Garrapata State Park, on the Pacific Coast Highway

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There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll drive right through Garrapata State Park, on your way up the Big Sur coast, and never even know you were there.  The same goes for me: I didn’t know I was wandering into a state park, when I parked my car at the edge of Highway 1, crossed a fence, and took a trail down to an overlook.

Garrapata State Park stretches out over a few miles of coastline, north of Bixby Creek Bridge, and south of the Monterey Peninsula.  I never saw a sign, but from other accounts that I’ve read on the internet, there is only one small sign announcing your arrival in the park. There isn’t a developed parking area either — instead, visitors need to look out for 19 turnouts along Highway 1.  Those turnouts are numbered, with tiny signs that you’d probably never notice from the road, unless you were looking for them.

The park’s biggest landmark is Soberanes Point, a small area of land that juts out into the Pacific Ocean.  Trails climb around and up to the top of Whale Peak — the hill in the middle of Soberanes Point, that looks like a big, rounded hump.  Highway 1 squeezes in between Whale Peak and the rest of the mainland, before dropping down to the area where I had stopped.

I took one trail after another, hoping to find a good spot for watching waves and viewing the coast.

I did find some nice places, where huge waves came crashing in along the rocky shore. The dirt trails continued on, and I could have wandered further, but the increasingly milky skies were taking some of the brilliance out of the coast.

To plan your visit to Garrapata State Park8, you’ll want to download the park’s brochure.  With it, you’ll know which parking areas access particular trails. 

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