When Lori Fabris suggested this hike, I had my doubts.
Although you should always trust your trainer, Lori is a mountain biker.
As riders, rather than walkers, bikers appear to love steep hills, long
multi-mile jaunts (Whatís another ten miles?), and lots of dangerous
Speaking for hikers, we actually like to see the
scenery, not in a blur, but rather step by step. And zipping up some hill,
simply to roll down the other side is, without wheels, not that much fun.
Also, the idea of returning to an army base, especially
one once known as the home of advanced infantry training, brought back
memories of double time marches to rifle ranges, PT drills, and
But now that Fort Ord is no longer under military
occupation, these public lands have been transformed into a great
recreational area for walkers, bikers, dogs, and horses. Over 50 miles of
trails take you through 7,200 acres of pleasant valleys, up and down over
rounded California hills, and high up ridges with great views of the
Salinas Valley and the back country of Fort Ord. In fact, if it wasnít for
signs saying "WARNING. EXPLOSIVES AREA! DO NOT ENTER," you might think you
were in a state park. (For some reason, I avoided these areas.)
Instead, I focused on Fort Ordís northeast corner,
south of Reservation Road and north of Jacks Road, and bounded to the west
by Engineer Canyon Road and to the east by Portola Road/Creekside Terrace.
To get there from Highway 1 in Monterey, take Del Monte Avenue, then turn
left on Reservation Road. This road takes you around the back of Fort Ord.
Just before you reach Highway 68, turn right to Creekside Terrace. Youíll
find a parking area and an entry road (Old Reservation Road) into the
On my hike, I followed the road until I saw a trail
marker on the left for Trail 2. This sand road is relatively flat for a
short distance, and then climbs from 70 to 350 feet. To gain more
altitude, I turned right on Trail 34, also well-named as the Staircase
Trail. It takes you up a short but very steep trail with natural steps
gouged into the sandstone. I donít think that many horse or bike riders
would or could ride up the 45 percent grade.
The tough climb was worth it. I emerged high on the
ridge-top Trail 33. Turning right, it was only a few steps to a bench
overlooking the Salinas Valley. After a short rest and a well-earned
apple, I walked back south along the ridge for several miles. The wide and
often quite sandy trail was relatively flat, offering good canyon views to
the left, and wide views of a somewhat more desolate rocky "desertscape"
on the right. As I headed deeper into the public lands, the landscape
looked drier and dustier. It was hard to believe that I was only a few
miles from civilization.
When I reached Jackís Road, I turned left, and walked
downhill about one hundred yards to find Trail 41 (Goat Trail) on the
right. After a short walk, the trail comes to a T. I went left. As the
single track trail went up a good grade to the top of a small hill, the
view changed from dusty desolation to rounded hills, mostly meadowed but
with occasional oaks. It was a view from a Northern California picture
The trail continued around and generally down the
rounded hills for a mile and a half until it met Oil Well Road. It was my
favorite trail of the day.
I turned left on Oil Well Road, following it until it
met Trail 2 on the right. This trail goes up a long but easy grade, past
an interesting old log cabin and back to Trail 34, to complete the loop,
then down Trail 2 back to Old Reservation Road and my car.
As a reward for my good work, I stopped off in Moss
Landing for a late lunch at the Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant,
located just north of the power plant and bridge. The 16 wild-caught
lemon-pepper prawns served on a large Caesar salad ($10.95) filled the
bill and me.
I recommend Fort Ord for hikers, bikers, and
equestrians. I saw a few dogs off-leash. It offers a wide selection of
trail difficulty and length, good views, and easy-to-follow well-marked
trails. Although it is almost impossible to get lost, be sure to bring a
map and water. Shade is somewhat sparse, and it can be hot and dusty in
For a simple trail map and more information, visit
website www.ca.blm.gov/hollister/trail_map_fo.htm, or call the Fort Ord
office at 831-394-8314. For more detailed trail profiles, 3D maps, current
trail conditions, and use patterns, visit www.fortordpubliclands.org.