Garrapata State Park

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Garrapata State Park
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The granite coast of Garrapata State Park
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Location Monterey County, California, United States
Nearest city Carmel, California
Coordinates 36°28′N121°54′W / 36.467°N 121.900°W / 36.467; -121.900 Coordinates: 36°28′N121°54′W / 36.467°N 121.900°W / 36.467; -121.900
Area2,939 acres (1,189 ha)
Governing body California Department of Parks and Recreation

Garrapata State Park is a state park of California, United States, located on California State Route 1 6.7 miles (10.8 km) south of Carmel and 18 miles (29 km) north of Big Sur Village on the Monterey coast. [1] The 2,939-acre (1,189 ha) park was established in 1979. [2] California sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters frequent the coastal waters while gray whales pass close by during their yearly migration.



Garrapata State Park has 2 miles (3.2 km) of beachfront, with coastal hiking and a 50-foot (15 m) climb to a view of the Pacific. The park offers diverse coastal vegetation with trails running from ocean beaches into dense coast redwood groves. The coastal bluffs to the west and east of the Big Sur Coast Highway are covered with coyote bush, California coffeeberry, California sagebrush, bush lupine, blue blossom, and other coastal scrub plants. [3] The park also features coastal headlands at Soberanes Point. [4] California sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters frequent the coastal waters while gray whales pass close by during their yearly migration. [1]

There is no main entrance to the park. Visitors can park in several pullouts along Big Sur Coast Highway starting 5.4 miles (8.7 km) south of Rio Road in Carmel and extending along the coast for about 2.1 miles (3.4 km). It is marked only with one sign on the west side of the road. Numbered turnouts mark each parking area. [5]

Edward Weston, who lived nearby in Carmel, made a number of his best-known photos in or near what is now the State Park. The beaches in the park have been used for nude recreation. [6]


The area hosted the Ohlone and Rumsien tribes in the past. In 1835, the portion of the park land generally to the west of a line along the Rocky Ridge Trail was part of Rancho San Jose y Sur Chiquito. It was given by Alta California Governor Juan Alvarado to Teodoro Gonzalez and re-granted in the same year to Marcelino Escobar. [7] [8] The grant stretched along the coast from the Carmel River to Palo Colorado Creek and was used for ranching. [3]

William B. Post acquired two 160 acres (65 ha) parcels and lived on the land between 1858 and 1866. In 1867 he sold his land to David Castro, who sold it the following year to Ezequiel Soberanes. Soberanes operated a prosperous cattle and sheep ranch for 24 years. The Soberanes family, locally famed for their musical talents, also offered their hospitality to other ranchers traveling along the coast to Monterey. Francis Doud, an early Monterey resident, purchased the Soberanes land and other parcels in 1891 to create the Doud Ranch, which ran cattle until the early 1950s. The family's wood-frame ranch house burned to the ground in the 1960s. The state acquired its first parcel of the property in 1980; Garrapata (Spanish for tick) was classified a state park in 1985. [9] Some features within the park still bear the names of these families. [5]

Soberanes fire

Most of the park was burned by the 2016 Soberanes Fire, which began in the park as the result of an illegal campfire. The fire burned for more than two months. It resulted in the death of a bulldozer operator and destroyed 57 residences. It was at the time the most expensive fire in United States history. The individual responsible was never identified. [10] As of May 2018, all of the trails on the west side of Highway 1 are open, but only a portion of one trail on the east side of Highway 1 is open to hikers. [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Big Sur is a rugged and mountainous section of the Central Coast of California between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon, where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. It is frequently praised for its dramatic scenery. Big Sur has been called the "longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the contiguous United States", a sublime "national treasure that demands extraordinary procedures to protect it from development", and "one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere in the world, an isolated stretch of road, mythic in reputation". The stunning views, redwood forests, hiking, beaches, and other recreational opportunities have made Big Sur a popular destination for about 7 million people who live within a day's drive and visitors from across the world. It is among the top 35 tourist destinations world-wide. The region receives about the same number of visitors as Yosemite National Park, but offers only limited bus service, few restrooms, and a narrow two-lane highway that for most of its length clings to the steep coastal cliffs. North-bound traffic during the peak summer season and holiday weekends is often backed up for about 20 miles (32 km) from Big Sur Village to Carmel. Due to the large number of visitors, congestion and slow traffic between Carmel and Posts is becoming the norm.

