HIKING TRAILS

UNIQUE HABITATS, PANORAMIC VIEWS

Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll or a serious challenge, the geographic diversity of California’s Central Coast makes it an ideal place to explore on foot. From secluded beaches to majestic mountains to verdant forests, the landscape surrounding Big Sur offers a wide variety of unforgettable hiking experiences.


Big Sur Guides and hiking

Rating: Varies
Length: Varies

To see Big Sur through the best local guides, contact Ventana’s reception desk to reserve a hike with Big Sur Guides and Hiking. For more than 40 years, Big Sur Guides has been leading hikes in Big Sur. Trails vary depending on weather conditions and participants’ skill levels. A picnic option is offered on all hikes. For more information and the current fee for Big Sur Guides hikes, please inquire at the Ventana reception desk, visit www.bigsurguides.com or call 831-594-1742. 

Directions: Meet at Ventana's Social House for all hikes, including the daily group hike at 11:20 a.m.

Garrapata State Park:
Soberanes Canyon & Rocky Ridge Trails

Rating: Challenging
Length: 4.4 miles

Note: These trails currently are closed indefinitely due to the Soberanes Fire.  Soberanes Canyon shelters groves of the world’s tallest living organism, Sequoia Sempervirens (or more commonly referred to as California Redwood). The trail meanders gently along Soberanes Creek, crossing the stream several times before ascending steeply out of the redwoods to the Rocky Ridge Trail. Slopes on either side of the Rocky Ridge Trail are carpeted with wildflowers in the springtime and offer breathtaking views of the Big Sur coastline all year round. However, the footing is treacherous with 10 to 20% grades in several places; sturdy hiking boots and hiking poles are highly recommended.

Directions: From Ventana, drive north on Highway 1 for 21.7 miles. The entrance is on the east side of the highway. Park under the Eucalyptus trees and follow the path past the shed and outdoor toilet. At the fork, stay to the right for Soberanes Canyon; stay left for Rocky Ridge.


Andrew Molera State Park:
Headlands Trail

Rating: Easy
Length: 2 miles

The trail starts through a lush riparian habitat alongside the Big Sur River. After 0.2 mile, the trail widens as it leads to the spacious walk-in campground. The trail forks 100 feet after the campground. Take a right to get to historic Cooper Cabin, the oldest standing structure in Big Sur (built in 1861). Bear left, where the trail takes hikers through a dense forest to reach the Headlands Trail junction. Bear right and head up the stairs to access breathtaking views of Molera Point, Molera Beach, and the Big Sur River Estuary.

Directions: From Ventana, drive north on Highway 1 for 7 miles. Enter the Andrew Molera State Park on the west side of the highway. Turn right at the park’s entrance. The trailhead is located at the north end of the parking lot.

Andrew Molera State Park:
Pfeiffer Ridge Loop

Rating: Medium to challenging
Length: 7.4 miles

This hike affords the most panoramic views of Big Sur with the least climbing. Start by crossing the Big Sur River on the bridge by the parking area, then take the Creamery Meadow Trail to the beach. Don’t go onto the sand; instead, turn left to take the Bluffs Trail, which gives a great vantage point for whale-watching if during whale migration season. After 2.4 miles, the Bluffs Trail ends at the Spring Trail, which takes you to an isolated beach. Continue south onto the climbing Panorama Trail to reach Pfeiffer Ridge. Follow the Ridge Trail north until it returns to the Creamery Meadows Trail.

Directions: From Ventana, drive north on Highway 1 for 7 miles. Enter the Andrew Molera State Park on the west side of the highway. Turn right at the park’s entrance.


Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park:
Pfeiffer Falls Trail

Rating: Easy to medium
Length: 1.4 miles

This short hike is one of the most popular experiences in Big Sur. Start at Pfeiffer Redwood Creek and walk a short distance to the Valley View Trail junction. If you are seeking a quicker and less strenuous route to the falls, use the Pfeiffer Falls Trail. Passing through an ancient redwood tree forest, you will reach the base of the 60-foot waterfall.

Directions: From Ventana, drive north on Highway 1 for 2.3 miles. The Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance is on the east side of the highway. Pass the entrance kiosk and follow signs for Pfeiffer Falls.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park:
Mount Manuel Trail

Rating: Challenging
Length: 10.8 miles

This steep trail offers a sweeping view of the Ventana wilderness. Be prepared for the hot weather during the summer. Wear a hat and bring a lot of water. It is advisable to wear pants to avoid ticks and poison oak. The base of the closed paved road across from the parking lot leads to the trailhead for the Gorge Trail and the Manuel Peak Trail. Start by going up the service road, which curves at a junction with a dirt road. Stay on the Gorge Trail. Go past John Pfeiffer’s Homestead Cabin. Past the cabin, the trail narrows and leads to the Manuel Peak Trail junction.

Directions: From Ventana, drive north on Highway 1 for 2.3 miles. The Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance is on the east side of the highway. Pass the entrance kiosk and the Big Sur Lodge. Immediately past the lodge, the road forks. Bear left and drive 0.7 mile past the picnic areas. Park at the base of the Gorge Trail.


Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park:
Ewoldsen Trail

Rating: Challenging
Length: 5.7 miles

This upward hike along McWay Creek offers a complete Big Sur experience, with fine redwood forests and beautiful coastal views. At the top, keep your eyes peeled for California condors and migrating whales.

Directions: From Ventana, drive south on Highway One for 8.8 miles. The trailhead is located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park at the far end of the upper parking lot on the north side of McWay Creek

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park:
McWay Falls

Rating: Easy
Length: 1 mile

One of Big Sur’s most popular landmarks, McWay Falls plunges 80 feet over a cliff to the sandy beach below. The only viewpoint of the Falls, and the cove it’s nestled in, can be reached by following the marked trail along McWay Creek to the ocean.

Directions: From Ventana, drive south on Highway 1 for 8.8 miles. The trailhead is located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park on the east end of the main parking lot.


Point Lobos State Reserve:
Cypress Grove Trail

Rating: Easy
Length: 1 mile

This short hike takes you around Allan Memorial Grove, one of the last two remaining areas with native Monterey Cypress trees left in the world. These trees are intriguing pieces of the natural ecosystem, with low, crooked branches, and bright orange lichens covering their roots. Several vista points along the way offer jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean, Monterey Bay and Pebble Beach, accompanied by the sound of seals and sea lions barking on nearby Sea Lion Point.

Directions: From Ventana, drive north on Highway 1 for 27 miles. Enter the Point Lobos State Reserve on the west side of the highway. Park at the Sea Lion Parking Area.

Point Lobos State Reserve:
South Shore, Bird Island, South Plateau and Pine Ridge Trails

Rating: Easy
Length: 2.6 miles

Combine four of the most popular trails in the park on this scenic walk along the south-facing shore of Point Lobos. Wide, pebble-strewn beaches and exposed layers of tilted conglomerate sandstone—sculpted by swirling waters and uplifted by tectonic action—tell the geological history of Point Lobos. Easily accessible tide pools (collecting is strictly prohibited) offer you a glimpse into the lives of tiny sea creatures. Gulls, cormorants, oyster catchers, herons and other water birds hunt along the shoreline and roost on Bird Island. Bring your binoculars and plan on spending plenty of time taking pictures.

Directions: From Ventana, drive north on Highway 1 for 27 miles. Enter the Point Lobos State Reserve on the west side of the highway. Park anywhere along the South Shore.


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