Calla Lily Valley & Garrapata Beach -add this to your Big Sur and Carmel bucket list!
Did you know calla lilies grow in the wild? I didn’t! I also didn’t know that while most are found growing naturally in South Africa, some can be found in the wild in Northern California-the most famous, ubiquitous spot being in Calla Lily Valley.
PIN this blog post (use above pic) for the next time you’re in Carmel, CA or the Big Sur area of northern CA and add it to your bucketlist!! Considered a secret local spot and hidden gem, this beautiful hike is surprisingly unbeknownst to most Californians. I can’t tell you the number of SoCal moms I’ve told about this gorgeous find and the quizzical looks I’ve gotten in return. 😂
I’m here to spread the word and scream it from the mountaintops though because this place is heavenly and I believe everyone should get to see it once in their lifetime! Know a calla lily lover? SHARE this post!
📍 enter “calla lily valley” (on google maps). It’s near Garrapata state beach and gate 1 is right across from Doud Creek ranch
PARK on the west side of HWY 1 (gate1) across from the ranch. It’s free but the parking area is narrow and not an official lot..there are limited spots (maybe fits up to 18 cars)? and many have complained that it gets full on weekends fast.
Reviewers label the hike “easy.” And while it has little incline and does not require any hiking experience, it IS a mix of steps, and uneven and muddy terrain. Plus, it requires hopscotching over slippery rocks to get to the beach. So, don’t expect little kids or senior citizens with knee problems to find it “easy.” Of course, our 9 year old had no problem and playfully enjoyed her own version of “The Floor is Lava” as we tried our best not to fall in the creek. (It requires you to test rocks for stability and tentatively hover over and hop towards the beach). I’d say an adventurous 6 year old could do the .5 mile hike and that 5 and under would have a hard time traversing the creek to get to the beach side. It would also be up to the parents’ judgement to know whether their child would be respectful enough to the wildflowers, making sure to not only leave no trace but to also not pick flowers or trample on any. Everyone needs to make sure they stay on the paths as to preserve the flower field for all to enjoy.
Best time to go
Calla lilies are in season mid-Feb -mid March but can be seen as early as late January to early April. We just went over President’s day weekend Feb 2023 and though the Jan rains were reported to have damaged some of the wildflowers, we were still so impressed and wow-ed with what we saw.
If you’re wondering what the current situation looks like, I’d suggest searching instagram’s most recent hashtags for “calla lily valley.” Signs at the trailhead say the trail is open until sunset. I’d say the best time to go and beat the crowds is sunrise though. That’s when we shot these pics, and had the field to ourselves for the first 10 minutes before 2 other avid photographers came in to take advantage of the perfect lighting.
*Poison oak and mud await you in the valley so dress accordingly. Think boots, hiking shoes and long leggings or pants. If you’re aiming for that insta-worthy, frame worthy shot and want a romantic dress look for your pics, do what we did and wear the dress over your leggings and hiking shoes. Throw on a coat over it for warmth at sunrise and wear a cute bow or hat for the back of head shots. Shop our mommy and me star hats here. White dresses really pop and compliment the scene here. Here is a link to some of my favorite white dresses.
*Make the extra effort to walk towards the rockier path that leads to the beach. It’s worth it!! The crashing waves and foam that quickly sneaks towards you are mesmerizing. And you’ll feel like you’re on your own private beach. It would be a great spot for a little picnic or sunbathing. Also, I’ve read (too late) that if you make a right when hitting the beach and hike about 1/2 mile, you will see a beautiful waterfall! (This gives me a reason to return)!
*Download offline Google Maps, as cell service can be unreliable along the highway.
What else to do in the area
*Bixby bridge is 5 minutes away. Keyhole Rock at Pfeiffer Beach and McWay Falls on the other end of Big Sur are nearby highlights too. And Point Lobos State Park is a not to be missed hike.
*The bagel bakery nearby in Carmel has THE best chocolate croissants!!
So what do you think? Will you be adding this to your travel bucket list? PIN, save and share! And make sure to follow me on Instagram where I share daily inspiration for celebrating the everyday. It’s also where I shared all the details and videos (to IG stories) from this trip!