Climbing & Hiking Trails - 14 min read

15 Best Monterey, CA Hikes (Kid & Pet-Friendly Paths)

Alex Frick

Alex Frick, Updated November 2, 2022

Among the most dramatic and scenic coastlines of the United States, the Central California seaboard is crafted by the endlessly powerful surge of the Pacific Ocean. The towering sea cliffs grip the rim of rugged wilderness, creating an overlooking vantage point of immeasurable and unparalleled beauty.

Tucked away along the banks is the charming city of Monterey, a beautifully picturesque town complete with luxurious ocean views with a grand mountainous backdrop. With endless miles of natural beauty, Monterey offers an abundance of unique opportunities to immerse yourself within a stunning and remarkable landscape.

Here is your guide to 15 of the best hiking trails in Monterey. There’s something for everyone, no matter your level of hiking.

1. Huckleberry Hill Loop Trail

Credit: TripAdvisor

From downtown Monterey, head west on Jefferson Street and drive for 0.6 miles and merge onto Veterans Drive. After 0.7 miles, the parking area will be on your right.

In the heart of Monterey, the hike up Huckleberry Hill leads to beautifully overlooking views of the charming city and the far-reaching Pacific Ocean. The trail is an interesting challenge. With only 1.9 miles to complete, you must climb 554 feet in less than a mile – most assuredly to get your heart racing and begging for air.

The trail is an extremely steep climb up 183 steps along the aptly named “Stairway to Heaven” before reaching the summit of Huckleberry Hill. Want to challenge yourself? Attempt to run the steps without stopping – an accomplishment to be proud of.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.9 Miles
Elevation Gain: 554 Feet

2. Jack’s Peak and Skyline Trail

Credit: David / Flickr

From downtown Monterey, head east on West Franklin Street for 0.4 miles and turn right onto Camino El Estero. After 0.3 miles, turn left onto Fremont Street and drive for 0.3 miles and turn right onto Aguajito Road. Continue for 1.6 miles and turn left on Monhollan Road.

Drive for 1.0 miles and make a right onto Jacks Peak Road. After 1.3 miles, slight right onto Jacks Peak Park Road and drive for 0.7 miles and drive until you reach the end of the road, the trailhead for this hike.

The hike to Jack’s Peak along the Skyline Trail is a memorable journey through a park with natural beauty and rich prehistoric history. This is a great path to bring your children or pets!

The Skyline Trail is self-guided and interpretive, with informative and educational markers telling the story of the fossils of the Miocene epoch, some as old as 23 million years are found along this trail.

Before exploring these ancient grounds, stop by the visitor’s center and get a broader understanding of the significance of the trail with powerful exhibits of the landscape and the wildlife of the Neogene Period.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 121 Feet

3. Shoreline Stroll Trail

Credit: Shutterstock

From downtown Monterey, head east on Fremont Street for 0.3 miles and use the right two lanes to take the ramp onto CA-1 N. Drive for 1.9 miles and take exit 403 for CA-218 toward Seaside/Del Rey Oaks.

Continue for 0.2 miles before turning left onto CA-218 W/Canyon Del Rey Boulevard and drive for another 0.1 miles. Turn left onto Sand Dunes Drive and the parking area for this hike will be on your left.

The Shoreline Stroll Trail is a scenic trail along the northern shores of Monterey. The trail is a multi-use path that is used for road cycling, trail running, and of course, hiking!

The path can be busy; however, it is far enough from the city center that you will have excellent seabird watching opportunities in a remote setting along the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Try to visit either in the early morning hours or at sunset – the views while the afternoon fog rolls in are a unique experience for visitors to the California coast.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance:
9.5 Miles
Elevation Gain:
252 Feet

Related Read: Best Time to Visit Big Sur

4. Spanish Bay Trail

Credit: Ken Lund / Flickr

From downtown Monterey, head west on Lighthouse Avenue and drive for 1.4 miles and turn left onto David Avenue. After 1.2 miles, make a right onto CA-68 W/Forest Avenue, then an immediate left onto Sunset Drive. Drive for 1.1 miles, and the parking area for this trail will be on your left.

