Carmel Valley Roots and Attractions

Discover cowboys, refinement, and more on the sunny side of the Monterey Peninsula.


Harvest time at Earthbound Farms.

See Monterey, Flickr (CC)


This story from our October issue will be available online Oct. 15. Copies of our print issue are available by calling 510-238-9101.

Carmel Valley showcases some of the best of Monterey County—sans coastline, fog, and crowds—all in a 15-mile stretch of country road a few hours’ drive from Oakland. It’ll remind you of Northern California’s cowboy roots, but it’s also home to refined dining and wine tasting.

Soon after you turn onto Carmel Valley Road from Highway 1, you’ll pass Rancho San Carlos Road and Refuge hydrothermal day spa. If hot soaks, cold plunges, sauna, and steam room tempt, bask for an hour or all day for under $50. Otherwise, your first stop is Victorian Bird Homes in the shopping center anchored by Baja Cantina restaurant. Even if you don’t know a wren from a finch, this shop’s handmade storybook birdhouses are charming. 

Just a few yards beyond is Earthbound Farm’s Farm Stand, highlighting local, organic agriculture. Kids will enjoy the special garden created just for them, and you can snip your own fragrant, seasonal herbs for $1 per ounce. An organic kitchen turns out great picnic fare, which visitors can enjoy at Earthbound’s outdoor tables or farther inland at Garland Ranch Regional Park, where dogs are permitted to roam off-leash. Short, flat walks and longer treks to panoramic hilltops let hikers stretch their legs or have real workouts. Carry water; it gets hot midday.

From Garland, the road winds gently under leafy bowers into Carmel Valley Village, home to a dozen-plus wine-tasting rooms ranging from acclaimed labels such as Bernardus to smaller, intriguing gems such as Marilyn Remark, Cowgirl Winery, and Holman Ranch. At Talbott’s tasting room, check out owner Robb Talbott’s vintage motorcycle collection. In the Village Center, offbeat shopping options include Cheppu Himal’s international fair-trade treasures and K & Co.’s French-inspired décor. Have a late lunch at the Running Iron for casual fare, or hit upscale Wickets in Bernardus Lodge. Café Rustica and Lokal also offer interesting and tasty options.

Feeling adventurous? For Sunday brunch or Monday dinner, make your way to the iconoclastic Cachagua General Store along twisting roads further east. To get home, you can backtrack to Highway 1 or turn right onto Laureles Grade. You’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of land and sea, and be deposited on Highway 68 about 10 miles west of Salinas, where you can easily access Highway 101 for the return trip.

Getaway Sources
The Refuge,
Victorian Bird Homes,
Baja Cantina,
Earthbound Farm’s Farm Stand,
Carmel Valley Village,
Cachagua General Store,

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