Why Should You Choose Garland Ranch Regional Park for Walking or Hiking?
Garland Ranch Regional Park is the perfect place to explore nature outdoors if you are in Carmel Valley, California.
- It has hiking trails of various levels of difficulty. You can stay level or climb the mountains. The higher you go, the better the view will be. Margie and I stuck to the Lupine Trail, which is 1.4 miles round trip. We didn’t have much time that day since we were just taking a break from getting a house ready to rent. Even from the Lupine Trail, which begins very close to the Visitor Center, we had a great view of the mountains. Below is only one view. I will share more photos from the trail later.
- Seasonally, hikers and walkers will find the Carmel River flowing in the park. The Garzas Creek divides the park.
- The park is dog-friendly. You do need to keep your dog on a leash or right beside you so it is supervised. You also need to clean up after your dog to keep the park clean for others to enjoy.
- The Visitor Center has exhibits to help you identify what you will see on the trails.
- Helpful docents also walk the trails and can answer questions if one comes your way.
This dog and his human friends were enjoying the river the day I was there.
Garland Ranch Regional Park in Carmel Valley is Easy to Find
Garland Ranch Park is just across the Carmel River from Carmel Valley Road. The road follows the river on one side and the park is on the other side. The parking area and entrances I’m familiar with are a mile west of Laureles Grade Road and about 8.6 miles east of Highway 1. I’ve never had a problem finding a parking place in the lots. Once I’m parked, I walk along the edge of the lot by the river until I see the bridge.
When we first saw the Carmel River along Carmel Valley Road in the late 1960’s, there was no easy access to the river. We would drive along Carmel Valley Road from Highway 1 on our way to Laureles Grade Road, on which Hubby’s parents lived. Sometimes we would find a place to park on the road beside the river and walk along the river. Sometimes we would try to cross it on rocks or logs since there was no bridge for public use that we could find. I was very happy to see this beautiful park open for the public after my husband inherited the house in 2005. It was very relaxing to take a break from the work of sorting through the estate in 2006 and walk through the park.
Unfortunately, I had no one to walk with then, so my walks were short. When I was last there, I saw signs warning people about not walking alone. Evidently, there were some incidents of sexual harassment. Since seeing those signs, I’ve stayed close to the visitor center on populated trails when I have to walk alone.
The Visitor Center
My last visit to the Garland Ranch Park Regional Park was in 2013. In 2014 they renovated the visitor center. They added another office and expanded the display area. You can find details of this in the PDF of the Carmel Valley Association’s May 2014 newsletter. When you click through, scroll all the way to the right to see page 1.
Here at the Visitor Center I and my friend Margie found restrooms and drinking fountains. If you plan on real hiking, you should bring water, of course. We were just there for a short walk.
The educational exhibits in the Visitor Center helped me identify plants I had seen on the trail. Next time I go I hope to take advantage of the expanded exhibits before I walk so I’ll know what to look for. Here is one of the displays I saw when I was there. Most of the important plants were displayed in a similar fashion.
Flora from the Lupine Loop Trail
Since our visit was in March, some of the wildflowers were in bloom. Here are some of the poppies we saw.
This is yellow sorrel, below. If you look very closely, it appears there are small insects on the sorrel leaves. I think I see a spider ready to eat them, on the broad blade leaf that crosses the photo, to the left.
I also saw these yellow flowers, but I haven’t been able to positively identify them. If anyone knows their name, I hope you will share it in the comments.
There were also these buttercups and another yellow flower that resembled a lupine long this trail, but I think you’ve seen enough yellow flowers. For a change of color I’ll show you the lilacs growing behind and taller than the visitor center. This is a zoom just to the flowers.
Besides the wildflowers, there were vines and shrubs. The poison oak was new and shiny. It tempts one to touch, but anyone who does will regret it. You can see the flowers are just budding. They will bloom and then turn into white berries later in the year.
We also saw silver bush lupine, but it was not in bloom.
These photos are just a sampling of the sights along one trail — Lupine Loop. There are many other trails. You can see them on this map. You can learn more about wildflowers in Monterey County here. You can also learn to identify them in one of these handy books. I plan to invest in one soon, since I don’t have a field guide to the wildflowers of Monterey County yet — just national and San Luis Obispo County wildflower guides.
Have You Enjoyed Our Brief Look at Garland Ranch Regional Park in Carmel Valley?
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This last photo shows one of the many trees that were killed by lightning. This photo is just the right size to pin on Pinterest if you want to share it.