The Spanish Bay Trail is a peaceful walk along the sandy shores of the Pacific Ocean paralleling the scenic and popular 17-mile drive. This easy trail leads to endless lookouts of the crashing shoreline with views of the rocky shores, complete with vibrant tide pools.

The trail connects the sharp overlooks by way of wooded boardwalks and the occasional walk along the sandy beach. Beach hikers beware.

Never turn your back on the Pacific Ocean, the powerful current and its “sneaker waves” can bring in the wake unpredictably – do not be caught daydreaming from the mesmerizing and tranquil superpowers of the Pacific.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 78 Feet

5. Pebble Beach Cruise Trail

Credit: TripAdvisor

From downtown Monterey, head south onto Pacific Street and drive 1.3 miles and turn left onto Soledad Drive, followed by an immediate right onto Munras Avenue.

After 0.1 miles, use the left lane to take the ramp onto CA-1 S and drive for 0.5 miles and take exit 399A for CA-68 W toward Pacific Grove/Pebble Beach. At the roundabout, take the second exit onto 17 Mile Drive. Continue for 3.3 miles and the parking area will be on your right.

The Pebble Beach Cruise is a well-known pathway that follows along the shores of stunning Highway 1. Along the borders of the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Course, the trail follows along a scenic drive through an especially luxurious residential area with homes.

There are short sections that follow along the bike lane of the road; however, this section is in a low-speed residential area with a strict speed limit. There is an $11 fee to enter the grounds, but the price is well worth the price of admission for the exclusivity of the trail.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 347 Feet

6. Pine Trail to Coffeeberry Trail to Rhus Trail Loop

Credit: Shutterstock

From downtown Monterey, head east on West Franklin Street for 0.4 miles and turn right onto Camino El Estero. After 0.3 miles, turn left onto Fremont Street and drive for 0.3 miles and turn right onto Aguajito Road.

Continue for 1.6 miles and turn left on Monhollan Road. Drive for 1.0 miles and make a right onto Jacks Peak Road. After 1.3 miles, slight right onto Jacks Peak Park Road and drive for 0.7 miles and drive until you reach the end of the road, the trailhead for this hike.

The Pine Trail to Coffeeberry Trail to Rhus Trail Loop is a connected path that takes you through stunning floral sections of Jacks Peak County Park with outstanding overlooks of Monterey Bay.

The moderate to difficult hike climbs for much of the journey but leads to panoramic views of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey Bay.

Aside from the views, these linked trails are abundant with large fields of blooming and vibrant wildflowers throughout the hike. This warrants many photo opportunities disguised as water breaks for your weary legs.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance:
4.2 Miles
Elevation Gain:
830 Feet

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7. Jack’s Peak via Olmsted Road

Credit: Shutterstock

From downtown Monterey, head east on West Franklin Street for 0.4 miles and turn right onto Camino El Estero. After 0.3 miles, turn left onto Fremont Street and drive for 0.3 miles and turn right onto Aguajito Road. Continue for 1.6 miles and turn left on Monhollan Road. Drive for 1.3 miles and the parking area will be on your right.

A beautiful hike ascending a seldom traveled road, the path around Jack’s Peak via Olmstead Road is a journey that is peaceful in its seclusion.

Olmstead Road is a moderate ascending path surrounded by tall and lush woodlands. Due to its private nature, the pathway is an ideal and healthy habitat for rare seabirds, deer, and nostril-curling skunks.

