Carmel ValleyThe Carmel Back Country

See Carmel River Fandango


Carmel Valley ribbons of Lupines. Watercolor by Jeff Bryant

Carmel Valley is long and lovely, surrounded by blossomy foothills filled with fragrant woods and clear waters. Beyond the immediate confines of the valley, loom monstrous, moody mountains filled with mystery.

Aside from a few upscale resorts, the Valley remains a real ranching area. Two small rustic commercial centers are the only exceptions to a long rural valley. The original creamery buildings that produced the first Monterey Jack cheese are still here. Cowboys come to town on their horses. High tech and organic viticulture has been established. And, there is a gently vibrant threat of art, music and craft making running through the Valley.

Yet Carmel Valley is much as it was when Robert Louis Stevenson got lost here. Later, when Mary Austin wrote her classic early California novel, Ysidro, she set it in the Valley because it was still like early, pre American California.

Although there have been huge challenges caused by water extraction, Carmel Valley winemakers have produced wines which are rapidly ascending in fame. They do this by growing organically and with sustainable agriculture methods, such as dry farming. The wines are extraordinary because of the rare geologic and climatic conditions of the valley.

Photo by Monterey Visitors Bureau

Monterey Jack Cheese had its beginnings in Carmel Valley. Doña Boronda, matriarch of an original Mexican Land Grant family, made a popular cheese, “Queso del Pais.” When her husband was crippled by a horseback-bullfighting accident, she sold the family cheese to help raise their 15 children. After tasting it, a shrewd Scottsman, David Jacks, saw a profitable a profitable future for the cheese. Owner of considerable property, which he leased to farmers, he persuaded his tenants to make it. He sold it around Monterey,and it gained the name, Jack’s Cheese. As it became popular in other places, it became Monterey Jack Cheese. It is only produced in Northern California.

The character of Carmel Valley exemplifies an attitude that benefits most of the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur area. It is evident here that people who could afford to live anywhere, chose this beautiful place to live, so they protect its natural beauty.

Carmel River, painting by Sam Johnston
In the back valley a funky rusticity prevails. Abandoned farms, lonesome trails, unadulterated hillsides, a genteel wildness claims the scene

Steinbeck wrote in Sweet Thursday that the Carmel is everything a river is supposed to be. Nowadays, besides it critical functions as a lifeline to habitats and wildlife in the Valley, it provides some some highly approved of swimming holes.

Youngsters and teachers learn ecology in pristine condition at Hastings Biological Field Station in Carmel Valley. Established in 1937 by the Hastings family, it is operated by the University of California. Hastings accommodates about 25 residents, and with some camping, college classes of up to 30.

Today, Carmel Valley is gaining a world-wide reputation for superb wine and culinary genius.


Carmel River Steelhead Association picnic by Cachagua Creek

Garland Ranch is a hiking paradise… from the Carmel River, and riparian hardwood forests, through wildflower meadows, into Redwood canyons, and up on to Santa Lucia Mountain ridges.

8.6 miles inland by the Carmel Valley Road, the 5,000 acre park has a vast trail system. Monterey Regional Park District Information: 659.4488.

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Carmel Valley Road traverses the entire picturesque valley south eastward to Salinas Valley. This Valley and San Antonio Valley are two of the most precious examples of early California, both in a near pristine state, and classic examples of oak woodland watersheds.

The Road becomes Tularcitos Road after Carmel Valley Village, and then is better known as G16 and winds along the river for 30 miles to Salinas Valley. It is one of California’s most scenic back roads, and a favorite of automotive journalists trying out new cars.


Living in the back valley
We are working with local groups to remove the two dams and get the River’s natural water flow back.
Join us for the first Carmel River Fandango to benefit

The back of Carmel Valley. Looking East in August.

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