Monterey hugs the California coastline and is filled with sea views, wooded areas, a wide array of wildlife, and an extensive number of natural gems. With all the beauty on offer, hiking in Monterey allows you to stretch your legs in an array of gorgeous natural landscapes, scenes, and wildlife. 

There are so many incredible Monterey hiking trails to suit everyone’s skill levels here. So getting yourself out of the house and into the sunshine couldn’t be easier.

So strap on a pair of hiking boots and pick a trail and get out into the bright California sun. The many different state parks in Monterey have a wide variety of trails to choose from: easy, moderate, and hard. And we share the best Monterey hiking trails with you right here!

Hiking in Monterey
Best Hiking Trails in Monterey

Hiking in Monterey: Easy Trails

Bask in the California sun, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy being out in nature on these easy trails.

1. Overlook Trail to McWay Falls

The trail to McWay Falls has some of the most stunning views that Big Sur offers. This easy 2-km out-and-back hike takes you along the scenic cliffs of the California coastline towards a gorgeous viewpoint, and is a part of the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

At the viewpoint, you will see the McWay Falls pouring into the McWay Cove and beach below. Panoramic views are on offer at that viewpoint, and it’s also a good position to see migrating whales. California Condors are also frequently seen in the eucalyptus trees of the park, so keep an eye on what’s happening above your head!

This is an incredible hike that will allow you to see a wide array of nature’s spectacular features in just a quick trek.

Location: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Start and End: Loop trail to overlook point

Distance: 1.9km

Duration: 40 minutes

Elevation: 59m

Hiking in Monterey
Best Hiking Trails in Monterey

2. Skyline Nature Trail

Jacks Peak County Park is the ideal destination for anyone looking for an easy stroll and expansive views to admire. This is a perfect leisurely hike and despite its short length, it includes breathtaking views of Monterey Bay, Carmel Valley, and Point Lobos.

Not only are the views expansive, but there are bird watching opportunities in the park and along the trail, as well as a waterfall for hikers to enjoy and have a dip in. This is an easy trail that all skill levels can enjoy. The trail begins at the Jack’s Peak Trailhead and creates a looped route.

Location: Jack’s Peak County Park

Start and End: Loop trail starting at Jack’s Peak Trailhead

Distance: 1.3km

Duration: 25 minutes

Elevation: 37m

Hiking in Monterey
Best Hiking Trails in Monterey

3. Moss Landing State Beach Loop

Make your way between the dunes and Monterey Bay towards the mouth of Elkhorn Slough on this hike. Elkhorn Slough is one of the largest estuaries in California and is home to a plethora of marine species, including many sea otters!

Hiking to Elkhorn Slough will give you the opportunity to birdwatch and catch sight of some of the wildlife in the area. So this is the perfect Monterey hiking trail for wildlife lovers.

This there-and-back hike is best experienced when the coastal fog isn’t thick, so fall and spring are ideal weather-wise. The dunes provide incredible panoramic views of the scenery too. Elkhorn Slough is considered an ecological treasure in the greater California area which offers a wide array of nature’s best views, so you’re guaranteed to enjoy hiking here!

Location: Moss Landing State Beach

Start and End: out-and-back trail to Elkhorn Slough

Distance: 6.6km

Duration: 1h 40 minutes

Elevation: 20m

Hiking in Monterey
Best Hiking Trails in Monterey

4. Fort Ord Dunes State Park Loop Trail

Fort Ord Dunes is a recently opened state park, so the campground and beach facilities are pristine and new. The 6.6km trail here is along the beach and eventually takes you down the paved path to the beach.

This is an excellent trail to take a walk, ride a bike, and explore the dunes of the stunning Monterey Coast. In fact, as it was once home to a United States Army base, there’s a still visible grid in the dunes that was once used as a firing range.

The trail is easy, but it may become a bit trickier once you hit the dunes. This easy trail in the Fort Ord Dunes State Park is the perfect hike to explore the dunes on the California coastline.

Location: Fort Ord Dunes State Park

Start and End: Loop trail to beach

Distance: 6.6km

Duration: 1h 50 minutes

Elevation: 72m

Hiking in Monterey
Best Hiking Trails in Monterey

5. Andrew Molera Beach Trail

The Andrew Molera State Park has over 20 miles of magnificent hiking trails in the Big Sur area. There’s so much to see in this park, including the Big Sur River, wildlife, and the beach.

The 3.7km Beach Trail is actually one of the only ways to access the scenic beaches in the Andrew Molera State Park, so it’s well worth doing. The hike takes you along a scenic trail where you can watch sea otters in the California Coastal Preserve, amongst other wildlife. This beach is also an excellent spot to view whales during migration.

This is a fantastic Monterey hiking trail that will allow you to witness a huge array of what the beautiful coast of California has to offer.

Location: Andrew Molera State Park

Start and End: Parking lot to Andrew Molera Beach

Distance: 3.4km

Duration: 35 minutes

Elevation: 21m

6. Limekiln Creek Trail

The Limekiln Trail is a part of Big Sur’s Limekiln State Park and is lauded as one of the most well-kept secrets in Big Sur. Although the trail has been closed recently due to fire damage, it is worth mentioning in anticipation of the reopening.

This Monterey hiking trail offers a glimpse into Big Sur’s industrial heritage as you will pass by the remnants of four massive iron and stone kilns that Rockland Lime and Lumber Company constructed and used to purify lime. The trail hugs the Limekiln Creek to the remnants of the lime kiln, which blend into the natural forest.

The Limekiln Trail is a lovely shaded trail that follows the Limekiln Creek through the dense redwood forest that once fuelled the kiln fires. Home to some of the oldest redwoods in the state, this hike is the perfect escape on a hot fall day, thanks to the cool microclimate of the area.

