Beautiful Monterey County

Beautiful Monterey County

Top 10 Snapshot Spots

Everywhere you look, there's another breathtaking vista in Monterey County, but there's several specific spots that provide iconic images of the region. Here's our list of the top ten spots that amateur and professional photographers return to for photographs that are quintessentially Monterey. View them on a map of Monterey County here.

 

1. Bixby Bridge

Bixby Bridge

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur
by cseel02, from Flickr.

This bridge is arguably the most iconic spot in Central California. It's featured in the film "Play Misty For Me" as well as numerous automobile commercials, it's the subject of a song by Death Cab for Cutie and as of this year, it even has its own postage stamp.

Most visitors stop in the pull-off on the west side of Highway One just north of the bridge to capture their take-home Bixby Bridge shot, but local photographer Michael Troutman of DMT Imaging says there's a much better spot. The Old Coast Road, a well-maintained dirt road that forks off from Highway One just north of the highway, "has a very dramatic view looking back toward Bixby Bridge," he said.

For that perfect Bixby Bridge shot, visitors only need to drive a half-mile down, but Troutman says there's many more great photo opportunities along the rest of the Old Coast Road, which reconnects with Highway One 10.5 miles south at Andrew Molera State Park. It goes "through a redwood forest, over the tops of hills with sweeping views of the ocean and through wonderful wilderness areas," Troutman said excitedly. "My wife and I saw a lynx when we were last there, very close to us, and I managed to photograph it," he added.

 

2. The Lone Cypress

Lone Cypress Sunset

Lone Cypress Sunset
by bridgepix,
from Flickr.

As the symbol of the Pebble Beach Company, the Lone Cypress is an evocative image for golfers. It's also the most photographed tree in the world, and Troutman and photographer Rachael Short agree it's one of the area's top snapshot spots.

For an iconic shot of the Lone Cypress, says Troutman, take your photo "when the sun is setting over the ocean and the tree is beautifully back-lit." If Monterey Bay's occasional evening fog gets in the way, Troutman offers a backup plan. "Practically across the street is the Ghost Tree," he says. This tree, as well as the surrounding cypress trees, "are really spooky when foggy," he says.

 

3. Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey
by Michelle Kaplow,
from Flickr.

Photographer Rachael Short lists Fisherman's Wharf among her top iconic snapshot spots in Monterey.

This wharf, established in 1870, is crowded with both tourists and locals most of the day, offering the opportunity for great crowd shots. For people-free photos, visit Fisherman's Wharf around 7am, while the crowds are still asleep or eating breakfast.

  

4. The Carmel Mission

Mission Carmel

Mission Carmel
by Tracy Balcius,
from Flickr.

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, known popularly as the Carmel Mission, is the second California mission. Stepping onto the mission grounds is like traveling back in time. The flower gardens are almost as breathtaking as the building.

"The best angles for the Carmel Mission are out to the right of the mission, facing the Carmel Mountains," says Short. She also recommends shooting inside the Carmel Mission, but bring your tripod. "It's pretty dark in there," Short laughs.

  

  

5. The Drifters Gallery at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Aquarium

Monterey Aquarium
by Another Man of Kent,
from Flickr.

The bright blue background of the tanks and the graceful movements of the jellies (also known as jellyfish) make tourists reach for their cameras.

Because the room is dark, many amateur photographers turn their flash on, thinking they'll get a better photo. In fact, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's photo tips, you'll get the brightest and most breathtaking photos if you turn your flash off. Take a few steps back to capture the silhouettes of visitors watching the jellies framed by the jellyfish tank for an especially intriguing photo.

  

  

6. High Peaks, Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles

Pinnacles by Sarah Crews,
from Flickr.

Pinnacles National Park, with its unique jagged rocks, offers many opportunities for great photographs. "It's like a little taste of Utah right here in our backyard, with beautiful wilderness, lots of wildlife, and dramatic and unusual rock formations, Troutman says, adding "there's something for everyone photographically."

Troutman's favorite is the High Peaks area, which, he says, "has sweeping views, dramatic rock formations and California condors and is a wonderful workout with great rewards at the top."

 

7. The sea lion pier in Moss Landing

Sealion at Moss Landing

Sea Lion @ Moss Landing
by Barbara Rawson,
from Flickr.

Hands-down, the best place in Monterey County to spot sea lions is at the mouth of Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing. In 2007, Moss Landing built a dock for visitors, and local sea lions promptly claimed it as their own. The sea lions frequently jostle and wrestle for position, slipping on and off the pier, all of which makes for great photos.

Troutman's tip: try to focus on just a few. If you move back to get every single sea lion in frame, Troutman says, "it's just a bunch of brown blobs on the dock." Troutman recommends that photographers use a telephoto lens or a good zoom lens to get a close-up shot.

 

8. McWay Falls

Hello Big Sur

Hello from Big Sur California
by Rachel Kramer,
from Flickr

This 80-foot waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park on the Big Sur Coast is both stunning and easily reached, a combination that makes it a popular spot to photograph. McWay Falls tumbles down to a beautiful, serene cove from the cliffs above. When the tide is high, the tumbling water falls directly into the ocean.

Visit it in "early morning or late afternoon" if you want "the best light there," says Short, "and mornings are less crowded if you want it to yourself." From the parking lot, it's a one-third mile stroll along a very flat trail and under Highway One to reach the McWay Falls overlook. "The best view," says Short, is "at the north end of the path."

