Both 17s are roads, but that’s where the comparison ends. The 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach and the Del Monte Forest takes you through one of the most beautiful scenic areas in the world. Yes, it costs $9.25, but it’s worth it to spend time with the rich and famous. This is a more-than-humble subdivision for old money. The Pebble Beach Golf Links and The Lodge opened to the public in 1919.
The golf courses are among the world’s best—Pebble Beach, Spanish Bay, Del Monte, Spyglass Hill, and Poppy Hills. See them all, even if at a distance. The homes (and mortgages) are even bigger than ours. And the scenery is almost free.
You’ll see a dramatic Pacific coastline, including historical Spanish Bay, and vista points such as the Restless Sea, Point Joe, China Rock, Bird Rock, Seal Rock, Fanshell Overlook, Cypress Point, and Pescadero Point. Visit the Lone Cypress, a rugged tree that has prevailed on its rocky perch for over 250 years, and the bleached white Ghost Tree.
These points of interest are described in text and an illustrated map provided in a free brochure at the entrance gate. The road is well-marked and well-maintained. Each site displays location name and designated numbers on easy-to-read signs. Free parking is available at each site.
Despite the civilized surroundings, wildlife is abundant. You can see cormorants, pelicans, gulls, sea otters, sea lions, and herds of deer. The native wildflowers, twisted trees, sandy dunes, giant rocks, and crashing waves present delightful scenery.
Several of the beach areas offer walking and biking trails. About halfway around the 17-mile circuit at location 10 is the Bird Rock nature trail. It’s an easy walk of about one mile.
Bird Rock Nature Trail
The trailhead is at the south side of the Bird Rock parking area. You walk along the beach past noisy Bird Rock and Seal Rock, two small islands where you can hear the raucous bark of male sea lions and quieter harbor seals merging with the cries of gulls and other seabirds.
You cross over 17-Mile Drive and up a low rise to an observation deck. Watch for black-tailed deer as you pass through dunes to a forest of Monterey pines. A trail to the left takes you to a large clearing that is thought to be the site of an Indian village but is now home to a log-cabin shelter and a tribe of concrete picnic tables. To the right of the clearing, you’ll find a dirt road (Del Monte Forest Trail) that takes you through a pine forest draped with delicate lace lichen.
Go through two open gates to Dunes Road. A turn right takes you down through sand dunes to 17-Mile Drive. Down on the beach, turn right and go up the wooden stairs, then turn left on the trail to retrace your steps back to the parking area.
The Spanish Bay area hosts two nature trails, both beginning at The Inn of Spanish Bay. A longer 3.4-mile beach hike follows the coastal terrace from Point Joe at the southern end of Spanish Bay to Bird Rock. Another hike in the Pebble Beach area is in the S.F.B. Morse Botanical Reserve. The entrance is on Congress Road near Bird Rock Road. The trail forms a 1.8-mile loop through the Del Monte Forest.
After your drive, you may wish to stop at location 19, the Lodge at Pebble Beach® for food and a cool drink. You can choose from a luncheon at one of several restaurants and lounges, or pick up picnic supplies at The Market. Picnic tables on both sides of the market offer a pleasant place for an impromptu feast.
To reach 17-Mile Drive, take Highway 17 or San Jose-Soquel Road to Highway 1 toward Monterey. Past Highway 68 East watch for the entrance to 17-Mile Drive. This is only one of five entrances, but it is the easiest to find and allows you to start your tour with location 1. Although motorcycles are prohibited on 17-Mile Drive, I saw scooters and bicycles, suggesting that it’s not a class thing but rather a noise thing.
For hotel reservations, call 800-654-9300. For restaurant reservations, call 831-647-7500. For more information, visit www.pebblebeach.com. Trail maps are available in the Pebble Beach Nature Trails booklet and in Robert Stone’s Day Hikes Around Monterey & Carmel.