Mileage: 5 miles via the Soberanes Canyon to Rocky Ridge Loop Trail; 1 additional mile to summit Doud Peak
Elevation gain: 1900 feet
Difficulty rating: Moderate
The Lowdown: Every once in a while you need to escape the forest hikes and get out to the ocean views, or maybe you need to escape the ocean views and get into the forest, but what if you could get both in one hike? That is exactly what we did on our 6 mile hike in Garapatta State Park.
Garrapata State Park is an unmarked park that lays along the Northern most tip of the famed Big Sur Coastline. Even though this park is unmarked, a trail of parked cars along the coastline of Highway 1 will assure you that you are in the right place. After having to pull a MacGyver to find parking and frogger our way across a busy highway, we started our trek. I was amazed by the plant diversity of this park. The first ½ mile of the hike was surrounded by cactus and not a bit of shade, but by mile 2 you are transported deep into a damp California redwood grove surrounded by massive coastal redwoods, giant chain fern, redwood sorrel, California spikenard and western coltsfoot before hitting tree line and climbing above the grove to the top of Rocky Ridge and Doud Peak. Getting above tree line was tough but had one obvious benefit, amazing ocean views. Good thing we had layers, we went from hot, to cold, to hot again, as we walked in and out of the different ecosystems.
The Sobranes Canyon and Rocky Ridge trails that transported us along the Big Sur coastline may have been well marked but not an easy path. Leave the Vans at home and bring your good hiking shoes. Mile 3 had us climbing straight up along an uneven, washed out and windy trail that left us stumbling from time to time; and that was before the summit beers! One foot after an other straight up and out of breath, I saw salvation… the top of the trail but one false summit after another kept us working hard. Hey, at least the views were amazing!
At one point I was ashamed, as I watched a group of small kids racing down the trail with smiles and energy like they were running into a toy store, and here I was, fighting to not stop every 5 minutes while I caught my breath. To feel better, I told myself that the kids most likely cried on the way up and their parents bribed them on the way down with ice-cream and kisses.
We finally saw the top of the trail, and it was amazing! We spent at least an hour at the top taking pictures of the Big Sur coast and enjoying the views Telegraph style: beers in hand.
It is here I realized what goes up, must come down, and steep up, meant steeper down. The uneven path is a bit tricky in parts and flailing like a running child did not help. One rolled ankle later and I think I learned my lesson, but if I am being honest, I most likely did not.
Once we got down the mountain it was time to play Frogger again and were back at the car. I have to say, this patch of earth was one of the most beautiful hikes I have been on to date. The Big Sur coastline is unbelievable and if you’re lucky enough to check it out, Garrapata State Park will take your breath away.
Get Up, Get Out, Get Hiking!
Written By Jen Tarbox, AKA, Mamma Bear