Tongva Territory . LA Interchange . 2012 . SD
THE ROUTE
This route runs from Sonoma to San Diego, covering about 800 miles. I scouted and mapped this route pretty thoroughly, but there are always alternate paths that can improve the hike. If you have an idea for another way to get through an area or know of any alternate lodging, please email me at sdodaro at gmail dot com. You'll be credited and you'll help other walkers have a better experience on the road. (For alternates, see the Resources page.)

I've divided the path into 20 legs, taking missions as the start and end points for each section. Below I've provided basic information for each leg, which includes:
  • Clickable Google maps that outline the route (and alternates),
  • Links to GPX points, which you can upload to your smartphone and access through an app (maps will not include turn-by-turn directions), 
  • General walk overviews,
  • Suggested schedules,
  • Points of interest,
  • Affordable lodging options,
  • Availability of food and water, and
  • Climate information.
Forthcoming:
  • Expanded narratives,
  • Additional lodging options,
  • Pictures,
  • Info for cyclists,
  • Tips on dealing with post-walk reentry,
  • Planning spreadsheet, and
  • Downloadable PDF version of the guide.

Important Notes!
  • This route runs from north to south. Some may prefer to walk it south to north, though tips on lodging, food, and mileage obviously still apply. The GPX route and Google maps features are especially helpful as they are direction agnostic.
  • Turn-by-turn directions are not included. The path points below are drawn in Google maps, which does not generate turn-by-turn directions for trails.
  • Routes run from mission to mission, and do not include distance or travel time from mission to lodging. Please plan accordingly and note that lodging is often close by the path.
  • Although reservation information is included, in the recommended seasons (spring and fall) for walking you can just stroll into 95% of hotels and campgrounds without reservations. The definite exceptions are in the campgrounds in the Marin Headlands and San Francisco.
  • Along many stretches of the route, especially in the interior valleys, there isn't much lodging available. Walking distances for each day are often dictated by distances between lodging. Hopefully, as more interest is generated in the path, additional lodging options will open up.
  • To save money on lodging, contact friends and family along the route and ask if they'd be willing to put you up. For these and other cost-cutting tips, see the planning section.


The information in this guide is current as of July 2013.

 Google Map: Map below, link to map here.  GPX Points: Download here.

 
Route Overview
  • Cities: Sonoma to San Rafael
  • Description: Start in leafy Sonoma. The walk takes you along highways and/or country roads, as well as city streets.
    • Note: You have the option of walking a shorter but more dangerous route along the 37 to Novato, then on to San Rafael. You can take a longer, but safer route through Petaluma, Novato, and San Rafael.
  • Total Miles:
    • Backroads (3 days): About 40 miles
    • Highway (2 days): About 30 miles


Suggested Schedule

  • 2-day/Highway 37 Option: Walk southwest along Highway 37, bypassing Petaluma. Though it saves you a day of walking, the highway is pretty dangerous. Not recommended.
    • Day 1: Mission Solano to Novato
    • Day 2: Novato to Mission San Rafael* (There is an option for walkers to trek up a very pretty but steep route on a dirt path through the Loma Verde Preserve. Elevation 443 feet.)
  • 3-day/Backroads Option: Walk west/inland along Highway 116 through Petaluma. The 116 is pretty busy but the shoulders are wide. Trek through gorgeous rolling country backroads, and a short stint next to the 101 to Novato.
    • Day 1: Mission Solano to Petaluma
    • Day 2: Petaluma to Novato
    • Day 3: Novato to Mission San Rafael*
*Both routes converge in Novato and take the same path down to San Rafael.

Cyclists can take either route mentioned above, except for the alt through Loma Verde Preserve on the Novato to Petaluma section.


Path Information

  • Elevation: Mostly flat, with a few rolling hills.
  • Path Surface(s): Paths are paved.  
  • Path Type(s): Mix of highways, city streets. Alternates include country roads and dirt paths.

Lodging

Ample mid-priced hotels/motels available in Sonoma, Petaluma, Novato, and San Rafael. There are a few camping options in Petaluma.
  • Tara Firma Farms (Petaluma): Organic farm located 4 mi south of Petaluma city center, but along the 3-day route. Amenable to campers bedding down in their barn. Must call ahead and sign waiver. 3796 I Street Extension. (707) 765-1202
  • San Francisco North / Petaluma KOA (Petaluma): Tent sites: Winter rate $34 (first 2 people), Summer rate $51 night/tent). Cabins also available. Located 4 miles northeast of Petaluma city center, which is off the route. Walk or take the #74 GGT bus ($4.25) or #48 SCT bus ($1.25) from 4th and D Streets. 20 Rainsville Road at Stony Point Road. 800) 562-1233

Food
Food and water are pretty readily available along this leg.

Recommendations:
  • Le Chalet Basque (San Rafael): Basque food near downtown. Open Tue-Fri 11:30am–2pm, 5pm–10pm; Sat- Sun 4pm–10pm. 405 N San Pedro Road at Malbry Way. On the route. (415) 479-1070
  • Sol Food (San Rafael): A popular Puerto Rican eatery. Open Mon-Fri 7am-12am, Sat-Sun 8am-12am. 903 Lincoln Ave at Third Street. (415) 451-4765

Climate
This inland leg can get very warm from spring through fall. Carry extra water.




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 Google Map: Map below, link to map hereGPX Points: Download here.

 
Route Overview
  • Cities: San Rafael, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Sausalito, San Francisco
  • Description: Beautiful paths from Mission San Rafael, through historic Larkspur and marshes of Mill Valley marshland to Sausalito, by the Bay. You'll walk over the Golden Gate, through the Presidio parklands, and along city streets to Mission Dolores.
    • Note: Opt to take a slightly more direct path via roads.
  • Total Miles: About 23 miles

Suggested Schedule
This section can be done in 1 day, though it's a long schlep over pavement. You may want to break it up by spending a night in Mill Valley/Sausalito hotel, take 2-4 mile detour and camp in the gorgeous Marin Headlands, or cross the bridge and getting a motel room along Lombard Street in SF.
  • Day 1 (or Days 1 and 2): Mission San Rafael to Mission Dolores
Cyclists: Bikers can take all listed routes.


Path Information
  • Elevation: Mostly flat except Wolfe Grade Road in San Rafael, the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, and the path over the hill in the Presidio/Marina.
  • Path Surface(s): All paths are paved.
  • Path Type(s): Mix of roads and city trails.

Lodging

There are a few lower cost hostel options.
Camping options are available, though they're in very high demand and parks usually start accepting reservation months in advance.
  • Mill Valley / Sausalito:
    • America's Best Value Inn at Mill Valley: No frills hotel, but it's right on the route overlooking the marshlands. Standard rates at around $100. 155 Shoreline Hwy at Hwy 101. (415) 332-1732
    • There are a few hotels in Sausalito, but they're pretty expensive.
  • Marin Headlands:
    • Kirby Cove Campground (Sausalito): Tent camping on the edge of the world. Breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. But bring your earplugs -- foghorns are mounted on the bridge and may go off all night. And it'll be cold year round. Campground open April 1 through October 31. Reservations go fast. Rates start at $25, plus fees. Located off route, from the bridge hike 1.5 miles west. From west side of bridge, take Conzelman Road uphill. Look for access gate just past Battery Spencer Overlook and proceed down Kirby Cove Road to the grounds. 300-foot elevation gain then 400-foot drop to camp, which you'll have to reverse to get back to the bridge. (877) 444-6777
    • Bicentennial Campground (Sausalito): Overlooks Bonita Cove and the Point Bonita Lighthouse, with views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. No fee. Open all year. However reservations required, likely go fast. Also located off route; from the bridge hike 4 miles west. From west side of bridge, take Conzelman Road all the way to the camp. 500-foot elevation gain then a 600-foot drop, which you'll have to reverse to get back to the bridge. (415) 331-1540
    • Marin Headlands Hostel (Sausalito): Housed in a beautiful hospital and officer's mansion built in 1907. Views of the Rodeo Beach. Worth the 4-mile hike west from the bridge. On the weekend only, you can catch the SF Muni 76X bus from points around the Alexander Ave Bridge offramp for $2. Rates for group rooms start at $26, private rooms (sleep up to 3) start at $72. 941 Rosenstock Road, by Simmonds Road. (415) 331-2777
      (415) 331-2777
  • San Francisco:
    • Rob Hill Campground: This is the only tent site in San Francisco. Located in the Presidio, near the bridge. The park service begins accepting first-come, first-served reservations in mid-January and they sell out quickly. Open April 1 through October 31. Fees start at $125/night. Central Magazine Road at Washington Boulevard. 1 mile south of route (fr GGB Vista Point). (415) 561-5444
    • Fort Mason Hostel: Can't beat the view of the Bay from historic Fort Mason. Dorm rooms start at $28/night and private rooms (2 twins) start at $65/night. 240 Fort Mason at Franklin Street. (415) 771-7277
    • Hotels/Motels Along Lombard Street, Marina District. These are along the route and are more reasonable - low $100s.
    • There are many other hostels, and slightly cheaper hotels, throughout the city, though there aren't many around Mission Dolores. Try hiusa.org/california/san-francisco or hostelworld.com for options.
Food
Food and water are readily available along this leg.


Recommendations:
There are a million places to dine in the area. Here are a few sentimental favorites, all located along the path.
  • Cibo (Sausalito): Cafe with fancy soups, salads, and espresso. Open 7am-5pm daily. 1201 Bridgeway at Pine Street. On the route. (415) 331-2426
  • Warming Hut Cafe & Bookstore (Presidio, San Francisco): Just over the bridge and down the hill, stop at the Hut for a hot cocoa and a snack or sandwiches. Open 9am-5pm daily. 983 Marine Drive near Long Avenue. (415) 561-3040
  • Picaro Tapas (San Francisco): Reasonably priced tapas near Mission Dolores. Open 11:30am-10pm daily. 3120 16th Street at Valencia Street. (415) 431-4089

Climate
San Rafael can be very hot from spring through fall. Temperatures will cool as you walk toward Sausalito. The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco are generally temperate, at best, and can be downright cold at any time during the year.


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Google Map: Map below, link to map here. GPX Points: Download here.

 
Route Overview
  • Cities: San Francisco, Daly City, Burlingame, San Mateo, Redwood City, Menlo Park. You then having the choice of crossing the Dumbarton Bridge to to Fremont (home of Mission San Jose), or walking through Mountain View and Sunnyvale to Santa Clara (home of Mission Santa Clara).  
  • Description: Walk through San Francisco's Mission District, home to a large immigrant population from Mexico and Central America and, increasingly, to hipster boutiques and techie condos. See birthday cake Victorians, murals, ethnic groceries, 99-cent stores, upscale bars, and the much-maligned Google buses. Make your way through Daly City and over the hill to Colma, where San Francisco buries its dead (living population: 1,815; dead population: nearly 2 million, including Wyatt Earp and Joe DiMaggio). After you're contemplated your mortality, walk down the suburban peninsula, and through world-famous Silicon Valley (read: industrial parks). The peninsula is not the most scenic place--here's your chance to practice finding beauty in small places. If you veer east to Mission San Jose, you'll walk over the Dumbarton Bridge with its spectacular views of the bay (if you're lucky, you'll spot a gray whale), along the edge of the Don Edwards Regional Preserve, and through Fremont to the mission.
  • Total Miles:
    • Mission Dolores to Mission San Jose: About 48 miles
    • Mission Dolores to Mission Santa Clara: About 45 miles
Note: If you choose to proceed directly to Santa Clara, you can then walk from Mission Santa Clara to Mission San Jose and bus back to Mission Santa Clara before going on to Mission Santa Cruz.

SF Bay Trail Alternate: From San Francisco to Santa Clara, you can walk along the SF Bay Trail. The path follows the erratically shaped shore and takes quite a bit longer. It's also off the Camino Real. However, it's a bit more scenic. See maps for details: http://www.baytrail.org/maps.html



Suggested Schedule
  • Day 1: This section can be done in 3 days. Suggested stopping points: Millbrae or Burlingame, and Redwood City or Menlo Park.
  • Day 2: If you choose to go over the Dumbarton Bridge, the walk to the Fremont Mission is 20+ miles. If you get tired or want to linger, there are hotels near the Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont.
  • Cyclists: Bikers can take all listed routes.

