The Monterey Hotel in Historic Downtown Monterey

This room was provided free of charge; all opinions are my own.

The Monterey Hotel is situated right in downtown Monterey, a stone’s throw from Fisherman’s Wharf. It is a beautiful old Victorian building that is actually part of the Monterey Historic Park, and it was a great home base for two days of exploring both Monterey and the Big Sur coastline. Here is all the information on this hotel.

Details

  • Book Here
  • Continental breakfast included
  • Parking offsite or valet for an added charge
  • Location: 407 Calle PrincipalMontereyCalifornia 93940

Getting There

Take Highway 1 to towards Monterey and exit 401A for Aguajito Road. Turn left onto Aguajito and then left on Fremont St. You will continue onto Alvarado St, and the hotel will be on the left. There is no parking lot, so you must valet or park downtown.

The Hotel

When I first saw this hotel while exploring the historic park, I loved the beautiful exterior with its Victorian charm. The inside retains that historic vibe, but with many of the modern amenities you have come to expect from upscale hotels like this.

Since we were gone most of the day exploring the area we elected to valet park each night when we got to the hotel. It is a nice experience as the car was always waiting for us when we needed it.

We booked a king room in the recently redone part of the hotel, and it was a large, spacious room complete with a bed, couch, and fireplace.

The bed was comfortable and spacious while the included couch and fireplace (activated with a light switch) made it a beautiful place to relax with a glass of wine as well.

The bathroom was large and well lit with a nice shower that got hot fast. The included continental breakfast was a great addition to the hotel experience as it had lots of pastries and fresh bagels as well as large bowls of fruit and, of course, coffee.

Once you got your food, you dined in a beautiful historic room right off the hotel lobby.

The hotel proved to be an excellent spot for exploring the Monterey area as you could easily walk to Fisherman’s Wharf for restaurants like LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle and the Old Fisherman’s Grotto.

You could drive to Cannery Row in about 5 minutes as well, which has the aquarium and which is a great place to walk around and explore the city.

The Big Sur coast was only about 25 minutes south, and Carmel is about that distance as well.

All in all, this was a great home base for our two days of exploring and fun hotel to relax at. Check it out if you are in the area and let me know what you think in the comments.

Fort Ord National Monument: Hiking from the Creekside Terrace Trailhead

When I went to explore Pinnacles National Park a few weeks ago, I wanted to spend a little time in Fort Ord National Monument as well. There was almost no information about it online when I was researching though so I just drove to the Creekside Terrace Trailhead, grabbed a map and set out to see what I could find. I will say that this short hike was beautiful, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought. I am sure there are a bunch of other great trails here so let me know if you have a recommendation in the comments.

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Details

  • About 2 miles round trip
  • 400 feet of elevation gain
  • Location: Creekside Terrace, Salinas, CA 93908

Getting There

I started this hike from the Creekside Terrace Trailhead, which is off Highway 68 south of Salinas. You will see the sign for the monument when you arrive, and you will proceed into the large parking lot.

The Trail

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There are tons of trails here, and it is relatively easy to follow them so if you want to do something different than me that is fine as well. I recommend grabbing a map near the bathroom, which will show you the trails and help you wind around and get back to your car.

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To follow my specific trail, set out on Old Reservation road for about a tenth of a mile. You will see a single track (trail 31) that leads off to the left, and that is the one I took.

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After a short walk uphill, you will start going in and out of shaded areas. These trees (oak I believe) are nice, and each new covered area provides another photo opportunity.

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This section of the trail is uphill so take your time, some parts are steeper than others but overall it is very manageable.

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As you start to gain elevation, you will get excellent views back towards the parking lot and the farming area out in the distance.

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When the trail crests over the hill, you will reach a three-way split. I went on Trail 34 to the right as I saw a unique rock formation on the hill in the distance, so I wanted to check it out.

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This section is short as well, and it proceeds uphill on a single track until you get to the aforementioned rock / cliff face.

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I explored this a little bit as it seemed to have either wind caves or animal dug caves, not sure which.

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When you reach the top of the hill, you will have a fantastic view down the valley and back into the monument.

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This area is beautiful, and you can see all of the trails cutting through it, so I am sure there are a bunch of good ones.

