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Garrapata State Park picture in Big Sur
Ingmar Wesemann / Getty Images

Details

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

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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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#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 ...

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#2 Andrew Molera State Park

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Read more » Allie_Caulfield / Flickr

#3 Pfeiffer Beach

If you're on a tight itinerary and don't have time to traverse any state park trails, head to Pfeiffer Beach. Located about 7 miles south of Andrew Molera ...

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#4 Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Not to be confused with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or Pfeiffer Beach, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest and covers 1,600 ...

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#5 Garrapata State Park

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#7 Limekiln State Park

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Read more » Photo Courtesy of California State Parks

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park picture in Big Sur
Andrew Molera State Park picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park picture in Big Sur
Garrapata State Park picture in Big Sur
Sand Dollar Beach picture in Big Sur
Limekiln State Park picture in Big Sur
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park picture in Big Sur
Andrew Molera State Park picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park picture in Big Sur
Garrapata State Park picture in Big Sur
Sand Dollar Beach picture in Big Sur
Limekiln State Park picture in Big Sur

McWay Falls is the star attraction at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The 80-foot waterfall used to fall directly into the ocean until a landslide created the beach it now graces.  lucky-photographer / Getty Images

Get your fill of coastal views at Andrew Molera State Park. The 8-mile-long Andrew Molera Loop takes visitors  on the edge of the coast with smaller trails leading down to secluded beaches. Allie_Caulfield / Flickr

It's not uncommon to see hordes of photographers at Pfeiffer State Beach, especially at sunset. The keyhole arch rock is considered to be one of the most photographed natural attractions in Big Sur after Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls. Eric Lowenbach / Getty Images

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is the only state park in the region that doesn't offer coastal trails or coastal access. But that doesn't mean it's lacking in attractions. The Buzzard's Roost Trail, pictured above, snakes through the Big Sur Valley, as well as redwood groves.  Gary Denham / Flickr

Of all the state parks in Big Sur, Garrapata is the hardest to find. There is no sign indicating its presence, only turnout points on the highway leading to certain trails. On the upside, it is by far the least crowded. Ingmar Wesemann / Getty Images

Sand Dollar Beach is heaven for treasure hunters. On the southern end of the beach, visitors can find serpentine or jade if they look hard enough. Skyhobo / Getty Images

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