Path Information
  • Elevation: All paths are mostly flat.
    • The section from Mission Dolores to Redwood City is mostly flat, except the climb over the hill on Dolores Street in San Francisco and mild grades up and over Mission Street (SF and Daly CIty).
    • If you choose to walk directly to Mission San Jose, you'll need to go up and over the Dumbarton Bridge (elevation 340 feet).
    • If you choose to walk to Mission Santa Clara, the route is flat.
    • The SF Bay Trail alternate path is flat as well.
  • Path Surface(s): All paths are paved.
  • Path Type(s): City and suburban streets.

Lodging

There are a number of hotels in Millbrae and Menlo Park/Redwood City. There are budget accommodations in Fremont and hotels around the university in Santa Clara.

Budget Accommodations
  • Fremont
    • Dominican Sisters Motherhouse at Mission San Jose (right behind the mission). It's possible to stay at the motherhouse, but their schedule may preclude hosting guests. Rate unknown. Call beforehand to arrange your stay. 43326 Mission Boulevard, right behind the mission. Contact: Sister Karen Elizabeth at (510) 657-2468. 
    • Sisters of the Holy Family Mother House: This sisterhood of progressive nuns could not have been more welcoming. Their order was founded in San Francisco in 1872, to serve poor children and families; their work today includes efforts to stop human trafficking, increase supply chain transparency, and advocate for environmental justice. Hospitality is provided free of charge, but a donation is the right thing to do. 159 Washington Boulevard at Bryant Terrace, 1/2 block west of the mission. Call beforehand to arrange your stay. Contact Sister Ruth at (510) 624-4500.


Food
Food and water are readily available along this leg.


Recommendations: There are a lot of great ethnic restaurants along this stretch. From Mexican and Central American in the Mission, to Chinese, Russian, Italian, Basque and more on the peninsula.

  • Basque Cultural Center (South San Francisco): Just a few blocks west of the Camino Real, is the Basque Cultural Center, which hosts an amazing array of cultural events and houses a ball court and restaurant. Open for Lunch Tue-Fri 11:30am to 2:30pm; Dinner Tue- Sat 5:30pm to 9:30pm, Sun 5pm to 9pm. 599 Railroad Avenue. .7 miles west of the route. (650) 583-8091
  • Millbrae Pancake House (Millbrae): A beloved local spot for breakfast. Open Mon-Sun, 6:30am-9pm. 1301 El Camino Real. On the route. (650) 589-2080
  • Pilgrim Kitchen Bakery and Cafe (Belmont): Shortdough cookies, doughnuts, pie, cheese Danishes. Plus you get to take a picture of yourself in front of the pilgrim sign. Open Mon-Sun, 5:00am-9:00pm. 311 El Camino Real. On the route. (650) 592-0638
  • Russian Family Restaurant (Redwood City):Run by an older Russian couple, their blinchkis are delicious. Open for Lunch Tue-Fri 11:00am-3:00pm; Dinner Tue-Thu, Sun 5:00-9:00pm, Fri-Sat 5:00pm-10:00pm. 2086 Broadway Street at Jefferson Street. Close to the route. (650) 369-2950


Climate
San Francisco/Daly City/Colma are generally temperate, and can be downright cold and foggy no matter the season. As you walk into Millbrae you'll move past the fogbank and back into warmer climes. Fremont and San Jose can be scorching during the summer.



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Google Map: Map below, link to map hereGPX Points: Download here.

 

Route Overview

  • Cities: Fremont, Milpitas to Santa Clara. Note: Mission San Jose is in the city of Fremont, NOT in the city of San Jose.
  • Description: The majority of this walk takes you along suburban streets. You can opt to take the Coyote Creek trail for a stretch--the path is slightly longer, but it takes you along a lovely creek that meander along the last farm site in the area, and under flyovers. On Trimble Road, walk past the spot where a Columbian mammoth skeleton was recently discovered, then watch the planes take off overhead from SJO. The path ends on the grounds of the University of Santa Clara, which was built around the mission.
  • Total Miles 
    • Streets only mileage - About 15 miles
    • Streets + walk along Coyote Creek - About 16 miles


Suggested Schedule

  • Day 1: Mission San Jose to Mission Santa Clara

Cyclists: You can take either path, though you may have to walk your bike on a few short stretches along the Coyote Creek trail (see path types below.)



Path Information

  • Elevation: This path is flat.
  • Path Surface(s): All paths are paved, though there are a few underpasses along the Coyote Creek trail that may run through a bit of mud.
  • Path Type(s): City streets, creek trail.

Lodging

Santa Clara: Currently, there isn't lodging available at the Mission or on campus grounds for walkers. Although there are quite a few hotels around the area, to accommodate campus visitors, they aren't cheap.


Food
Food and water are readily available along this leg.


Climate

This inland area can be scorching from spring through fall. Carry extra water during these seasons.




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Google Map: Map below, link to map hereGPX Points: Download here.

 
Route Overview
  • Cities: Santa Clara, Los Gatos, Scotts Valley to Santa Cruz.
  • Description: This leg starts in suburban Santa Clara and winds to the mountains, including a lovely alternate bike/walk trail along Los Gatos Creek. You'll enjoy beautiful views in the Santa Cruz Mountains - but first you have to get there: it's a steep climb, from 344 feet elevation in Los Gatos to about 1,800 feet at the top. Make your way down into the charming beach town of Santa Cruz.
  • Total Miles:
    • Route taking side roads whenever possible: About 36 miles
    • Route taking streets/highways whenever possible: About 35 miles

Suggested Schedule
This walk can be done in 3 days, 2 days if you really push it.
  • Day 1: Mission Santa Clara to Los Gatos - About 13 miles
  • Day 2: Los Gatos to Scotts Valley - About 15 miles
  • Day 3: Scotts Valley to Mission Santa Cruz - About 8 miles
Notes:
  • There are two ways over the mountains--along Highway 17 (very dangerous, even for drivers) or along side roads. Bear Creek Road to Skyline to Summit to Mountain Charlie Roads seems like the safest option to H17. Many cars run on Bear Creek to Summit, there's little to no shoulder, and it's a few miles of difficult climb. The rest of the path sees little to no traffic. Also note, there are a few miles along Graham Hill Road, where there's not much shoulder.
  • Lodging isn't readily available on the west side of the mountains or around the peak--if it does open up, then you could walk past Los Gatos the first day and make it to Santa Cruz on the second day.

Cyclists: Bikes ok on all routes, except the Graham Hill Road Trail (1.58 mi). Simply stay on the Graham Hill Road.



Path Information

  • Elevation: Flat until Los Altos, then a 1,500-foot gain over the Santa Cruz Mountains.
  • Path Surface(s): Paved except for Graham Hill Road Trail, which is an alt dirt path with lots of tree trunks.
  • Path Type(s): Streets, river trail. Alternate dirt trail.


Lodging
Multiple hotel/motel and food options in Los Gatos, Scotts Valley, and Santa Cruz. Currently, no readily available food or lodging at the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains. (Though you might try the Presentation Center, near the summit.)

  • Scotts Valley Budget Options
    • Santa Cruz Ranch RV (Scotts Valley): No frills but friendly tent camping with showers and laundry facilities right along the route. Free coffee in the office. Tent camping for $50/night. Reservations required. 917 Disc Drive at Scotts Valley Drive. On the route. (800) 546-1288
    • Henry Cowell State Park (Scotts Valley): Tent or cabin camp among the old-growth redwoods. Restrooms, coin-op showers, water. Reservations highly recommended between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Closes seasonally; call for dates. $35/night. 2591 Graham Hill Road, near Lockwood Lane. On the route. (831) 438-2396
  • Santa Cruz Budget Options
    • Santa Cruz Hostel / Carmelita Cottages: Dorm rooms from $23-28/night, private rooms from $55-$290/night. 321 Main Street, between 2nd and 3rd Streets. 1.2 miles south of the mission. (831) 831-423-8304


Food

Food and water are not readily available in the mountains between Los Gatos and Scotts Valley. You'll be climbing a few miles up the mountain, which can lead to overheating. Plan to carry extra food and water during this stretch. 



Climate

San Jose and Los Gatos can be blazing hot, and there isn't much shade on the path. The trek over the mountain will be taxing. Bring extra water.




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Google Map: Map below, link to map hereGPX Points: Forthcoming.

 

Route Overview

  • Cities: Santa Cruz, Capitola, Aptos, Watsonville, Aromas, San Juan Bautista
  • Description: This section starts with gorgeous walks along the coast, through sparkling little beach towns south of Santa Cruz. Turn due east toward Watsonville and begin the first of many days walking along the loamy edges of farms. You're approaching the super productive Salinas Valley, known as "America's Salad Bowl." Smell 20,000 heads of broccoli at once! Walk past the occasional rows of crops with pesticide "skull and cross bones" warning signs. Note that these fields are often right next to organic farms. Also see farmworkers picking produce with just bandanas to protect them. Wind up through quaint Aromas and over the hill to San Juan Bautista, an almost unbearably charming historic town.
  • Total Miles: Forthcoming.


Suggested Schedule
This walk takes three days.
  • Day 1: Mission Santa Cruz to Manresa/Sunset Beach
  • Day 2: M/SB to Watsonville
  • Day 3: Watsonville to Mission San Juan Bautista
Days 1 and 2: You have many walking route options from Santa Cruz to Watsonville.
  • Rails-to-Trails Route: Walk down to the beach and along the train tracks, which were recently designated for pedestrian use. Although the tracks are near the water, you won't see as much of the coastline as you would on the Coast route. There are a few trestles along the way - not recommended for those with fear of heights (though you can walk down to the ground and around the trestles). And it's not easy to walk on the track ties, as you have to concentrate on each step - though I found it meditative. On the plus side, you'll get a bird's eye view of quaint Capitola and Aptos. The stretch through the slough near Watsonville is unreal - just train tracks running through the middle of a stunning marsh.
  • Coast Route: The path dips in and out along the shore, offering some great views. This includes some beach walking around New Brighton Beach all the way to Beach Road (turnoff to Watsonville), though this must be done on low tide.
    • Alt: If the tide is high, cut up before New Brighton Beach to the Rails to Trails path or follow streets (Park Avenue to McGregor and wend around to San Andreas Road).
  • Foothill Route: Route on busier, but bikeable and more direct route.
Day 3: After Watsonville, there is one recommend walking path, along San Juan Grade route to Aromas and up over the hill to San Juan Bautista.

Cyclists: The foothill route is completely bikeable. The Rails-to-Trails route is obviously not accessible to cyclists. You can take the coast route until New Brighton and cut up to the foothill route or follow the Coast alt route.


Path Information

  • Elevation: All paths are relatively flat. There's a climb of a few hundred feet on the foothill route along Freedom Boulevard, and along the walking route in the area from Aromas to San Juan Bautista. 
  • Path Surface(s)/Path Type(s)
    • Rails-to- Trails Route: Train tracks, paved roads
    • Coast Route: Paved roads, beach (low tide only) 
    • Foothill Route: All paved roads


Lodging
Hotels/motels available south of Santa Cruz / around Manresa State Beach, Watsonville, and San Juan Bautista.


Budget Options:

  • Day 1 - Manresa/Sunset Beach: There are a number of beautiful campsites along the path:
    • New Brighton State Beach (Capitola): Restrooms. Coin-op showers. $10 "hike or bike" rate. 1500 Park Avenue at Kennedy Drive. On the route. (831) 464-6330
    • Manresa State Beach: Restrooms. Coin-op showers. $35/night. Turn off at San Andreas Road and Sand Dollar Drive, then 1/2 mile to camp. (831) 763-7062
    • Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA: (Watsonville) They have everything. Camp in tents, cabins, or an Airstream trailer. Showers, wifi, pool, camp store, laundry. Plus a train for kids, a bouncy house, and three 20-feet "Climbing Coconut Palm Trees" that "let you experience climbing a palm tree safely strapped in with belays." (At last.) Fees vary but tent sites go for around $45 for up to 6 people. 1186 San Andreas Road. On the route. (800) 562-7701
    • Sunset State Beach: Restrooms. Hot showers. $10 "hike or bike" rate. Turn off at San Andreas Road and Sunset Beach Road, then 1 mile to camp. (831) 763-7062
  • Day 3 - San Juan Bautista: Mission Creek RV. Camp under the redwood trees in this quaint RV park. Proprietor Kurt Kurasaki's father built the park's throwback western buildings himself, on the grounds of a former orchard. Kurt and his staff are very welcoming and accommodating -- you're in good hands. Located on the Camino Real route, about a mile past the mission. 400 San Juan Hollister Road at The Alameda / Salinas Road. (831) 623-4456

Food
Food and water are readily available from Santa Cruz to Manresa State Beach, and in Watsonville. Less available on the stretch from Watsonville to San Juan Bautista.