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From here I went on Trail 26 as this took you along the ridgeline for about a tenth of a mile. It was a charming section as well, and I just enjoyed being able to see down into the valley for a little bit longer.

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When Trail 26 ends I took a hard right on Sandy Ridge Road which took me back in the direction that I started.

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This part of the trail is on an old dirt fire road, and it is much less exciting than the single track. This trail goes for about a half mile as you continue downhill and can see the parking lot down to the right.

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Eventually, the trail winds around the mountain, and you will see a paved road that you will want to cross and continue on trail 30.

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Stay right at the fork and proceed around the mountain and back along the other side which is directly above the parking lot.

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This section will take you past the cliff you no doubt saw when you parked your car.

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It is sheer cliff face with the same type of coastal rock formations you would see at a place like Torrey Pines. It is a cool end to the hike.

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After checking out the cliff face, you will proceed for another 5-7 minutes before the trail dumps you back down into the parking lot.

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All in all, this was an excellent introduction into the beautiful Fort Ord National Monument. While it is no Pinnacles National Park, I still want to make my way back up to it again to explore more of the trails. Let me know if you have any recommendations for this area in the comments.

Fort Ord National Monument: Hiking from the Creekside Terrace Trailhead

When I went to explore Pinnacles National Park a few weeks ago, I wanted to spend a little time in Fort Ord National Monument as well. There was almost no information about it online when I was researching though so I just drove to the Creekside Terrace Trailhead, grabbed a map and set out to see what I could find. I will say that this short hike was beautiful, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought. I am sure there are a bunch of other great trails here so let me know if you have a recommendation in the comments.

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Details

  • About 2 miles round trip
  • 400 feet of elevation gain
  • Location: Creekside Terrace, Salinas, CA 93908

Getting There

I started this hike from the Creekside Terrace Trailhead, which is off Highway 68 south of Salinas. You will see the sign for the monument when you arrive, and you will proceed into the large parking lot.

The Trail

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There are tons of trails here, and it is relatively easy to follow them so if you want to do something different than me that is fine as well. I recommend grabbing a map near the bathroom, which will show you the trails and help you wind around and get back to your car.

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To follow my specific trail, set out on Old Reservation road for about a tenth of a mile. You will see a single track (trail 31) that leads off to the left, and that is the one I took.

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After a short walk uphill, you will start going in and out of shaded areas. These trees (oak I believe) are nice, and each new covered area provides another photo opportunity.

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This section of the trail is uphill so take your time, some parts are steeper than others but overall it is very manageable.

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As you start to gain elevation, you will get excellent views back towards the parking lot and the farming area out in the distance.

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When the trail crests over the hill, you will reach a three-way split. I went on Trail 34 to the right as I saw a unique rock formation on the hill in the distance, so I wanted to check it out.

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This section is short as well, and it proceeds uphill on a single track until you get to the aforementioned rock / cliff face.

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I explored this a little bit as it seemed to have either wind caves or animal dug caves, not sure which.

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When you reach the top of the hill, you will have a fantastic view down the valley and back into the monument.

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This area is beautiful, and you can see all of the trails cutting through it, so I am sure there are a bunch of good ones.

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From here I went on Trail 26 as this took you along the ridgeline for about a tenth of a mile. It was a charming section as well, and I just enjoyed being able to see down into the valley for a little bit longer.

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When Trail 26 ends I took a hard right on Sandy Ridge Road which took me back in the direction that I started.

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This part of the trail is on an old dirt fire road, and it is much less exciting than the single track. This trail goes for about a half mile as you continue downhill and can see the parking lot down to the right.

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Eventually, the trail winds around the mountain, and you will see a paved road that you will want to cross and continue on trail 30.

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Stay right at the fork and proceed around the mountain and back along the other side which is directly above the parking lot.

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This section will take you past the cliff you no doubt saw when you parked your car.

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It is sheer cliff face with the same type of coastal rock formations you would see at a place like Torrey Pines. It is a cool end to the hike.

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After checking out the cliff face, you will proceed for another 5-7 minutes before the trail dumps you back down into the parking lot.

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All in all, this was an excellent introduction into the beautiful Fort Ord National Monument. While it is no Pinnacles National Park, I still want to make my way back up to it again to explore more of the trails. Let me know if you have any recommendations for this area in the comments.

