CENTRAL COAST DOG WALKS
The South Bank Trail
by Rachel Saunders
If you are looking to take a lovely stroll in the country with your canine and human companions, the recently opened South Bank Trail is for you. Located on the south side of the Carmel River between the area near Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley and Palo Corona Regional Park, the beautifully scenic 1.5-mile long South Bank Trail is the ultimate family-friendly experience. Easy on the feet, and a mellow bike ride, this ADA-accessible pedestrian and bicycle trail offers something for everyone, from tots in strollers to the more senior explorers among us, and, of course, people and their dogs.
The South Bank Trail begins at the intersection of Rancho San Carlos Road and Valley Greens Drive in Carmel Valley. Visitors can park in a small gravel parking lot that accommodates about six cars and is located on the right hand side of Rancho San Carlos Road just before the intersection. A short path paralleling Rancho San Carlos Road leads from the parking lot to the trailhead. The trail begins on a paved farm road and heads west past a large field, winding its way between the private communities of Hacienda Carmel and Quail Meadows. It then extends onto a newly built tan-colored pathway surfaced with a natural and environmentally friendly material developed by a local landscaper. A bench is located here for those who want to take a break and enjoy a beautiful view of the Carmel River. The trail continues on, passing between Rancho Cañada Golf Course to the north, and enchanting wild hillsides and private pastureland to the south.
The trail ends at the west entry gate to Palo Corona Regional Park, and a bench is provided here as well for those who need a little respite before heading back. Plan on about a three-mile, round-trip excursion; it’s a gentle but invigorating outing for you, with plenty of good sniffs for your dog.
To ensure that the South Bank Trail experience is pleasurable for everyone, dogs are required to be on a leash at all times. A dog-mitt dispenser is provided for trail users. As always, be prepared with water and treats for your dog, as well as a tick-removal tool since ticks can be abundant close to the river. The trail is open for walking and cycling; horses and horseback riding are not permitted. Please note there are no restrooms available.
While no permit is needed to use the South Bank Trail, a day-use permit is required to pass through the west entry gate into Palo Corona Regional Park. Day-use permits to access Palo Corona Regional Park may be obtained from the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District (call 831-372-3196, or go to www.mprpd.org). Please note that dogs and bikes are not allowed in Palo Corona, so if you would like to continue on and hike in the park, you’ll need to leave your canine family members at home and lock up your bike on the bike rack provided near the entry gate. Palo Corona Regional Park offers a network of gorgeous trails and views, so with a little bit of planning this park is definitely worth exploring.
Development of the South Bank Trail was spearheaded by the Big Sur Land Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving the significant lands and waters of California’s Central Coast for all generations and partnering with communities to enhance the connection of people with the landscape. The Land Trust worked with local and state partners to complete construction of the South Bank Trail last fall. Earlier in 2011, the Land Trust and Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District collaborated on road and trail improvements at Palo Corona Regional Park, installing over four miles of new trails in the front portion of the park. The South Bank Trail connects with that trail system.
As interpretive signage on the trail explains, the South Bank Trail is part of a larger vision of interconnected trails and parklands called Experience Carmel River, aimed at helping people get outside and connect with nature in the Carmel River region. For more information on the Big Sur Land Trust and its work, please visit www.bigsurlandtrust.org
Rachel Saunders is a longtime resident of the Monterey Peninsula. Aside from being crazy about dogs, her passion has been ocean and land conservation. She currently works with the Big Sur Land Trust. Exploring the out-of-doors with her dog pal, Molly, is one of her great joys.