Want a bird's eye view of the Monterey Peninsula without having to jump out of a plane? Jacks Peak County Park is a well-kept local's gem that offers sweeping views of not only Monterey but Pacific Grove, Carmel and Carmel Valley!
You might not know it but Jacks Peak County Park is just a quick ten-minute drive from downtown Monterey. The quick drive up to the park is a treat in itself and offers a slight taste of what's in store with increasing views of the bay below.
The park has a total of eleven trails ranging from 0.3 miles to 1.2 miles, great for novice hikers and quick day hikes. Since this was my first time to the park I decided to start with the popular Jacks Peak Trail. The trailhead began at the parking lot, near the well kept restrooms.
I started the slightly uphill jaunt through the majestic pine trees and quickly made my way to the top, approximately .3 miles from the start.
The view was amazing for such a short distance! Expansive views of Carmel and Carmel Valley were peeking through one side of the point while views of the Monterey Bay reaching as far as Moss Landing poked through the other side. I literally felt like I was on top of the world (or at least Monterey) as the peak is one of the highest points on the Monterey Peninsula, rising 1,068 feet.
After soaking in the astounding sights, fresh oxygen, and warm sun and I descended down the trail back towards the trailhead. Every turn provided a new perspective of Monterey Bay through the shaded woods. At one point I stopped and pointed out landmarks like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Old Fisherman's Wharf, the Naval Post Graduate School and the smoke stacks in Moss Landing.
Since I still had plenty of energy left I opted for the Pine Trail which was a bit longer at 1.1 miles. This easy flat trail also provided never-ending views of the peninsula and eventually ended up back at the ranger booth.
My first visit to the Jacks Peak County Park will certainly not be my last. I am already planning my next visit to check out some of the fossils from the Miocene epoch which are embedded in the shale along the Coffeeberry Trail and on display on the Skyline Nature Trail.
This conveniently located park is particularly great for those looking for hikes with breathtaking views without taking your breath away. Jacks Peak also welcomes dogs, if on a leash, and horses.
Directions from Monterey:
Take Highway 1 to Highway 68 towards Salinas. Just two miles down you take a right on Olmstead (near the Monterey Regional Airport), and follow it to Jacks Peak Road. Take a left on Jacks Peak Road and wind up the hill to the ranger booth. Entry fees into the park are $4 during weekdays and $5 on weekends and holidays, but trust me; this is minimal compared to the priceless views at the top!
Looking for more similar day hikes in the region? Check out our article on the "Top 10 Day Hikes in Monterey County."