Garrapata State Park

#5 in Best Things To Do in Big Sur
Garrapata State Park picture
Ingmar Wesemann/Getty Images

Key Info

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Beaches, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.2scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 1.5Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

Situated between the base of the St. Lucia Mountains and the rugged Pacific coastline, this 3,000-acre state park is overflowing with trails highlighting the park's diverse landscape. From coastal headlands to redwood canyons and a valley lined with calla lilies, there is terrain to appease every type of traveler. Garrapata has five main marked trails, four of which are grouped together in a loop going up into the St. Lucia mountain range.

The Rocky Ridge Trail takes travelers through shrub-lined canyons, leading up to two towering lookout points. The more coastal (and flatter) 2-mile-long Soberanes Point Trail snakes around Whale Peak and makes a pit stop at the scenic Soberanes Point. If the beach is all that you're looking for, there are various coastal trails that take you around and down to Garrapata Beach.

Getting to Garrapata State Park is not easy. Its lack of signage makes it largely unknown to those passing through, but that also means it's much less crowded than other clearly marked parks in Big Sur. There is only one sign indicating the park's entrance, which is exactly 6.7 miles south of Rio Road in Carmel. Trails from then on are located in marked turnout gates, numbered from two to 19. Garrapata Beach is at gate 18 or 19. Soberanes Point trail points are at gates 8, 9 or 10. The trailheads for the Rocky Ridge Trail and the Soberanes Canyon trail are east of Highway 1, at gates 7 and 8. If you reach a sign marked "MON 63.00," you've gone too far.

Recent visitors said finding the park and a place to park your car can be a bit tricky,  but noted that it's well worth the extra effort. Travelers fell in love with Garrapata's breathtaking scenery both on the coast and inland, with many urging future visitors to have their camera ready because the landscape is almost unbelievable. Those who plan on hiking should wear sturdy shoes, keep an eye out for poison oak and stay on marked trails, as rattlesnakes and mountain lions roam freely. Facilities are spread out at gates 8 and 9, 10 and 11. The park is open from sunrise to sunset and there is no admission fee. Find more information by visiting the Garrapata State Park website.

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Type
Time to Spend
#1 Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Named after one of Big Sur's most beloved pioneers, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a favorite among both locals and tourists. A feast for the eyes, the park features seven marked trails that take travelers to tucked away coves, up to waterfalls, along miles-long creeks, through redwood-clad forests and more. Not to mention, it is one of the few areas in Big Sur where scuba diving is allowed. 

The shortest and most traveled path is Waterfall Overlook Trail. Less than a mile long, the trail takes visitors to one of the most popular attractions in Big Sur: McWay Falls. The site is lauded for its beauty, and is a culmination of all geological features typical to Big Sur: The secluded beach is flanked by jagged bluffs covered in shrubs, wildflowers and cypress trees. The falls, flowing from atop one of the cove's granite cliffs, tumble 80 feet down into the cove and get swept up by the ocean. The cove is also a prime place to spot migrating gray whales that pass through Big Sur from December to February, as well as March to May. In the past, some have even come into the mouth of the cove.

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