Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
50.00 ft (15.24 m)
Trail type
1.75 mi (2.82 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

While also accessible by car, a much more interesting and scenic way to access Carmel River State Beach is a short walking trail that begins just off Highway 1 immediately north of Monastery Beach.

From the trailhead, a mostly flat dirt trail passes through a meadow and reaches the rock-lined shore, where it heads north just above the water, until reaching a fork where the left fork will head directly to the water and lagoon where the Carmel River reaches the sea, and the right will head up a small bluff overlooking the river and the Carmel Highlands as well as the sandy recreational beach just across the water.

Carmel's scenic homes often line the east side of the path, however the ocean side is wide open, with views of wild flowers, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve across the bay to the south, and intriguing rock stacks amidst Carmel's turquoise-hued waves spanning much of the trail's length. Those who venture down to the water during the calmer tides here can find tide pools hidden in the rocks. 

Upon reaching the lagoon, access to the sandy public beach is often cut off by the pools formed by the river, however this may be for the best, as the coastline keeps a much more dramatic feel on the south side of the river. The lagoon area is a recognized wildlife birding sanctuary, with a variety of waterfowl and songbirds that may be seen in the area.

At a 1.75-mile round trip, this trail makes a nice walk and a great way to access the beauty of the Carmel coastline.

There are no amenities along the way aside from a couple trash cans near the trail. Dogs are permitted on leash only. Be aware of poison oak along the trail. Parking is very limited on the right shoulder of the side road near the trailhead. If full, continue immediately south to Monastery Beach and walk back to the trailhead.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Beautiful views.


Very limited parking. Poison oak.

Trailhead Elevation

40.00 ft (12.19 m)

Highest point

65.00 ft (19.81 m)


Near lake or river
Big vistas
Family friendly
Bird watching

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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