Recommendations:
  • Day 1: Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA Campground Store (Manresa Beach): Even if you don't stay here, they have the WalMart of general stores. You may also be able to use their laundry facilities. (see above for info)
  • Day 2: Fruteria Quetzal (Watsonville): Fresh cut fruit, smoothies, licuados, assorted Mexican goodies. Open Mon-Sat 8:30am-7pm, Sun 10am-6pm. 433 Union Street at East Beach Street. (831) 728-6577
  • Day 3: Matxain Extea Basque Restaurant (San Juan Bautista): Basque Restaurant Alert! Matxain Extea serves tasty, hearty food. The rather jolly owner is straight from Basque country and was happy to chat with us peregrinas past closing. Lots of old world goodness here. Open Wed-Thu 4pm-9 pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-9pm, Sun 1pm - 9pm. 206 4th Street at Mariposa Street. (831) 623-4472

Climate
Generally cool along the shore. Heats up past Watsonville - stock up with extra water.




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Google Map: Map below, link to map hereGPX Points: Forthcoming. 
 

Route Overview

  • Cities: San Juan Bautista, Salinas, Monterey, Carmel
  • Description: From San Juan Bautista, walk south. Make your way up the winding dirt trail on Old Stage Road, which offers panoramic views of the San Juan Valley. As you ascend the hill, the town slowly shrinks to a little adobe jewel box, and the farms turn to green and brown checkers. I walked this section in April, and the hike was unbelievably verdant and peaceful. I was a little sad to leave San Juan, but the hike was so pretty and I got to watch the town gradually fade away--it made the departure a little easier.
On the descent, enter the Salinas Valley, which stretches 90 miles south to Paso Robles. The land was once the exclusive territory of the Esselen and Salinan Indians, who still live in the area today. The valley has become a major farming region, producing over 76% of America's lettuce, 92% of its broccoli, and 99% of its artichokes. Growers have dubbed it, "America's Salad Bowl," though in recent years vineyards have crept up the valley and this relatively unglamorous region has quietly become the state's biggest wine producer.
The Salinas Valley is also Steinbeck country--nearly every town in this area has served as a setting for one or more of his books. Steinbeck's masterwork, "East of Eden," is partly set in his hometown of Salinas. You can also visit the National Steinbeck Center and Steinbeck's boyhood home (lunch served Tue-Sat), which are about a mile east of the route. If you've read "Grapes of Wrath," it's hard not to think about the Joads and what Steinbeck would've made of big agribusiness, farmworkers still laboring under difficult conditions for a pittance, as well as the meth epidemic that plagues the area.

Walk on the western border of Salinas along fields that give way to suburban homes. The town proper is marked by the WalMart SuperCenter at East Boronda Road. Proceed about 2 miles south on city streets to a cluster of hotels. Spend the night here before making your way to Monterey.

Warning:
There's quite a bit of gang and drug activity in Salinas. It seems to be safe enough during the day, but be careful at night. Don't stay at a hotel in the historic old town or stroll around it in the evening - it's ground zero for nefarious doings.

You'll leave the valley to hike the coast to Carmel (but you'll return for legs 8 and 9). Walk due west along farmland til you reach the ocean. Then head south on a walk/bike path along the coastal dunes to Monterey, once the capital of Alta California. There are still many period adobes in the winding downtown streets -- if you use your imagination, you can get a bit of a feel for what it may have been like in colonial times. Monterey is also the site of the first area mission, founded by Junipero Serra in 1770. Although the mission was moved to Carmel, where the water supply was more consistent, the restored San Carlos Cathedral (Royal Presidio Chapel) still stands on this spot.

Take a short, hike up and over the hill to upscale Carmel, with stunning white sand beaches, blue water, and somewhere along the 17-mile drive -- the home of legendary movie tough guy Clint Eastwood. Who embodies the American view of the west better than Clint? Fiercely individual, unrelenting, able to weather searing desert sun and deep emotional pain, heavily idealized.

The mission is at the southern tip of Carmel. It features many beautiful retablos (altars), an extensive museum, and a very active parish. It's also the final resting place of the father of the missions, Fray Junipero Serra. It's
surreal to walk up to and stand next to the remain of someone who caused so much pain to so many.   

The safest way to proceed to Mission Soledad is to backtrack up to Monterey, walk northeast before turning east along River Road. Because the walk from Carmel to Monterey is only 5 miles, and the hotels in Carmel are expensive, you may want to walk back to Monterey the same day and spend the night in budget Veteran's Memorial Park. Also, the next day's walk from Monterey to Laguna Seca Campground is about 13 miles and you'll save yourself tacking on an extra 5 miles.
  • Total Miles: About 44 (or 49 miles, with same-day return to Monterey)


Suggested Schedule
This walk takes three days.
  • Day 1: Mission San Juan Bautista to Salinas - About 16 miles
  • Day 2: Salinas to Monterey - About 19 miles
  • Day 3: Monterey to Mission Carmel (back to Monterey) - About 9 miles (5 miles from mission back to central Monterey)
Cyclists: The first section of this route, over Old Stage Road, is a dirt trail. As an alternate, take Salinas Road to San Juan Grade Road. All other paths are bikeable.


Path Information

  • Elevation: The climb over Old Stage Road starts at 390 feet, and rises over a few miles to the peak at 1,140 feet. After the path descends, the rest of the path is flat.
  • Path Surface(s): Dirt, paved
  • Path Type(s): Dirt trail, country roads, city streets


Lodging
Hotels/motels available in Salinas.
The Laurel Hill Motel is close by the route and is a relative bargain, starting at $81/night. They also have a pool, Jacuzzi, and dry sauna for the aches and pains, and there's a restaurant on premises.


You'll also find scores of places to stay in the big tourist destinations of Monterey and Carmel, though they can get pretty pricey. There are some cheaper hotels just north of Monterey in San City.


Budget Options:

  • Day 3 - Monterey: Veterans Memorial Park: You can't beat $6 for tent camping in the middle of a city. (Thanks to Ron Briery for the tip.) Hot showers. It's a mile hike uphill from old town. From city hall at Jefferson and Pacific Streets, walk west on Jefferson. Jefferson will turn into Veterans Drive, which deposits you at the campground. (831) 646-3865

Food
There's no food and water available from San Juan Bautista over the hill to Salinas -- stock up in SJB. Salinas has plenty of restaurants and stores. However, from Salinas, you won't find any provisions for about 13.5 miles, until you reach the town of Marina. From Marina, you'll find places to eat and pick up food all the way to Carmel.


Climate
It can get hot on the walk over the hill from San Juan Bautista. However, it's generally cool in Salinas and along the shore to Carmel. Very strong offshore winds blow down the Salinas Valley every day around 2pm. If you're walking with someone, you'll have trouble hearing each other. 




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Google Map: Map below, link to map hereGPX Points: Forthcoming.
 

Route Overview

  • Cities: Carmel/Monterey, Soledad
  • Description: Walk through Monterey and onto the grounds of old Fort Ord up to the Laguna Seca Campground.
The next day, continue hiking on Fort Ord grounds, along breathtaking Skyline Trail--a dirt path that winds through the hills. You'll be able to see both the ocean and Salinas at once. Make your way down to River Road, which runs the length of the Salinas Valley. Their isn't much shoulder at first, and there's a lot of truck traffic, but the road widens after a few miles. You'll walk past vineyards and a number of wineries are open limited hours.

Currently there are no public lodging options on River Road, so you'll need to bus back to Salinas or forward to Soledad for a hotel. Make your way to Chualar, where you can have a taco at Taqueria Hidalgo while waiting for the bus. To either Salinas or Soledad, catch the Monterey Salinas Transit's #23 Salinas-King City at Grant and South Streets. Fare is $3.50. Be sure to check the schedule to make sure you don't miss the last bus of the day.

The following morning, bus back to Chualar and have more tacos. Continue your walk along River Road farms to Mission Soledad. You may be tempted to take some short cuts along farm roads, but you may get the evil eye from farmers.
This mission is run entirely by volunteers, mostly longtime farmers from the area.
  • Total Miles: About 51 miles


Suggested Schedule
This walk takes three days.
  • Day 1: Veterans Park to Laguna Seca Campground - 13 miles
  • Day 2: Laguna Seca Campground to Chualar - 19 miles
  • Day 3: Chualar to Mission Soledad - 19 miles (2 additional miles to hotels in Soledad)
Cyclists: On day 2, you won't be able to bike along the dirt path from Laguna Seca Campground to River Road. Instead, cycle from camp down the precipitously steep entry road down to Highway 68. You'll meet up with River Road in a few miles.


Path Information

  • Elevation: You'll have a bit of a hike to get to Laguna Seca Campground. The next day there's a rise along Skyline Trail, and a descent down to River Road. It's pretty flat after that, with the exception of small rolling hills along River Road.
  • Path Surface(s): Dirt, paved
  • Path Type(s): Dirt trail, country roads, city streets


Lodging

  • Day 1 - Laguna Seca Recreation Area: Laguna Seca Campground: This is the only place to stay en route. Fortunately, you get to camp on the hill above the valley--the sunsets are spectacular. Hot showers. Reservations taken up to one week prior to arrival. Less than one week's notice, spaces are available on a first come-first serve basis. 1025 Monterey at Highway 68. On the route. (831) 758-3604
  • Day 2 - Chualar: Again, as there is no lodging on River Road in this area, you'll need to walk to Chualar and bus to Salinas. Again, Salinas is not terribly safe at night. This is one of those times when you'll be better off plunking down a bit more for a brand-name hotel, and one that's not in the city center.
    • Recommendation: Howard Johnson's: Clean, seemed safe, free continental breakfast. Rates start at about $70/night. 131 John Street at Soledad Street. (831) 757-1020
  • Day 3: Below are the only lodging options anywhere near the mission. After you reach the mission, you'll have to walk 2 miles to Soledad to the hotels. They're clean and safe, but for the price I wish they didn't have those dang nylon bedspreads.
    • Valley Harvest Inn: Continental breakfast. Restaurant downstairs. Rooms start at about $80/night. 1155 Front Street, by the 101 offramp. (831) 678-3833 
    • Motel 8: Rooms start around $66/night, by the 101 offramp. 1013 Front Street. (831) 678-3814

Food
Food and water are sparsely available along this leg.
Be sure to stock up when you can. The only places to eat between the entrance to Fort Ord (a few miles west of the campground) and Soledad are listed below. On day 3, from Chualar to Mission Soledad, there is nothing available.
  • Element Tasting Bar & Bistro (Salinas): I sat at the bar and had something Italiany, manicotti I think. The most memorable part was eavesdropping on farmers' conversations; they complaining about the low price of lettuce, discussed runs to Mexico for cheap fuel (sounded fishy), and gossiped about whose wife was leaving whom. Open Tue-Sun, from 11:30am-9:00 pm. 275 River Road, between past Ranchero Road and Indian Springs Road. On the route. (831) 998-7045
  • Shell Station Convenience Store (Salinas): Well, it's a mini mart. If you don't feel like stopping for a sit-down meal at Element, pick up some hot dogs and soda next store at the Shell Station. 273 River Road, between past Ranchero Road and Indian Springs Road. On the route. (831) 455-2014
  • Taqueria Hidalgo (Chualar): The tacos here are good, greasy, and cheap. 23477 Grant Street at Main Street, right by the 101 and close to the bus stop. On the route. Open 8am-9pm, every day. (831) 679-2384

Climate
Can be hot from Laguna Seca to turnoff to River Road. Generally cool in the Salinas Valley, thanks to the gale force winds mentioned above.




Google Map: Map below, link to map here. GPX Points: Forthcoming.
 

