Monterey Section 4

Monterey Bay Aquarium to Asilomar State Beach

Monterey Section 4

Monterey Bay Aquarium to Asilomar State Beach

This convoluted, remarkably rocky urban shoreline offers a great hike around the dramatic tip of the Monterey Peninsula. You'll likely find this trail section frequented by locals and visitors at its beginning and end portions, but you may find very few walkers along the even more dramatic part around Point Pinos, where you'll see the 1855 lighthouse, the oldest continuously operating beacon on the west coast (open to the public Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 pm). Of course the wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium and the shops and historic buildings of Cannery Row offer tempting distractions at the start of this section. The entire hike follows the shore of the Pacific Grove Marine Gardens Fish Reserve where you can observe floating and foraging sea otters, sea kayakers, and spouting whales in season.

Only a short block uphill from the entrance of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, on David Avenue just down from Wave Street you'll find the Monterey Peninsula Recreation Trail, a popular paved multiple-use path that follows the old Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way through town near the waterfront. You can follow it east almost 4 miles to Roberts Lake in the town of Seaside (CCT's Monterey Section 3 follows the first 1½/ miles). This section heads northwest along the waterfront, following the paved level path to the Monterey city limits in only 400 feet. Here you enter the town of Pacific Grove--Butterfly Town, USA. Cyclists and skaters can continue along the 2-lane paved path on the left. Hikers want to follow the gravel track beside it on the right through Shoreline Park.

As you pass Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Lab on the bay side, you can glimpse the rocky coastline where birds perch on offshore rocks. At ¼ mile rocky Point Cabrillo juts seaward, the southernmost of two points named for the Portuguese navigator, the first European to sail the California coast. Continue past a pretty cove and beach where the shore is fenced from public access. It's all marine lab property until a rest bench at ⅜ mile. Contour along the curving path beside a convoluted rocky shore punctuated by picturesque Monterey cypress. At ½ mile lovely little Jacobsen Park perches on a rocky knoll across Ocean View Blvd.

At ⅝ mile the gravel track splits in two. While you can take either path, the right one offers better coastal views as you pass through verdant Berwick Park approaching Lover's Point. After the forks rejoin, enter Lover's Point Park before one mile. Here you can either descend to a beach or contour along the bluffs. The blufftop path passes a big parking lot. As it meets 17th Street, the Monterey Peninsula Recreation Trail ends as the old railroad right-of-way continues straight onto private property. You want to turn right and follow the sidewalk 300 feet, then veer to the right into Lover's Point Park (no dogs, please) past restrooms and picnic tables, with the rocky point a short side trip directly ahead. By 1⅛ miles the gravel path resumes, turning northwest between the street and the shore. Follow the narrow path northwest along the shore of Hays-Perkins Park. No bikes are allowed on the path beyond this point. Pass two stairways down to the nearby beach around 1¼ miles. Contour through the park past exotic vegetation including giant dudleyas or hen and chicks.

Pass a parking area and a stairway to tiny beach at 1½ miles. Your path a turns north along the shore until 1¾ miles, then angles northwest and west toward Point Pinos. On reasonably clear days you can look north across the broad mouth of Monterey Bay to Point Santa Cruz 23 miles away, backed by the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Pass tiny, wooded Esplanade Park across the street at 2 miles. Around 2⅛ miles the path becomes indistinct for the first time, but it's still easy to follow this lightly traveled shoreline. You encounter more rest benches and side paths to the ocean's edge, just fewer people. Round a rocky point with vehicle access beyond 2¼ miles. The path improves here as you near Point Pinos.

Your path virtually disappears at a small beach beyond 2⅜ miles, then resumes. Around 2½ miles Crespi Pond and a golf course lie across the road, with the Point Pinos Lighthouse on knoll beyond them. CCT continues along the a shore, circling the point on an inconstant path.
At 2¾ miles an unmarked spur on the right crosses a sandy beach and heads northwest to the tip of Point Pinos, ¼ mile round trip. The Coastal Trail turns southwest following the unsheltered Pacific Ocean shore. Your narrow track disappears again at 3 miles. Either walk the beach or the broad gravel shoulder beside the road, then contour beside or through dunes draped with iceplant.
Around 3⅛ miles you reach the only house on this section that lies on the ocean side of the road. (The dwelling predated the Coastal Initiative by 25 years.) The property is fenced to dissuade hikers. Either continue along the road shoulder or turn right on a a path beside a green barrel that leads into the dunes, then follow the rocky tideline south.

Either way you go, the path improves by 3¼ miles, once again following the bluff's edge above an amazing rocky shoreline. Now you can see Point Joe to the southwest on the next CCT section. You soon follow a boardwalk past a viewing gazebo, then continue on gravel tread alternating with boardwalks, passing many spurs to the rocky then sandy tide zone.

A small sign welcomes you to Asilomar State Beach around 3⅜ miles. Drop to a sandy beach at 3½ miles, returning to the blufftop before 3⅝ miles. After paralleling Sunset Drive briefly, a boardwalk returns you to the shoreline. Continue on a gravel path from 4 miles.

Beyond 4⅛ miles the landscape changes dramatically. Along the shore ahead lie the milelong sands of North Moss Beach backed by the Spanish Bay Golf Course and Resort. Your path soon curves left to end at Sunset Drive. You can either walk the beach or the broad road shoulder south ⅛ mile to section's end. The landmark indicating the end of the section is a pergola across the road that is the start of a boardwalk into the Asilomar Conference Grounds, a state park facility. If you'd like to take a break inside, the boardwalk leads to the public reception area in less than ¼ mile where a large stone fireplace, restrooms and gift shop may be worth a visit.

SUGGESTED ROUND TRIPS & LOOPS: Walk the shoreline northwest to Point Pinos, round the point, then loop back on Lighthouse Avenue through Pacific Groves shopping district. You can also walk the entire section, take a stroll through the lovely Asilomar Conference Grounds to see the historic architecture, then catch the #1 Lighthouse Avenue bus back to your starting point.

Distance: 4¼ miles (6.8 kilometers).

Open to: Hikers on all. Bicyclists on first 1¼ miles of trail, streets paralleling CCT beyond that. Dogs OK on leash, except in Lover's Point Park.

Surface: Paved trail, trail, boardwalk.

Access point: Monterey Bay Aquarium.

How to get there: Exit Highway at top of hill south of Monterey and north of Carmel onto Highway 68 West. Go 2.8 miles, then go right on David Avenue to its end at Cannery Row.

Other access: Anywhere along route.

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation gain/loss: 100 feet +/100 feet-.

Cautions: Watch for bicycles on first 1¼ miles. No fee parking near access point is a rare commodity.

Further information: Monterey State Parks (831)649-2836, Monterey Bay Aquarium (831)648-4888, Pacific Grove Parks Department (831)372-7965, Asilomar State Beach (831)372-4076.

Facilities: None at start. Restrooms, water, phone and picnic tables at Lover's Point Park, picnic tables at Perkins Park.

Campgrounds: Veteran's Memorial County Park is in Monterey near the Presidio, about 1 ½ miles southwest. Laguna Seca Recreation Area 7 miles east has 183 sites.

Lodging: Asilomar Conference Center at section's end has 315 rooms. More upscale rooms along route at Green Gables Inn, Martine Inn, Seven Gables Inn, Grand View Inn, Lover's Point Inn and Borg's Ocean View Motel.

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