Exploring and Hiking Big Sur


Big Sur offers some of the most spectacular hikes on the coast of California. Most tourist drive down the coast and rarely step out of their vehicles. To move from being a "tourist" to a traveler it is essential to get your feet on the ground and off the pavement. Starting from north to south along Highway 1 the following list of California State Parks and National Forest Service areas will give you a great start to exploring the wilds of Big Sur. If you are interested in exploring the backcountry on longer hikes and backpack trips check out the resources at the bottom of this page. Be mindful of your own abilities, skills, and personal safety. Use appropriate low-impact hiking and camping practices to care for this wild and beautiful coast. The Gallery and Chalk Fires of 2008 currently has a number of areas closed.

Point Lobos State Reserve: While just outside the northern edge of Big Sur I've included this park for it unique location, plants, history, and meeting of land and sea. The trails are relatively short and varied.

Garapata State Park: Most hikers use the Rocky Creek Trail starting a Sobranes Canyon. However this park has many unmarked trails on the west side of Highway 1 that lead down to the ocean and along bluffs above the sea.

Point Sur State Historical Park: All visits are scheduled and led by docents on a .5 mile walk up the road to the lighthouse.

Andrew Molera State Park: Walk in campsites and varied trails make this a worthwhile visit. The Big Sur River meets the Pacific Ocean. Hike vary from walks along the River Trail, the Bluff Trail, Ridge Trail and the little used trail in East Molera that climbs up the "Golden Staricase."

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: The largest campground in Big Sur. Some of these trails are the most often used. Because of the recent fires the Buzzard Roost Trail is the only one currently open.

Pfeiffer Beach (National Forest Service) Tricky to find and to be avoided on a windy day. This beach is famous for it rock arches, and on the right day— its colorful garnet sand.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: The Ewoldsen Trail makes a loop through numerous plant communities with great profile views. Most visitors that stop here take the short trail out to see McWay fall in Saddle Rock Cove. Currently the trail to the falls and the trail to Partington Cove are the only trails open due to the recent fires.

Limekiln State Park: This park offers camping and short trails that explore the historic limekilns and a large waterfall. The park is closed due to the recent fires.

Mill Creek (National Forest Service): A short drive off of Highway 1. The rocky shoreline is more of a place to explore than a hike.

Sand Dollar Beach (National Forest Service) A short walk on the bluffs and down the cliffs takes you to a cresent shaped beach. In addition there are trail along the bluffs worth exploring.

Jade Cove (National Forest Service): A short walk along the bluff and down to the rocky beach is well known for some large jade found just off-shore.

Willow Creek (National Forest Service): A short drive off of Highway 1. The rocky shoreline is more of a place to explore than a hike.

Hiking and Backpacking Resources for Exploring Big Sur

Hiking in Big Sur: The best site for day-hikes along the Big Sur Coast with accurate trail descriptions and details of how to get to the trailheads.

Ventana Wilderness Alliance: The best site for current trail conditions, history, and current issues that impact the Ventana and Silver Peak Wilderness Areas of the Los Padres National Forest.

Hiking & Backpacking Big Sur by Analise Elliot: This is the best book for backcountry trails into the Santa Lucia Mountains.