Located just south of Carmel Highlands, the all-embracing Garrapata State Park is Big Sur’s northernmost park and has been acclaimed as a simply spectacular spot for nature enthusiasts, sightseers, and many others who seek out adventure to gather. Garrapata was designated as the foggiest spot on Big Sur’s coastline; even at times when the other four Big Sur State Parks experienced clear weather, the skies over Garrapata often remained hidden behind a mystical fog. Nevertheless, whether it be the foggy summer days enshrouding the mountain tops and curtaining the edges of the ocean in a shadowy blanket, or the few times with clear skies offering you an unhindered outlook over the breathtaking water views, all the while feeling the rays of sunlight rain down as you explore the far-reaching nature reserve, Garrapata remains a phenomenal destination to explore.
Garrapata is arguably the Big Sur jewel of State Parks as the large nature reserve allows visitors an array of activities to choose from, ranging from hiking trails to whale watching, or even taking a smooth drive through the park. One of the most incredible aspects of the park is its high chaparral-covered hills that steeply ascends over a rocky coastline. This climb let’s you stand above the clouds upon reaching the peak, though, even when the day shows clear skies it still offers a breathtaking, panoramic view that is well worth the strenuous journey.
On the west-side of Highway One, some of the park’s most popular trails lead through overgrown vegetation as well as poison oak-infested chaparral en route towards coves and rocky beaches. Although Poison Oak can be troublesome when hiking, it is easy to keep your distance from, while following on the trails. Additionally, the areas with higher elevation do not have any Poison Oak in the vicinity, giving hikers a worry-free climb. To the east of Highway One is a lone trail loop that features ocean views, abrupt inclines, and a Redwood grove. Besides the information board at the trailhead and a signpost at the first intersection, there are no other signs on any of the trails. To keep the parks with an untouched feel, nineteen numbered turnout markers were placed discreetly along Highway One, taking you along to some of Big Sur’s leading hiking trails, a few of them being located throughout Garrapata.
- Rocky Ridge Trail: Across the highway from gate sign 7. Seven miles round trip. The trail climbs quickly 1,200 feet up Rocky Ridge and then descends, linking to the Soberanes Canyon Trail. The Rocky Ridge Trail also features, at the tip of the hill, an outstanding overlook with a bench.
- Soberanes Canyon Trail: Across the highway from gate sign 8. Journey up Soberanes Creek through Redwoods and ferns.
- Soberanes Point Trail: Gates 8, 9, or 10. The trail loops around Soberanes Point. A side trail leads you to the apex of Whale Peak.
- Scenic Overlook: Pullout and bench at gate 17
- Garrapata Beach access trails: Gates 18 or 19.
Garrapata is the perfect destination to observe wildlife and sea creatures, migrating whales can even be spotted passing by the park’s shoreline during their winter migrations. Occasionally on the weekends in January the Garrapata park staff lead whale watching tours. Off the Lobos Rocks shoreline you can also observe sea lions converging at the water’s edge. Sea otters are seen in their kelp beds frequently, and brown pelicans can be found roosting on high-up rocks, in fact a total of 110 species of birds have made the coastal woodlands their habitat.
Aside from just watching the flora and fauna, Garrapata is a perfect scene for photography as well as taking bike rides on the Rocky Ridge hiking trail. Many of Garrapata State Park’s trails lead up lofty mountains, past redwoods, and border the rocky coast. At the southern end of the park is a sublime sandy beach that allows you many fun beach activities, but excludes surfing because the harsh waves makes it nigh impossible to safely surf. Each of the park’s trails are a simply unforgettable hiking experience, especially so if you go hiking with your friends or family.
If you plan to thoroughly explore Garrapata, park at turnouts 7-10, each of these spots grant close access to the Soberanes Point hiking trails. For close coastal access to the beach, stop at turnouts 18-19, both are great points for those who are looking for some beach time fun. These two parking areas off Highway One offer extensive parking space. The center positioned parking lot (gate 18) is nearby several trails that lead down to the beach. The southern parking lot (gate 19) is a good starting point, the left-side leads you down the stairs to the beach and the right-side trail continues to lead you along the bluff.
Click the following link to check out the trailhead location in Google Maps
For more information visit: Garrapata State Park