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Scenic Views



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Nature: Scenic Views


Striking Vistas at Every Turn

Perhaps no other American road has caught the imagination of leisure travelers as California’s Highway One has. Old Route 66 may have been longer, but now it has disappeared in a tangle of interstates; Highway One still clings stubbornly to its two-lane, cliff-hanging, original nature.

It isn’t a road for rushing down — and southbound is the better direction to travel, as it puts the scenic overlooks and parking areas on your right, much easier for quick stops. There are plenty of viewpoints for those who can’t, or prefer not to, hike to the outlooks in Garrapata or Andrew Molera State Parks. Among photographers’ favorites is the pull-out at Bixby Creek Bridge. If your vehicle has four-wheel drive, you might venture up the Old Coast Road, just past Bixby Bridge: it climbs Serra Grade for spectacular views over miles of coastline.

For another superb vantage point overlooking Monterey Bay, head up the twisting lane to Jack’s Peak County Park (reached from Highway 68, opposite the turn into Monterey Airport). Its 525 acres are criss-crossed by trails evocatively named Skyline and Coffeeberry Lower Ridge Loop, many of which offer surprising vantage points looking north across the bay.



Scenic Attractions

17-Mile Drive
Highway One
Other Scenic Routes
Recreation Trail

Path of History
Gardens & Farms
Aerial Views




17-Mile Drive

Seventeen miles of sea and sky, immaculate golf courses, and dream homes set graciously behind elegant gates... This is the essence of Pebble Beach's 17 Mile Drive. Shepherd's Knoll looks out over Monterey Bay and the Gabilan Mountains. Huckleberry Hill, at a high elevation, is known for its native huckleberry bushes. Spanish Bay is a great place to take a walk along the links. Other golf courses include Poppy Hills, Spyglass and Pebble Beach, home of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

The bleached branches of the Ghost Tree rise eerily above the sea. Point Joe and The Restless Sea, where all too many early sailors were wrecked, remind visitors that the sea is a force to be reckoned with. The Cypress Point Lookout (closed April 1-June 1) offers magnificent views of the Big Sur coastline. The Lone Cypress is a 200 year-old tree whose tenacious hold on the rocks has inspired artists. The Pebble Beach Equestrian Center holds annual equestrian events and is the starting point for guided trail rides. There are opportunities to picnic at several locations. Five gates give entry to 17-Mile Drive; the price is $8.75 per car.

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Highway One

Once known as the Cabrillo Highway, Highway One in the 1880s was just a narrow winding road that went as far as the Big Sur Valley. In 1919, a $1.5 million budget was established, and the task set before the engineers was a daunting one, as forests and sheer rock cliffs challenged the builders. 1922 saw the beginning of ten years of labor that included supplies brought in by mule overland and by launches over sea. $10 million dollars and some convict labor later, the highway was opened, connecting for the first time, the Monterey Peninsula and San Simeon, site of the famous Hearst Castle. Time and weather have taken their toll on Highway One, but renovations with a respect for Mother Nature, have made Highway One one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world. To drive it is to see the grandeur of the Central Coast, from its cool forests to its dramatic ocean cliffs.

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Other Scenic Routes

Monterey County has several roads, both major and minor, that offer a motorist or sturdy cyclist rewarding vistas and photogenic scenery. Among them, you might explore Carmel Valley Road east from Carmel Valley Village to Highway 101; it follows the Carmel River through a narrow canyon, passing the turn-off to Tassajara Hot Springs before rising to broad open valleys and eventually winding through vineyards to connect with 101 near Greenfield. For a road that gives you glimpses of the sea and a panorama of the Salinas Valley, ascend Laureles Grade between Highway 68 and Carmel Valley Road.

Vehicles equipped with four-wheel-drive are the best bet for exploring the Old Coast Road, a dirt-track offshoot of Highway One that gives the modern motorist a good idea of what it took to get a horse and cart south to Big Sur a hundred years ago. Another one for the adventurous motorist is the Naciemiento-Ferguson Road, which winds through the Ventana Wilderness from Highway One, coming eventually to Fort Hunter Liggett and Mission San Antonio. Nearby, the Naciemiento Lake Drive Bridge, built in 1921, enjoys a "historically significant" designation because of its unusual construction methods. It's 292 feet long and crosses the San Antonio River. The bridge joins the Bradley-Jolon Road and the town of Bradley to the Lake San Antonio area.