Route Overview

  • Cities/Stopping Points: Soledad, Greenfield, King City, Fort Hunter Liggett Primitive Campground, Mission San Antonio
  • Description: Start by walking from Soledad to Greenfield, along more farmland. That evening, you'll reach Greenfield, populated mostly by farmworkers. It's also conduit for drug trafficking through the valley--proceed with caution.
Continue again along farmland to King City, where you can camp along the river. This is the last major town for the next 4-5 days; the roads are long, the weather is hot, and there are very few amenities--be sure and stock up on supplies. 
From King City, turn onto Jolon Road and make your way inland to expansive Fort Hunter Liggett. Walk along busy Jolon Road, past horse farms and the Salinan Nation Cultural Center. Pace yourself up the Jolon Grade. In the last 8 miles, you're be walking along the outer reaches of the fort. There are no buildings in sight. The land here is dotted with eerie oaks draped with Spanish moss; by day it's rather gray and stark but in the evening light it acquires a prettier cast. When you see the unmanned checkpoint, look for Alamo Road/sign directing you to the campground.

The next day, walk 6 miles to the mission. The huge, Spanish-colonial building you see in the distance is not the mission--it's publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst's ranch house, designed by famed arts and crafts architect Julia Morgan in 1929.
Hearst later lost a chunk of his fortune in the stock market crash, and sold his 153,830-acre ranch holdings, including the mission and the house, to the army in 1940.

Just beyond the ranch house is the mission, sitting quietly in a vast field. While most missions are surrounded by city buildings, this one is all by its lonesome. All mission compounds included industry just outside the church and barracks quadrangles; blacksmith workshops, reservoirs for storing water, and grist mills; in most places these have been paved over, here the ruins lie in the grass, marked by signs. Mission San Antonio is one of the few missions where you can get an idea of what the land might have looked like back in the Spanish colonial era. 

A few miles beyond the mission is the La Cueva Pintada (Painted Cave). Inside the cave are pictographs painted by Salinan Indians thousands of years ago. Though the cave is of limits to visitors, there are some photographs of the pictographs in the mission museum. The caves and maybe even the photographs may be considered sacred - this is something for me to ask about.

Note: There are a few factors that may prevent you from walking in the area:

  • Fort Hunter Liggett Primitive Campground (FHLPC) and base could be closed for maneuvers.
  • Also, you may encounter military police that will not allow you to proceed along the 6-miles on Mission Road, from the the first, unmanned checkpoint near Fort Hunter Liggett Primitive Campground (FHLPC) to the mission. I was stopped but eventually allowed to keep walking, others haven't been so lucky. Although I don't believe walking on this stretch is illegal, it's a thorny issue.

You may want to call ahead to the base, make sure their are no maneuvers happening and ask for permission to walk. Sergeant Kelly was the supervisor who allowed us to walk (in May 2012), so you may want to ask for him.


Another note: You may want to have someone accompany you on this leg. It's relatively isolated and hot.

  • Total Miles: About 52 miles (or 58 miles if you return to FHLPC on day 4, after visiting the mission)

Suggested Schedule

This walk takes four days.
  • Day 1: Soledad to Greenfield - 13 miles
  • Day 2: Greenfield to King City - 14 miles
  • Day 3: King City to Jolon Road/Mission Road - 19 miles
  • Day 4: FHLPC to Mission San Antonio - 6 miles (alt return to FHLPC -12 miles)
Cyclists: This road is entirely bikeable.


Path Information

  • Elevation: Flat, except for day 3 on Jolon Road. At about mile 4, there's a gradual rise for 6 miles. At mile 10, there's a 700-foot rise over 1 mile, known as the Jolon Grade.
  • Path Surface(s): Dirt, paved
  • Path Type(s): Country roads, with occasional option to walk on farmland


Lodging

On this stretch, the only places to stay are hotels in Greenfield and King City, a primitive campground at the entrance to Fort Hunter Liggett, and at/near the mission. The length of the days' walks are dictated by the length between accommodations.

  • Day 1- Greenfield: There are a few hotels in Greenfield, but they look a little on the shady side. When I asked a policeman if there were any he would recommend, he said the Travel Inn. Apparently, there's drug activity at the others. If you don't feel comfortable staying at the Travel Inn, you can always bus back to a hotel in Soledad and return by bus the following morning.
    • Travel Inn: Rates around $70/night. 120 Camino Real, between Oak and Elm. On the route. (831) 674-5816
  • Day 2 - King City: There's a campground, as well as quite a few name brand, budget hotels, right by the entrance to town.
    • Budget Options:
      • San Lorenzo Park Campground: Clean, expansive campground by the river. Laundry. Showers. Game room. Agriculture museum. Trail along the river if you haven't had enough walking. Reservations accepted up to one week prior, afterward it's first come, first served. Reservation fee $5, campsite $35/night. 1100 Broadway at San Lorenzo Park Road. Few blocks off route. (831) 755-4899
      • Motel 6: I haven't stayed here, but I happened to check their website and saw an Internet special for $35.99/night plus tax. That is cheap. It's a Motel 6, so you're not getting much. 3 Broadway Circle at US 101. Few blocks off route. (831) 385-5000
  • Day 3 - Jolon Road / Mission Road: The budget option, and the only option:
    • Fort Hunter Liggett Primitive Campground (Jolon Road / Mission Road aka entrance to FHL). Lots of hunters, characters, decrepit porta-potties, soda vending machine, and rattlesnakes. First come, first served. $10/night. Half mile off route. (831) 386-2612
  • Day 4 - Mission San Antonio: There are a few lodging options here.
    • Hike 6 miles from the unmanned checkpoint to the mission. You can stay at the mission retreat center or the nearby Hacienda Hotel. The next day you may want to walk just the 6 miles back to FHLPC. The next leg is a hard 16-miler and the following is the 26-miler.
      • Mission San Antonio: The mission houses a retreat center with an interior garden. Call Joan Steele well in advance to make sure space is available and to ascertain rates. (831) 385-4478 x19
      • Hacienda Hotel: Famed arts and crafts architect Julia Morgan designed this Spanish Colonial Revival-style building for publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Rates start at $55/night for a "Cowboy Room" with shared bath. Hotel is open Mon-Fri, 7:30am-4:30pm. They also have a club/bar that's open Wed-Fri, 5pm-11pm and Sat, 5pm-8pm. Continental breakfast served 6:30am-9am. Building 101 Infantry Road. (831) 386-2262
    • Hike 6 miles to the mission, then 6 miles back and stay a second night at your old pal, the FHLPC.

Food
  • Day 1 - Soledad to Greenfield: There are no stores between Soledad and Greenfield. Stock up in Soledad at the Foods Co. supermarket or convenience stores, all located right by the campground and hotels (intersection of 4th and Front Streets).
  • Day 2 - Greenfield to King City: There are no stores between and Greenfield and King City. Stock up in Greenfield at one of the smaller markets.
    • Recommendation: Joanna's Restaurant and La Plaza Bakery, both on the route.
  • Day 3 - King City to Jolon Road / Mission Road: There are no easily accessible stores or restaurants after King City. In fact, you won't see any until midpoint on day 1 of Leg 10, when you reach the Hungry Flats Restaurant and Lockwood Store. So stock up in King City with at least 3 days worth of food. This is also a long walk and a hot one, so at least 4-5 liters. You can get soda and water from the vending machine at FHLPC.
  • Day 4 - FHLPC to Mission San Antonio (or FHLPC)
    • Mission San Antonio Gift Shop: Find fruit, ramen, candy bars, and water at the gift shop. Open 10am to 4pm. (831) 385-4478 x17
    • Fort Hunter Liggett PX (Main Store): Walk about 5 miles from FHLPC and you'll see the entrance to the restricted area of the base. Show ID at the checkpoint to visit the PX, but it's extra walking. Open Mon-Sun from 10am-7pm. Building P-80. (831) 385-4585
    • Mission San Antonio: If you stay at the mission, you can make arrangements for dinner.

Climate
You'll feel those sea breezes all the way down to King City. After King City, you'll turn into a sheltered valley, and temperatures really start rising.
I suppose I expected the winds to continue cooling us off, but they didn't turn the corner. This was the first really hot day on the walk and I had forgotten what a steep climb you have along Jolon Grade. We ran out of water and had to knock on someone's door, which ended being a really nice experience but it's better to not dehydrate yourself to meet people.




Google Map: Map below, link to map here. GPX Points: Forthcoming.

View 10. Ft to Mission San Miguel in a larger map
 

Route Overview


Note: The leg starts from the Fort Hunter Liggett Primitive Campground. The walk from Mission San Antonio to the Fort Hunter Liggett Primitive Campground is covered in Leg 9.

  • Cities: Lockwood, Bradley, San Miguel*
  • Description: This is the sun's anvil. It can get boiling hot, there's no shade, and the lack of lodging options makes it necessary to walk long distances along roads with some big trucks. The second day's trek is 26 miles - the longest and most difficult on the entire route. Given these challenges and the lack of amenities and even houses on this leg, you might want to have someone walk it with you (probably that person that did the King City to Mission San Antonio section with you). It helps to sing a lot.
It isn't always the most scenic walk. On the first section, all the vegetation seems to have been cleared by the army and replaced with a few ramshackle obstacle courses. It's desolate but you might find it interesting, and if you're there during a training period you may hear or see maneuvers. You'll probably hear the rumble of jets from nearby Camp Roberts. (If you walk in late April, you'll see vibrant yellow and purple wildflowers blanketing the hills.) That night, camp along the north shore of Lake San Antonio (nice, but watch for mosquitoes).
On the second day, make your way along rolling roads, marvel at the giant sugar pine cones that fall by the shoulder, and enjoy some nice views of vineyards. The path flattens out after you reach the 101, and gets a little tricky (see below). But you'll be back in the Salinas River Valley 
You'll end up in the quaint little town of San Miguel, where you may want to take a rest day. And you can feel pretty macho (macha?, machaca?) about what you just did.
  • Total Miles: About 42 miles.


* Lockwood is really just a crossing with a store. Bradley's population is just 93 people and there are no amenities.



Suggested Schedule

The heat and the lack of lodging along this route make the days' walks long and very challenging.
  • Day 1: Fort Hunter Liggett Primitive Campground to North Lake San Antonio Campground - 16 miles
    You'll st
    art out walking east on Jolon Road along the fort grounds. Jolon Road is pretty straight and has a decent shoulder, but there's some industrial traffic including rigs and the occasional army vehicle. Keep your eyes peeled. It's 6 miles to the town of Lockwood (store here). Don't turn south to Lake San Antonio, in spite of the sign - you'll end up on the south side of the lake. Instead, continue straight along Jolon Road. It's 6 miles to the turnoff to the campground at the Pleyto Country Store (groceries here), and another 4 miles to the site.
  • Day 2: North Lake San Antonio Campground to Mission San Miguel - 26 miles
    Again, this is definitely the longest and toughest day on the entire route. Be sure to start extra early to avoid the heat and give yourself enough daylight to reach San Miguel. You'll walk from the campground back up to Jolon Road, and 8 miles east to the 101 along rolling hills. Once you reach the 101,
    it's about 13 miles to San Miguel. You'll cross back into the Salinas River Valley, where there are some pretty views of the river and it's a little cooler, and pass through the town of Bradley (no amenities).

Nota bene: If on the second day, one were to walk from the 101/Jolon Road intersection to San Miguel, one might have to hop a fence to get on Bradley Road and again where where it comes back around again to meet the 101. One might want to consult the accompanying Google map for details.


I
f you find yourself stuck for any reason, there are fire stations before and after Lockwood on Jolon Road, and another on the main drag in Bradley. If you get overheated or dehydrated, don't hesitate to knock on their doors. As one firefighter put it, they'd rather give you water at the firehouse than have to come out and rescue you. In addition, the Monterey-Salinas Transit #83 bus runs a few times a day from entrance to the fort (right next to the primitive campground) to San Miguel, but note that there aren't many stops and the fare is $12.

Cyclists: The route is completely bikeable.

Alternates: It's possible to take a 3-day southern route, stopping at South Lake San Antonio and Lake Nascimiento. However, you still have to do a 22-mile day, and the roads on the south side are a bit windier.

 

Path Information

  • Elevation: Rolling hills.
  • Path Surface(s): Paved.
  • Path Type(s): Roads, small town streets.


Lodging

Below is the sum total of all public lodging options along this route.