Before reaching the pathway that encircles Jack’s Peak, be sure to research and identify the characteristics of poison oak. Travelers of the loop have mentioned the sighting and symptoms of the itchy shrub.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,099 Feet

8. Iris Trail and Rhus Trail

Credit: TripAdvisor

From downtown Monterey, head east on West Franklin Street for 0.4 miles and turn right onto Camino El Estero. After 0.3 miles, turn left onto Fremont Street and drive for 0.3 miles and turn right onto Aguajito Road. Continue for 1.6 miles and turn left on Monhollan Road.

Drive for 1.0 miles and make a right onto Jacks Peak Road. After 1.3 miles, slight right onto Jacks Peak Park Road and drive for 0.7 miles and drive until you reach the end of the road, the trailhead for this hike.

The Iris Trail to Rhus Trail is a connected offshoot in Jack’s Peak County Park. Branching from the Skyline Trail, the Iris Trail is a quick walk into a secluded wilderness lined with colorful wildflowers beneath lush Monterey Pines.

Iris Trail will connect to Rhus Trail – a more exposed section that lends wonderfully overlooking views of Carmel as well as Monterey Bay.

Like the other hikes along the Jack’s Peak wilderness, these trails also are abundant in poison oak. Stay on the trail, your skin will thank you.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.9 Miles
Elevation Gain: 400 Feet

9. Earl Moser Trail Loop

Credit: TripAdvisor

From downtown Monterey, head east on West Franklin Street for 0.4 miles and turn right onto Camino El Estero. After 0.3 miles, turn left onto Fremont Street and drive for 0.3 miles and turn right onto Aguajito Road.

Continue for 1.6 miles and turn left on Monhollan Road. Drive for 1.0 miles and make a right onto Jacks Peak Road. After 1.3 miles, slight right onto Jacks Peak Park Road and make an immediate left into the parking area for this hike.

Among the foothills of Jack’s Peak Park, the Earl Moser Trail Loop is a comfortably maintained dirt path that is popular with hikers and trail runners.

Although this trail lacks overlooking views, this hike is a journey into the depths of the Monterey wilderness, secluded from the busy pathways, and into the peaceful and lush mountain hillside.

The trail has moderate climbs throughout, however, the journey is comfortable and well-shaded – best enjoyed at a slower pace to enjoy the native surroundings.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance:
1.8 Miles
Elevation Gain:
308 Feet

Related Read: Top 20 Santa Cruz Hiking Trails

10. Frog Pond Wetland Preserve

Credit: Pinterest

From downtown Monterey, head east on Del Monte Avenue and drive for 1.9 miles and turn right onto Canyon Del Rey Boulevard. Drive for 0.2 miles and the parking area will be on your left.

A hidden gem mistakenly overshadowed by the powerful coastline; the Frog Pond Wetland Preserve is a valuable wildlife habitat and is a perfect adventure for those with an appreciation of these beautiful migratory creatures.

The isolated ecosystem is a happy vacation home for several wetland species – including deer, western fence lizards, mallards, hummingbirds, and of course, lily pad hopping frogs.

The preserve is designed to inhibit education and natural studies. Wetlands are one of the most endangered ecosystems and their preservation is extremely important to their survival.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: 32 Feet

11. Sage, Ceanothus, Madrone, and Pine Trail Loop

Credit: Shutterstock

From downtown Monterey, head east on West Franklin Street for 0.4 miles and turn right onto Camino El Estero. After 0.3 miles, turn left onto Fremont Street and drive for 0.3 miles and turn right onto Aguajito Road.

Continue for 1.6 miles and turn left on Monhollan Road. Drive for 1.0 miles and make a right onto Jacks Peak Road. After 1.3 miles, slight right onto Jacks Peak Park Road and make an immediate left into the parking area for this hike.

The Sage, Ceanothus, Madrone, and Pine Trail Loop is a short walk through the secluded forests of Jack’s Peak State Park. The steep trail along the scenic ridges along the north side of the mountain takes you through lush woodlands with unique and diverse fauna.

