I’d heard a lot about California’s scenic 17 Mile Drive, it was on my list of recommended attractions in the Monterey Bay area. Would it really be worth it I wondered. I’d just driven Highway 1, the most spectacular coastline I’d seen since my 1999 trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast. (read my article The Ultimate California Road Trip.)
17 Mile Drive is one of California’s most famous tourist attractions. Even if you have never been there you’ve seen it – in photographs, online, in books and on television. It’s best known for two reasons: the Pebble Beach golf course (extremely exclusive), and the Lone Cypress, said to be the most photographed tree in the world. The Lone Cypress is the trademark of Pebble Beach Properties – that’s right, a 250 year old tree is trademarked. If there is any one thing that defines the area it’s this ancient Monterey cypress, clinging to life on the edge of granite rock and cabled in place, just to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere.
Pebble Beach is one of only two places where you can see native stands of Monterey Cypress.
Many people come to 17 Mile Drive strictly to photograph this tree. I was disappointed to discover that you can only see it from a viewing platform above. Sadly, tourism has a way of uniting and separating at the same time.
Want To Know More About Pebble Beach?
Is there any other reason to visit 17 Mile Drive? Sure, but only if you enjoy natural beauty, the sound of the sea crashing against the rocks, and breath the ocean air. You’ll also see marine animals in their natural habitat: sea otters playing in the ocean, California seals lounging on the beach, and whales migrating.
Unfortunately I didn’t drive the entire 17 miles. I’d invited a friend along and after getting lost we arrived so late we only had about an hour before sunset. Taking into account all the stops to take photographs, I’d estimate we saw about three miles of 17 Mile Drive. But we ended up having a good laugh about it and I felt happy that I’d seen the Lone Cypress and experienced a glorious sunset with a friend.
Want To Know More About The Lone Cypress?
If you want to read in depth about the Lone Cypress and other places for viewing native stands of this beautiful tree, this is an excellent article in the LA Times, Standing Before The Lone Cypress.
If You Go
If you want to go straight for the Lone Cypress enter at one of the Pacific Grove gates. The Lone Cypress is stop No. 16.
For more specific information on how to access 17 Mile Drive I’ve included this link from About.com