Bird Rock Trail in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is by far one of my favorite state parks in all of California. The majestic piece of coastline it protects is some of the best in the area, even comparable to the Big Sur area to the south. I got a chance to do the Bird Rock Trail and Cypress Grove when I was in the park, read all about the Bird Rock Trail below.

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Details

  • 1-mile round trip
  • $10 a car to enter the park
  • 50 feet of elevation gain
  • Wheelchair user accessible

Getting There

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Point Lobos is located off Highway 1, just South of Carmel. After entering the park, you will be given a map that will show you where to park for the trailhead. The parking lot holds about a dozen cars.

The Trail

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The hike begins by taking you up a small hill and from there hugs the coastline for the entirety of the walk.

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It then provides views of China Cove below which is a picturesque place that you need to see yourself.

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China Cove is a breeding area for sea lions, so it was closed off when I went, you could even see sea lions sitting below on the sand.

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From here you can also see bird rock in the distance which is a massive rock out in the water with hundreds of birds sitting on it. This is the destination for the hike.

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The trail then bends around a small hill and shows you Gibson Beach below you, another beach you can walk down too.

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It then heads around to Pelican Point, which is the ultimate end goal of the trail.

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There is another small cove that you will pass here, and that provides another awesome photo opportunity.

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The trail then ends at the lookout point for bird rock which is a flat area that provides an excellent 180-degree view of the coast and the birds.

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I found this spot to be awesome as there were so many birds and they were all collected on a few small rocks.

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I especially liked the seagulls that looked like they were infiltrating the other black birds.

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There is also a rock arch in the water to the left of you that you can see as well. It is beautiful and another great photo spot.

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After that, you will head back the way you came, but make sure to take your time as this truly is a great wildlife viewing area.

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As you can see, Point Lobos is amazing, and this is only one of the many trails. I can’t wait to go back and explore more, let me know what your favorite trail is in the comments below.

Carmel Belle: Great Breakfast in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel Belle is an excellent little breakfast spot in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It has an extensive menu of fun dishes, coffees, and juices, while providing a relaxed atmosphere with a large dining area featuring a full fireplace. If you are looking for a good breakfast spot in the town, look no further.

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Details

  • Cost: $8 – $12 for food
  • Location: San Carlos St, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923

Getting There

Carmel Belle is located right in downtown Carmel off Ocean Ave on San Carlos St. It is located inside of a small shopping mall, and it has the whole back area.

The Interior

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The decor is like that of a simple yet modern country kitchen with wood tones and curtains separating the dining area from where you order.

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There were lots of spaces for seating, but I imagine it gets busy during the weekends.

The Food

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I like the green eggs and ham for breakfast which is two poached eggs on top of prosciutto and country toast. Add to that a purée of arugula and herbs on top. The prosciutto is excellent and full of flavor while the purée adds a fresh taste to the dish. I was impressed by how well thought out the flavors were, even the country toast complimented the dish well. It is a good way to start the morning as it has protein but isn’t too heavy.

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If you are looking for a simpler meal the avocado toast is another great option. It is thinly sliced avocado sitting on top of artisan toast and drizzled with olive oil. Hard to beat and it is a great item to order with tomato soup for lunch.

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All in all, this is a great spot for a meal in Carmel. The food is light and the unique, the atmosphere is inviting, and the people are friendly, I will be back.

Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo

Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo was the second mission founded of the Alta California Missions. In that, it became a critical building for the success of the missions and ultimately the headquarters for the expansion of the ministry under Father Serra. The mission was founded in 1770 and became a National Historical Landmark in 1966. If you are traveling the coast, then you really should carve out some time to visit this mission, here are all the details.

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Details

  • Cost: $6.50
  • Location: 3080 Rio Rd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923

Getting There

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Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo is located in the Southern part of Carmel-By-The-Sea only a few minutes off Highway 1 on Rio Road. There is a large parking area for the mission.

The Mission

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After paying the fee, you will walk into the small courtyard and see the Basilica, which is one of the most beautiful of all the missions.

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This area is also home to a fountain and a lovely garden that you can walk through.

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There is a small museum room with a video on Father Serra here as well and a few artifacts from the area.

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Of course, there is the statue of Father Serra that you have come to expect at each of the California missions in the gardens to see. This mission is of particular importance when talking about Father Serra as it is his final resting place as well.

