Winding along the Pacific coast, the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and a great way to tour Monterey and adjacent communities while enjoying the outdoors. This wonderful coastal rail-trail currently extends 18 miles from Pacific Grove to Castroville and is regarded as one of the most scenic long trails in California.
The trail follows the former Southern Pacific Railroad line, which was once used to transfer goods between the historic fishing town of Monterey and the rest of northern California. Beginning in Pacific Grove at Lovers Point Park (the southern end of the trail), you will want to take a picture of the beautiful rocky shoreline to the west. But don't put your camera away yet—the beautiful views continue, and there are many photo opportunities along the trail of beach scenes, otters, boats, kayakers and more.
After 0.3 mile you come to a mural portraying the history of the area around the trail. About a mile from the northern end, you reach Cannery Row. Made famous by John Steinbeck, this area offers many restaurants, as well as shopping, lodging and entertainment for all ages.
After a string of street crossings, you arrive at Monterey Bay Aquarium. Recognized as one of the best in the world, the aquarium exhibits a wide array of sea creatures, from a giant octopus to nearly two dozen species of shark. Just beyond the aquarium, roughly 1.5 miles into the journey, you reach Fisherman's Shoreline Park and San Carlos Beach. San Carlos is a popular destination for diving, and you might see some shore divers preparing for an underwater adventure. The trail continues toward a smaller beach, where you can view sailing and fishing boats scattered throughout the bay.
At the 2-mile mark you come to Fisherman's Wharf, with its restaurants, shops and great views of the ocean. The wharf is probably the most popular destination on the trail because of its location, scenery and historical displays, including several generations of fishing craft.
Beyond the wharf, the pathway runs close to the usually busy Del Monte Avenue. But the scene soon changes as you continue north. You come to Monterey State Beach, with its impressive sand dunes and, farther down the trail, a eucalyptus forest that separates the trail from the road.
The next few miles become a bit more commercial as the trail follows the coastline toward the shopping centers at Sand City and a few more miles to the city of Marina. Between the two, the Beach Range Road Multi-Use Trail offers a parallel route as it passes through Fort Ord Dunes State Park. The new park, established in 2009, preserves the coastal areas of the former Fort Ord Army post.
From Marina, it's another 8 miles to the trail's end in Castroville, famous for its artichokes, artichoke festival and Artichoke Queens. You can either ride back the way you came, or arrange a shuttle beforehand in Castroville.
To reach the Pacific Grove trailhead from State Route 1: Take the Del Monte Avenue (402B) Exit toward Pacific Grove. Travel 2 miles west on Del Monte Avenue, then veer right onto Lighthouse Avenue. Continue on Lighthouse Avenue for 1.4 miles, turn right on David Avenue and soon after turn left on Ocean View Boulevard. Continue for 1 mile to Jewell Avenue. The trailhead is near the corner of Ocean View Boulevard and Jewell Avenue. You can either park in the paid lot at the trailhead or look for street parking nearby.