A hidden coastal hike in Big Sur, a beautiful beach, and maybe a little wine-tasting afterwards? Sounds like a plan! First, the hike. Big Sur’s Garrapata State Park is a coast-hugging beauty with little-known trails leading to a Big Surplus of vistas. Located just 7 miles from Carmel, it’s easy to pass by this gem en route to other Big Sur destinations, so a lot of people miss out. Don’t let the parking area just off Highway 1 fool you; you’ll soon feel worlds away from traffic on this 2-mile (round-trip) oceanside rambler with nonstop views of Big Sur’s epic coastline that you just can’t see from a car.
Winding along the bluffs above the Pacific, yet close enough to feel a cooling sea breeze and some mist from waves churning below, this lollipop loop sweeps the scenery from the Santa Lucia Mountains all the way down a long a stretch of Big Sur’s coast. There’s a beautiful vantage of the sparkling ocean surrounding tiers of rocky sea castles, and hulking cliffs ashore loom like lords over the Pacific. Flocks of pelicans favor the skies here, flapping in formation with a little help from salt-tinged breezes. The trail eventually loops back inland for a brief stretch, with a short 50-foot detour climb to the apex of Whale Peak for a huge panorama that, true to its name, is an ideal place for spotting whales during migration season. Back in your car, a 1.5-mile drive south brings you to the highway pullout for (dog-friendly!) Garrapata State Beach. Sets of stairways lead down to this huge soft sandy beach with abundant enclaves for relaxing (during a rainy season, a waterfall forms at the north end).
BONUS: Top off the afternoon with some walkable wine-tasting in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Lively tasting rooms decorate the streets of this European-style hamlet. We like Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room (San Carlos St. and 7th Ave.), where an estate flight is a reasonable $10 per person and the new release Triple Layer Red makes a lovely way to finish the day.
Park in a turnout for Garrapata State Park located along the side of Hwy. 1. The turnout to reach the trailhead for the Soberanes Point Trails loop is found just after mile marker 66.00. It’s the second parking area after this mile marker, and it comes up fast. No dogs on the hiking trails. Garrapata State Beach is dog-friendly! Carmel-by-Sea tasting rooms are dog-friendly!