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After continuing around to the right of the chapel, you will reach the cemetery.

The Cemetery

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The cemetery is along the entire side of the mission and has a lot of unique gravestones with some ornate ones and some that are just small crosses.

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The Chapel

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The chapel is one of the most beautiful you will see on the missions trail.

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The ceiling is rounded, which is unique to this mission. The chapel itself is vast and could fit a lot of people.

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The chapel features a summer solstice window in the shape of a star. During the summer solstice, the light dances across the alter as it comes in through the star. Unfortunately, it is often foggy in Carmel so actually seeing this only happens every five years or so.

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The chapel is also the final resting place of Father Serra who was responsible for founding the first 9 California missions and who is honored with a statue at every mission. His grave is under the main altar.

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They even have wood from the original coffin he was buried in that was dug up to verify it was him over 60 years ago.

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Off to the left of the chapel, there is an area dedicated to Mary, which houses a statue that Father Serra brought over when he came to California on his first trip. It was lost for a long time before eventually being rediscovered, after which this altarpiece was created to hold it.

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After exiting the chapel, you will proceed into the museum which is one of the better ones I saw at the California Missions.

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The first room has a massive stone sculpture and coffin that was designed to be where Father Serra was buried. When it couldn’t fit into the chapel, it was decided that it should just be on display here.

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There is also a large glassed-in exhibit that features many of Father Serra’s items and church relics.

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The museum continues with more artifacts and relics in the next room, as well as a viewing portal for the Grand Sala.

The Grand Sala

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This room has been meticulously recreated to show what it would have looked like during the time the mission was being used. It was created to be the reception room of the mission.

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Continuing on, near the end of the museum, you will see Father Serra’s room furnished to look like it would have when he was there. I found it interesting to see so much about how he lived here.

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After exiting the museum, you will be back out in the gift shop and can proceed out from there. I think you can usually visit the courtyards as well, but they were off limits when I went.

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I do have to note that when I visited there was a painter there working on a painting of the mission. I talked to her for a while and thought it made a great photo to show her painting with the mission behind it. Her name was Julie Khyler, and you can read more about her at http://www.juliekhyler.com/

All in all, this is one of the best of the California Missions, it is incredibly beautiful and has a lot of wonderful history. Be sure to visit it if you are in the are and you can read all about my time at the missions here.

Mission San Antonio de Padua: California’s Third Mission

Mission San Antonio de Padua was the third of the Spanish missions founded in California. It was founded by Father Serra in 1771, and it is the least visited of the California Missions because it is the hardest to get to at about 26 miles off Highway 101. If you are a fan of California’s history, then this is a great mission to visit, though. Since it is so far away from a major city, it is one of the most historically intact missions, complete with an old tannery and water mill. Here is all the information so you can check it out yourself and read about my time at the other missions here.

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Details

  • Cost: $4
  • 26 miles off road
  • In a military compound but accessible to the public
  • Location: 1 Mission Creek Rd, Jolon, CA 93928

Getting There

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After getting off the 101 at Jolon Road, you will be driving for about 26 miles (I would recommend putting it into your GPS). At about 20 miles you will reach the army base. When I got there I told them I was headed to the mission and they waved me through. You will pass a ton of hummers and army related gear on the way before eventually reach a sign for the mission and a short dirt road to reach it. There is a lot of parking in the dirt lots.

The Exterior

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When I went the exterior was under heavy construction so it was not as nice as it would have been.

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The facade of the chapel was amazing though and it is one of the only mission chapels that has a facade that sticks out from the mission itself.

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The exterior also has a lot of old trees that have grown gigantic over the years. A few of them are from the 1800’s.

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This mission is different then most of the others as there are a few exterior things to see before going into the mission.

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The first is an aqueduct near the entrance and a well. The well actually had water in it when I visited which was crazy.

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Next off to the left there is a trail you can take to a few other spots.

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The first you will reach is the Indian cemetery which has a large stone wall all around it. The cemetery itself doesn’t have any headstones so you can’t see anything specific but it is a large cemetery.

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Next is a large stone threshing floor that the Indians in the area used. It reminded me of Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park, but not one large rock like that is.

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Lastly there was a tanning area and a small house that was the old water mill.

