Pebble Beach, California is a vacation playground for the rich and famous with $1,000 per night hotel rooms and $500 rounds of golf and spa treatments. There are three hotel resorts in Pebble Beach with The Lodge at Pebble Beach, Casa Palmero and The Inn at Spanish Bay. Off-season package rates for November 23 to March 31 start at $525 per night for Spanish Bay. Hotel stay packages including a round of golf at Pebble Beach Links and Spanish Bay/Spyglass Hill start at $1,975 (Spanish Bay) or $2,195 (The Lodge) for two nights and two rounds of golf.
The less affluent enjoy Pebble Beach each month by the thousands after paying $10 for the privilege to drive a vehicle through one of the private gates into the 5,300 acre oceanfront community on the Monterey Peninsula. TripAdvisor has more than 2,600 reviews of 17 Mile Drive and a 4.5 out of 5 circles rating.
Walking or cycling into Pebble Beach is free.
Del Monte Forest Hiking Trails
A far lesser known aspect of Pebble Beach are the network of hiking trails through the Del Monte Forest. Trails crisscross Pebble Beach between Carmel Beach in Carmel-by-the-sea south of Pebble Beach and the Inn at Spanish Bay bordering Pebble Beach to the north. A boardwalk along Asilomar Beach leads to the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove.
The hike takes two to three hours to walk six miles one way. Trail markers are difficult to follow with places where several trails intersect and no signage indicating the most direct route across the forest for hikers seeking to walk between Spanish Bay and Carmel.
Del Monte Forest Preservation Organization offers a pdf map showing the trail network. The map and a smartphone help with navigation. http://www.dmfpo.org/resources/dmf_hiking_trails2011.pdf
Pebble Beach Hiking Trails Carmel Bay to Spanish Bay
Yesterday I walked along Pebble Beach hiking trails from Carmel Bay to Spanish Bay and back in a 12 mile walk across Del Monte Forest. Here are photos and thoughts from the trails.
Public interest laws in California (1972, 1976) created the Coastal Access Program requiring new development on the coast to maintain public access to the coast and beaches. The concern at the time 40 years ago was growth of California’s population and coastal construction of new homes and businesses would restrict access to the beach as new developments turned public access trails and roads into private lands.
There have been many hotels built on the California coast since 1972. New hotels must allow a public right of way to access the beach, even if in some cases, like the Monterey Plaza Hotel at Cannery Row, the public access means going through the hotel stairway. InterContinental Monterey The Clement had to build a public walkway that passes in front of the restaurant windows and hotel courtyard patio sea view.
Pebble Beach has been a private corporate land holding for more than a century and much of the largest remaining contiguous native Monterey Pine forest is a result of the 5,300 acre Del Monte Forest and Pebble Beach being in private ownership. The Del Monte Forest Conservancy and Pebble Beach Corporation maintain the trail network.
Free parking is available on San Antonio Avenue north of Ocean Avenue, the main commercial business street of Carmel-by-the-sea running between Highway 1 and the largest beach parking lot.
Carmel Gate is where many visitors enter Pebble Beach and pay $10 for the 17 Mile Drive along the coast. Tip: Your gate receipt can be submitted to your server at a Pebble Beach restaurant or bar for a $10 credit on your meal and drinks.
While still on the flat roadside trail entering Pebble Beach at Carmel Gate, a trail warning sign is posted. The trail quickly goes from near sea level to over 700 feet in elevation. Whether you start at Asilomar/Spanish Bay or Carmel Beach, the trail climbs to near the highest elevations of the Del Monte Forest and then drops back to sea level.
The Redondo Real Trail is the section of the Del Monte Forest uphill from the Carmel gate.
Redondo Real Trail
Del Monte Forest achieved early acclaim with the opening of 17-Mile Drive in 1881. After purchasing the property in 1919, Samuel F.B. Morse initiated plans for the thoughtful development of the forest, working with engineer Mark Daniels to create a system of greenbelts, bridal trails and roadways throughout the forest. Morse, himself an accomplished horseman, completed much of the work on horseback.
The trail segment ahead is part of the original Redondo Real Trail, the primary bridal trail that ran along much of the perimeter of the Del Monte Forest. Although most of the original trail does not exist today, the natural beauty of the Del Monte Forest and its coastline is easily explored on foot or horseback along more than 25 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.
Del Monte Forest
Most of the Monterey Peninsula was bought up in the 1880s by a holding company owned by the four railroad magnates of California: Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins. Hotel Del Monte, built by Charles Crocker, was a western resort playground comprising 20,000 acres of hills, beaches and Monterey Pine forest. Del Monte Foods brand name originates from an Oakland based supplier of coffee to Hotel Del Monte in the 1880s. Historical Resource: California’s Most Historic Resort Hotel Del Monte
Monterey pines are native trees to only three places along central coastal California in Ano Nuevo north of Santa Cruz, the Monterey Peninsula and Cambria near Hearst Castle 90 miles south of Monterey. The largest remaining native forest of Monterey pines are on the Monterey Peninsula. Millions of acres of Monterey Pine forest are planted worldwide as a timber resource, however, only about 10,000 acres of native Monterey pine forest remain in California. The most genetically diverse Monterey pine trees are within the Del Monte Forest of Pebble Beach.
