Monterey’s coastline is classic, but to get a lay of the land head up to the highest point on the peninsula, Jacks Peak. At just over 1,000 feet tall, this green, forested and peaceful ridge-top park provides some beautiful views of Monterey Bay and Carmel Valley, and a network of trails that are prime in spring. Visit on a Saturday afternoon and it’s not uncommon to see just a handful of other people. For an easy-to-moderate hike that features the season’s best in less than 90 minutes, take a 2.5-mile clockwise loop among Monterey pine madrone, coast live oak and plenty of poison oak (wear long pants!) Start on the Earl Moser Trail and immediately be greeted with sneak-a-peek views of Monterey Bay. The wide trail soon narrows to a singletrack and threads through a dense forest. Along the way, a solitary bench overlooks Carmel Valley. Blooming wildflowers like the violet Douglas iris, orange sticky monkey and yellow buttercups decorate the trail. The final half-mile will test your navigational acumen with two unmarked trails (see our directions below) and saves the best for last: while hiking the final stretch of a balcony trail, the views are unobstructed, swooping across the valley and out to the Santa Lucia Range. This Jack’s a diamond.
To reach Jacks Peak: From Hwy 1 and Hwy 68 in Monterey, go east on Hwy 68 1.5 miles to Olmsted Rd. Turn right and go 1 mile. Turn left onto Jacks Peak Dr. Just after the entrance kiosk, make a left and park at the east peak parking lot. Print out a map of Jacks Peak before you go. Take the Earl Moser Trail for 1 mile. At the T intersection with Madrone Trail go left. Continue on Madrone Trail passing the intersection with Ceanothus Trail. When it reaches a T intersection with Rhus Trail go right. This short but fairly steep uphill soon levels out. Keep an eye out for the Pine Trail where you make a right (unfortunately, it’s unmarked; if you reach the road you’ve gone two minutes too far.) At the final intersection (also unmarked), go left and uphill on the Sage Trail back to the parking area. Dog-friendly! (but watch that they don’t get into the poison oak).