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This was one of my favorite spots at the mission as the house had a wheel below for regulating the water and it was beautifully maintained.

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There is a sign that shows where they used to grow wheat but of course, there is no longer any wheat there. After this I would recommend walking back to the mission and going inside.

The Mission

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The small gift shop you enter first included all of the usual mission items you will become accustomed to seeing. I paid my fee and then walked into the courtyard.

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The courtyard of this mission was large, and you could walk all around it. All sides of the missions quadrilateral shape were still accounted for which made it a great spot for photography.

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You can tell that this mission is less visited and less funded as the gardens are not as meticulously kept up as other missions but it’s still beautiful.

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There were large sections of flowers around the courtyard and the original vines from the when the mission was in use.

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Lastly there is a large fountain in the middle which I have become accustomed to seeing while at the missions.

The Chapel

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When I was there there was a school program going on in the chapel so I didn’t get to spend as much time as I normally do. This chapel was pretty and well kept up though.

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It was large and could house a decent amount of people for mass. The altarpiece itself was very plain and not the ornate design I had become accustomed to seeing.

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There was an amazing old painting that I saw on the wall of the chapel and that I thought was really impressive.

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After taking pictures in the chapel, I headed back out and back to my car. Even though this mission is really out of the way, it is a beautiful one with a lot of history scattered around and well worth seeing. If you want to read more about my time on El Camino Real check out this post and be sure to leave a comment if you have been.

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad: California’s 13th Mission

Located in the town of Soledad, about 45 minutes South of Monterey, Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad was the 13th of the 21 Spanish missions in California. This mission was founded by Fermín Francisco de Lasuén in 1791 and even though it has been largely rebuilt, the mission is still a great spot to explore on a road trip. I visited this mission on my fourth day on the El Camino Real road trip which you can read about here or read on for information on the Mission Soledad.

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Details

  • Cost: Free
  • Time Needed: 30 minutes
  • Location: 36641 Fort Romie Rd, Soledad, CA 93960

Getting There

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Mission Soledad is located about 3 miles off the freeway in the town of Soledad. Some signs direct you to it from the highway, and it is right in the middle of a bunch of farms. There is a large dirt parking lot.

The Mission Exterior

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Mission Soledad is only one main building as the rest have been destroyed over the years. There are plans to restore them but of course it comes down to getting the funds to do it.

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The exterior is beautiful though with lots of roses and an old bell hanging from a wood beam near the chapel.

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Across the parking lot there is a statue of Father Serra surrounded by manicured plants which makes for a good picture.

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Along the backside of the mission is the old courtyard and present cemetery.

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There are burial plots for some of the important people in the mission’s history.

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There is also a large fountain in the middle of the courtyard that has koi swimming in it and water cascading over the rocks.

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Along the opposite side of the courtyard sits the remains of the wall that formed the quadrilateral, as well as signs that show you where each piece would have been.

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After walking around the exterior, I headed into the museum.

The Museum

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The museum has multiple rooms, each representing a different time period of the mission’s history.

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The first room represents to the Indians of the area.

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The second showcases different mission artifacts.

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The last includes many different replicas of the buildings that make up the 21 Spanish missions. They are all laid out in a big case and it was cool to see the ones I had already visited.

The Chapel

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After leaving the museum, I headed into the chapel. This is one of the smallest mission chapels, up there with Santa Cruz, it is about a forth of the size of the other mission chapels.

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You also enter this chapel from the alter section, which allows you to walk right up to the alter as you walk into the chapel.

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The alter was pretty interesting as it had a doll version of the Blessed Mother ( at least that is what it looked like).

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After about 30 minutes of walking around I had seen all that the mission had to offer and headed out. This is a beautiful mission but not one of the best as it still needs a lot of building to be back to its original state; however it is free, so it’s hard to complain about it. Read more about the missions drive here and let me know what you think about this mission in the comment.

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad: California’s 13th Mission

Located in the town of Soledad, about 45 minutes South of Monterey, Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad was the 13th of the 21 Spanish missions in California. This mission was founded by Fermín Francisco de Lasuén in 1791 and even though it has been largely rebuilt, the mission is still a great spot to explore on a road trip. I visited this mission on my fourth day on the El Camino Real road trip which you can read about here or read on for information on the Mission Soledad.