  • Day 1 - Lake San Antonio:

    • North Lake San Antonio Campground (between FHL Primitive campground and Lockwood): Camp along the lakeshore. Tent sites start at $28/night, and are first come first served. Gates open 24/365. From Jolon Road proceed down 3 miles down New Pleyto Road to gates (turnoff landmark is Pleyto Country Store, 2110 Jolon Road). (888) 588-2267 

  • Day 2 - Mission San Miguel:
    • Western States Inn (San Miguel): It's the only place in town. The room was quite dated, but clean enough. Family run. Cereal and muffins for breakfast. Rooms $59-$109/night. 1099 K Street at 11th Street. 2 blocks off the route. (805) 467-3674
    • Mission San Miguel (San Miguel): The mission has a new parish hall, which doesn't seem to have sleeping quarters but is open for public rental. If you are interested in staying at the mission hall or dormitories, you might call and mention that your walk. 795 San Luis Obispo Monterey Road, facing Mission Street. (805) 467-3399

Food
Food and water are not readily available along this stretch. If you've walked Leg 9 from King City, you may already be low on provisions. Stock up where you can.


Below are what I believe to be all food/dining options along the route to San Miguel:
  • Day 1 - Lockwood: Lockwood Store's Hungry Flats Diner: Had a decent bbq lunch here on day one. Outdoor seating. Summer hours: Wed-Sun: 11:00 am-9:00 pm. Winter hours: Mon, Thur, Fri: 6:30am-2:30pm; 4:30pm-9pm. Sat-Sun: 8:00am-9:00pm. Grill shuts down at 8pm, every day. 67997 Jolon Road (G18&G14 Junction). On the route. Restaurant: (831) 386-0500. Store: (831) 385-5750.   
    • Note: If you happen to check the website, it may say that the diner is permanently closed, but as of 6/13, it's not.
  • Days 1 and 2 - Turnoff to Lake San Antonio: You'll pass these on your way down to the campground and again the next morning as you return to Jolon Road.
    • Waystation Saloon (after Lockwood, at Jolon Road and New Pleyto Road): I didn't actually stop here so I can't vouch for it, but they do serve food and have some good reviews on Yelp. It's also right before the turnoff down to the lake and campground. Open 11:30am-2am(ish), 7 days/week. Food served until 9pm, late night menu til close. 70226 Jolon Road. On the route. (805) 472-2001
    • Pleyto Country Store (after Lockwood, at Jolon Road and New Pleyto Road): This grocery store marks the turnoff to camp. On day one, you can grab dinner fixings (e.g., Ramen and cold cuts) before making your way down to the lake. It's the last store before San Miguel, so be sure to stop by in the morning to stock up on food and water. John and staff are very friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about the area. See the Yelp review here. Open every day from 8am-8pm. 2110 Jolon Road. On the route. (805) 472-2447
  • Day 2 - San Miguel:
    • Mission Market and Deli: Very well-stocked deli and market. Sandwiches, produce, all kinds of sports drinks and bars. Open 6am-9pm. 1402 Mission Street at North River Road. On the route. (805) 467-2000
    • Dos Hermanos: Delicious huevos rancheros. Good coffee. Outdoor seating. 1010 K Street at 10th Street. 2 blocks from the route. (805) 467-2460

Climate
This area reaches 110 in the summer (not that you should walk here in the summer). Stock up with lots and lots of extra water, as well as bananas or sports goop to replenish your minerals and salts.



Special Note

My brother and I were at an establishment in San Miguel having a beer. I looked over to my left as a man a few stools away got up to go to the restroom. On the back of his leather jacket was an "SS" patch. A million thoughts ran through my mind, including, "Holy shit." and "Stupid, stupid me." We had felt a little uncomfortable when we walked in, but after 26 miles we needed beer and it was the only place that seemed open. And by that point I was forgetting the fears that I had when I started this trip, as well as the sketchy towns I had walked through.




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Google Map: Map below, link to map here.  GPX Points: Forthcoming.
 

Route Overview

  • Cities: San Miguel, Paso Robles, Templeton, Atascadero, Santa Margarita, San Luis Obispo
  • Description: From San Miguel, walk the beautiful Salinas River Valley on a country road that traces the flow of the eponymous waterway. Next stop is wine mecca Paso Robles; thought it's a city of only 30,000 it seems as busy and bustling as New York after being in the hinterland for five+ days. Walk past historic Templeton -- this bucolic town is gentrifying, but still has a working grain factory and feed store at its center. Trek through city streets of the 100-year-old planned, utopian community of Atascadero and into lovely Santa Margarita, home to a Mission San Luis Obispo asistencia (located on a private ranch). The path through the San Luis Mountain pass (Cuesta Grade) into San Luis Obispo has been built over by the 101 -- see below for walking options. Once over the hill, you'll end up in San Luis Obispo, home to CalPoly University.
  • Total Miles: About 42 miles.


Suggested Schedule
  • Day 1: Mission San Miguel to Templeon
  • Day 2: Templeton to Mission San Luis Obispo*
*NOTE: Although path over the Cuesta Grade into San Luis Obispo is walkable, you'll need to hike a few miles on a very busy section of 101. I opted to take the San Luis Obispo RTA #9 bus from Santa Margarita the last 10 miles into San Luis Obispo. (As of 5/26/13, fare is $2.00. Last buses leave Santa Margarita M-F 7:56, Sat 6:56pm, Sun 4:56pm.)

Cyclists: The above route is bikable, except for a small stint along the railroad tracks.

Alternate Paths/Schedules:
  • Walk to Atascadero on Day 1, then walk from Atascadero to San Luis Obispo on Day 2, following Ron Briery's route over the Cuesta Grade, with a stint on the 101.
  • From the base of the Cuesta Grade, it is is possible to walk over San Luis Mountain into San Luis Obispo, but it's a 24+ mile stretch from Atascadero to San Luis Obispo with an approximately 1,500-foot climb. There is no formal lodging option between those two cities, but if you can secure lodging/camping outside Santa Margarita, this would make this alternate more doable. The views are (probably) spectacular. I've included points outlining the route on the Google map, for your reference.


Path Information

  • Elevation: The path is relatively flat from San Miguel to Santa Margarita, with a few rolling hills.
    • If you choose to walk from Santa Margarita to San Luis Obispo: Santa Margarita sits at about 1,000 feet. The top of the Cuesta Grade/101 is approximately 1,500 feet, and the highest point along the walk over San Luis Mountain is nearly 2,500 feet.
  • Path Surface(s): Paved, except for a short gravely section along the railroad tracks to Atascadero. (No current information for alternate paths.)
  • Path Type(s): Country roads, city streets, short section along the railroad tracks. (No current information for alternate paths.)


Lodging

Hotel rooms are readily available on this leg. Templeton has a handful of inns - the Bike Lane Inn comes recommended by Camino Real cyclist Mike Miller and is relatively cheap starting at $89/night. If you decide to stop before or after Templeton, there are multiple hotels in Paso Robles and Atascadero. San Luis Obispo is a big university town and offers many lodging options, including some cheaper accommodations just under $100.


Budget Options:

  • Day 2 - San Luis Obispo: Hostel Obispo: Dorms and private rooms available, starting at $27/night. 1617 Santa Rosa Street at Islay Street. Half mile southeast of the mission. (805) 544-4678

Food
Food and water are readily available along this route.

Recommendation:
Buona Tavola (Paso Robles): Charcuterie, wine.  Not cheap but good value. Laid back. Recommended by Stacy.


Climate
This inland path can get blazing hot, especially on River Road, even during the spring. Carry extra water.




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Google Map: Map below, link to map hereGPX Points: Forthcoming.
 

Route Overview

  • Cities: San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Nipomo, Santa Maria, Orcutt, Lompoc
  • Description: Walk from San Luis Obispo via country roads and the 101 out to the charming seaside town of Pismo Beach. You'll proceed through town, then walk inland through farmland. Take Berros Road (careful on the first 1.5 miles--blind curves, little shoulder) to Nipomo. Next you'll hit Santa Maria, which is a bit of a slog down 9 miles of strip malls. Leaving town, you'll walk along country roads and over Harris Grade Road--it's windy and there isn't much shoulder; traffic is relatively light during non-commute hours, but please be watch out!. You'll get a sweeping view of the Lompoc Valley from the vista point on the other side (look close across the ridge for the old space shuttle gantry). End up at Mission La Purísima, a state park set on 2,200 acres. Wander through the old adobe buildings, sit next to the burbling outdoor fountain, and visit the longhorn steer and his friends the turkeys ( probably his enemies). The mission seems both peaceful and slightly haunted.
  • Total Miles: About 59 miles.


Recommended Schedule
You can do this walk in 3 days or 4 days.
  • 3-Day Walk: If you're willing to spend money on a hotel and walk further each day, you could finish this section in 3 days. On day 2, walk further into Santa Maria and spend the night at a hotel closer to Orcutt (there's a Radisson close to the route in Orcutt). On day 3, walk all the way to Mission La Purísima. Keep in mind that you'll be hiking over Harris Grade on day 3, and you'll have to walk an extra mile or so from the mission to your camp or hotel.
    • Day 1: Mission San Luis Obispo to Grover Beach - 17 Miles
    • Day 2: Grover Beach to Santa Maria or Orcutt - 21-24 Miles
    • Day 3: Santa Maria or Orcutt to Mission La Purísima - 18-21 miles
  • 4-Day Walk: If you're looking for cheap lodging, want to go a little slower, or feeling like resting up for the hike over Harris Grade. On day 2, walk to the Santa Maria Pines Campground. On day 3, walk to the southern edge of Orcutt, then take the bus back to the campground in north Santa Maria. The next morning, bus back to where you left off in Orcutt and begin your walk from there.
    • Day 1: Mission San Luis Obispo to Grover Beach - 17 Miles
    • Day 2: Grover Beach to Nipomo or Santa Maria - 11.5 Miles or 17 Miles
    • Day 3: Nipomo or Santa Maria to Orcutt (southern border of town) - 14.5 Miles or 9 Miles
    • Day 4: Orcutt (southern border of town) to Mission La Purísima - 16 Miles

Path Information

  • Elevation: Some rolling hills in Pismo Beach but otherwise pretty flat until you get to Harris Grade Road. As you turn off Highway 135 onto Harris Grade Road, you'll climb from 320 feet to the peak at 970 feet, a rise of 650 feet over 3 miles.
  • Path Surface(s): Paved.
  • Path Type(s): City streets and roads.


Lodging

You'll find a plethora of hotels and a few beach camps in the Pismo Beach area. Between there and Santa Maria, the only place to stay is the Kaleidoscope Inn in Nipomo. There's tent camping on the northern tip of Santa Maria and a number of brand name hotels in the central district. There are also some $50/night budget motels in the town center; a few looked nice, but I can't vouch for their safety (let me know if you have recommendations). There's one hotel just north of Orcutt (a Radisson) and no public accommodations of any type in Orcutt proper. When you reach Lompoc, you'll find a few hotels in the center of town, including a Motel 6. You can also camp at the River Park Campground, one mile south of the mission.


Kaleidoscope Inn (Nipomo): Stay at this lovely b&b, starting a $125/night. 30 E Dana Street, just of South Thompson Road. (805) 929-5444


Radisson (Santa Maria): There's no cheap place to stay in Orcutt, though it is possible to stay at the Radisson near the airport for about $150/night. 3455 Airpark Drive, near South Broadway (main drag). (805) 928-8000


Budget Options:

  • Beach camps by Pismo Beach:
    • North Beach Campground (Pismo Beach): Their claim-to-fame: the park has the largest over-wintering colony of monarch butterflies in the U.S.  Sleep steps from the beach. Coin-op showers. Tent camping starts at $25/night. 555 Pier Avenue. (805) 489-1869 
    • Pismo Beach Campground (Oceano): This county-run camp on the water used to be Chumash hunting and fishing grounds. Features a private lagoon, "for your fishing pleasure." Showers $1/3 minutes. Tent camping starts at $32/night. 540 Air Park Drive at Pier Avenue, off Hwy 1. (805) 781-4900
    • Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (Oceano): Reservations highly recommended and must be made at least 2 days in advance. Primitive campground. $10/night. 928 Pacific Blvd.
  • Santa Maria Pines Campground (Santa Maria): This RV park is right next to a mini-golf entertainment center -- this may be good if you like mini-golf, go-cart racing, and pizza, but bad/surreal if you're trying to sleep on a Saturday night. Laundry, hot showers. Tent camping for $35/night. 2210 Preisker Lane at North Broadway, right after you cross the riverbed/101 from Nipomo. 1 block off route. (805) 928-9534
  • River Park Campground (Lompoc): Hot showers. Camping is first come, first served and they have a "hike or bike" rate of $5/night. Highway 246 at Sweeney Road. 1 mile south of the mission. (805) 875-8034

Food
Food and water are pretty readily available all the way through Orcutt. From Orcutt to Mission La Purísima, you won't find any stores along the way. Be sure to stock up beforehand.

