Garland Ranch Falls

Carmel / Garland Ranch Regional Park, California, USA

About Garland Ranch Falls


Hiking Distance: 2.6 miles round-trip
Suggested Time: 1-1.5 hours

Date first visited: 2021-02-07
Date last visited: 2021-02-07

Waterfall Latitude: 36.49998
Waterfall Longitude: -121.76318

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Garland Ranch Falls was an ephemeral waterfall that happened to be within the popular Garland Ranch Regional Park.

In my mind, it’s kind of a waterfaller’s excuse to experience a different side of Carmel and the Big Sur Coast because it sits within Carmel Valley.

Garland_Ranch_116_02072021 - Looking up at the Garland Ranch Falls, which didn't flow during our visit in early February 2021
Looking up at the Garland Ranch Falls, which didn’t flow during our visit in early February 2021

This valley, where the Carmel River flows, seemed to be the fruit-growing and wine-growing alternative to the otherwise rocky coastlines of Big Sur itself.

As you can see from the photo above, seeing the 70ft Garland Ranch Falls perform requires some serious timing for right after a heavy rain.

Our visit in early February 2021 occurred a week after a strong storm hit the Big Sur area with 4-6″ of rain in some areas.

It even caused a landslide along Rat Creek (further to the south) that ended up closing Highway 1 for several months.

Garland_Ranch_022_02072021 - Looking down Cooper Trail after having crossed the bridge over the Carmel River in Garland Ranch Regional Park
Looking down Cooper Trail after having crossed the bridge over the Carmel River in Garland Ranch Regional Park

Nevertheless, the waterfall was dry on our visit, and so seeing this waterfall perform comes down to whether we’ve had sustained rainfall (we didn’t in Winter 2020-2021), and how soon after the last storm we’d show up.

Accessing and Experiencing Garland Ranch Falls

From one of the plentiful parking spaces at the Garland Ranch Regional Park (see directions below), we backtracked towards a year-round footbridge traversing the Carmel River.

There was actually supposed to be a second bridge over the Carmel River closer to the large parking lot, but it was out during our early February 2021 visit.

Once we got past the bridge, we then followed the main trail following the Carmel River upstream towards the Garland Ranch Visitor Center.

Garland_Ranch_042_02072021 - Looking across an open area with picnic tables and interpretive signs towards the Garland Ranch Regional Park Visitor Center
Looking across an open area with picnic tables and interpretive signs towards the Garland Ranch Regional Park Visitor Center

During this wide open and flat walk, we noticed several trail junctions leading to loops like the Lupine Loop or Sycamore Trail among others.

However, we just kept left and stuck with the riverside part of the Lupine Trail while enjoying the expansive views across Carmel Valley.

In roughly 0.2-mile, we reached the Carmel Valley Visitor Center, which had some brochures as well as a nice relief map of the park.

In the clearing fronting the visitor center, I also noticed picnic tables and interpretive signs fronting the vegetation endemic to this area like the Monterey pines, Monterey cypress, chaparral, and coast live oak among others.

Garland_Ranch_221_02072021 - Looking back along the Lupine Loop Trail in the direction of the visitor center with some homes perched on the south-facing hills flanking Carmel Valley in the distance
Looking back along the Lupine Loop Trail in the direction of the visitor center with some homes perched on the south-facing hills flanking Carmel Valley in the distance

Keeping to the trail on our left, we continued along the general trajectory of the Carmel River for another 0.6-mile before reaching a fork in the path shortly after other trails converged from the right.

At this point, we had a choice of going straight towards an ascent or descending on a narrower trail to the left.

We kept straight to go onto the so-called Waterfall Trail to continue the final few paces towards the Garland Ranch Falls.

During the ascent, there were still more trails coming in from the right, but they led up to the Sky Trail as well as the Cliff Trail, which ultimately would ascend up to Siesta Point for expansive views.

Garland_Ranch_093_02072021 - A trail junction where the Waterfall Trail continued on the right as it ascended, while a trail into private property descended to the left towards the Carmel River
A trail junction where the Waterfall Trail continued on the right as it ascended, while a trail into private property descended to the left towards the Carmel River

That said, we kept going straight on the Waterfall Trail, which eventually bent to the right alongside the seasonal creek that would have been the outflow of Garland Ranch Falls.

Shortly after crossing over a bridge over this seasonal creek, the trail eventually ascended to the base of Garland Ranch Falls.

The trail would continue climbing up and away from the waterfall to eventually join up with the Mesa Trail and perhaps the pond or lake that would normally feed the Garland Ranch Falls when it would overflow.

By this point, we had gone roughly 1.3 miles from where we had parked, turn around and head back to conclude the excursion.

