Little secrets often yield big rewards.

Carmel Valley, California- When venturing along California’s coast and the cooler temperatures arrive and the fog swirls all around you, it’s nice to know that blue skies and warm sunshine are often little more than a short drive inland.

Thanks to previous travels, as temperatures dropped to chilly and cloudy 55 degrees midday on the Monterey Peninsula, we knew just where to find a little warmth and sun. Carmel Valley sits just a few miles inland, yet, at 80 degrees under sunny skies, a world apart it.

Referred to as the “granddaddy” of the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, Garland Ranch is a fine elder statesman of parks.

Arriving around noon on a Monday, we grabbed one of the plentiful free parking spots before ambling over a bridge that takes you across the clear waters of the Carmel River on our way to the visitor center.

In search of an easy 1-2 hour hike, we chatted up a helpful docent for some guidance. Useful loaner trail maps are located just outside the visitor center and highly recommended for newbies.

We opted for the trails that take you through a beautiful grove of towering eucalyptus trees with their unmistakably wonderful scent along the Carmel River before winding our way to the old barn that could have fit in quite nicely on the set of Little House on the Prairie.

The park provides numerous hiking options ranging from casual strolls to more strenuous climbs.

The MPRPD website articulates it perfectly,   “From the willow covered banks of the Carmel River through the cottonwood-sycamore stands of the old floodplain, the trails ascend steeply. Atop the northern crest of the Santa Lucia Mountains, the trails encounter open oak savannas and spectacular vistas. Along the way, you will travel through maple-filled canyons, dense oak woodlands, and thick stands of chaparral. Garzas Creek gently bisects the park and provides a peaceful, shaded trail that reaches a secluded side canyon of redwoods.”

The tranquil beauty and trails at Garland Ranch makes it an excellent destination for either a quick outing or all day adventure. If your next trip to the coast gets a bit cool, Garland Ranch Regional Park might offer that little dose of sunshine and warmth you need.

Garland Ranch Regional Park

– A quick drive from the coast
– Typically much warmer and sunnier
– Great scenery and easy hiking options
– Cost: Free
– Bring a camera, water and sunscreen

More info at http://www.mprpd.org/garland-ranch-regional-park/