Recommendations:
  • Alphys Chateau Basque (Pismo Beach): Basque Restaurant Alert! I was happy to stumbled upon yet another one, in Pismo Beach of all places. I sat at the bar, ordered a glass of Rioja, and chatted with the other patrons. I was trying to remember the date range of   and asked, "Now where is an archaeologist when you need one?" "Well, I'm an archaeologist," said the guy who had sat on the next stool not a minute before. Turns out he did contract work and taught at a university. Among his potential projects was a job for a documentary filmmaker, in which he would excavate the sets from Cecile B. DeMille's 1923 epic "The Ten Commandments" at nearby Guadalupe Dunes (largest in the North America). After he finished filming, DeMille secretly buried the towering, 10-acre "City of the Pharoahs" in the sand. I was so pleased at the archaeologist's manifestation and the thought of a giant, fake ancient Egyptian city under a California beach, that I left without eating. Can't vouch for the food, but the wine was good. Open Mon-Thu 2pm-10pm, Fri 2pm-12am, Sat 11:30 am-12am, Sun 11:30am-10pm. 1527 Shell Beach Road at Pier Avenue. On the route. (805) 773-6280
  • Los Berros Market & Deli (Arroyo Grande): This country store offers groceries and a deli with solid sandwiches and subs. Open Mon-Fri 7am-8pm, Sat 8am-8pm, Sun 8am-7pm. 2021 Los Berros Road. South of Arroyo Grande proper, on the route. (805) 474-4149
  • Windmills Farms (Arroyo Grande): This place is packed with gourmet jam, succulents, chocolates, fountains, toy owls made from yarn and acorns, antique roses, pottery, free-range eggs, statuary, a petting zoo. After being on the open road with just the trees and the big sky, it feels like walking into a Laura Ashley farm explosion. What are you humans doing?? All told, it's a nice place to refuel and you can relax outside in the garden. Open every day 10am-6pm. 1275 N. Thompson Avenue at the 101. On the route. (805) 489-1000


Climate

As you wind inland from the coast into Nipomo, it can get pretty hot. On Day 4, you'll also be walking a few miles up and over Harris Grade - carry extra water.




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Route Overview

  • Cities: Lompoc, Buellton, Solvang
  • Description: The short route to Santa Inez runs along busy Highway 246; though there's a nice, wide shoulder, you have to keep a sharp eye on traffic for 12 miles from the outskirts of Lompoc to Buellton. There's also a longer, but quieter and prettier alternate along an adjacent country road (thanks to Lin Galea for scouting this section).
As you descend into Santa Ynez, you'll be treated to some epic views of the eponymous mountain range reaching like giant, purple fingers across the valley floor. (You'll be climbing these in the next leg.)

You'll end up in Solvang. The area experienced an influx of Danish settlers in the 1910s, and, through the odd magic of the 20th century, has morphed into a Danish Disneyland. Every store, inn, and restaurant looks like it was drawn from a storybook. There are horse-drawn trolleys; small windmills; and a scaled-down replica of Copenhagen's famous Hans Christian Andersen Mermaid statue. On the west edge of town is the mission, overlooking the picturesque Santa Ynez River Valley. This mission houses some particularly beautiful pieces of art, including the portrait of San Rafael by a Chumash neophyte and a haunting painting of Santa Barbara. The Chumash reservation and casino is 3 miles down Mission Drive.
  • Total Miles: 
    • Highway 246 / Short Route: About 18 miles (12 miles from Lompoc outskirts to Buellton outskirts)
    • Santa Rosa Road / Long Route: About 25 miles (18 miles from Lompoc outskirts to Buellton outskirts)


Suggested Schedule
  • Highway 246 Route: The entire walk along the 246 can be done in one day, but walking along the highway is pretty tiring. You can also stretch it out to two days and spend part of the second in Solvang. 
    • Day 1: Mission La Purísima to Buellton
    • Day 2: Buellton to Mission Santa Inez

Note: I took the 246. The first night, I opted to camp at the only budget option in the area, which is in Buellton. I walked to Solvang the next morning and spent the day in town eating bratwurst and visiting Mission Santa Inez. I lodged that evening at the Meadowlark Inn, the only hotel to the east of town, so I could get a head start on the next day's walk.

  • Santa Rosa Road Route: This is a pretty hard walk for one day--you might want to break it up into two.
    • Day 1: Mission La Purísima to Buellton
    • Day 2: Buellton to Mission Santa Inez
Cyclists: Both routes are entirely bikeable.


Path Information

  • Elevation:
    • Highway 246: Long flat stretches, with some rolling hills.
    • Santa Rosa Road: Forthcoming.
  • Path Surface(s): 
    • Highway 246: Paved.
    • Santa Rosa Road: Paved, with walkable farmland in many places.
  • Path Type(s):
    • Highway 246: Highway.
    • Santa Rosa Road: Country roads. A few miles of highway (as you depart Lompoc and approach Buellton.


Lodging

There's a smorgasbord (!) of hotels in Solvang, but the town's a popular tourist destination and accommodations can be expensive. I spent my first night camping at the Flying Flags RV Park, and my second night at the peaceful Meadowlark Inn for just under $100. You could also stay at the Chumash Casino Resort; the cheapest rate I could find was $175/night, though you could conceivably win it all back, and more.


Budget Option:

  • Flying Flags RV Park (Buellton): Very well-manicured RV park, with vending machines, laundry facilities, a fully stocked store, and a pool I would actually swim in. Tent camping from $25-$36, depending on season. 180 Avenue of Flags at Shadow Mountain Road, 1 block off the route. (800)-654-0541

Food
There are no between amenities between Lompoc and Buellton. Carry extra food and water.

Recommendations:
  • Ellen's Danish Pancake House (Buellton): Breakfast at Ellen's for the delicious Danish pancakes and sausages. Open Mon 6am–2pm, Tue–Sun 6 am–8 pm. 272 Avenue of the Flags at Hwy 246. On the route. (888) 366-7819
  • Pea Soup Andersen's (Buellton): There's nothing special about the food here, but this place is an institution. If for no other reason than (perhaps) their pea soup and their ubiquitous "Only 194 miles to Pea Soup Andersen's" billboards, which have been posted along the 101 since forever. The restaurant is on the walking route; at the very least, stop in front and take an, "I did those 194 miles on foot, bi*****." photo. Open Mon-Sun 7am-10pm. 51 E Hwy 246 at Avenue of the Flags. On the route. (800) PEA-SOUP
  • Solvang Restaurant (Solvang): You can't get out of Solvang without trying an abelskiver. These delicious little pieces of fried dough taste like something between a pancake and a beignet. They're topped with powdered sugar and served with a side of raspberry jam. Just shut up and get the six pack. Open Mon-Fri 6am-3pm, Sat 6am-5pm, Sun 7am-5pm. 1672 Copenhagen Drive at Alisal Road, 1 block off the route. (800)-654-0541

Climate

Ocean breezes cool off Lompoc, but temperatures rise as you make your way inland. Carry extra water.




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Route Overview 

  • Cities: Solvang, Santa Ynez, Goleta, Santa Barbara
  • Description: From Mission Santa Inez, walk quiet, tree-lined North Refugio Road over achingly precious little creeks with small groups of cows lying in the shade along the banks. At Alisal Creek Road, the road turns into a dirt trail that leads up to the crest of the Santa Inez range--the view from the 4,000-foot peak is spectacular. Make the steep descent down to El Capitan State Beach by lemon and avocado orchards. Spend the night at El Capitan State Beach, then take a cab or walk along the beach (if tide is low enough) to the edge of Goleta, and walk through city streets to the mission.
  • Total Miles: About 32 Miles (Goleta cab ride), 45 miles (Goleta beach walk)


Alternate Routes:

Highway 154: It's possible to walk all the way to Solvang on Highways 154 and 246, but it's not recommended. Cars scream along at 65mph+ on this narrow highway that winds through canyons. Often there is no shoulder, just a wall of dirt - there's nowhere to jump out of the way. It brings the word "suicide" to mind. On the danger scale, walking on the 101 shoulder is an 8, walking on the 154 is a 9, and standing in traffic is a 10.


There are possible alternate routes: a northern path around Lake Chumash, as well as the ridge route along Forest Route 5N12/West Camino Cielo. I drove these roads to scout a route and couldn't find anything that seemed to work; if you can provide further insight, please do.


Suggested Schedule
Unfortunately, there are no public roads or bus lines from El Capitan State Beach to Goleta. However, Santa Barbara local Jim Lutz tells me that it's possible to walk on the beach during low tide. You'll want to attempt a beach crossing when the water level is ≤ +2.4 feet, which you can determine using the NOAA's tide calculator. Check out Jim's post, which includes photos and tips for completing this beautiful 13.3-mile hike.

High Tide Schedule:
  • Day 1: Mission Santa Inez to El Capitan State Beach - About 20 miles
  • Day 2: El Capitan State Beach to Mission Santa Barbara - About 12 miles (with cab ride)


Low Tide Schedule:

  • Day 1: Mission Santa Inez to El Capitan State Beach - About 20 miles
  • Day 2: El Capitan State Beach to Goleta Beach - About 13 miles
  • Day 3: Goleta Beach to Mission Santa Barbara - About 12 miles
Cyclists: North Refugio Road becomes a rough dirt path for 1.75 miles from Alisal Creek Road to the peak. Otherwise, the roads are accessible.


Path Information

  • Elevation: Climb from Santa Ynez (~600 feet) to the peak of Santa Ynez Mountain (4,000 feet). The descent down to the ocean is quite steep, and hard on the knees.
  • Path Surface(s): Paved, rough dirt road.
  • Path Type(s): Highway, country road, rough dirt road, city streets.


Lodging

Lodging is readily available in Goleta and Santa Barbara, though it can be a bit pricey.

  • Circle Bar B Guest Ranch (Goleta): Located halfway down South Refugio Road (ocean side), this ranch offers lodging, horseback riding, and dinner theater. It's lovely but a bit steep at $292/night; at the very least it's a place you can stop for assistance, if need be. 1800 S Refugio Road. On the route. (805) 968-1113
  • Mission Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara): If you call well in advance, and mention that you're walking the Camino Real, you may be able to stay at their retreat house. Contact Sr. Susan Blomstad at (805) 682-4713, for rates and information. 2201 Laguna Street at E Los Olivos Street. On the route.


Budget Options:

  • Refugio State Beach (Goleta): Camp next to the beach. "Hike or bike" rate $10/night. 10 Refugio Beach Road. Along the route, where S Refugio Road meets the 101. (805) 968-1033
  • El Capitan State Beach (Goleta):  Another beach campground. "Hike or bike" rate $10/night. El Capitan State Beach Road at Calle Real. Along the route, 3 miles south from Refugio SB. (805) 968-1033
  • Ocean Mesa Campground (Goleta): This private campground is sparkling clean, but quite a bit more expensive than the above beach camps. It's also located across the 101, on the mountain side, so you have to hike down to the beach. They do have pool and spa, wifi, convenience store,  bathhouse, massage, and horseback riding. You can always stop here to pick up some dinner and a beer at the convenience store (open every day 7am-10pm) and head under the 101 to El Capitan SB campground. Tent rates are Dec-Mar $40/night, Apr-Nov $50/night. 2 night minimum stay on weekends and 48-hour cancellation policy. 100 El Capitan Terrace Lane at Calle Real. Along the route, 3 miles south from Refugio SB. (866) 410-5783


Food
There are no between public amenities between Santa Ynez and the aforementioned Ocean Mesa Campground convenience store (next to El Capitan SB). You'll be walking over a mountain, so be sure to carry extra food and water.

In Santa Ynez, your last chance to fuel up is at the El Rancho Market, a full-service grocery store. Open daily from 6:00am-10:00 pm. 2886 Mission Drive at Refugio Road. On the route. (805) 688-4300. (Aso, per Jim, "...if school is not in session, you can fill your water up from the water fountains at the high school which you will pass by just before you get to N. Refugio road or you can ask nicely at the YMCA across from the high school on N. Refugio Road (you will see it at the stop light.")

