Monterey County boasts one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, from Watsonville in the north to famous Big Sur in the south. On the north side of the Monterey Peninsula, several beaches run together to form Monterey State Beach, popular with guests at adjacent hotels. Make sure your canine companion is leashed when walking here, and don’t stray out of the area between Wharf No. 2 and the Seaside portion of the strand, where dogs are not allowed.
Moving around the peninsula to the scenic village of Pacific Grove, Asilomar State Beach encompasses a long swath of shoreline pocked with rocky coves and strips of sand. Leashed dogs are welcome here as well as on the seaside path following the coastline and on the boardwalk leading through Asilomar Natural Dune Preserve to Asilomar State Conference Grounds, a century-old complex of buildings on a 100-acre campus. Dogs aren’t allowed inside the structures, but they are welcome to accompany their humans on the grounds and view the graceful, arts-and-crafts buildings designed by Julia Morgan, famous for designing Hearst Castle and the first woman to be licensed as an architect in California.
Continuing on around to the vicinity of Carmel-by-the-Sea is Carmel River State Beach, a three-mile, white-sand crescent notable for its bird life and accessible via a trail from Highway 1. Beautiful and uncrowded it may be, but the real attraction for DogTrekkers in Carmel is Carmel Beach, one of few legally off-leash stretches of sand in this part of the state. Dogs under voice control are welcome to run free here. Early in the morning scores of regulars as well as visitors from all over the country visit this beach in one of the most dog-friendly communities in America.
South of Carmel is the storied Big Sur coastline. Dogs are allowed on a few beaches here, including Garrapata State Beach, where leashed pups and their owners can ogle some of the state’s most dramatic seascapes. Farther south is wild and windswept Pfeiffer Beach, familiar from photo books and calendars. This strand is administered by the U.S. Forest Service, not the state, and it’s OK for dogs under voice control to chase waves here.
Whichever beach you visit, remember to bring fresh water for your dog and a towel for those inevitably sandy paws.