Calla Lily Valley – the most memorable Pacific Coast Highway experience at the Garrapata State Beach.
Calla Lily Valley, Garrapata Beach is the most surreal spot on the Pacific Coast Highway in the state of California. My wife and I really enjoyed shooting these fairy tale flowers during the magical golden hour.
The valley is located only a few hours away from San Francisco and only 20 minutes south of Carmel-By-The-Sea town. We found the location after stopping by at the Bixby and Rocky creek bridges on the way from the McWay falls.
When do calla lilies bloom in Big Sur?
The best time to go see Calla Lily valley at Garrapata state park in Big Sur is early January through the end of April. Although we’ve seen calla lily flowers bloom at during the most random times of the year throughout various regions of California.
What’s really interesting is that what actually looks like a snow-white petal is a leaf-like formation called Spathe and the vibrant yellowish part is the Spadix that harbors several tiny flowers (might want to bring your macro lens for a better look).
Couple of fun facts about lilies that are not lilies!
The Calla lily is a perennial bulb.These are some cool facts we found on The Flower Experts
Though called a lily, Calla lilies are not really lilies.
Calla is a flowering genus of twenty-eight species originating in Africa and growing mostly in marshy areas.
Calla lilies are grown from bulbous roots with finger-like growths. These are known as tubers.
The blooming time of Calla lilies is late spring.
The word Calla comes from the Greek term for beautiful.
The Calla lily roots are poisonous [actually the whole plant is poisonous]
We’ve all been awwed by the viral sunset images of the Lilies from the Big Sur, at Garrapata Beach. Nonetheless, seeing the place in real life was one of the top experience while exploring California. I highly recommend visiting the place following California’s winter rain season (usually ends in January/February). Going after the rain season is the “for sure” best time to see calla lilies. A photographer’s paradise by the beach – looks amazing during any time of the day, but most especially before the sunset.
I highly recommend shooting during the “Golden hour” if you’d like to create a professional looking image with as little effort as possible. Shooting Calla Lily Valley during the sunset would probably be the ideal time, some are even able to capture the golden sun orb in the composition between the two ridges forming the valley.
In photography, the golden hour is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky.
Shooting in the morning might prove to be challenging since the valley is bordered by the Pacific Coast Highway and a near by Big Sur mountain range which might prevent the best lighting conditions. Furthermore, the Big Sur area is often covered by a light to thick layer of fog in the morning, adding to natural constrains while shooting.
3 things to note while exploring Calla Lily Valley.
Note #1: Please be careful of the fragile stems and plants themselves. Narrow paths surrounding the stream are tricky to navigate and unfortunately due to major tourist inflow the natural wonder is being over exhausted. The plants are crumpled and might not survival for too long. There are many more Calla Lily Valleys along the PCH (especially underneath the bridges, including the Rocky Creek Bridge and the Bixby Bridge) however this spot is the most easily accessible.
Note #2: Beware of Nettle Plant which burns like hell and leaves urticaria “hives-like” pale-pink papules on the exposed skin areas. The plant sparsely grows in between Calla Lily flowers in a commensalism relation, protecting the fragile beautyof the Lily plant. Wearing pants and covered shoes should be enough protection.
Note #3: We wouldn’t recommend for little kids to walk around the “calla lily valley” on their own. The terrain is pretty treacherous and they may easily slip an fall into a small creek running in the middle. Little children might also easily burn by the Nettle Plant .
Types of Hives you might develop after touching the nettle plant
Parking at Calla Lily Valley
There’s no designated parking lot, besides a short stretch of a an unpaved shoulder. Parallel park on the Pacific Coast Highway. Keep in mind that parking is limited and thus arrive a bit in advance especially before sunset.
Last but not least, don’t forget to enjoy the Garrapata Beach, which is very clean and actually “swimmable” – weather dependent.
Here are few pages for photo ideas.
What else is there to do in Big Sur or Monterey?
Check out our posts from Carmel By the Sea, Monterey and Santa Cruz staycations to explore a little more.