Santa Lucia Range

The Santa Lucia Mountains or Santa Lucia Range is a rugged mountain range in coastal central California, running from Carmel southeast for 140 miles (230 km) to the Cuyama River in San Luis Obispo County. The range is never more than 11 miles (18 km) from the coast. The range forms the steepest coastal slope in the contiguous United States. Cone Peak at 5,158 feet (1,572 m) tall and three miles (5 km) from the coast, is the highest peak in proximity to the ocean in the lower 48 United States. The range was a barrier to exploring the coast of central California for early Spanish explorers.

Bixby Creek Bridge Highway bridge on the Big Sur Coast of California

Bixby Creek Bridge, also known as Bixby Canyon Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California, is one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design, "graceful architecture and magnificent setting". It is a reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch bridge. The bridge is 120 miles (190 km) south of San Francisco and 13 miles (21 km) south of Carmel in Monterey County along State Route 1.

Big Sur River River in California, United States

The Big Sur River is a 15.7-mile-long (25.3 km) river on the Central Coast of California. The river drains a portion of the Big Sur area, a thinly settled region of the Central California coast where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. The upper river and watershed lies within the Ventana Wilderness and encompasses the headwaters downstream to the area known as the Gorge. The lower river flows roughly northwest through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, the Big Sur village, several private camp grounds and Andrew Molera State Park where it flows through a lagoon and sandbar into the Pacific Ocean at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Major Tributaries of the river include, in order: Redwood Creek, Lion Creek, Logwood Creek, Terrace Creek, Ventana Creek, Post Creek, Pfeiffer-Redwood Creek, Juan Higuera Creek, and Pheneger Creek.

Little Sur River River in California, United States

The Little Sur River is a 25.4-mile (40.9 km) long river on the Central Coast of California. The river and its main tributary, the South Fork, drain a watershed of about 40 square miles (100 km2) of the Big Sur area, a thinly settled region of the Central California coast where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific Ocean. The South Fork and the North Fork both have their headwaters in the Ventana Wilderness, straddling Mount Pico Blanco. Portions west of the national forest and Old Coast Road lie within the El Sur Ranch. Some portions of the North Fork are on land owned by Granite Rock Company of Watsonville, California, which has owned the mineral rights to 2,800 acres (1,100 ha) on Mount Pico Blanco since 1963. The North and South forks converge about 2 miles (3.2 km) from the coast where the river enters the Pacific Ocean.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park State park in California, United States

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a state park in California, 12 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on California's Pacific coast. A main feature of the park is McWay Falls, which drops over a cliff of 80 feet (24 m) into the Pacific Ocean. The park is also home to 300-foot (90 m) redwoods which are over 2,500 years old. The park is named after Julia Pfeiffer Burns, a respected resident and rancher in the Big Sur region in the early 20th century, who lived in the area for much of her life until her death in 1928. The 3,762-acre (1,522 ha) park was established in 1962.

The Pine Ridge Trail is the most popular hiking trail in the Ventana Wilderness of the Los Padres National Forest, California. The 19.5 miles (31.4 km) trail traverses the Ventana Wilderness from the Big Sur Station near sea level to China Camp on Tassajara Road at 5,000 feet (1,500 m). Built in 1916 by the Post family of Big Sur, the Pine Ridge Trail offers hikers and equestrians an array of backcountry camps to enjoy.