Garland_Ranch_120_02072021 - Julie having a seat on a rock before the Garland Ranch Falls, which was not flowing during our early February 2021 visit
Julie having a seat on a rock before the Garland Ranch Falls, which was not flowing during our early February 2021 visit

However, as you can see from all the trail junctions, there were plenty of ways to extend a visit here to fully experience the subtle beauty that the Garland Ranch Regional Park had to offer.

Nice Rapids on the Carmel River

Speaking of extending our visit, when we backtracked downhill to the trail junction at the bottom of the descent, we then headed down the narrower trail towards the Carmel River.

Apparently, this trail traversed in an area that was apparently private property (according to the signage), but we stopped roughly 0.1-mile from the Waterfall Trail, where we arrived at some attractive rapids on the Carmel River.

Given the disappointment of Garland Ranch Falls running dry, this quaint rapids was a nice consolation prize to chill out by the sounds of running water while watching the morning sun paint the surrounding scenery with its light.

Garland_Ranch_184_02072021 - Julie checking out an attractive series of rapids on the Carmel River shortly after descending from the Garland Ranch Falls
Julie checking out an attractive series of rapids on the Carmel River shortly after descending from the Garland Ranch Falls

The trail didn’t seem to proceed any further from here, and I’d imagine this was probably some trail that was created by visitors and maybe tolerated by the owner of the land that prompted the private property signage.

Only after having our fill of these rapids on the Carmel River did we wrap up our short and pleasant visit to Garland Ranch before returning to our car.

Judging by how many people we encountered on the Sunday that we showed up in early February 2021, I’d imagine that this was quite the popular spot mainly due to its accessibility and the plethora of trail routes to choose from.

Overall, Julie and I spent a little under 2 hours away from the car.

Garland_Ranch_234_02072021 - Lots of people getting started on their walk in the Garland Ranch Regional Park, which attested to this place's popularity just as we were concluding our visit
Lots of people getting started on their walk in the Garland Ranch Regional Park, which attested to this place’s popularity just as we were concluding our visit

However, it was a very leisurely stroll so conceivably a more focused waterfall visit could take around 60-90 minutes to cover the 2.6 miles round trip.

Authorities

Garland Ranch Falls resides in the Garland Ranch Regional Park in Carmel Valley in Monterey County, California. It is administered by the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District. For more information, questions, and current conditions, you can check out their website.

