Gravity Garden, California

I found myself enchanted by tranquil Gravity Garden in California, a private sculpture garden located little more than a stone's throw from Carmel, along the scenic Big Sur coastline.

Wandering past dozens of rock towers of various sizes was like walking through a forest of stony totem poles dating back to primeval times. But my mind boggled whenever I realized these smooth, rounded river rocks–ranging from pebbles to boulders and often stacked on end–weren't glued, mortared or bolted in place. Gravity alone maintains these stacks, some over 9 feet tall!

Artist Jim Needham started to create his nearly 1-acre garden in 1998. A respected photographer as well as rock stacker, Jim's studio and gallery adjoin the garden. If he's not creating custom sculptures in other parts of the world, you'll often find him working out here or in his studio–and he enjoys chatting with visitors.

Jim told me he believes that all rocks, like people, are unique, and that he taps into the “spirit” of each rock when placing it. Some of his seemingly fragile towers have withstood wind and weather–even earthquakes–for 5 years or more. But the nature of his art makes this sculpture garden a fluid, ever-changing attraction.

You won't find Gravity Garden in most guidebooks. But if you're driving along the coast, I highly recommend stopping–this is a rock garden like no other! Carmel is along State Highway 1 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway), about 5 miles southwest of Monterey. For general information, call the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-888/221-1010.

Gravity Garden is where Highway 1 meets Fern Canyon Road in the Carmel Highlands area (97 Corona Rd.), about 3 miles south of Carmel and about 1 mile south of Point Lobos State Reserve. It's open daily; no phone number available.

More to See

The historic Carmel Mission (3080 Rio Rd.) and museum are open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily for tours; it opens at 10:30 a.m. on weekends. For details, call 1-831/624-3600.

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