directing drivers to eight or ten wineries from here to Greenfield, 30 miles to the south.
- Noted for its giant farmers sculptures by local artist John Cerney, The Farm offers guided tours for school groups and families, and a farm stand stocking fresh local and regional produce. Small paddock of barnyard critters, too.
After about 20 miles, River Road forks. Take the left-hand bend, which becomes Fort Romie Road. A little further along on the right is Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, 13th of the 21 missions founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1791.
If the thought of meeting the Dreyfus Fund lion, the Exxon tiger, and Brandy, the cinnamon brown bear who has starred in countless Disney movies, intrigues you, look for the unobtrusive sign for Wild Things/Vision Quest Ranch (400 River Road). Guided tours of this wild animal training facility daily at 1pm; special tours and events.
Backtrack slightly to the fork, and take Foothill Road south to sample Monterey County wines at some local wineries.
Continue south on Paraiso Springs Road, turning left at Clark Road to rejoin County Road G17, now called Arroyo Seco Road, winding south through vineyards. Turn left on County Road G16 towards Greenfield.
- Among the nearest to Mission Soledad are Hahn/Smith & Hook Winery (at 37700 Foothill Road) and Paraiso Vineyards/Cobblestone (at 38060 Paraiso Springs Road). Both these hillside wineries have tasting rooms and picnic areas with expansive views over the Salinas Valley.
In Greenfield itself, turn right on Central Avenue, continuing through this sleepy farming community to Hobson Avenue. Turn left (towards Highway 101) to stop at Scheid Vineyards' tasting room (at 1972 Hobson Avenue).
Turn right (south) onto Highway 101 to King City.
Here you can return to Highway 101 north back to Salinas, or south onwards to Los Angeles.
- One of the largest valley towns, it has several restaurants and cafes, a few motels, and a large campground for RVs and tents in San Lorenzo Park (1160 Broadway). Take time for the Monterey County Agricultural and Rural Life Museum: it tells the story of valley agriculture through historic buildings and exhibits.
To visit Mission San Antonio, leave King City by crossing Highway 101 towards Jolon on County Road G14. The mission, about 10 miles west (inside Fort Hunter Liggett Army base), is the third founded by Father Serra in 1771. It seems virtually untouched by time, and both church and the museum in the cloisters are worth the detour. Nearby Lake San Antonio County Park offers camping, hiking, watersports, and other activities.
To visit Pinnacles National Monument, continue east out of King City on Broadway to Metz Road (County Road G15). Make a left onto Metz and drive north along the eastern edge of the valley, then turn right on Stonewall Canyon Road. The park is about ten miles due east.
- The steeply eroded rock formations of The Pinnacles are the remnants of an ancient volcano, the remainder of which is 200 miles south outside of Los Angeles a massive example of how the San Andreas Fault can move mountains!
- For a final wine-tasting stop, try Chalone Winery (open weekends), one of the oldest vineyards in the Salinas Valley, is just off Stonewall Canyon Road outside the National Monuments gates.