It winds its way through forests and by the sea — it's 17-Mile Drive, and it has your name on it.
Photo courtesy Pebble Beach Company
More than 3 million visitors explore the Monterey Peninsula and its environs annually. They bike, hike, jog, hover above ground, and then some, only to walk away wanting more. Learn why.
By Jill K. Robinson
With hundreds of miles of bike trails and options for cyclists ranging from easy scenic pedaling to road biking to mountain and trail biking, Monterey Bay has plenty for fans of two-wheeled fun.
A popular option is the 5-mile Parker Flats Loop at Fort Ord National Monument (blm.gov). The different terrain allows riders to decide if they want to challenge themselves, or merely stay on the flat sections.
17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach (pebblebeach.com) is a serene stretch of road in the morning, when fewer cars are around. The round trip from Cannery Row in Monterey to Cypress Point is 18 miles and extends to 24 miles if you're turning around at The Lodge at Pebble Beach.
Another favorite ride among local cyclists is the roughly 100-mile loop that starts at River Road in the Salinas area and turns west on Arroyo Seco Road to Carmel Valley Road, covering the Salinas and Carmel valleys. Either quit in Carmel (if you've set up a way to collect your car at the beginning of the ride), or ride back to the beginning over Laureles Grade.
Mountain bikers love the Ollason Trail at Toro Park (alltrails.com) where they can climb 1,800 feet all the way to Ollason Peak on semi-hardpacked dirt roads with some soft dirt and sandy patches. Snag a trail map at Ford Ord National Monument.
Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the region at your leisure with a hike. Whether novice or hardcore, there are trails for every level of hiker.
Visit Andrew Molera State Park (www.parks.ca.gov) to experience a variety of redwood and oak groves on the upper part and the mesmerizing coastal bluff views in lower elevations. Plus: access to remote beaches.
A dog-friendly option (for leashed pets only) is Garrapata State Park (seemonterey.com), which offers one-of-a-kind views along the coastal headlands at Soberanes Point. Take a look: Sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters frequent these coastal waters, and from January to April you may even spot California gray whales as they pass through during their annual migrations.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (www.parks.ca.gov) is your best bet for variety; this place is nothing but trails. Sea Lion Point Trailhead, for instance, illuminates much of the wildlife in the reserve, while North Shore Trail offers peaceful seclusion.
UP, UP, AND AWAY!
If you've ever had dreams of flying, paragliding is about the nearest thing for humans. It's not synonymous with hang-gliding — paragliders have soft structures that can be collapsed and fly at a slower rate, making it easier for beginners. Explore the offerings at Monterey Sky Sports, montereyskysports.com
If you're an adrenaline junkie and have a need for speed, one of your best options in Monterey Bay is skydiving. The only outfitter in the region is known for the "world's highest tandem skydive" (from 18,000 feet), so you're guaranteed to get some stellar views. Skydive Monterey Bay, skydivemontereybay.com
One of the most talked about enterprises around takes its guests above the bay where they can scope out the stunning views and precious marine life and learn more about the unique coastline. Big Sur adventures can be booked — how about a trek to a winery? It's all yours with Specialized Helicopters, specializedheli.com
MB Bucket List
1) Meet your match on one of the tennis courts in Monterey Bay. Top picks include Carmel Valley Athletic Club, Monterey Tennis Center, and Quail Lodge & Golf Club.
2) Just how much of the 18-mile Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail you walk, jog, cycle, or roller blade is up to you. Wander east beyond Del Monte Beach and just ... keep going.
3) Go beyond just looking at the animals at the Monterey Zoo and actually walk among some of them. A day with the elephants? Right this way. montereyzoo.org
4) Home of the Monterey Open (in October), tee times at the ambitious 18-hole Del Monte Golf Course begin at $52. Careful on Hole No. 7 (par 4), where the challenge is uphill. pebblebeach.com
5) With Laguna Seca Golf Ranch, Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr. devised a beautiful 18-hole course that allows the natural terrain to be its main star. Walking permitted, too. lagunasecagolf.com
6) Forget your smartphone's flashlight. Go rustic. Use a lantern. Camp at Lynch Campground, one of hundreds of scenic campsites at California's greatest lake, Lake San Antonio, south of Monterey. seemonterey.com
7) Experience bountiful and scenic Monterey Bay on your own boat. Day rentals — downright affordable ones, too — are yours at Monterey Bay Sailing. montereysailing.com
8) Big Sur boasts more than a dozen hiking trails, but venture through the lesser-known Willow Creek Trail and your 3.5-mile romp winds you right through the redwoods. hikinginbigsur.com
9) Motorcycle your way around the Peninsula and feel the sea breeze like you never have before. Daring souls may want to rent a slick SWM Gran Turismo. Or maybe you fancy a tour? Decide at Eagle Riders Rentals and Tours. eaglerider.com
10) Saddle up. Monterey Bay Equestrian Center allows visitors an opportunity to gallop along immaculate beaches. But what's this: a petting zoo. Let the family fun begin. montereybayequestrian.com