While difficult, the trail has several outlooks of the beautiful inland wilderness of the Carmel Valley. With the peaceful seclusion of this seldom trekked pathway, take advantage of the water breaks and identify one of the many rare seabirds that make this trail their home.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.0 Miles
Elevation Gain: 288 Feet

12. Point Lobos Loop Trail

Credit: Shutterstock

From downtown Monterey, head south on Pacific Street and drive for 1.3 miles and turn left onto Soledad Drive followed by an immediate right onto Munras Avenue. After 0.1 miles, use the left lane to take the ramp on CA-1 S and continue for 0.3 miles. Turn onto Point Lobos and the trailhead will be on your right.

The Point Lobos Loop Trail is an incredibly diverse trail in southern Monterey that traverses the beautiful coastline as well as the lush wilderness in the Point Lobos State Reserve. Start at Whaler’s Cove and attempt to catch views of spouting whales in distant reaches of the Pacific Ocean.

Follow the trail until you reach the reserve and begin a steep but scenic climb up a manufactured staircase that delivers you into the abundant wildflower and wildlife preserve.

From the top of the preserve, you will be witness to ridiculous panoramic views of the craggy cliffs of Monterey and iconic Big Sur.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: 741 Feet

13. Monterey Bay Coastal Hike

Credit: Shutterstock

From downtown Monterey, head east on Fremont Street for 0.3 miles and use the right two lanes to take the ramp onto CA-1 N. Drive for 1.9 miles and take exit 403 for CA-218 toward Seaside/Del Rey Oaks.

Continue for 0.2 miles before turning left onto CA-218 W/Canyon Del Rey Boulevard and drive for another 0.1 miles and the parking area will be on your right.

The Monterey Bay Coastal Hiking Trail is an urban walk that takes you through the commercial district with Monterey’s upscale restaurants and cocktail bars. The comfortably paved walkway will wander through lively beaches and popular shopping centers under the shade of the California sun.

The trail leads to the marina district, culminating in a trendy boardwalk with several eateries and shops. Whale-watching tours are an absolute must in Monterey and are available to tour at the end of the boardwalk.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 13.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 380 Feet

14. Overlook Trail to McWay Falls Trail

Credit: Shutterstock

From Carmel-By-The-Sea, head south on CA-1 S for 38 miles and turn left into the parking area for this hike.

Shine up the sports car and cruise the adrenaline-inducing Pacific Coast Highway. The winding drive through the most scenic sections of Central Coast leads to a rare and unique oasis that is truly one-of-a-kind.

The trail to McWay Falls is a descending boardwalk that follows down wooded steps until reaching a long overlook of towering McWay Falls and its picturesque, secluded beach.

You may only access the overlook, as the iconic coastline is delicate and vulnerable to erosion. However, once looking upon the protected area, the need for preservation will be appreciated.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance:
1.2 Miles
Elevation Gain:
193 Feet

Related Read: 15 Best Romantic Getaways in California

15. Condor Gulch Trail to High Peaks Trail Loop

Credit: Shutterstock

From downtown Monterey, head northeast on CA-1 N and drive for 13 miles and merge onto CA-156 E. Continue for 9.1 miles and take exit 345 for CA-156 toward San Juan Bautista. Reconnect with CA-156 E and drive another 7.2 miles before turning right onto Union Road.

Continue for 4.8 miles and turn right onto CA-25 E and drive for 27.0 miles. From here, slight right onto CA-146 W, and after 5.0 miles, the parking area will be on your left.

A short drive from Monterey is Pinnacles National Park and the premier hiking trail is arguably the Gulch Trail to High Peaks Trail Loop. The hike circles the remnants of a volcano destroyed by the San Andreas Fault millions of years ago.

The fault created this geological wonder and has made itself a safe habitat for the rare and endangered California condors – visibly circling from above.

The tight and narrow trail squeezes through a unique canyon before leading to a beautifully reflective lake that resembles those of the high-elevation alpine lakes of the Sierra Nevada to the East.

Difficulty: Strenuous
Distance: 5.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,630 Feet

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