The steep hills rising just to the south of Carmel Valley at the northern edge of Ventana Wilderness offer a surprising getaway from the luxury homes and chic restaurants below. The five mile trek to the summit first follows the oak and bay-filled canyon of Las Garzas Creek, then opens up into a steady (and dusty) uphill to reach the grassy crest of Snively’s Ridge. From there it was another half mile to the abandoned fire lookout at 2249′, first dropping down into secluded oak dell amidst rocky outcroppings, then climbing back up a narrow path to the top.

This rock cave on the last stretch before the summit was a surprise. Close cropping the photo and bumping the contrast against the threatening sky helps emphasize the raw and rugged barrenness.

Agency: Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District
Location: Garland Ranch Regional Park