In Monterey County, California, Fort Ord National Monument was once a military base. Today, this 14,000-acre land is run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that offers sanctuary to 44 species of rare plants and wildlife.
The surrounding regions of Fort Ord National Monument are massive areas of land that can be explored to your heart’s content. Delve deep into this region’s rich history, diverse habitat, and interesting landscape via 84 miles of gorgeous nature trails. Whether you like to enjoy nature on foot, on horseback, or on your mountain bike, the lands around Fort Ord National Monument won’t hold you back.
Fort Ord gained national monument status because it was the largest training facility ever put together. The training of about 1.7 million soldiers took place here during the beginning of World War I and continued until the end of Operation Desert Storm.
Today, Fort Ord National Monument is a popular recreation spot where people come from far and wide to pay homage to the former military base and participate in various recreation activities offered in this picturesque setting. Moreover, they even get a chance to spend a few nights under the stars just a few miles from where more than a million soldiers slept during their intensive training regiments, far away from their family and friends surrounded by wilderness and vast open skies.
Fort Ord National Monument is revered and cherished for its part in the heroism and patriotism of millions of men and women who gave their service for the protection of their countrymen.
There are two main access points to the Fort Ord National Monument. One access point is at Reservation Road through the Creekside Terrace Trailhead and the second access point is located off of Highway 68 in Salinas, CA, across from Toro Café, via Badger Hills Trailhead. You will clearly see the sign of the Monument from both access points which opens right onto a large parking lot.
Make sure to check the road closures in Monterey County before choosing your route.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) does not manage any campsites at Fort Ord National Monument or at the nearby areas. However, there are a few state-owned and private RV campsites that make it possible for RV camping enthusiasts to stay close to the historic national monument while still enjoying the vast wilderness surrounding it.
Chaparral Campground is the closest to the Fort. In fact, it was originally part of the Fort Old Military Base before it was handed off to the County of Monterey in 1974. Laguna Seca Raceway is a county-owned public campground that offers both RV and tent camping to the visitors of the National Monument year-round. This campground is located on California’s scenic central coast and it feels like a breath of fresh air to camp here.
The campground offers premier event camping that includes Premier, Reserved, and General Camping in six different locations around the track. You can camp and enjoy the event at the same time. Reservations are recommended for all types of camping.
The campground also offers non-premier event camping. There are drive-in campsites but reservations are also taken up to five business days prior to your arrival date. Pets are allowed and eight people are allowed per site. There are sites with electric and water hookups as well as campsites without hookups. Bathrooms and hot showers are nearby, and every campsite comes with picnic tables and fire pits.
Amongst the many campgrounds surrounding the Fort Ord National Monument, one particularly stands out not just for its proximity to Fort Ord National Monument and Big Sur, CA, but also for its facilities. The private campground boasts 63 campsites. 51 of them come with full-hookup services. Every campsite comes with fire rings, picnic tables, and BBQ grills.
Fort Ord National Monument is home to over 80 miles of trails that can be used by both hikers and equestrians. One of the most popular trails is the six-mile-long Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail that offers truly spectacular views of vast open grasslands, forests, marshlands, and fields of wildflowers. The entrance at Inter Garrison Road is recommended for equestrians because it provides parking for horse trailers.
With its diverse terrain that features hilly landscape, grasslands, marshes and more, Fort Ord National Monument is a popular destination for off-road cyclists. Some unpaved routes are extremely challenging while some are quite easy, which appeals to both amateur and professional cyclists.
The habitat around the trails are rare and extremely sensitive, and cyclists are advised to stay on marked trails only so as to not damage this fragile ecosystem.
If bumpy rides aren’t your thing and you’re more of a smooth ride kind of an adventurer, then Fort Ord National Monument has paved roads in excellent condition just for the likes of you. These paved roads will lead you right into the heart of the wilderness and can be taken on by cyclists of all skill levels.
Paved roads for cycling vary, some give a closer view of the resident wildlife as you ride past them, while some offer panoramic views of cliffs, backdrops of the Salinas Valley, the former Fort Ord, and the Gabilan Mountains.
Like we mentioned earlier, some very rare and endangered species live in the wilderness surrounding Fort Ord National Monument. Some of the animals that you might come across are turkeys, black-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, Canadian geese, red-tailed hawks, badgers, golden eagles, mountain lions, coast-horned lizard, California quail, and gopher snakes amongst many others. Always maintain a wide space between yourself and the wildlife so you can watch them in their natural environment.
With so much flora, fauna, and history that this place has to offer, you can’t let the opportunity to capture it all in a timeless place such as this simply slip. The diverse terrain, endangered wildlife, rare species of plants, a bed of wildflowers, grasslands, and marshes offer an excellent chance for amateur and professional photographers to get some amazing shots of nature at its finest.
This National Monument was once an Army base and hence, the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery in Monterey County is the final resting place of many veterans that lost their lives fighting for our great nation. If you are visiting Fort Ord National Monument take a drive down to this beautiful cemetery and pay your respects to the veterans who laid down their lives in the service of our country.