Location: Limekiln State Park

Start and End: Parking lot to Limekilns

Distance: 1.3km

Duration: 50 minutes

Elevation: 52m

Hiking in Monterey
Best Hiking Trails in Monterey

Hiking in Monterey: Moderate Trails

If you want a more strenuous hike, then Monterey has many longer and more intense hikes to offer.

The great thing about the hikes in Monterey is that many trails are interconnected so that you can build a longer or shorter hike according to your requirements, and how energetic you feel that day! (Recommended: Camping in Monterey).

1. Point Lobos Loop Trail

Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to some incredible trails, and the Point Lobos State Reserve offers a spectacular collection of hikes that make up the Point Lobos Loop Trail.

The collective trail is full of various environments, flora and fauna, Monterey pine, Cypress groves, and coastal shrubbery. The views include tidal pools and rocky beaches, making this an incredible hike with many sights to see. The trail is subsequently full of wildlife, from sea lions, shorebirds, and all sorts of ocean life!

Hike highlights include Whalers Cove, Bluefish Cove, Sealion Cove, and China Cove. We think the best time of year to hike the trail is during September, when the summer heat can burn away the fog from the coastline.

As an added bonus, this looped trail is well maintained and has plenty of restrooms and rest spots along the way.

Location: Point Lobos State Reserve

Start and End: Loop Trail

Distance: 10.8km

Duration: 3h 10 minutes

Elevation: 226m

Hiking in Monterey
Best Hiking Trails in Monterey

2. Huckleberry Hill Loop Trail

The Huckleberry Hill Loop is a 3.1km loop trail at the Huckleberry Hill Nature Preserve. The park is just one mile from Downtown Monterey and accessible through the Veteran’s Memorial Park. Which makes this hike very convenient.

The park is 81 acres and has numerous hiking trails at various levels. The Huckleberry is one of the moderate level hikes in the park and will take an estimated one hour and ten minutes.

This is a particularly interesting hike for anyone who loves bird watching, as you can see many as you walk through the gloom provided by the trees.

Location: Huckleberry Hill Nature Preserve

Start and End: Loop Trail from Veteran’s Memorial Park

Distance: 3.1 km 

Duration: 1h 10 minutes

Elevation: 165m

Hiking in Monterey
Best Hiking Trails in Monterey

3. Garland Ranch Waterfall Trail

This is the hike for you if you are looking for a dog-friendly hike! This scenic trek leads to a sandstone grotto at the base of a seasonal 60-foot waterfall – which is perfect for a dip.

This shady and lush hike winds up a trail, but there are many different trails within Garland Ranch Regional Park, but the Lupine Loop Trail most easily accesses the Waterfall Trail.

Location: Garland Ranch Regional Park

Start and End: Loop Trail

Distance: 3.4km

Duration: 1h 5 minutes

Elevation: 84m

4. Moses Spring Trail to Rim Trail Loop

The Moses Spring Trail to Rim Trail Loop is a spectacular hike in the Pinnacles National Park. Several hiking trails make this a must visit park, but this trek is our favorite.

Rated as a moderate hike, this 4km hike features views of the Pinnacles, a lake, and birdwatching opportunities. The Pinnacles are utterly spectacular and were formed by volcanoes millions of years ago.

Location: Pinnacles National Park

Start and End: Loop Trail

Distance: 4 km

Duration: 1h 20 minutes

Elevation: 160 feet

Hiking in Monterey
Best Hiking Trails in Monterey

Hiking in Monterey: Difficult Trails

To enjoy the challenging trails that Monterey offers, you will need to grab a water bottle, a sunhat and be prepared to exert yourself!

1. Condor Gulch Trail to High Peaks Trail Loop

The Condor Gulch Trail to High Peaks Trail Loop is one of the best trails throughout the Pinnacles National Park. This trail is a difficult hike, with a very steep and narrow path, especially in the High Peaks section. But hiking it will give you a great leg workout and a fantastic view of the Pinnacles!

Location: Pinnacles National Park

Start and End: Loop Trail

Distance: 8.9km

Duration: 3h 20 minutes

Elevation: 1300 feet

Hiking in Monterey
Best Hiking Trails in Monterey

2. Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

This incredible trail stretches across the waterfront of Monterey Bay and is a link in the 1200 mile Coastal Trail which is planned to run the length of California. The 18 miles of trail are tucked along the coastline from Castroville to Pacific Grove, and while this hike is easy, we’ve included it in this section as it can take 4-5 hours to complete.

The route is well-trafficked as it has many of the most popular tourist spots, including Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The section between Old Fisherman’s Wharf and Lovers Point is particularly popular and stretches 3.5 km.

The trail follows the old Southern Pacific Railway, which was converted in 1986 by the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District who saw the potential in the conversion. It’s a popular Monterey hiking trail throughout the year, thanks to its accessibility. But it is particularly beautiful in spring because of the blooming wildflowers.

Location: Seaside, California

Start and End: Castroville to Pacific Grove 

Distance: 21.4km

Duration: 4-5h

Elevation: 168m

Hiking in Monterey
Best Hiking Trails in Monterey

3. Ollason Loop Peak

The Ollason Loop Peak hike is a very strenuous climb but with an incredible view as a reward. That reward is sweeping views of Monterey Bay and the Salinas Valley once you get to the top!

This hike is even better during the right seasons like spring when the views are filled with prolific wildflowers, or in Autumn when the colors of fall dominate. This tends to be a very sunny hike, so pack sunblock and a water bottle. You can also bring your dog as long as they wear a leash.

Location: Toro Regional Park

Start and End: Loop Trail

Distance: 13.4km

Duration: 4h 55 minutes

Elevation: 548m