Notes for Potential Hikers
We took CalTrain to the San Jose Diridon station and connected with VTA’s Highway 17 Express bus.
After we reached Point Pinos we waked back to the Monterey Transit Plaza where we caught MST’s #55 Monterey – San Jose Express bus to San Jose Diridon station. Then we jumped on CalTrain to get home.
We spent two nights stealth camping in the dunes. Although Highway 1 is often less than two miles away, the beach is functionally quite isolated. Finding private places to set up camp was not an issue. Except in the vicinity of Pajaro Dunes, we saw very few people on the 24 miles of beach between La Selva Beach and Sand City.
The first eight miles is in Santa Cruz and Capitola on a mix of beaches and residential streets. From the Santa Cruz Transit Center, walk a few blocks to the San Lorenzo Riverway, a mixed-use path that follows the river to the beach. You can follow the beach south before you have to walk around the Santa Cruz boat harbor. From that point, pick your own combination of sand and streets to continue south. At the eastern edge of Capitola, acquire the Monterey Bay shoreline and follow the beach almost all the way to Monterey. To make the trip a little shorter, a hiker could take a city bus from Santa Cruz to Capitola or Aptos and eliminate some of the town walking.
Walk along about 38 miles of beach to downtown Monterey. There are three obstacles.
- Parajo River mouth just south of the Pajaro Dunes development. Unless there has been recent substantial rain, this should not be a problem to wade.
- Elkhorn Slough empties into the Pacific at Moss Landing. Unless you can find someone to ferry you across or have a pack raft, you will have to walk inland and cross the Highway 1 bridge.
- About four miles south of Moss Landing the Salinas River reaches the ocean. There may be a sandbar across the river mouth and even when there is no sandbar the water may be low enough to wade. If the water is too deep, as it was on our hike, walk inland along the riverbank, making use of farm tracks as appropriate, and cross on the Highway 1 bridge. A riverside path leads back to the beach.
At the south end of Monterey Bay you reach the small city of Monterey. There is a nice coastal walk that extends the trip another 5 miles to Point Pinos in Pacific Grove. Many seabirds and occasional whales can be seen from Point Pinos. While in Monterey, it is well worth visiting the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Disclaimer: Do not rely on our exact tracks for your route; use skill and common sense. Use the stated distances as guidance.