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Chumash Territory . Detail of China Alley Memorial Mural . Ventura . 2012

LEG 7 - San Juan Bautista to Carmel

GPX 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


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

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.

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. 

Leg 7

LEG 8 - Carmel to Soledad

GPX Points: Download here.


LEG 8 - Carmel to Soledad

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

View Leg 8. Mission Carmel to Mission Soledad in a larger map


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



  • 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 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


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.


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LEG 9 - Soledad to Fort Hunter Liggett

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

View Leg 9. Mission Soledad to Mission San Antonio in a larger map


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



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.


  • 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.


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.

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LEG 10 - Fort Hunter Liggett to San Miguel

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 start 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.

If 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.



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 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


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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LEG 11- San Miguel to San Luis Obispo 

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

View 11. Mission San Miguel to Mission San Luis Obispo in a larger map


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.)



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 and water are readily available along this route.

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

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


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LEG 12 - San Luis Obispo to Lompoc

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

View 12. Mission San Luis Obispo to Mission La Purisima in a larger map


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.



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 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.


  • 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



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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LEG 13 - Lompoc to Santa Ynez

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

View 13. Mission La Purisima (Lompoc) to Mission Santa Inez (Solvang) in a larger map


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.



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

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


  • 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



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

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LEG 14 - Santa Ynez to Santa Barbara

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

View 14. Mission Santa Inez to Mission Santa Barbara in a larger map


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 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


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.



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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