17-Mile Drive in Carmel on the Monterey Peninsula

The 17-Mile Drive is a privately owned scenic drive that runs along the edge of the Monterey Peninsula, passing through the gated community of Pebble Beach.

As the road skirts the peninsula’s western edge, you’ll pass such frequently photographed landmarks as Seal and Bird Rocks, Fanshell Beach, Point Joe, and the Lone Cypress. Further inland are several renowned golf courses and Del Monte Forest. The drive lives up to its scenic billing, and you are likely to spot California sea otters and harbor seals, but some argue that the scenery less than a mile north at Asilomar State Beach is just as spectacular, and free.

A Few Accessible Points of Interest

  • Inn at Spanish Bay Trail Overlook & Picnic Area: Inn at Spanish Bay is the first golf course and resort on the 17-Mile Drive from the Pacific Grove Gate. A couple of designated accessible parking spots are at the very end of the paved parking lot, and the trailhead starts here. From here, the boardwalk trail heads north along the beach for a quarter of a mile and ends at an overlook. The continuous climb up and down the dunes is a workout without power assistance. A few picnic tables are also at this point of interest, right on the beach. Two tables, with extended ends, have been placed on a wooden deck on top of the sand, and a ramp connects the deck to the parking lot.
  • Connecting Trail to Bird Rock: From the trailhead at the Inn at Spanish Bay to the next point of interest, the Restless Sea, is a little more boardwalk trail that turns into a packed dirt trail a few hundred yards before the observation area. One of the longest, barrier-free stretches is between the Spanish Bay and Bird Rock. For the most part, the trail is made up of packed rock and dirt, but weather and the ocean sand may create some soft spots. Bike lanes may be used quite safely by wheelchair riders in this area when traffic is slow.
  • Bird Rock is likely the best place to stop and get out of your car, as other pullouts don’t offer accessible parking. It and neighboring Seal Rock are haul-out grounds for harbor seals and California sea lions. On the nearshore rocks, Brandt’s cormorants nest in spring and brown pelicans roost in summer. None of the spotting scopes by the parking area are at wheelchair height. Harbor seal pupping season is April 1 to June 1, but you may not be able to see the pups: screens are erected along the road south from Seal Rock to protect them.
  • Coastal Trail beyond Bird Rock: Heading north from Bird Rock, along the ocean’s edge, with close-up views of surf on rocks and sand, the trail is accessible for .2 miles. Some wheelchair riders may be able to navigate an additional .2 miles with assistance, but eventually sand prevents further travel. To continue north, motorized wheelchair users can switch to a bike trail that runs between 17-Mile Drive and the ocean, from the southern Carmel entrance north to Pacific Grove. The grade is steep on the first mile from the gate to Spanish Bay and not recommended for manual wheelchair users. During our mid-week visit, traffic was light and slow, and the road along the low bluffs is wide and straight, so it was quite pleasant. Traffic is likely to be much heavier on weekends. Handcrafted benches made of lumber set between and embedded in chunks of rock are provided at frequent intervals. Deep sand on the pedestrian trail is problematic after the first .2 miles.

Access Details

  • Fee/Cost: Visitors must pay a fee at one of five entry points, unless a restaurant reservation has been made the day before (names are given to the gate the night before). Maps showing the points of interests are available at all five entrances. Entry is free to pedestrians and bicyclists, but bicycles are not allowed on weekends.
  • Accessible Parking: Most are open dirt lots or off the side of the road, but a couple of the big points of interest on the drive have designated accessible parking. No van accessible parking was found, but parking with a van is still possible.
  • Accessible RestroomYes, but only one accessible public restrooms is available at Bird Rock. Otherwise, you have to dine or be a guest at one of the golf clubs or resorts.
  • Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
  • Map: See here.
  • Fees: Entrance
  • Dogs: On a leash
Bonnie Lewkowicz (59 Posts)

I has worked for more than 30 years advocating for, and educating about access to outdoor recreation and tourism for people with disabilities. I hold a degree in Recreation Therapy and was a travel agent specializing in accessible travel for many years. In this capacity, and now as Associate Director at Wheelchair Traveling, I consult with the travel industry about accessibility, conducts disability awareness trainings and writes about travel and outdoor recreation. I also authored a book titled, A Wheelchair Rider's Guide: San Francisco Bay and the Nearby Coast, about accessible trails and has produced several access guides to San Francisco. My most current project is a website of accessible trails along the entire California Coast (www.wheelingcalscoast.org). My extensive experience as a wheelchair rider combined with her professional experience has provided me with in-depth knowledge about inclusive tourism and outdoor recreation.

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