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Details

  • Cost: Free
  • Time Needed: 30 minutes
  • Location: 36641 Fort Romie Rd, Soledad, CA 93960

Getting There

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Mission Soledad is located about 3 miles off the freeway in the town of Soledad. Some signs direct you to it from the highway, and it is right in the middle of a bunch of farms. There is a large dirt parking lot.

The Mission Exterior

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Mission Soledad is only one main building as the rest have been destroyed over the years. There are plans to restore them but of course it comes down to getting the funds to do it.

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The exterior is beautiful though with lots of roses and an old bell hanging from a wood beam near the chapel.

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Across the parking lot there is a statue of Father Serra surrounded by manicured plants which makes for a good picture.

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Along the backside of the mission is the old courtyard and present cemetery.

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There are burial plots for some of the important people in the mission’s history.

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There is also a large fountain in the middle of the courtyard that has koi swimming in it and water cascading over the rocks.

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Along the opposite side of the courtyard sits the remains of the wall that formed the quadrilateral, as well as signs that show you where each piece would have been.

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After walking around the exterior, I headed into the museum.

The Museum

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The museum has multiple rooms, each representing a different time period of the mission’s history.

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The first room represents to the Indians of the area.

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The second showcases different mission artifacts.

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The last includes many different replicas of the buildings that make up the 21 Spanish missions. They are all laid out in a big case and it was cool to see the ones I had already visited.

The Chapel

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After leaving the museum, I headed into the chapel. This is one of the smallest mission chapels, up there with Santa Cruz, it is about a forth of the size of the other mission chapels.

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You also enter this chapel from the alter section, which allows you to walk right up to the alter as you walk into the chapel.

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The alter was pretty interesting as it had a doll version of the Blessed Mother ( at least that is what it looked like).

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After about 30 minutes of walking around I had seen all that the mission had to offer and headed out. This is a beautiful mission but not one of the best as it still needs a lot of building to be back to its original state; however it is free, so it’s hard to complain about it. Read more about the missions drive here and let me know what you think about this mission in the comment.

Cypress Grove Trail & Allen Memorial Grove in Point Lobos

Point Lobos is one of the most beautiful state parks in all of California, and while it doesn’t have a ton of trails, it still has a lot of things to get excited about. My favorite spot in the entire park is the Cypress Grove Trail, which heads through Allen Memorial Grove and takes you out to an incredible vista along the coast, all in only 1 mile of hiking. You can get all of the information below.

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Details

  • 1-mile round trip
  • Park costs $10 to enter per car
  • No real elevation gain.

Getting There

After paying the fee, you will be given a park map which shows the trail. There are signs along the road that will direct you to it and it is hard to get lost. There are about 15 parking spots at the trailhead, and it can get busy on the weekends.

The Trail

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This is probably the most beautiful trail in the whole park as it has old growth cypress trees, amazing red moss, and beautiful coastal views.

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The trail is 1-mile round trip, and it heads out from the parking lot and almost immediately reaches a split in the road. Take whichever direction you want as it is a loop and you will come back the other way.

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I went to the left, and this way takes you into the cypress trees which provide shade and an amazing picture of the trail.

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After hiking through the trees, the path will eventually open back up, and you will get fantastic views of the coast and ocean in front of you. This is one of those areas where you just want to plan some time to relax and enjoy the beauty.

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I spent a while here as it was just too perfect and I didn’t want to leave.

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Eventually, I got myself going again and walked down the rocks to go back along the path.

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As you walk back along this route, note the above steps and look back at them when you get there as I thought it was an amazing photo as well.

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The rocks out in front of you in Pinnacles Cove provide another vista that would want to spend some time at. I took way more pictures then I needed too here as well.

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The trees along this part of the path had an amazing red moss that grew on them and a white moss on some of the others. It was crazy to be walking through large collections of red trees, and it is not something you see very often.

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There is another small set of stairs on the way back that takes you to another lookout point over Cypress Cove, which is epic as well.

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After that, the trail heads back the way it came and takes you back to the parking lot. I would recommend heading up the Elephant Seal Overlook Trail that shares the same parking lot as well. After that head over to Bird Rock Trail, which is another great spot to explore before leaving. Let me know what you thought of this trail in the comments.