With a comfort index of 78 and nearly 270 sunny days a year, Pacific Grove has a climate that lends itself to a plethora of interesting and unique outdoor experiences ranging from hiking trails cushioned by the pine needles of ancient trees to the rugged Pacific Ocean teeming with marine life. An evening stroll lends itself to spectacular sunsets and otters rolling in the waves. Several times a week we find ourselves sitting on an isolated beach hugged by the marine green waters of a cove, and there, we see otters and sea lions, sometimes dolphins, always sea birds and off in the distance a whale spout. Bliss.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give my litter spiel. Please, pack your trash (cigarette butts included) and leave nothing but your footprint. Pacific Grove is one of the most litter free places I’ve ever lived, yet still, every day I pick up the rubbish of other people. Also, much of coastal PG is a marine protected area which means let the sea critters be in their happy places of solitude untouched by cute albeit sticky little fingers. Animals and anemones, alike, should all be protected by all of us because we choose to care instead of scare and not because it’s a law. Soapbox session over. For now. Thanks for indulging.
Check out my Pacific Grove outdoor top picks and share your favorite outdoor experiences in PG.
The best way to experience Pacific Grove is on foot. It’s small enough and easy enough for even the whiniest folks to traverse.
Monarch Grove Sanctuary **top pick for humans**
250 Ridge Road off of Lighthouse Avenue
I mentioned the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in a previous Pacific Grove post. If you missed it, here’s the link for you to learn more about this most iconic and essential PG experience.
Asilomar Train Stop Trail
Not the official name of this trail. It may be called the Railroad Way Trail.
Follow the map for this trail. It starts on Railroad Way behind the Best Western. Continue to follow it, cross over Pico and Lighthouse Avenue. For the most adventurous, you can get to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary by taking a detour on Pico (left turn), to Grove Acre (left again) and keep walking until you see the big blue house. The grove will be on your right. Otherwise keep going and cross over Lighthouse (you’ll be walking through the back parking lot of an apartment complex) and behind the Lighthouse Lodge, past the cemetery, through the golf course (totally legit -there’s a walking path), turn left onto Del Monte, follow it to Sea Foam and right onto Ocean View Blvd to Lover’s Point.
Asilomar Coastal Walk
Asilomar State Beach & Conference Grounds at 800 Asilomar Avenue
If you want the lowdown on the native flora and fauna of the area, go to Asilomar and check out their interpretive library. There you can also get information on the various trails to take including the 25 acre dune walk.
Asilomar Beach Boardwalk to Spanish Bay **top pick for humans and dogs**
Bring your dog or rather have your dog bring you. We take Stella off-leash at our own risk. But you didn’t hear that from me. I have as of yet to see anyone getting tickets on this beach for having a dog off-leash, but the locals here act responsibly.
Start your walk at Asilomar Beach and follow the trails that hover over the beach and along 17 Mile Drive. You can walk past Spanish Bay to Point Joe and beyond. Pa-lease. Clean up after your dog and please don’t let your furry family member run into the native plant restoration areas. Just go out there and have a blast with your little baby punkin.
Fishwife to Rip Van Winkle Open Space **top pick for dogs and humans will like it too**
Trailhead at 1000 Congress Avenue
This is my favorite walk in Pacific Grove. Stella and I trek for hours on trails behind Pebble Beach. One has the sense of being in the deep woods. It gets tricky, though, so pay attention if you want to start from the Fishwife otherwise skip the rest of this text and go straight to the Rip Van Winkle Open Space trailhead at 1000 Congress.
Here’s how we roll:
Walk out our front door, walk to the old Asilomar Train Stop (behind the Best Western off of Dennett Street). Follow that along Crocker cross over Sunset Drive. Go behind the Fishwife Restaurant. There’s a trail back there. Follow it behind Spanish Bay (you’ll see golf maintenance facilities) and arrive at 17 Mile Drive, which you will cross over. There, you’ll find another trail that continues uphill. Stay to the left (you’ll see a road through the trees, that’s Congress) of the trails and eventually you’ll get to a stream with a log-type bridge to cross over. You have arrived at Rip Van Winkle Open Space. Have a blast. Wander among the Monterey Cypress and Monterey Pines. Appreciate the wild purple Irises poking up through the beds of pine needles and watch the tadpoles clumsily bumping along in the stream. If you forget poop bags, you can borrow one from another dog person or find some at the trailhead. They probably won’t want the bag back after you used it tho.
Easily, you could spend a couple of days tooling around downtown Pacific Grove. If you’re here on a Monday, be sure to visit the Farmer’s Market from 3:00-7:00 PM at corner of Central and Grand Ave in front of Jewell Park, the Natural History Museum, and the Pacific Grove Library. See how many murals you can find or check any of the 28 parks that patiently await your arrival.
By Wheels (and a bicycle frame)
Bike riding is practically a mandatory activity while visiting PG, and it’s slower-pace makes it easier for you to bike around town with minimal worries of getting run over. Check this useful site, Bicycling Monterey, for more information and maps.
Ocean View Boulevard **top pick for a short ride**
This is a stunning ride if you’re looking for something easy and quick. Be prepared to stop often and gawk at beautiful things. Look out for whale spouts off toward the horizon.
Start with a brief history lesson at Point Pinos Lighthouse (80 Asilomar Ave), the oldest operating lighthouse on the West coast, then follow Asilomar to Ocean View Blvd and continue to take a slow exploration along Ocean View Blvd and pass by the Pacific Grove Marine Conservation Area (look for sea lions and otters in the cove) to Lover’s point (look for otters in the cove) and follow it to the bike lane that continues onto the Aquarium.
Take some cash along. The lighthouse charges $2.00/adult and $1.00/child and when you get to Lover’s Point or Cannery Row, you may want to stop for a treat.
Monterey Bay Coastal Trail aka Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail **top pick for a long ride**
If you’re looking for some hardy exercise with stunning views of the rugged Pacific Ocean accessorized by amber-colored dunes, then step right up. Previously an unused railroad corridor, the Monterey Bay Coastal “rail-trail” is one of 1600 nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors. This trail is 18 miles from Pacific Grove to Castroville. But if a 36 mile roundtrip bike isn’t enough for your studly self, then you can continue onto 17 mile drive and add, well, 17 miles.
Taking Ocean View Blvd trail (as shown above) from PG continue on and keep following the bike trail signs through and past Monterey. Stop along the way and meet interesting people like artists in their glory. Here’s a shout-out for the talents of Maggie Renner Hellmann.
There are a couple of points near Marina and Sand City where you will find yourself in the mix of urban life and traffic riding underneath the highway, but stay with it on the trail and you’ll come out above the dunes overlooking the wild Pacific Ocean.
17 Mile Drive
It’s called the 17 Mile Drive, yet we think it should be renamed the 17 Mile Ride. As a bike rider, you do not have to pay the $10.00 entrance at the Pacific Grove gate. Just zoom on by. Take water and enjoy the fresh ocean breezes along with the multi-million dollar homes. Stay with it and you’ll end up in Carmel. Here, you will have to pay a lot of attention to the drivers who are busily gawking at the stunning vistas. If you go during the AT&T golf tournament, you may catch a glimpse of a celebrity or two. Scott saw Bill Murray. He’s so cool. I’m sure Bill Murray is too.
What is your favorite thing to do in the great outdoors of Pacific Grove?
I’m an introvert… I love being by myself, love being outdoors, love taking a long walk with my dogs and looking at the trees, flowers, the sky.
It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature’s gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever.