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
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.
Andrew Molera State Park:
Length: 2 miles
The trail, accessed a quarter-mile north of the entrance to the park, leads to the spacious walk-in campground and historic Cooper Cabin, the oldest standing structure in Big Sur (built in 1861). The trail takes hikers through a dense forest to reach the Headlands Trail junction and also provides breathtaking views of Molera Point, Molera Beach, and the Big Sur River Estuary. (Note: The trail dead-ends at the river; there is no beach access without crossing.)
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.
Point Lobos State Reserve:
Cypress Grove Trail
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.
Garrapata State Park:
Soberanes Canyon & Rocky Ridge Trails
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:
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:
Rating: Moderate to strenuous
Length: 3 miles
This loop hike starts across the Big Sur River from the Redwood Deck, following the river and then climbing through shady redwoods to an exposed sunny ridge. You will be rewarded with panoramic views.
Point Lobos State Reserve:
South Shore, Bird Island, South Plateau and Pine Ridge Trails
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.
Note: Before visiting state parks and other public lands, please check www.parks.ca.gov for current information on closures due to wildfires, landslides and other natural events.