Coastal hiking and 2 miles of beachfront
HIGHLIGHTS: On the northern end of the Big Sur coast, just 8 miles south of Carmel, is the hidden gem of Garrapata State Park. This unspoiled, 3,000-acre park offers spectacular views and diverse terrain to explore, including 2 miles of beachfront, breathtaking coastal headlands and canyons dense with redwoods.
ACTIVITIES: Hiking, photography, ocean fishing and wildlife watching. The waters along the coast are a sea otter refuge—you’re likely to spot them bobbing among the kelp. You might also see brown pelicans, harbor seals, sea lions and gray whales. You can bring your canine companions to Garrapata Beach, where dogs are allowed on leashes. Cycling is allowed on the Rocky Ridge Trail. Please note that the ocean currents are dangerous here and swimming should not be attempted. Horseback riding isn’t allowed.
VISITOR CENTER: There is no visitor center for this park.
CAMPGROUNDS: The park does not have campgrounds.
TRAILS: You can enjoy the flat, 3-mile Soberanes Point loop, on the west side of the highway. To the east of the highway, the 4.7-mile Soberanes Canyon-Rocky Ridge Trail loop is a strenuous hike that rewards visitors with some of the most stunning views in Big Sur. (You can add the 1-mile North Fork and 1.5-mile Peak Trail spurs for a longer hike.) Be prepared for a steep climb and descent: bring plenty of water and wear good shoes. The Soberanes Canyon Trail will take you through a lovely grove of old-growth redwoods. Trailhead markers aren’t clearly visible from the highway—check the trail map and look for pullouts along the road.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: The coastal view from the Rocky Ridge Trail is iconic Northern California scenery. Be sure to look for migrating whales from your vantage point.
HIDDEN GEM: The whole park is a hidden gem — much lesser-known than other central coast parks, you’re not likely to encounter a crowd at this unspoiled locale.
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Roadside pullouts for ocean views and watching whale migration.
DOGS: On leash. Only on Garrapata Beach.
ENTRANCE FEE: None.
EAT: In Carmel, Flanagan’s Pub (external link) serves up hearty fare for post-hike appetites. Patisserie Boissiere (external link) is well-known for their pastries and soups, among other French dishes.
FAVORITE HIKE: League staffer Heather Grout says the Soberanes Canyon and Rocky Ridge Trails are breathtaking, with spectacular views of the sea and an abundance of California poppies.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: Watching sea otters swimming and bobbing offshore!
DON’T MISS: The world-famous Bixby Bridge is just another 5 miles south on Highway 1.
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Acres Protected by the League: none
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