CENTRAL COAST DOG WALKS
Mission Fields Nature Preserve: Carmel-By-The-Sea
by Sharon Miller
Would you like to hike five miles of trails with your dog through wildflower meadows, hillsides with towering century plants, and small stands of redwoods, pines, oaks, and eucalyptus? As an extra bonus, you should know that this 35-acre preserve also includes picturesque views of Carmel Mission, Monterey Bay, and Point Lobos. If this sounds like the right place for you and your furry friend, head over to the Mission Trail Nature Preserve.
The main entrance to this preserve is directly across the street from the Carmel Mission on Rio Road just a quarter mile from Highway One. Another entrance is accessed from Mountain View Avenue at Crespi. You will very likely pass the picturesque 1924 Flanders Mansion as you saunter through these beautiful surroundings.
The trails are cushioned with mulch, making a comfortable walk for you and your dog. Just be careful when walking down the hill, there is one spot near the mansion where there are roly-poly eucalyptus balls. It can be like walking on marbles if you are not careful.
The wide, wooded canyon here is split by two small merging streams that flow serenely out to Carmel Bay. They can be easily traversed on the north side by two consecutive wooden bridges that take you from one side of the canyon to the other. Part of the original trail that connected the Carmel Mission to El Camino Real in Monterey is incorporated into this trail system, along with both wide canyon trails and narrower hillside trails. Some of the hillside trails on the east side of the park give you your most spectacular views.
In this picturesque preserve you can go for an early morning jaunt or an evening stroll, engage in bird watching, or jog with your dog. Each season hosts a different display of the natural flora of the Carmel area---just watch out for the native poison oak!
Parts of the trail have a storybook feel with glimpses of quaint wooden cottages through the tall tress and the occasional sounds of chickens, roosters and homing pigeons cooing, cackling and crowing.
If you have time, you can take the trail that leads you approximately a quarter of a mile to downtown Carmel for lunch or dinner. If you plan to stay in town past sunset, be sure to carry a flashlight to find the trail back to your car in the dark.
It is a good idea to bring fresh water for your dog, although it is usually refreshingly cool here. A mutt mitt to clean up after Fido would come in handy, too. Dogs can be off-leash in the preserve, but you might want to keep an eye out for dogs that aren’t as well mannered as your precious pooch.