Provisions are readily available in Goleta and Santa Barbara.


Climate

It gets pretty hot on Refugio Road, especially on the unrelenting 2-mile climb up to the mountain crest. Carry extra water. Once you reach the peak, the ocean breezes return to cool you off.




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 Route Overview

  • Cities: Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Ventura
  • Description: Oh jingle bells, this is a pleasant walk. Walk down to the sea, past the rose gardens, the old Presidio, and upscale restaurants. Follow the towering palms south along the shore--this really looks like the gateway to Southern California. After a few miles, you'll jog inland past a marshy bird refuge, gated resorts, and the resort town of Summerland. End your first day in the more down-to-earth beach town of Carpinteria, where you can camp just behind the beach.

The next day, you'll continue to follow the shoreline all the way to Mission Ventura. From Capinteria,

  • Total Miles: About 30 Miles


Suggested Schedule
  • Day 1: Mission Santa Barbara to Carpinteria State Beach - About 14 miles
  • Day 2: Carpinteria State Beach to Mission San Buenaventura* - About 16 miles
Cyclists: All paths accessible.


Path Information

  • Elevation: Mostly flat.
  • Path Surface(s): Paved.
  • Path Type(s): City streets, highway frontage roads.


Lodging


Budget Options:

  • Carpinteria State Beach (Carpinteria): Camp right along the shore. Showers. $10/night for "hike or bike." Entrance around Linden and 3rd Streets. (805) 684-2811 
  • Ventura RV Park (Ventura): Although this is cheaper than a hotel, $45 seems a bit steep given the facilities. It is pretty centrally located though. Laundry and general store, with 8 flavors of coffee. 800 W Main Street. (805) 643-9137


Food
Provisions are readily available along this route.

Recommendation:
  • Esau's Cafe (Carpinteria): Good, hearty breakfasts to be had at this diner. Patio seating. 507 Linden Avenue, between 5th and 6th Streets. 2 blocks from the campground. (805) 684-1070

Climate

This coast route is temperate.




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Route Overview

  • Cities: Ventura, Saticoy, Somis, Moorpark, Simi Valley, Chatsworth, San Fernando
  • Description: Walk east through the beach town of Ventura. Turn onto Los Angeles Road, which sounds like a city street though it's actually a heavily traveled truck route along farmland. Shoulders are narrow at first, but after a mile or two but you can walk on the edges of citrus groves. Hike along to the town of Somis. There is no lodging in this area. (I was lucky to be hosted by friends that night.) You could cab 4 miles southwest to a hotel in nearby town of Camarillo, or follow the alternate, though longer path (see below) from Ventura to Camarillo, then up to Simi Valley.
The following day, continue along the fields and into the suburb of Moorpark. You'll end up in Simi Valley, home to our good friends, the Reagan National Library and the 1991 Rodney King Trial. Follow a river pathway through city streets. There are a few hotels in town where you can spend the night.

Next, walk up and over Santa Susana Pass, the gateway to L.A. "Why do these red rocks look so familiar?" you'll ask yourself. "Why, they look like the hills from Bonanza. Or Gunsmoke." you'll say. You can almost hear that "payeerrrrrong" sound of bullets echoing through the canyons. Since the 1920s, the area has been home to vast movie ranches, where directors have filmed everything from Flash Gordon to Highway to Heaven. The association with Westerns may only occur to you if you're over the age of 30. If not, it's still a pretty scene.

As you climb the hill, you'll be walking on a narrow shoulder. Traffic isn't too heavy, but mind your step. To your left, you'll see an old Western town set. This is what's left of the old Corriganville movie ranch, now a regional park.

(Trivia for people named Susana: As my friend Sue and I learned at Mission San Juan Bautista, Santa Susana is the patron saint of people named Susana. This is your time.)
 
Cresting the pass, you'll have a sweeping view of the San Fernando Valley, porn capital of the world. It's a strange mix of urban sprawl, horse ranches, and the occasional storefront with blackened windows and parking lots in the back. At each corner, you'll see a crosswalk signal button for pedestrians and another up higher for people on horses. 

Make your way through the streets to Mission San Fernando Rey de España. Named for the 13th century Spanish monarch who drove the Moors out of Cordoba, the mission has a Hollywood feel. It's manicured within an inch of its life. In the back, in a grotto that looks like a bandshell, is the final resting place of legendary comedian Bob Hope and his wife Dolores. It's also the only mission that a Spanish monarch has visited - King Juan Carlos stopped by in the 1970s.
  • Total Miles: About 55 miles


Suggested Schedule
These walks are a bit long through an area that can get pretty hot. You can reduce daily mileage by extending the walk to 4 days. On day 2, hike to a hotel on the west edge of Simi Valley. On day 3, walk about 14 miles through Simi Valley over the Pass to Chatsworth - there are a few hotels around Lassen and Topanga Canyon Road. On day 4, trek the approximately 10 remaining miles to the mission.
  • Day 1: Mission San Buenaventura to Somis - About 20 miles*
  • Day 2: Somis to Simi Valley - About 18 miles
  • Day 3: Simi Valley to Mission San Fernando - About 17 miles

Cyclists: All paths accessible.


* Alternate: There is no lodging in Somis. You can take a cab to Camarillo (nearest hotels), but if you'd rather be able to walk directly to a hotel, follow the alternate southern route through Camarillo to Simi Valley. It's a rather nice walk that follows the shore for a bit, then turns east along farmland to reach Camarillo. The next day, walk along suburban roads to Simi Valley.

Path Information

  • Elevation: Pretty flat along farmland, with a few hills on the stretch from Moorpark to Simi Valley. Climbing Santa Susana Pass, you'll experience an approximate 500-foot rise over 2 miles.
  • Path Surface(s): Paved, option to walk on edges of farms
  • Path Type(s): City streets, country roads, river walk


Lodging

Hotels available in Camarillo, Simi Valley, and in San Fernando.



Food
Provisions are pretty readily available along this route, except for the stretch from Saticoy to Somis. From Somis to Moorpark, you'll see the occasional fruit stand. (Though these aren't the fruit stands of yesteryear. I saw at least one bouncy castle, a petting zoo, and one goat yard with planks leading up to little boxes high on poles - a mini false Alps.) And then you're back to the regular, goatless civilization.

Recommendations:
  • Somis Nut House (Somis): Stop by the nut house for trail mix, dried fruit, peanut brittle, and assorted chocolate-covered things. Not advertised, but good to know when it's hot -- they also have cold drinks and a freezer full of Mexican popsicles. 4475 East Los Angeles Avenue at Bradley Road. (805) 386-1211 
  • The Munch Box (Chatsworth): Just after Santa Susana Pass, you'll come across this humble but beloved burger joint. Founded in 1956, it features space-age architecture. Apparently, there used to have a hitching post, and served celebrities like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Cheap but good burgers, hot dogs, and fries. Thanks to Lisa Weissman-Ward for the Munch Box reco. (If only she could only stop giggling when she says the name.) Open Mon-Fri 10:30am -5pm, Sat-Sun 10:30am-4pm. 21532 Devonshire Street at Owensmouth Avenue. (818) 998-9240
  • Ninong's Cafe (Granada Hills): Filipino restaurant serving traditional breakfasts, ube (purple yam) pancakes with mango syrup on the weekends, staples like chicken adobo and corned beef, as well as cakes, cookies, and pastries. Reco courtesy of Jocelyn Guihama. Open Tue-Thu, Sun 8am-5pm; Fri-Sat 8am-7pm. 17705 Chatsworth Street at White Oak Avenue. (818) 368-7276

Climate

H-o-t. You will shvitz. Carry extra water.



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Route Overview

  • Cities: San Fernando, Burbank, Los Angeles, Alhambra, San Gabriel
  • Description: Make your way through San Fernando on tree-lined Laurel Canyon Boulevard. The population of the area is mostly Latino, with a sizable working-class immigrant neighborhood. Walk past houses, strip malls, taquerias, corner stores, panaderias, and a baseball field dedicated to Ritchie Valens, who was born in the area.  
As you near Burbank, you'll cross over flood control culverts. To the east, you'll see gargantuan  pumping plants that run for blocks. L.A. is essentially a floodplain, criss-crossed by rivers.

Next walk along the industrial outskirts of Burbank, once home to a pioneer aviation industry. The small airport was one one of the busiest in the country. Now Burbank is the self-proclaimed "media capital of the world." Disney, Warner, and Pixar all have studios here. And the airfield is known as Bob Hope Airport. (Did Bob Hope run this town or did Bob Hope run this town?)

Reach Griffith Park and follow a relatively new walk/bike path along the L.A. River. Thanks to the environmental movement. The city cemented the bottom in the 40s, but now allows trees and vegetation to grow freely. You may even see kayakers paddling along. You'll pass the zoo and under the 110, the first freeway in the Western states.

You're approaching the heart of old Los Angeles. Walk past Chinatown and the remnants of Little Italy to the foot of Olvera Street. On your left is Union Station, a beautifully restored temple of Art Deco architecture that's still a hub for rail travel. Proceed up cobblestone Olvera Street, past the Avila Adobe--the oldest building in L.A. You'll see restaurants housed in brick buildings, strolling mariachi and ranchera musicians, and shops selling Mexican trinkets and sweets.

At the top of the block is La Placita, bordered on one side by La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles. Built on the site of the former asistencia to mission San Gabriel, this small, candlelit church features beautiful retablos. There are homeless services in the placita and its denizens frequent the mission. When I entered, it was evening and people were praying fervently. ...

From Olvera Street, there are two options. Walk along a quicker, more industrial path along Mission Street. Or trek a longer but prettier path along the Arroyo Seco, past a few historic adobes, and historic old Pasadena.
  • Total Miles: About 32 miles (alt about 35 miles)


Suggested Schedule
  • Day 1: San Fernando to Burbank- About 13 miles
  • Day 2: Burbank to Olvera Street - About 10 miles
  • Day 3: Olvera Street to San Gabriel - About 9 miles (alt about 12 miles)
Cyclists: All paths accessible.


Path Information

  • Elevation: Flat. 
  • Path Surface(s): Paved.
  • Path Type(s): City streets, walk/bike path.


Lodging

There are hotels in south Burbank, a few around Olvera Street, and a couple in San Gabriel. You can get rooms in most of them for under $100. Unfortunately, there are no budget options.



Food
Provisions are readily available along this route.

There's so much to eat along this stretch: taquitos, french dip sandwiches, ice cream, raspados (Mexican snow cones). Chinese food? Sit down, New York and San Francisco--Alhambra and Monterey Park do it better and way cheaper.

