For unique and diverse views of Carmel Valley, Garland Ranch Regional Park is your go-to spot! The 4,462 acre park is loaded with multiple trails for every hiking skill level with vistas of Carmel Valley's rolling hills, vineyards and oak savannahs. This is also a fantastic place for biking, horseback riding and letting your furry friend burn off some energy since dog leashes are optional.

Unsure of whether it was the "holiday blues" or just the foggy weather on the peninsula I decided to get out of my dreary slump and give myself a little endorphin boost. Rather than hitting the gym to burn off some of the leftover Christmas cookies I decided to head for the hills. Garland Ranch in Carmel Valley was the obvious choice and its predictable sunny weather was calling my name. As expected, once I was three miles into Carmel Valley Road the sky seemed to magically open up revealing nothing but blue skies and the temperature gauge had jumped 10 degrees within the short 10 minute drive.

Once on Carmel Valley Road you can't miss the park's entrance which is about 8 miles down from Highway 1. Cars are often lined up along the gate but there is always plenty of parking.

First time visitors to the park will appreciate all of the well placed signage that makes it easy to find trailheads and the helpful visitor center. The visitor center has tons of printed materials on the trails but friendly volunteers are also available to answer any questions; did I mention access to this park is entirely free?

Garland Ranch has so many trails that it was hard to pick just one so I left it up to my hiking buddy to lead the way.

We started off with the Sycamore Trail which was a great warm up to the upcoming incline. The flat and well maintained pathway seemed to be particularly popular with dog lovers and those with young kids.

The Sycamore Trail eventually led to the Waterfall Trail which is where the real work began. The shaded uphill trail gave me just the workout I was looking for. Unfortunately the seasonal waterfall was not active; I guess it's just another reason to return once it's flowing in the spring!

Every now and then the wooded tree canopy would open up to a crystal clear window of Carmel Valley. It was easy to point out Carmel Valley landmarks like the Los Laureles Grade, Bernardus Lodge and the colorful vineyards below. These random openings also offered the perfect excuse to stop and catch my breath and relax my glutes.

After a few more turns we arrived at our final destination, the Mesa. It was obvious how this area received its name; the flat tabletop terrain revealed breathtaking views of the Garzas Canyon which were much different than the sights along the trail so far. Dense chaparral, lush oak trees and weeping willows covered the green rolling hills in the distance. I quickly snatched the bench at the top and basked in the sunshine getting my much needed Vitamin D for the day.

Looking for something different I took the Mesa Trail back down. On the way I passed a grinding rock used by the Rumsen Indians that once inhabited the area.

The trails at Garland Ranch were much more invigorating than hitting the treadmill and the views from the top was just what I needed! You can also take guided hikes throughout the park with staff from the Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District, click here for the schedule.

If you go:

From Highway 1, head east on Carmel Valley Road for 8.6 miles. Garland Ranch Regional Park's main entrance will be on your right.

From Highway 101, take Route 68 east to Laureles Grade. Take Laureles Grade to Carmel Valley Road and turn right. Garland Ranch Regional Park's main entrance will be on your left.