 

9. Point Pinos

Los Pinos Lighthouse

The Los Pinos Lighthouse
by Vicki Rogers,
from Flickr.

Point Pinos Lighthouse is the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the West Coast, but part of what makes it such an alluring target for photographers is its setting. It's located on the beautiful Pacific Grove coastline, next to the scenic Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links, surrounded by cypress trees. It's so scenic, in fact, that almost every photo taken of it looks postcard-worthy.

Troutman recommends taking photos of "the point itself, which has dramatic waves breaking over the rocks with voluminous spray." He adds, "It's one of the most dramatic places on the Peninsula."

 

10. Point Lobos

Cove at Point Lobos

A Cove at Point Lobos
by Mike Rainey,
from Flickr.

"Point Lobos is a must-see," says Troutman. "There's so much there to photograph. Whether it's sunny or foggy one can always create interesting images." Troutman says.

He loves the "beautiful cypress trees and hidden coves with crystal water," but his pick for the iconic spot within the park is Whaler's Cove. "I go to Whaler's Cove every spring to photograph the baby harbor seals," he says, "which are hands-down the cutest things on Earth next to my grandchildren."

Show off your own great photos of Monterey County in our Flickr group, and someday you may have the chance to have your snapshot featured on our site!

Lay of the Land

click to enlarge map

Lay of the Land

LayoftheLand

VIEW MONTEREY COUNTY MAP

County Map

VIEW DETAILED MAPS

Click on the links for high-resolution maps of Monterey County communities, suitable for printing: Monterey, Carmel and Carmel Valley, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Salinas, Seaside, Marina, Sand City and Moss Landing.

WANT TO GET HERE FAST?

Fly direct from these five airports:
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
McCarran International Airport (LAS)
Phoenix Skyharbor International Airport (PHX)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
San Diego International Airport (SAN)

x
Sign up for our eNewsletter!
Monterey County's monthly newsletter keeps you up-to-date with upcoming event information, itinerary ideas, occasional contests & more.

more

Free Travel Guide
Get your digital guide now!
Find out everything there is to see and do with the 2015 Official Travel Guide. more

 

Monterey Spotlight
 
 

Featured Events

May
30
2015

Artichoke Festival

May. 30-May. 31
In 2015 the Castroville Artichoke Festival will celebrate it's 56th year at the…more
Jun
6
2015

Monterey Wine Festival

Jun. 6-Jun. 7
With hundreds of wines offered for tasting, wine lovers will lfind an embarrassment…more
Jun
6
2015

Spartan Race

Jun. 6
Spartan RaceTM, the global leader in Obstacle Racing since 2005, was designed by…more
Jun
13
2015

Monterey Beer Festival

Jun. 13
The Monterey Beer Festival is celebrating its 14th year. Breweries from across…more
Jun
20
2015

Carmel Valley Art & Wine Celebration

Jun. 20
The Art & Wine Celebration will showcase over 50 artists, local wines and…more
Jun
21
2015

Father's Day Events & Brunches

Jun. 21
Score some points with Dad this Father's Day and head to Monterey County. Perhaps…more
Jun
21
2015

Run in the Name of Love 5K

Jun. 21
The fifth annual "Run in the Name of Love" scenic road race and walk is…more
Jun
27
2015

Monterey BaconFest

Jun. 27-Jun. 28
It's bacon! The inaugural Monterey BaconFest showcases all things bacon on June…more
Jul
4
2015

4th of July Events in Monterey County

Jul. 4
Celebrate Independence Day (and your day off) this year where California was first…more
Jul
10
2015

Aerosmith at the Salinas Sports Complex

Jul. 10
Legendary and iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Aerosmith will kick off Big Week…more
Jul
16
2015

California Rodeo Salinas

Jul. 16-Jul. 19
Each July, the West comes alive in Salinas with the California Rodeo Salinas at the…more
Jul
17
2015

FIM Superbike World Championship

Jul. 17-Jul. 19
The sounds of motorcycles will again roar through the central California hillsides…more
Jul
18
2015

78th Annual Carmel Bach Festival

Jul. 18
Carmel Bach Festival, a world-class festival of music and ideas celebrating the…more
Jul
18
2015

Carmel Bach Festival

Jul. 18-Aug. 1
The Carmel Bach Festival has a 75-year history of artistic excellence and community…more
Jul
22
2015

Feast of Lanterns

Jul. 22-Jul. 26
A tradition lasting for over a century, the Pacific Grove Feast of Lanterns is a…more
Jul
26
2015

Moss Landing Antique Fair

Jul. 26
Moss Landing becomes the antique capital of the world the last Sunday of July.…more
All

Specials

Enjoy the Wonders of the Wharf VIP Card

Fisherman's Wharf Association
The “Enjoy the Wonders of the Wharf VIP Card and Special Offers Campaign includes a…

Carmel Valley Wine Discovery

Stonepine Estate
Carmel Valley Wine Discovery 2015 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage…
May 1, 2015
- Jul 7, 2015

Estate Experience

Stonepine Estate
Estate Experience 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage Accommodations …
May 1, 2015
- Jul 7, 2015

Romantic Rendezvous Weekend

Stonepine Estate
2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage Accommodations Welcome Amenity…

FREE APPETIZER or 1 HR of POOL

Blue Fin Cafe & Billiards
Choose a FREE APP or 1Hr of Pool with any $20 purchase on selected items *Mention…
All