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Your Guide to Visiting Garrapata State Park

Your Guide to Visiting Garrapata State Park

Check out this beautiful Central Coast park with our guide to visiting Garrapata State Park. Team


3 min read

May 13, 2024

Garrapata State Park is one of California's hidden gems. With its breathtaking vistas, diverse ecosystems, and serene atmosphere, it offers a perfect escape for nature lovers, hikers, and photographers. This guide will help you make the most of your visit to Garrapata State Park.

Garrapata State Park is located on Highway 1, about 6.7 miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea and 18 miles north of Big Sur. The park is easily accessible by car, and the scenic drive along Highway 1 is an experience in itself. There is no official entrance or visitor center, so keep an eye out for the numbered turnouts along the highway. Parking is free but limited, so arrive early, especially on weekends and holidays.

Enjoy the beautiful vistas and seaside views at Garrapata State Park.

What to See and Do


Garrapata State Park boasts several hiking trails that offer varying levels of difficulty and stunning views. The most popular trails include:

  • Soberanes Point and Whale Peak Trail: This moderate 2.5-mile loop trail offers panoramic ocean views, rocky cliffs, and wildflower-strewn hillsides. It's a great spot for whale watching, especially during the migration seasons from December to April.

  • Rocky Ridge Trail: For a more challenging hike, the Rocky Ridge Trail is a 5-mile loop with significant elevation gain. The trail rewards hikers with sweeping views of the coastline and the Santa Lucia Mountains. On clear days, you can see all the way to the distant Monterey Peninsula.

  • Garrapata Beach Trail: If you prefer a leisurely stroll, this short trail leads you to Garrapata Beach, a picturesque, sandy beach surrounded by dramatic cliffs. It's an ideal spot for picnicking, beachcombing, and photography.

Wildlife Watching

Garrapata State Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Along the coastal trails, you might spot sea otters playing in the kelp forests, harbor seals lounging on the rocks, and various seabirds soaring overhead. Inland, the park's chaparral and woodlands provide habitat for deer, bobcats, and numerous bird species. Bring your binoculars for a closer look at the wildlife.


With its stunning landscapes, Garrapata State Park is a paradise for photographers. Capture the rugged coastline, vibrant wildflowers, and dramatic sunsets. Soberanes Point is a particularly popular spot for photographers, offering unobstructed views of the ocean and jagged cliffs. The park's unique combination of natural beauty and diverse ecosystems provides endless opportunities for capturing memorable shots.

There's some great hiking to be had at Garrapata State Park.

Key Features and Attractions

Garrapata Beach

Garrapata Beach is a secluded, sandy beach surrounded by rugged cliffs and accessible via a short trail from Highway 1. The beach is perfect for a peaceful stroll, beachcombing, or simply relaxing while listening to the waves crash against the shore. Note that the waves can be strong, so swimming is not recommended.

Soberanes Point

One of the most scenic areas in the park, Soberanes Point offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and rocky coastline. This area is particularly popular with photographers and is a great spot for whale watching during migration seasons. The trails around Soberanes Point are relatively easy and provide plenty of opportunities to explore tide pools and observe marine life.

Wildflower Blooms

In the spring, Garrapata State Park bursts into color with a variety of wildflowers. The coastal scrub and chaparral habitats are home to vibrant blooms of California poppies, lupines, and wild irises. The wildflower season typically peaks from late March to early June, making it an ideal time to visit for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

Redwoods and Chaparral

While Garrapata is primarily known for its coastal scenery, the park also features inland trails that wind through lush redwood groves and chaparral-covered hillsides. The contrast between the towering redwoods and the open, sun-drenched chaparral provides a unique and diverse hiking experience.

Soberanes Canyon

For those seeking a tranquil hike through lush greenery, the Soberanes Canyon Trail is a must-visit. This trail follows a creek through a canyon filled with redwoods, ferns, and wildflowers. The serene environment and cool shade make it a perfect escape on a hot day. The trail can be challenging in parts, with some steep and narrow sections, but the beauty of the canyon is well worth the effort.

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Nearby Attractions

If you have extra time, consider exploring some of the nearby attractions:

  • Point Lobos State Natural Reserve: Located just north of Garrapata, this reserve offers more stunning coastal scenery, hiking trails, and wildlife viewing opportunities.

  • Carmel-by-the-Sea: This charming town is known for its art galleries, boutique shops, and excellent dining options. It's a great place to relax and unwind after a day of hiking.

  • Big Sur: Continue south along Highway 1 to experience the breathtaking beauty of Big Sur, with its towering redwoods, dramatic cliffs, and iconic landmarks like Bixby Creek Bridge.

Garrapata State Park is a true treasure along the California coast. Whether you're an avid hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat, this park offers something for everyone. Plan your visit today and discover the natural wonders of Garrapata State Park.

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