I strategically planned our Central and Northern California road trip for mid-March. Wild calla lilies in Big Sur were supposed to be in peak bloom at that time. Yet we didn’t start our adventures until the last days of March – early April. Luckily, the wild calla lilies still adorned a small valley in the scenic Big Sur area. The first signs of withering, however, were noticeable.
The Best Place to Find Wild Calla Lilies in Big Sur, California
Spring have brought a vibrant blanket of orange, pink, purple, and violet flowers to Big Sur. This dense duvet has covered expansive hills for miles on end. Not a super bloom California gets every few years, but it’s still a charming sight to devour with your eyes.
We spent the whole morning driving and hiking along one of the most beautiful coasts in the world. The weather, however, wasn’t welcoming, at least not yet. Gusty wind blew over the cliffs, disturbing the mighty ocean and adding its tune to a morning orchestra, consisting mainly of birds’ songs and occasions squirrels’ squeaks.
Despite the naughty weather, the wildflowers didn’t lower their heads. Quite the opposite, the vibrant plants raised their corollas to the sky, gathering all the bits of sunshine they could get.
Their effort didn’t go unnoticed. Yet I couldn’t stop wondering if the wild calla lilies in one particular spot in Big Sur I had known about for years were still blooming.
Where to Find Wild Calla Lilies in Big Sur: Calla Lily Valley
As soon as I was able to convince Roshan to go on a road trip through Yosemite, Pinnacles, and Big Sur, I made my mind to find the coveted wild calla lilies this time. The gracious plants with large white flowers spring up from the ground in the Calla Lily Valley, a small valley in Garrapata State Park, Big Sur.
The secreted gully sits along Highway 1, nearly 9 miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea. It takes about 2 hours 20 minutes to drive from San Francisco to find the mesmerizing calla lilies in Bir Sur. Many travelers arrive here from San Simeon (82 miles away) or Pismo Beach (166 miles away).
Unlike some other state parks in the region, Garrapata State Park is free to visit. Not the biggest, yet not less enchanting area enhances Big Sur with a few picturesque hikes, the Calla Lily Valley, a restroom, located across the road near the Rocky Ridge Trail, and plenty of off-road parking.
TIP: On a busy day, however, parking can still be an issue. So try to start your search for the Big Sur’s wild calla lilies early in the morning to ensure quick access to the trail. Otherwise, park wherever you can find an empty spot and walk to the trailhead.
Directions to Calla Lily Valley in Big Sur: Map
Garrapata Trail/Wild Calla Lilies Trail – A Gorgeous Hike in Northern Big Sur
It’s a pure exaggeration to call a walk to the Calla Lily Valley a hike. Yet a trail is a trail regardless how short it can be. With that said, the Garrapata/Wild Lilies Trail is one of the shortest in Big Sur. Spreading for 0.25 mile one way, it winds down a bluff, gradually descending to the gully at its bottom.
The trail sits near mile marker 63 and gate 19. But if you enter “Garrapata Trail” into your Google maps (make sure it’s offline), it brings you right to the trailhead.
If fact, there are two trails located just a few feet away from each other. Pick either one of them as they both take you to the Big Sur’s wild calla lilies. Each path arrives at the opposite side of a tiny creek with the flowers around it.
The Garrapata Trail
While the location is secluded and makes you question if you’re on the right path, the wild calla lilies are not the biggest secret of Big Sur anymore. Dozens if not hundreds of hikers walk down the cliff to the small valley with the bubbling creek that flows into the ocean.
Consequently, the path is not hard-packed. Loose sand as you would find on a beach charges the trail, trying to sneak into hikers’ shoes. The firm ground of the both sides of the path, though, successfully minimizes this inconvenience with a splendid veil of the spring wildflowers. No wild calla lilies yet, but it’s as good as Big Sur can only be in early spring.
The coveted flowers come into view at the last switchback turn. Growing densely along the creek, the wild calla lilies is a sight to impress even in a such paradise-like place as Big Sur. The calla lilies festoon the tiny vale between two bluffs. Yet they never claim their rights on the sandy beach just a few feet away.
Why Do Wild Calla Lilies Grow only in the Calla Lily Valley in Big Sur?
The calla lilies are rather demanding plants. They need ample protection to shade their roots. On the other hand, the untamed bellas like to bask their flowers in full sun. Plenty of moisture and good drainage are also required.
So secluded mountain hillsides with a tiny creek and a blanket of ankle-high vegetation, just like the Calla Lily Valley in Big Sur, provide perfect conditions for the calla lilies to grow in the wild.
The Best Time to Visit Calla Lily Valley and Enjoy Wild Calla Lilies in Big Sur
The wild calla lilies start blooming in the Big Sur area as early as mid-February. The flowering season can last until mid-April.
Yet if you visit Big Sur at the beginning of April as we did, you can see that the edges of the calla lilies begin to wither. It’s another week or so before the bloom ceases. From now on, only large green leaves and stems remind of the recent bloom.
Things to Do near Calla Lily Valley in Big Sur
1. Soberanes Point and Whale Peak Trail
Also located in Garrapata State Park, the path loops around a peak, offering a profusion of panoramic views and secluded side trails. The hike is 2 miles long. Thanks to its lack of signage, the area still feels less crowded than the rest of Big Sur (the Calla Lily Valley, however, slowly becomes an exception).
2. Bixby Creek Bridge
A short, 10-minute drive takes you to the most popular attraction in the area. Unlike the seasonal wild calla lilies, the nearly 280-foot structure rejoices the visitor of Big Sur all year round.
TIP: Yet don’t linger right near the bridge. Drive a little farther to any overlook with a direct view of the bridge. Blending in with the scenic surroundings, the historic structure looks like a continuation of the natural splendor the area is famous for.
3. McWay Falls
You can admire the second most popular landmark in the Big Sur region from a distance. Getting closer to a beach with a splashing waterfall is not allowed. The area is highly hazardous.
The end of the Waterfall Overlook Trail is the best way to feast your eyes on the astounding site. Similar to the Garrapata/Wild Calla Lilies Trail, the path is short, spanning only 0.25 mile of the Big Sur area.
4. San Simeon
San Simeon is the closest village where you can call it a day after exploring Big Sur, including its Cala Lily Valley. Known as a gateway to the scenic drive, this coastal town spoils you with one of the most extravagant historic structures in the American West and a number of impeccable places nearby.