Arroyo Seco Gorge(ous)

Geology, Hiking, Photography


This is about the fourth trip Susie and I have made to the trail along Arroyo Seco Gorge, which is about 45 minutes southeast of the ranch by Carmel Valley Road.  Each time I like how easily we get to the action:  This view is about 150 yards from where we parked the trusty Element…


This is typical of the vistas we get for miles as we hike (or bike) along a fire road that has us going between bright sunshine that’s reflecting heat off the exposed rock faces and the cool shadows of wooded trails.

Hundreds of feet below us is the Arroyo Seco river.  Right below us.  Like keep-the-dog-on-the-leash below us.  And all around are the 3,000 and 4,000 foot mountains of the Ventana Wilderness.  All presented within 150 yards of the parked car.

So you can drive out Carmel Valley Road from the coast, which is a great ride in it’s own right, then turn into the Arroyo Seco area, pay your $10, park your car and immediately get into some really beautiful scenery.

On this trip we brought along Dewey, the jackcheese (chihuahua + jack russell = jackcheese), who would lead us to our destination for the day…

The trail goes for miles in much the same manner.  Stretches along rock walls, which is fun if you’re a rock nut, and into the woods, where you the road is lined with ferns and wildflowers.  The exposed rocks give a hint of the tortured geology of the ground we’re standing on.


There are short detours to open meadows and for the hearty, trails that run down to the Arroyo Seco river and it’s scenic pools, short falls and canyon walls.  Going down to the river would be a worthy side trip especially on a hot summer weekday.


There are a few trails down, but the one we thought looked reasonable started near a few refuse cans along the trail just a little bit further from our side trip to the cool Santa Lucia creek.

There is a public area where people can swim and picnic right past the entrance, but it always seemed a little crowded to us, so we’ve always opted to drive to the trailhead and start our visit from there.

We’ve been out here before on the bikes, which is a different way of having the same fun.  I always end up walking uphill a good part of the trip, but as always with bikes and hills, the return trip back down is the payoff.


On one trip I rode (and walked) for 3 hours deeper and higher into the backcountry.  As you would expect, the trails goes higher, the views better and the air a little cooler.  At some points the fire road is just a narrow footpath because of rockslides.  But the ride back down was 40 minutes of absolute raving fun.  However, I didn’t bring enough water and was really hurting by the time I crawled back to the trailhead.  Really hurtin’.

Bring the water/drinks you think you’ll need, then double it.  The trail is deceptively hot and dry.  For both us and the dogs.  We just don’t want any melted jackcheese in the trail…


Kid Factor: (+) Accessible outdoor hikes, rocks, flowers, swimming near the entrance to the park. (-) Trail edge is dangerous, can be very hot and bright, poison oak around.

Photo Factor: (+) Wildflowers in the spring, large mountain vistas, river gorge has potential, especially if you hike down to the water’s edge, night sky could be insane star show.

Fitness Factor: (+) Easy access to great trail and views.  Hiking down to river’s edge might be a challenge on bad knees. Good place to bike even if you have to walk a bit.  Walking uphill, not much fun, but the ride back down is a scream. (-) Bring plenty to drink.  then double it.  Not kidding.  If you start to get thirsty and you’re out of drink, you should have turned back before now.  Been there, done that.  Also very bright, so sunglasses and sunscreen should be in your bag.