Carmel Area State Parks General Plan

On May 21, 2021, the California State Park and Recreation Commission approved the Carmel Area State Parks General Plan (GP) and Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The General Plan covers three state park units: Carmel River State Beach (SB), Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (SNR), and Ishxenta State Park (SP).

The General Plan has been split into four sections for easier download:

Part 1: Executive Summary / Table of Contents / Chapter 1 Introduction (11.6 MB)
Part 2: Chapter 2 Existing Conditions (15.2 MB)
Part 3: Chapter 3 Issues and Analysis / Chapter 4 Park Plan (18.2 MB)
Part 4: Chapter 5 Environmental Analysis / Chapter 6 References / Chapter 7 Report Contributors (3.4 MB)

Why Is A General Plan Important?

A General Plan (GP) is a broad-based policy document that establishes a long-range vision, goals, and guidelines for park management. It also provides direction on future recreation opportunities, resource management, historic sites, visitor facilities, park improvements, services, and programs. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is also prepared as part of the planning process, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The EIR evaluates potential environmental effects associated with implementation of General Plan proposals.

California State Parks welcomes ideas and suggestions about the future of state park resources and the planning process includes multiple opportunities for public comment. Please send any inquiries to or send a written request for information to:

California State Parks
Strategic Planning and Recreation Services Division
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001

Carmel Area State Parks Planning

The Carmel Area State Parks General Plan is a regional plan addressing four state park units located in the Carmel area: 1) Carmel River State Beach, 2) Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, 3) Point Lobos Ranch, and 4) Hatton Canyon. The latter two were unclassified park units prior to approval of the General Plan.

Carmel Area State Parks map

The Carmel Area State Parks General Plan was prepared with the assistance of the Point Lobos Foundation, funded in partnership with California State Parks and Proposition 84 bond funds. For more information about Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, visit the following websites: California State Parks and Point Lobos Foundation.

For more details about the Carmel Area State Parks General Plan planning process, visit the Carmel Area State Parks Planning History page.

A Brief History of the Four Carmel Area Parks

A combined General Plan was completed for Carmel River State Beach and Point Lobos State Reserve in May 1979 (later reclassified as a State Natural Reserve). State Parks later acquired two additional additional properties: Point Lobos Ranch, located on the east side of Highway 1, across from Point Lobos State Natural Reserve; and Hatton Canyon, located north of Carmel River State Beach and east of Highway 1. This provided a valuable opportunity to blend features and optimize functions of natural and cultural resource management, watersheds and hydrology, wildlife corridors, trail systems, and park operations in a regional context.

Carmel River State Beach is a 297-acre area, created by flood cycles and the meandering Carmel River that flows into the Pacific Ocean. The State Beach features the Carmel River Lagoon and Wetland Natural Preserve, the Ohlone Coastal Cultural Preserve, a mile-long beach, a lagoon restoration site, an organic agricultural farm with historic buildings, and a bird habitat that includes waterfowl and songbirds. Monastery Beach, also known as San Jose Creek Beach, is part of Carmel River State Beach, and is popular with scuba divers. Ocean swimming and wading are extremely dangerous at this location.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve contains 1,325 acres of headlands, coves and meadows. Its natural beauty is the inspiration for artists, writers, and photographers, and has been called the “greatest meeting of land and water in the world.” The Reserve is habitat to more than 23 species of mammals. The offshore area (an Underwater Park), popular with divers, forms one of the richest underwater habitats in the world. Wildlife includes seals, sea lions, sea otters and migrating gray whales. Thousands of seabirds also make the Reserve their home. Hiking trails follow the shoreline and lead to hidden coves. The area was once a vibrant whaling and abalone industry. A small cabin built around 1851 by Chinese fishermen still remains at Whalers Cove and is now a cultural history museum. The Reserve also contains important archeological resources.

Point Lobos Ranch provides spectacular views of Carmel Bay and the coastline. This 1,329 acre property contains one of the world's largest native Monterey pine forests, examples of the rare Gowen cypress, and areas of the rare maritime chaparral plant community. This property and the surrounding public lands provide mountain lion habitat, and San Jose Creek provides steelhead spawning grounds. The property contains important Native American archaeological sites and an early twentieth century complex of ranch buildings.

Hatton Canyon contains a variety of habitats, including wetlands, riparian, and pine forests in the higher elevations. The canyon’s stream, Hatton Creek, typically flows year around, providing lush vegetation and a rich environment for wildlife.  Most of Hatton Canyon’s 130 acres are isolated by major roadways at either end: Carmel Valley Road to the south and Highway 1 to the northwest. A recently developed bike trail offers convenient access under Carmel Valley Road to the southern end of Hatton Canyon. The south portion, known as “Marathon Flats,” is frequented by visitors and is the site of several special events, most notably serving as the terminus for the internationally renowned Big Sur Marathon.