Active adventures await in Monterey County this spring
Featured Members: Monterey Airport, Monterey Bay Kayaks, Cannery Row, Skydive Monterey Bay, V6 Ranch, Molera Horseback, Big Sur International Marathon
"Winter” in L.A. got you down? While it’s not exactly cold, summer adventure feels far away as we wait out the wet weather. From surfing, sea kayaking and scuba diving to hiking, biking and horseback riding, Monterey County has just about everything you need to make the most of the season and get started on those spring adventures early.
Start your journey down celebrated 17-Mile Drive, which meanders between Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach on the Monterey Peninsula. One tip: Forget the car. Though known for motoring, the road is also an epic cycling experience. The bike lanes offer stunning coastline, mansion and golf course views. Early morning is probably the best time to undertake this pedal, as the traffic is light and the air is perfectly crisp.
Can’t get enough two-wheeled action? Try the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail and (for hardcore cyclists) sinuous Highway 1. The route will take you on one of the most scenic paths on the planet with unmatched coastline views.
Monterey County offers plenty of options for marine-based outdoor adventure. Monterey Bay Kayaks offers guided group tours as well as rentals for those who want to paddle around the marine sanctuary on their own. In addition to drop-dead gorgeous views of Cannery Row, kayakers have a chance to spy sea otters or maybe even a breaching humpback whale.
If you crave a true bird's-eye view of your environs (and have the guts), Skydive Monterey Bay offers the "World's Highest Tandem Jumps" from 18,000 feet above the ground. Experience the thrill of a 90-second freefall before the parachute opens. Then, with your one-of-a-kind perspective, marvel at the mountains-to-sea view of the coastal county as you slowly coast down for six to eight minutes.
State beaches offer much in the way of active adventure, including Monterey State Beach and Marina State Beach. While it’s easy to find peace watching the waves crash along the sandy shore, adventurous types will want to dive right in. Try surfing, boogie boarding or scuba diving, or take to the air on a hang glider.
Those looking to view the region’s abundant flora and fauna need look no further than Fort Ord National Monument. The former army base protects 44 species of rare plants and animals on its 7,200 acres. Hikers, bikers and horseback riders can traverse the park's scenic and diverse 83 miles of trail.
Don’t miss spectacular views at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, named after the region’s famous pioneer. But unlike the original settlers of the region, you won’t have to bushwhack to see them. After a short hike, marvel at the 80-foot-tall McWay Falls as it pours over a bluff onto the sandy beach below.
Often confused with its famous cousin because of their close proximity and similar names, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park offers an inland take on the Big Sur experience. Tucked into the Santa Lucia Mountains, the park is likened to Yosemite because of its rugged topography, shady forest groves and cascading waterfalls. For true backpackers, trails lead to even more remote Los Padres National Forest and the Ventana Wilderness.
Want to see it all? The three-day Monterey State Parks Pass allows visitors access to all of the reserves in Monterey County including Point Lobos, Pfeiffer Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
For something completely different, see the county by horseback. V6 Ranch is a 20,000-acre working cattle spread in the Cholame Valley that offers trail rides, rodeos and cattle drives. For gallops in the sand, try Monterey Bay Equestrian Center, which offers rides up and down Salinas River State Beach. Further south, Molera Horseback Tours offers trail rides through the park's wildflower-strewn meadows and redwood groves, and along its wild and scenic beaches. You can make this a day trip or crash overnight at one of the park's 24 campsites.
If you’re an elite runner (or enjoy watching them), try the Big Sur International Marathon on April 24. With a course that ambles along the breathtaking coastline of Highway 1, the event attracts around 4,500 participants each year and is an official Boston Marathon qualifier. Even if you’re just watching, you’re spying runners who give their all on one of the most beautiful courses in the world.
—Joe Yogerst, Tribune Content Solutions
Getting to Monterey has never been easier, with new direct flights from LAX to MRY via Alaska Airlines.