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Recreation Trail

The Monterey Peninsula Recreation Trail offers miles of pedestrian and biking path running from Pacific Grove to Castroville. It affords an up-close look at an incredible diversity of coastal beauty in its 19-mile route (much of it designated a Class A trail, meaning it crosses no major roads). Expect fantastic views along the shoreline in Pacific Grove and Monterey. Jog, run, walk, or rollerblade the trail past the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Rent a bicycle or four-person surrey at Cannery Row. Look out for otters and seals who often play in the waves or bask on the rocks. Have lunch on Cannery Row or snack on the Fisherman's Wharf. Rent a kayak or outrigger at Del Monte Beach. A fragrant stand of eucalyptus shades the path on the way to Seaside past Roberts Lake. Then it's out to the sculpted dunes and blooming iceplant of Sand City and Marina State Beach, where the weary can exchange their wheels for a parasail or a barefoot stroll by the sea. Always open, many stretches lit after dusk.

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Path of History

Sometimes just strolling the lovely gardens of Monterey is the best way to spend an afternoon. The Path of History is a two-mile walking tour of Old Monterey. It's self-guided, so you decide the starting point and how long you'd like to spend. The path is well marked with large round yellow-and-brown tiles set into the sidewalk, while street signs indicate points of interest. The Maritime Museum Visitor Center in Custom House Plaza (open 10am-5pm daily) shows a free 14-minute film three times an hour in the State Park History Theater. See the Robert Louis Stevenson House, Cooper-Molera Adobe, California's First Theater, and other adobes from Monterey's vibrant past, their serene gardens offering peaceful, flowery pausing places that invite the visitor to sit and appreciate Monterey's past.

Tours of Old Monterey are offered by California State Parks on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and holiday Mondays at 10:30 a.m. Walking tours begin at the Pacific House Museum and last about 45 minutes. Hours for historic buildings vary.

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Gardens and Farms

Horticulturalists will enjoy the gardens of Monterey. Historical gardens reflect Monterey's past. The Custom House Garden is on the grounds of the oldest government building in California. A small collection of cacti from the American southwest circa 1920 ornament these grounds. Succulents and cacti from the Mexican era make the other gardens from this period the first historical gardens featuring drought-resistant plants. The Whaling Station/First Brick House and Garden is popular for its roses, Australian Tea Tree and charming brick walkways. The First Theater Garden is representative of gardens of the 1920s and 1930s. The Casa Soberanes Garden is famous for its blue gate. Once known as "Jade Heaven," the garden was created in 1907 and has terraced borders of abalone shells, antique bottles and whalebone.

The Cooper-Molera two-acre garden is a relatively new garden but represents plantings and methods used in the 1860s. The Memory Garden behind the Pacific House is the most visited garden in Monterey State Historic Park. It's a quiet garden of multi-colored roses and other blooms. Arizona Garden at the Naval Postgraduate School includes a large collection of cactus and succulents. The original garden plants were delivered from Sonora, Mexico in three train cars.

The Larkin Garden was developed between the 1920s and the 1950s by Larkin's granddaughter. It features an old well and lush vegetation. The Stevenson House Garden is a large Victorian garden hidden behind a wall. It's actually a romanticist's version of an early Mexican garden, with its old ficus tree and angel's trumpet.

Other gardens include: the Casa del Oro Herb Garden, the Sensory Garden, the Loma Vista Cafe Gardens, Marina's Sculpture Garden, and the Barnyard Gardens. The Labyrinth Walka meditative walk patterned after the Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth in France and the Grace Cathedral Labyrinth in San Franciscois located at the Community Church of Monterey Peninsula.

The Rowntree Arboretum at Mission Trail Nature Preserve in Carmel is a native garden from 1842 that was replanted in the 1920s as an English garden. Rose gardens and the Peden Rhododendron Garden grace the Monterey Museum of Art at La Mirada. Within the Del Monte Forest is the Morse Botanical Reserve. Just north of Gilroy, the spectacular Bonfante Gardens features five gardens, with the rides for the children, too.

Ag-Venture Tours (831-643-9463) specializes in tours of Carmel Valley, the Salinas Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains, featuring Earthbound Farms organic vegetable and flower farm, wine tastings at local wineries, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting. The Farm offers custom farm tours and is known for its 18-foot-tall sculptures of farm workers. Check the Calendar of Events for other seasonal garden and farm events.

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Aerial Views

While the views of Monterey's coastline are pretty good from the top of Jacks Peak, they're even more impressive from the air. Del Monte Aviation offers a variety of different air excursions that explore Big Sur, the Salinas Valley, Pebble Beach and Carmel Valley's emerald golf courses, and much more. You can also take to the skies by learning to skydive. Skydive Monterey Bay, flying from Marina's little airport, can get you up - and out - in Monterey's skies in a day!

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