Garland_Ranch_004_02072021 - Julie heading down towards the main parking lot for the Garland Ranch Regional Park
Garland_Ranch_005_02072021 - When we descended closer to the main parking lot for Garland Ranch Regional Park, we realized just how much parking there was for this place
Garland_Ranch_006_02072021 - This secondary bridge over the Carmel River was closed during our early February 2021 visit
Garland_Ranch_011_02072021 - Julie following a trail that was at the bottom of the road embankment where there was roadside parking along the Carmel Valley Road
Garland_Ranch_013_02072021 - Steps leading back up to the roadside parking along Carmel Valley Road. This gave us the idea that we could choose to go up on the way back to better maintain social distance on the trail to the right when we come back here at the end of our walk
Garland_Ranch_015_02072021 - Julie going onto the main bridge over the Carmel River as we were entering the Garland Ranch Regional Park
Garland_Ranch_017_02072021 - Even though this bridge was part of the trail leading into Garland Ranch Regional Park, it was wide enough for vehicular traffic of service vehicles
Garland_Ranch_020_02072021 - Looking downstream along the Carmel River from the footbridge leading to Garland Ranch Regional Park
Garland_Ranch_021_02072021 - Once we were on the other side of the bridge over the Carmel River, the main trail leading to both the visitor center and the waterfall was on the left
Garland_Ranch_023_02072021 - Julie figuring out which trail to take, but we generally just had to keep left
Garland_Ranch_024_02072021 - If we wanted to extend our visit, we could have taken some of the side looping trails that would have eventually rejoined the Waterfall Trail
Garland_Ranch_031_02072021 - Looking towards the Garland Ranch Regional Park Visitor Center
Garland_Ranch_033_02072021 - Around the Garland Ranch Regional Park Visitor Center were some picnic tables and interpretive signs fronting native flora
Garland_Ranch_045_02072021 - An example of some of the exhibited flora included these Monterey Pine Trees
Garland_Ranch_046_02072021 - Another look back towards the Garland Ranch Regional Park Visitor Center
Garland_Ranch_053_02072021 - Looking back at the short interpretive loop before the Garland Ranch Visitor Center
Garland_Ranch_060_02072021 - Continuing on the Lupine Loop Trail towards the Waterfall Trail in Garland Ranch Regional Park
Garland_Ranch_086_02072021 - Julie going past some trail junctions that ultimately converged with the Waterfall Trail as we headed southeast
Garland_Ranch_097_02072021 - Julie continuing uphill on the Waterfall Trail as we bypassed these other side trails leading up towards Siesta Point and the Mesa Trail
Garland_Ranch_103_02072021 - Julie continuing on the ascent towards Garland Ranch Falls as the vegetation was noticeably more dense than the wide open expanse of the Lupine Loop Trail
Garland_Ranch_115_02072021 - Looking up at the dry Garland Ranch Falls from its base during our early February 2021 visit
Garland_Ranch_118_02072021 - Looking up at the steps leading away from the Garland Ranch Falls
Garland_Ranch_119_02072021 - Looking down at the context of Julie standing before the base of the dry Garland Ranch Falls, which gives you an idea of how tall it would be had it been flowing
Garland_Ranch_124_02072021 - Another look up at the Garland Ranch Falls' lip
Garland_Ranch_126_02072021 - More angled view towards the Garland Ranch Falls from the top of the steps at its base
Garland_Ranch_130_02072021 - If I wanted to extend the hiking in Garland Ranch, I could have continued walking up these steps to check out the source of Garland Ranch Falls
Garland_Ranch_136_02072021 - Julie descending back down towards the footbridge over the seasonal outflowing creek downstream of Garland Ranch Falls
Garland_Ranch_139_02072021 - Looking back up towards Garland Ranch Falls from the footbridge.  You can already tell from here whether the waterfall would be flowing or not
Garland_Ranch_145_02072021 - Julie now heading down the other trail towards the Carmel River after having had our fill of the dry Garland Ranch Falls
Garland_Ranch_146_02072021 - Julie continuing on the narrow path leading to the Carmel River somewhere below the Garland Ranch Falls
Garland_Ranch_011_iPhone_02072021 - Julie checking out the pretty rapids on the Carmel River
Garland_Ranch_153_02072021 - Looking upstream above the rapids towards an attractively calm part of the Carmel River
Garland_Ranch_197_02072021 - A closer long exposure look across the rapids on the Carmel River
Garland_Ranch_214_02072021 - Julie heading back along the Lupine Loop Trail as we were wrapping up our Garland Ranch visit
Garland_Ranch_224_02072021 - Approaching some infrastructure near the Garland Ranch Visitor Center
Garland_Ranch_229_02072021 - Julie going back past the Garland Ranch Visitor Center
Garland_Ranch_233_02072021 - The nice thing about the return walk in the morning was that the sun casted a nice glow on the north-facing hillsides flanking Carmel Valley
Garland_Ranch_242_02072021 - Looking back down towards the bridge over the Carmel River, which illustrated why we opted to just walk back along Carmel Valley Road to maintain social distance
Garland_Ranch_243_02072021 - Julie approaching our parked car in one of the spaces along the Carmel Valley Road


Garland Ranch Falls resides within Garland Ranch Regional Park in Carmel Valley.

We drove here from the Hyatt Carmel Highlands (roughly 5 miles south of downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea) so that’s how I’ll describe this driving route.

Garland_Ranch_001_02072021 - Looking back at the roadside parking for Garland Ranch Regional Park along the Carmel Valley Road
Looking back at the roadside parking for Garland Ranch Regional Park along the Carmel Valley Road

So once we got on the Hwy 1 below the Hyatt Carmel Highlands, we then drove north on Hwy 1 for about 3.7 miles to the traffic light at Carmel Valley Road.

We then turned right onto Carmel Valley Road and followed it for roughly 8.5 miles to the parking area for the Garland Ranch Regional Park on our right.

We chose to park on one of the many parking spaces along the road, but there was also an entrance leading to an even more spacious parking lot down below.

Overall, this drive took us around 15 minutes, but given the amount of traffic (especially on weekends) this part of Carmel can get, I can imagine it might take longer depending on the degree of congestion.

Garland_Ranch_009_02072021 - This was the additional parking lot behind the signed entrance for the Garland Ranch Regional Park. As you can see from this photo, there were plenty of parking spaces
This was the additional parking lot behind the signed entrance for the Garland Ranch Regional Park. As you can see from this photo, there were plenty of parking spaces

For context, Carmel-by-the-Sea was 4 miles (roughly 10-20 minutes depending on traffic) south of Monterey, 47 miles (about an hour drive) south of Santa Cruz, about 77 miles south of San Jose, 116 miles (over 2 hours drive) south of San Francisco, and about 321 miles (5 hours drive) north of Los Angeles.

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Long video showing the dry waterfall from a couple of different spots - one from further away and another right at its base


Checking out the nice rapids on the Carmel River near the Garland Ranch Waterfall


Right to left sweep of the rapids on the Carmel River as seen within Garland Ranch before going over to the top of the rapids

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Tagged with: garland ranch, carmel valley, carmel, big sur, california, waterfall



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