Rancho El Sur

Rancho El Sur was a 8,949.06-acre (36.22 km2) Mexican land grant in present-day Monterey County, California on the Big Sur coast given in 1834 by Governor José Figueroa to Juan Bautista Alvarado. The grant extended from the mouth of Little Sur River inland about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) over the coastal mountains and south along the coast past the mouth of the Big Sur River to Cooper's Point. In about 1892, the rancho land plus an additional 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) of resale homestead land was divided into two major parcels. The southern 4,800 acres (1,900 ha) became the Molera Ranch, later the foundation of Andrew Molera State Park. The northern 7,100 acres (2,900 ha) formed the El Sur Ranch.

Rancho San Jose y Sur Chiquito

Rancho San José y Sur Chiquito was a 8,876-acre (35.92 km2) Mexican land grant in present-day Big Sur, in Monterey County, California, given in 1835 to Teodoro Gonzalez and re-granted by Governor Juan Alvarado the same year to Marcelino Escobar. The grant, including Point Lobos, was located south of the Carmel River, extending inland along the coastal mountains, and south along the Pacific coast. It included San Jose Creek, Malpaso Creek, Soberanes Creek, Tres Pinos Creek, Garrapata Creek, and ended on the north side of Palo Colorado Canyon. A hand-drawn map created c. 1853 accompanying the grant indicated a road or trail was already present along the coast.

Malpaso Creek

Malpaso Creek is a small, coastal stream 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Carmel in Monterey County, California, United States. It is generally regarded as the northern border of Big Sur in central coastal California.

Anderson Canyon

Anderson Canyon in the Big Sur region of California was named after pioneering homesteaders James and Peter Andersen who were the first European settlers of the area. The canyon, Anderson Creek, and Anderson Peak are south of McWay Falls and within the boundaries of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Soberanes Fire

The Soberanes Fire was a large wildfire that burned 57 homes and killed a bulldozer operator, and cost about $260 million to suppress, making it at the time the most expensive wildfire to fight in United States history. The Soberanes Fire was the result of an illegal campfire in Garrapata State Park. The fire burned 132,127 acres (53,470 ha) along the Big Sur coast in the Los Padres National Forest, Ventana Wilderness, and adjacent private and public land in Monterey County, California. At the fire's peak, over 5,000 personnel were assigned to the blaze. At the time that it was extinguished, the Soberanes fire ranked 18th on the list of the top 20 largest California wildfires, in terms of acreage burned.

Big Sur Land Trust

The Big Sur Land Trust is a private 501(c)(3) non-profit located in Monterey, California that has played an instrumental role in preserving land in California's Big Sur and Central Coast regions. The trust was the first to conceive of and use the "conservation buyer" method in 1989 by partnering with government and developers to offer tax benefits as an inducement to sell land at below-market rates. As of 2016, it has protected around 40,000 acres (16,187 ha) through acquisition and resale to government agencies. It has added conservation easements to another 17,000 acres (6,880 ha) and has retained ownership of a number of parcels totaling about 4,500 acres (1,821 ha).

Palo Colorado Canyon, California Unincorporated community in California, United States

Palo Colorado Canyon is an unincorporated community in the Big Sur region of Monterey County, California. The canyon entrance is located 11.3 miles (18.2 km) south of Carmel Valley River at the former settlement of Notley's Landing, 6.5 miles (10 km) north of Point Sur, and at an elevation of 112 feet.

Big Sur land use

The policies protecting land used in Big Sur are some of the most restrictive local-use standards in California, and are widely regarded as one of the most restrictive development protections anywhere. The program protects viewsheds from the highway and many vantage points, and severely restricts the density of development. About 60% of the coastal region is owned by governmental or private agencies which do not allow any development. The majority of the interior region is part of the Los Padres National Forest, Ventana Wilderness, Silver Peak Wilderness or Fort Hunter Liggett. The area is protected by the Big Sur Local Coastal Plan, which preserves it as "open space, a small residential community, and agricultural ranching." Its intention is "preserving the environment and visual access to it, the policies of the local coastal plan are to minimize, or limit, all destination activities."

