Hiking California: Garrapata State Park and Point Lobos State Reserve

Checking out the view at Point Lobos State Reserve.
I wrote last week about how I can most easily find solace in the outdoors as long as I’ve got someone to share it with. While in California for the past few weeks, I’ve had a few small windows to get out and decompress. They’ve been enthusiastically welcomed and I’m thankful I’ve had people to share them with.

Thanks to serendipitous connections and a willing coworker, I’ve ticked off two of what I believe are Monterey County’s must-see outdoor spots.

Hiking Garrapata State Park

Parts of Monterey County are exceptionally hilly, and I’d been itching to explore the nearby landscape since my arrival. A good friend from Philadelphia connected connected me with couple for a beautiful outing just south of Carmel in Garrapata State Park. We opted for a strenuous but beautiful four hour hike through redwood forests, over dry, windswept, sandy hills, and up to a spectacular view of the rocky coastline. It’s hailed as one of Monterey County’s top ten day hiking areas, and described by California State Parks as “Undeveloped and usually overlooked” with a "steep sampling of the Santa Lucia Mountains." Perfect.

The view, and the mist that socked us in.
After driving along Highway 1, a treat in and of itself, we parked and started up the redwood-filled Soberanes Canyon Trail. It was incredible to see the difference between the dry landscape we were heading towards and the abundance of greenery sprouting up around Soberanes Creek.

A left on to the Rocky Ridge Trail brought us to the steepest part of the hike, climbing 700 vertical feet in just over ½ mile. As we ascended, the afternoon fog rolled in and blocked the coastline view. But watching the clouds fly past us and up over the hills was quite a treat. And we were lucky enough to catch the view on the way down. Four hours later, we were more than ready for a local brew and dinner at The Fishwife in Pacific Grove.

The edge of Whaler's Cove.

Exploring Point Lobos State Reserve

A free afternoon this weekend was just enough time for a sampling of the variety of beautiful scenery Point Lobos has to offer. Called "the crown jewel of the State Park system," it has also earned a spot on the top ten best area day hikes list. 

Visitors are free to walk a few hundred feet from your car or miles and miles along wide trails. Most are family-friendly; there are no large hills at Point Lobos. and many trails are accessible by wheelchair. But, as I observed, it's also a great place for a very extended trail run! The park has more than earned its distinction; it's absolutely breathtaking. With Monterey Pine forests, miles of Santa Lucia Granodiorite, and a wealth of plant, animal, and marine life, I could've spent the entire weekend there.

Our first stop was the Sand Hill Cove part of the park. I rock-hopped, found baby crabs and watched a brown pelican fly past. After climbing up and back down the short trail to Sea Lion Point, the park roads took us down the coast further, then back through woods filled with We finished the afternoon with a short stop at Whaler's Cove, the site of a whaling station from 1862 to 1879. I went bounding up the Whalers Knoll Trail for a panoramic view of the cove just before the sun set. I came home with a camera full of photos and a big smile on my face.

Watching the sun set on Whaler's Cove.
They're two destinations anyone visiting Monterey County absolutely must visit, and perhaps on my next trip, I'll get to the rest of the top ten hikes list! Have you been to either of these incredible spots?