Hotel Del Monte was one of the leading sports resorts in the western United States. The Del Monte Park Preserve offered 7,000 acres of forest and miles of coastline for horseback riding and carriage rides for day excursions taking hotel guests from the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey around the Monterey Peninsula. Since WWII, Hotel Del Monte has been part of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, a graduate degree research university.
Redondo Real Trail in Del Monte Forest. I came across a wild bobcat at dusk near this spot on my return hike to Carmel. A bobcat looks similar to a house cat, except for the stubby tail and they are 1.5 to 2 times the size of an average domestic pet cat at about 20 to 30 pounds. I have come across bobcats before in Monterey County. They are generally calm and in my encounters we stare at each other for a minute of more before the bobcat walks away.
Redondo Real Trail follows the Carmel gate road and then crosses over the road to a path running alongside multi-million dollar homes. I passed by one home listed at $1.1 million. The house was very basic 1970s. The house below is likely a $3 to $4 million home or even more.
After crossing a road, the trail continues up the hill through a large stretch of Monterey Pine forest. The Pescadero Canyon Trail hooks up with Fire Road 20 and the trail passes near Poppy Hills Golf Course.
I believe this is the area known as the Jeffers Forest which is believed to be the largest contiguous native Monterey pine forest remaining today and considered the most genetically diverse trees within the Monterey pine species on the planet.
Del Monte Forest Conservancy manage about 700 acres of forest within Pebble Beach and another 600 or so acres are being added to the protected forest lands to be preserved.
These protected lands represent about 25% of all land in Pebble Beach protected from development.
The trail descended down the hillside from 700+ feet. The Bamboo Trail leads to fire roads and trails into the S.F.B. Morse Botanical Reserve.
I walked for nearly two hours through the Del Monte Forest without coming across another person on the hiking trails.
In the past decade there was a proposal by the owners of Pebble Beach to build another golf course near this Reserve area in a location called Sawmill Gulch. The controversial Measure A approved by Monterey voters in 2000 called for a new golf course that would have removed around 18,000 Monterey pine trees. In 2007 the California Coastal Commission blocked the development project due to the environmental impact from the loss of native Monterey pines.
The solitude of the Del Monte Forest trails on a lovely September afternoon offered a relaxing and refreshing walk.
When I arrived at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club Dunes golf course, I came across another person playing a solo round of golf. The man was the first person I had seen in two hours. The Dunes Course was built in 1926 and is almost as old as Pebble Beach Golf Links (1919).
The trail along Sawmill Gulch runs along the gulch edge of the Dunes Course. The trail is hard to see in places since the ground is cleared in much of the golf course space and signs all around the course are posted stating Private Property/No Trespassing.
Sawmill Gulch is actually a gulch covered in foliage with water flow when it rains. There was no water to be seen in late September during the severe drought currently afflicting California.
Monterey Peninsula Country Club also has the Shore Course.
The afternoon fog was moving in as I reached the Pacific Ocean at Spanish Bay.
The beach at Spanish Bay is said to be the place where Gaspar de Portola, Governor of Baja California, camped in November 1769 on an expedition seeking Monterey Bay. Portola did not realize he was within two hours walking distance of the harbor he sought from the records by Spanish explorer Vizcaino in 1602.
Portola returned in 1770 and the Presidio of Monterey was founded.
Having taken three hours to reach Spanish Bay, I had to pick up the pace for the return trip to walk six miles back up the hills to reach Carmel before sunset.
Spanish Bay Golf Links is a Scottish style golf course along the shore. There is a public access boardwalk between Asilomar Beach in Pacific Grove and The Inn at Spanish Bay resort.
The return walk was fast-paced and tough going uphill from Spanish Bay up into Del Monte Forest. Two hours and 15 minutes for the return hike and once again there was nobody else on the trails as I walked the six miles back to Carmel.
I made it back to my car 15 minutes before sunset. I’d love to show a great sunset photo, however, the fog had dropped low making for no bright sunset.
Encountering the wild bobcat on the Redondo Real Trail during the last ten minutes of my 5.5 hour hike was a welcome sighting to end the day. Great sunsets are far more commonly seen than bobcats around these parts.
The 17 Mile Drive is one way to experience the beauty of Pebble Beach. Del Monte Forest hiking trails are a different perspective of Pebble Beach with glimpses of the Pacific Ocean visible from the hillsides through the Monterey pine trees.
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
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