Jade Cove Recreation Area
Jade Cove Recreation Area (Hwy. 1, two miles south of Sand Dollar Beach) is easy to pass as you barrel down Highway 1 towards San Simeon. A road sign marks the area, but there’s not much in the way of a formal parking lot or anything else to denote the treasures of this jagged, rough part of the Big Sur coastline.
Park in the dirt/gravel strip off the road and head past the fence and into the park. It’s fun to read the unusual signs along the narrow, beaten path that seems to lead to the edge of a cliff. The signs explain that you cannot bring in mining equipment, or take away rocks or minerals obtained from behind the high-tide line.
If you’re into aerial sports, you can hang-glide off the cliffs here.
Once you get to the edge of the cliff, the short trail gets rough. It’s only 0.25 mile, but it’s almost straight down a rocky, slippery cliff. Don’t try to climb down if you’re not in reasonable physical condition, and even if you are, don’t be afraid to use your hands to steady yourself.
At the bottom, you’ll find huge boulders and smaller rocks and very little sand. You may also see a small herd of locals dressed in wetsuits and scuba gear. But most of all, you’ll find the most amazing minerals in the boulders and rocks.
Reach out and touch a multi-ton boulder shot through with jade. Search the smaller rocks beneath your feet for chunks of sea-polished jade. If you’re a hard-core rock nut, you can join the locals in scuba diving for jewelry-quality jade. As long as you find it in the water or below the high-tide line, it’s legal for you to take whatever you find here.
Jade Cove has no water, no restrooms, no visitors center, and no services of any kind.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition