Palo Corona Regional Park is one of Central Coast California’s most significant undeveloped open spaces. In the largest land conservation project in Monterey county history, The Nature Conservancy, The Big Sur Land Trust, State of California (through several of its agencies), and Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District partnered to acquire the 10,000-acre Palo Corona Ranch. The acquisition was finalized in 2004.
The 10,000-acre ranch was then divided between the State Department of Fish & Game and The Park District to be protected as public conservation and Parkland in perpetuity. The State Department of Fish & Game added the southern 5,500 acres of the former ranch to its existing 640-acre Joshua Creek Ecological Preserve (Preserve). The Park District created the new Palo Corona Regional Park (Park) with the northern 4,350 acres of the former ranch.
The Park stretches for nearly 7 miles in length across 4,300 sprawling acres of rugged, spectacular country that boasts an extraordinary mix of ecosystems and wildlife species. The Park established a critical environmental link in a protected seventy-mile long wild land corridor that begins at the Carmel River and extends southward to the Hearst Ranch in San Luis Obispo County. The Park includes the headwaters of thirteen watersheds and protects significant habitat areas, wildlife corridors, wildlife, and endangered species.
The Park connects 9 previously protected conservation properties preserved for their biological, recreation and scenic values, including: Garrapata State Park, Joshua Creek Ecological Preserve, Mitteldorf Preserve, Glen Deven Ranch, Point Lobos State Reserve, Santa Lucia Conservancy lands, and the Ventana Wilderness.
Within the Park, there are over 500 species of plants occurring in diverse habitats from the Carmel River to the mixed hardwood forest that crown’s the 3,000-foot Palo Corona Peak. The Park’s grassland ecosystem supports some of the highest numbers of individual grass and wildflower species found anywhere along California’s central coast.
Beginning at near sea level and rising to over 3,400 feet in elevation, the Park provides an incredibly diverse wildlife habitat. The Park is permanent habitat to coastal trout, and steelhead fisheries occur in perennial creeks with rare amphibians, including the California red-legged frog and tiger salamander. The federally endangered Smith’s blue butterfly occurs in the acres of buckwheat, and a variety of fully protected raptors nest and forage throughout the forest and grasslands. Deer, mountain lion, bobcat, golden eagle and California condor range over the Park, where several unusual birds such as mountain quail and horned larks are known to reside. Rare black bear, peregrine falcon, and spotted owl, which have been documented on adjoining lands, are also likely to be found in the Park.