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Carmel River State Beach

Carmel River State Beach offers fine views of Carmel and Point Lobos, and Monastery Beach (also called San Jose Creek Beach), at its southern end, is a popular diving spot. The beaches themselves are not accessible unless you can bring a beach wheelchair (and then only Carmel River Beach), but the coastal trail on a short bluff to the north of Monastery Beach is worth a visit.
State Parks Advisory: Many of California's state parks are reducing hours of operation and limiting access to facilities because of budget cuts. We recommend that you consult State Parks' website and contact the park directly before planning a visit.

Trail/Pathway Details

Trailhead: The turnoff to this trailhead, a driveway on the west side of Highway 1, is easy to miss. Coming from the south, look for a grove of eucalyptus trees and a little red schoolhouse one mile past Point Lobos State Natural Reserve; turn into the schoolhouse driveway. Coming from the north, the turnoff is three-tenths of a mile from Ribera Road. Park in the small parking area north of the school. For the best access to the trail, pass through a gate to the left of the official trailhead, onto a moderately steep paved driveway. A sign marks the driveway as private, but according to State Parks you may use it to get to the alternative trailhead, though parking alongside it is not permitted. Continue along the driveway for 150 feet to the trailhead.

Length: Under one mile total

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Spur trails are less than 3 feet

Typical Grade: Gentle

The approach to the trail has a moderate slope, and spurs at the north end are moderately steep.

Terrain: Firm

Firm and smooth for all but the final loop, about 0.1 mile, which is hard but rough (gravel)


Mostly used by locals, this trail feels somewhat off the beaten tourist path and may be a welcome change from more popular sites in Monterey County. About half of the trail travels behind large homes that blend tastefully into the hillside, allowing views of Carmel to the north and Point Lobos to the south to draw your attention. You will see a lot of coyote brush, sage, grasses, and the ubiquitous iceplant. The route is only 10 or 20 feet above the ocean, close enough to look down into tidepools. At the first fork, go left to stay on the main trail along the coast, or right to travel uphill past the houses. A few hundred feet farther along the main trail, adventurous types can take a narrower (less than three feet wide) spur path to a tranquil picnic spot next to a rocky outcrop. When you reach the main trail’s end there is a lovely view of the Carmel River Lagoon, where we saw grebes diving in clear water while brown pelicans flew overhead. 

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Beach Wheelchair: Yes

There are no beach wheelchairs at the park, but you can borrow one at nearby Monterey Beach (831-373-5357) or Asilomar Conference Center (831-372-4076) if you can transport it in your vehicle.

Accessible Parking: Yes

The only designated accessible parking is at Carmel River Beach. There are no marked spaces at the trailhead, and room for only a few cars. Alternatively, you can park at Monastery Beach (shoulder alongside Highway 1) and travel along the highway shoulder to the trailhead, but the ride can be bumpy.

Accessible Restroom: Yes

At Carmel River State Beach parking lot. No restroom at trailhead. 
South view from trail (Point Lobos)
South view from trail (Point Lobos) (Dan Hill)

Features icon key

  • Beach Wheelchairs Available
  • hiking

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: California State Parks
Address: Carmelo St., Carmel
Nearest City: Carmel
Phone: (831) 649-2836
Hours: Always open
Fees: None
Dogs: On leash
Unless otherwise posted

Did You Know?

Spanish Explorers and missionaries once commonly visited Carmel River Beach. Resting atop Cross Hill is a modern cross commemorating the one placed in 1602 by explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno.

Reviewed by Ann Sieck, October 14, 2009
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
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