Recommendations:
  • Phillipe's Sandwiches (Los Angeles): Phillipe's claims to have invented the French dip sandwich in 1918. Everyone comes here for the hearty fare--builders, tourists, office workers, groups of old Chinese men, Union station employees, businessmen, ballerinas in tutus, cheerful young people on Vespas toting baguettes. Ok, not the last two. 
This place is old school through and through. Sawdust on the ground. Booths. Carving stations. Soda jerk hats. Slices of pie wrapped in plastic on display in a refrigerated case. Don't change, Phillipe's. When you raised the price of coffee from 25 to 45 cents, it was almost too much. Open 6:00am-10:00pm daily. 1001 N. Alameda Street at East Cesar Chavez. On the route. (213) 628-3781
  • Queen's Bakery (Los Angeles): Visit this Chinese bakery for their famous puffed rice treats; they're held together by what tastes like lard, so they they melt in your mouth. Also try their almond and taro cookies. Open Mon-Fri, Sun 8:30am-6:30 pm; Sat 8am-6:30pm. 809 N Broadway at Alpine Street. 4 blocks west of the route. (213) 622-9749
  • La Golindrina Restaurant (Los Angeles): I'm suspicious of restaurants on tourist drags. As much as I don't like to admit it, Olvera Street is a tourist drag. But it's no ordinary one. La Golindrina is a bit pricey and you might wait a while for your food, but I had a delicious carne asada plate here. Open Mon-Fri 10am-9pm, Sat-Sun 9am-9pm. 17 Olvera Street. On the route. (213) 628-4349
  • Cielito Lindo (Los Angeles): The Guerrero family has been serving these perfectly golden, crunchy taquitos at Olvera Street since the 1930s. They still make their own tortillas and creamy guacamole in house. Open 9am-11pm every day. 23 Olvera Street at E Cesar E. Chavez Avenue. On the route. (213) 687-4391
  • Traxx (Los Angeles): Give yourself an excuse to sit in Union Station. Admire the architecture and watch the travelers. The restaurant is a bit pricey, but you can always grab a soda or drink at the bar, located in the old telephone room. Open for lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner Mon-Thu 5pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-9:30pm. Bar open Mon-Sat 11:30am-10pm, Sun 1:30pm-8pm. 800 N Alameda St #122 near E Cesar E. Chavez Avenue. 1 block from the route. (213) 625-1999
  • Fosselman's Ice Cream (Alhambra): Founded in 1919, and still run by a couple of Fosselmans, this ice cream parlor serves classic flavors like peppermint and butter pecan, as well as Asian-inspired taro and lychee. Ice cream sodas, malts, banana splits. Open Mon-Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 11:30am-10pm. On the route. 1824 W Main St at North Raymond. (626) 282-6533
  • Newport Can Tang (San Gabriel): A local favorite. But beware the lines..... 518 W Las Tunas Drive at Bradbury Drive, a few blocks north of the mission. Open Mon-Thu, Sun 11:30am-9:30 pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-10 pm. (626) 289-5998
  • Top Island (Alhambra): It was a terrible battle. The worst I'd seen. Through the clouds of smoke, I caught glimpses of vast mountains of earth charging about the battlefield. Gunpowder burned my eyes. The shelling rang in my bones. I thought it would never end. When the dust finally settled, only one island was left standing. For around $2/plate (weekdays), this is pretty decent dim sum. 740 E Valley Boulevard near S Almansour Street. 1 mile south of Mission Street. V (626) 300-9898

Climate

Inland, pretty hot. Cooler along the LA River.



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 Google Map: Map below, link to map here.  GPX Points: Forthcoming.
 

Route Overview

  • Cities: San Gabriel, Rosemead, Whittier, La Habra, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Irvine, Mission Viejo, San Juan Capistrano
  • Description: Next, you're going to walk through 60 miles of suburban desert. I know. It's hot and you'll put in a lot of time on the pavement, past houses that look alike. But you'll see some interesting things. At the north edge of town, the San Gabriel Mountains tower over the streets, rising quickly from the valley to over 10,068 feet. I found myself wondering how much people today noticed them, given all the distractions of city life, and how much more they figured into daily life before the advent of the car. From San Gabriel, walk through Rosemeade next to the pretty Rio Hondo trail., which
Follow the Whittier Greenway, a rails-to-trails path that wends through town, over trestles, past art installations. Whittier was founded by in the mid-1800s by Quakers and boomed thanks to the oranges and walnut industries--you'll pass rehabbed railroad warehouses that once shipped produce around the world. Make your way along the suburban streets of La Habra and by afternoon, you'll be in Anaheim, home to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm (I won't tell anyone if you pop in. If you don't tell anyone that I did. Aaactually, I talked my friend and I in for free. See, this walk teaches you skills.)

The next day you'll make your way through Santa Ana to Irvine.

Finally, you'll end up in quaint, historic San Juan Capistrano. It's gentrifying (what isn't?), but still maintains some of its charm. Stroll through the pleasantly ramshackle Los Rios district, with old houses, adobes, as well as wooden railway shacks turned boutiques and cafes. Enjoy the open space next to the river.   

The mission here is definitely an industry-- employees wear Disneyesque uniforms: burgundy button-downs with embossed logos, nametags, and khakis. Tour leaders wear headset mics and exude aerobics-instructor levels of energy. (One imagines they might be giving motivational speeches or ShamWow pitches.) But the grounds are expansive and charming, with just the right amount of crumbing stone and overgrown flowers. You can see where the natives were forced to crops, make wine, crush olives, and render tallow. The mission is also home to Serra's Chapel--the small sanctuary is dark, extra gilded, candlelit--gorgeous and slightly spooky.  li
  • Total Miles:  About 63 miles


Suggested Schedule
  • Day 1: San Gabriel to Whittier - 13 miles
  • Day 2: Whittier to Anaheim - 15 miles
  • Day 3: Anaheim to Irvine - 18 miles
  • Day 4: Irvine to San Juan Capistrano - 17 miles
Cyclists: All paths accessible.


Path Information

  • Elevation: Flat, except for a hill or two in Mission Viejo.
  • Path Surface(s): Paved
  • Path Type(s): City Streets, greenways


Lodging

There are hotels in Whittier (under $100: Vagabond Inn, Friendly Hills Inn), Anaheim, Irvine (under $100: La Quinta Inn), and San Juan Capistrano (under $100: America's Best Value Inn, Best Western).


Budget Options:

  • Anaheim RV Resort (Anaheim): Hot showers, laundry, pool and hot tub. Tent sites are $42/night offseason, $46 peak season. 200 W Midway Drive at Anaheim Boulevard. (714) 774-3860
  • Anaheim Harbor RV Resort (Anaheim): All of the above, plus 5-hole golf. Tent sites are $20/night offseason, $30/night peak season. 1009 S Harbor Boulevard. (714) 535-6495
  • Doheny State Beach (Dana Point/South of San Juan Capistrano): This beautiful campground is 4 miles due south of San Juan. (Take the OCTA #91 or #191 bus from the stop on Camino Capistrano at Ortega Highway, by Ciao Pasta at 31661 Camino Capistrano. $2/ride.) You may get woken up by trains whistling through. $10 "hike or bike." 25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive at Del Obispo Street. (949) 496-6172


Food
Provisions are readily available along this route.

Recommendations:
  • House of Mandarin Noodle (Temple City): Everything here is delicious and cheap. But the green scallion pancakes are a standout. The restaurant is about a mile off the route, but totally worth it. Open Mon, Wed-Sun 10am-9:30 pm. 4819A Temple City Boulevard at Lower Azusa Road. (626) 286-1689
  • Swallows Inn (San Juan Capistrano): There's a saying that nothing good happens after midnight. You can probably move that up to 8pm for this dirtbag cowboy biker bar. I've been there a few times over the years, but I'm still slightly nervous about walking in. Line dancing, cheap but stiff drinks, bras on the ceiling, nice people, neer-do-wells, burgers and hot dogs coming out of a kitchen I'd rather never see. It's a local institution. 31786 Camino Capistrano at Ortega Highway. (949) 493-3188
  • Ramos House Cafe (San Juan Capistrano): On the other end of the SJC spectrum is Ramos House, serving southern-influenced American foodie food in an historic railroad shack. Dishes described with at least 5 adjectives each, mason jars as cups, everything worn just so. The food here is a little pricey, and the place is overly adorable, but it's pretty dang good. Open Tue-Sun 8:30-3:00 ($35 brunch menu Sat-Sun). 31752 Los Rios Street, by the Amtrak Station.
 

Climate

This inland leg can get pretty hot.



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 Google Map: Map below, link to map hereGPX Points: Forthcoming.

 

Route Overview

  • Cities: San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, Oceanside
  • Description: From the mission, walk along the San Juan Creek trail to Doheny Beach. Make your way along a beautiful coastal path to San Clemente, home of the world famous Trestles surf break, Richard Nixon, and the recently deactivated San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station--known by the playful acronym, "SONGS". 
Camp in one of two sites next to San Clemente's lovely beaches. The next morning, walk by SONGS. The station sits right next to the I-5--there's no way to miss the two rather mammarian cooling towers, each with one blinking red light on top. At the time of closure, SONGS provided 20% of L.A.'s power. It was also within a 50-mile radius of 7 million people. When a small leak occurred in January 2012, in the post-Fukushima world, the plant was taken offline and eventually decommissioned. I walked by SONGS in May 2012. I hadn't realized the plant was inoperative and felt pretty unnerved as I scooted by it. Of all the dangers on this path - poison ivy, mountain lions, rattlesnakes - nuclear explosion seemed like a ridiculously outsize threat. How do you deal with it? Try to look big? Try to look small? Roll around in tomato sauce? I'm glad it's gone. 

Press on to Camp Pendleton. Everyone can walk the first 10 miles to the checkpoint. However, you can only walk the next 10 miles from the checkpoint to Oceanside If you or someone you're walking with has a military ID. (Oddly, you can get through on a bike.) If no one in your party has a military ID, you can call a cab to the checkpoint to take you to Oceanside. And if you're up to it, walk the additional 5 miles inland to San Luis Rey or stay the night in Oceanside and make your way up to the mission the next day.

  • Total Miles: About 26 miles (without military ID), 36 miles (with military ID)


Suggested Schedule
  • Day 1Mission San Juan Capistrano to San Clemente - 10.6 miles
  • Day 2: San Clemente to Oceanside - 10.6 miles from San Clemente to checkpoint, 10 miles from checkpoint to Oceanside
  • Day 3: Oceanside to Mission San Luis Rey - 5.3 miles
Cyclists: All paths are bikeable.


Path Information

  • Elevation: Relatively flat
  • Path Surface(s): Paved
  • Path Type(s): Paved trails, city streets


Lodging

Hotels are readily available around San Clemente and Oceanside, pricier in the former.


Mission San Luis Rey (Oceanside): Spend the night in the mission retreat house. They have a pool. (Yes, a pool at a mission.) $65 per person with no meals, $85 with lunch, and $100 for meals. They require reservations, and cancellations within 7 days results in 50% fee. They might be flexible if you mention that you're walking. 4050 Mission Avenue. (760) 757-3651.


Budget Options:


Food
Provisions are readily available from San Juan Capistrano to the southern edge of San Clemente. Stock up in south San Clemente, especially if you're walking the whole 20 miles through the base. For the first 10 miles on the base, there are no stores. Past the checkpoint, there are a few places to grab food. On the 5-mile walk from Oceanside up to Mission San Luis Rey, food and water are intermittently available.


Climate

You'll be walking along the coast for the majority of this leg, and the temperatures are cooler. On the final 5 miles, you'll take an inland jog and it'll get hotter.




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 Google Map: Map below, link to map hereGPX Points: Forthcoming.
 

Route Overview

  • Cities: Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar, Torrey Pines, La Jolla, San Diego
  • Description: This is it. The final leg. You've been walking for 2 months. And now you're here. Can you believe it?? This stretch is easy, cool, pleasant. From the mission, walk back out to the coast and along the shore for a few days. You'll hike from beach town to beach town, then walk inland along the San Diego River to the mission.
  • Total Miles: About 49 miles


Suggested Schedule
  • Day 1Mission San Luis Rey to Carlsbad - 10 miles
  • Day 2 Carlsbad to San Elijo - 9 miles
  • Day 3:  San Elijo to San Diego (shore) - 18 miles
  • Day 4:  San Diego (shore) to Mission San Diego (inland) - 12 miles
Cyclists: All paths accessible.


Path Information

  • Elevation: Pretty flat along the coast, with a few hills around Torrey Pines. In San Diego, gradual elevation gain after you turn inland to walk along the San Diego River to the mission.
  • Path Surface(s):  Paved
  • Path Type(s): City streets, trail.


Lodging

There are hotels and camps along the route, all the way from Oceanside through San Diego.


Budget Options:

  • South Carlsbad State Beach (Carlsbad): Camp on the cliffs above the beach. Really pretty views from the bluffs. If only the trains didn't blast their horns at 11pm and 12am. Located 3 miles south of Carlsbad proper. Hot showers. Tent sites from $35/night. On the route. 7201 Carlsbad Boulevard at Poinsettia Lane. (760) 438-3143
  • San Elijo State Beach (Cardiff-by-the-Sea): Another gorgeous beach camp. Taco stand on site! Hike and bike $6/night! Market. Hot showers. Trains! Ugh. On the route. San Elijo Avenue and Birmingham Drive. (760) 753-5091 
  • Campland-on-the-Bay (San Diego, shore): Full-service camp, with fitness center, market, laundry, showers. Primitive camp rates $39 from Labor Day to Memorial Day and $45 in the high season. 2211 Pacific Beach Drive at Olney Street. (800) 422-9386


Food
Provisions are readily available along this route.


Climate

You'll be walking along the coast for the majority of this leg, and the temperatures are cooler. On the final 6 miles, you'll turn inland and temperatures will rise.



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