Central Coast Dog Walks
Garland Ranch Waterfall Trail
by Scott Broecker
Bordered by the Carmel River on one side and reaching high into the Santa Lucia mountain range on the other, Garland Ranch Regional Park covers 4,462 acres and is a fabulous place for you and your dog to visit. The sprawling property takes you back in California’s history to the days of the Rancheros. There are various historical structures still exiting on the property. The park is located 8.6 miles east of Highway 1 on Carmel Valley Road.
With hikes ranging from flat loop trails around the valley floor to moderate trails taking you up into a lush fern-filled shade forest to the more difficult and time-consuming hike up Snively’s Ridge, which affords you spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay. There are many choices for great adventure on the large network of trails in the park.
Dogs are allowed off leash once inside the park, but with the parking areas up against busy Carmel Valley Road, we highly recommend keeping your dog leashed until you are well over the bridge into the park. While in the park your dog must stay within sight and under voice control at all times.
Trail maps are available at the visitor center, which is a few hundred yards to the east after crossing the main bridge. During the late spring and summer there is a footbridge that crosses Carmel River from the parking lot. If you cross the footbridge, the visitor center will be 50 yards to the west. The visitor center has a water fountain, pail of water for dogs, bathrooms, picnic tables and a nice shaded area. The rangers are always friendly and helpful and may even have a treat or two for your dog. This is a great place to stop and plan your hike.
A particularly nice hike is up to the Mesa where you will find an extensive meadow, great views and a pond. Under favorable conditions the pond is suitable for a nice cooling dip for your dog. There are two different routes to the Mesa. The Mesa Trail is moderately steep, wider, and follows a winding dirt road. The Waterfall Trail is narrower and steeper taking you over a wooden king truss bridge and past a 100 foot waterfall (usually active only after recent heavy rains), then up a steep stairway and winding trails through a fern-carpeted Oak and Buckeye forest, eventually meeting up with the Mesa Trail’s dirt road at the approach to the pond.
After reaching the top, there are two different fresh water fountains and faucets, one at the entrance to the Mesa and the other next to the pond. Be sure to stop for a drink, so your dog won’t be tempted to quench his thirst with stagnant pond water.
Allow 3 to 4 hours for the round trip hike. Bring some snacks or lunch and don’t forget some tasty dog treats.Enjoy! Happy trails and waggy tails.