El Sur Ranch

The El Sur Ranch, located on the Big Sur coast of California, has been continuously operated as a cattle ranch since 1834. The approximately 7,100 acres (2,873 ha) ranch straddles Highway 1 for 6 miles (9.7 km) from the mouth of the Little Sur River to the mouth of the Big Sur River and Andrew Molera State Park. Both the ranch and the park originally comprised the Rancho El Sur land grant given in 1834 by Governor José Figueroa to Juan Bautista Alvarado. It has been owned by the Hill family since 1955, who operate a commercial cow-calf operation.

Big Sur Coast Highway Scenic section of California State Route 1

Big Sur Coast Highway is a section of California State Route 1 through the Big Sur region of California that is widely considered to be one of the most scenic driving routes in the United States, if not the world. It is both a National Scenic Highway and a California Scenic Highway, and was described by Australian painter Francis McComas as the "greatest meeting of land and water in the world". Condé Nast Traveler named State Route 1 through Big Sur one of the top 10 world-famous streets, comparable to Broadway in New York City and the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The road itself is a destination for visitors.

Big Sur Village, California Unincorporated community in California, United States

Big Sur is an unincorporated community village in Big Sur, Monterey County, California. It is located along a 1 mile (1.6 km) long stretch of Big Sur Coast Highway in the Big Sur Valley 24 miles (39 km) south of Carmel, California. The village contains the largest collection of shops and visitor services along the entire 71-mile (114 km) segment of California State Route 1 between Malpaso Creek near Carmel Highlands in the north and San Carpóforo Creek near San Simeon in the south. The population is about 1,463. The collection of small roadside businesses and homes is often confused with the larger region, also known as Big Sur. On March 6, 1915, United States Post Office granted the English-speaking resident's request to change the name of their post office from Arbolado to Big Sur. Caltrans also refers to the village as Big Sur.

Bottchers Gap

Bottchers Gap is a day use area, campground, and trail head. It is located 7.6 miles (12.2 km) from the Big Sur Coast Highway at the end of Palo Colorado Road on the northern border of the Los Padres National Forest and Ventana Wilderness. It is located between Mescal Ridge and Skinner Ridge. From Bottchers Gap, there is an 3.3 miles (5.3 km) long private access road that leads to Camp Pico Blanco. Beginning at Bottchers Gap, it is a difficult 14.7 miles (23.7 km) hike via the Skinner Ridge and Ventana Double Cone trails to the Ventana Double Cone, making it one of the more distant locations in the wilderness.

Mill Creek Redwood Preserve

The Mill Creek Redwood Preserve is located on the Big Sur coast 6.8 miles (10.9 km) from Highway 1 on Palo Colorado Road. The park was severely damaged by the Soberanes fire and is closed indefinitely. When open, it is only accessible via trail from the road. Access was limited to six visitors per day who had to obtain a permit in advance from the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District. The 1,534 acres (621 ha) preserve was pieced together with several large properties between 1988 and 2000 for costs totaling $2 million.


  1. 1 2 "Garrapata SP". California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  2. "California State Park System Statistical Report: Fiscal Year 2009/10" (PDF). California State Parks: 24. Retrieved 2012-01-21.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. 1 2 Henson, Paul; Donald J. Usner (1993). "The Natural History of Big Sur" (PDF). University Of California Press. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 17, 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  4. Rubin, Sara (April 17, 2014). "With a new multi-agency agreement and a trickle of funding, trail engineers get to work on new routes". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  5. 1 2 "Garrapata State Park". Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Retrieved 2012-01-21.
  6. Hanauer, Gary (17 July 2012). "Bay Area Nude Beaches Guide 2012 | SF Bay Guardian". Retrieved 2015-05-12. Garra
  7. Grimes, Teresa; Heumann, Leslie (January 7, 1997). "Historic Context Statement Carmel-by-the-Sea". Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  8. Ogden Hoffman, 1862, Reports of Land Cases Determined in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Numa Hubert, San Francisco
  9. "Garrapata State Park" (PDF). California State Parks. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  10. "Soberanes Fire Updates". California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). 12 August 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  11. "Garrapata State Park, CA | Monterey County Parks". Retrieved 11 May 2018.