Hiking and Backpacking Big Sur  by Analise Elliot Heid

Hiking & Backpacking: Big Sur Guide Book

by Analise Elliot Heid (Wilderness Press)
Hiking and Backpacking Big Sur  by Analise Elliot Heid
This is the most detailed guide to hiking and backpacking in Big Sur. Explore the endless hiking and backpacking possibilities in 75 trips (plus numerous side trips) on the rugged coastline and isolated backcountry trails of Big Sur, Ventana Wilderness, and Silver Peak Wilderness. Stretching 90 miles from Carmel to San Simeon, Big Sur consists of coastal cliffs, jagged rocky promontories, ancient redwood forests, and lush riparian woodlands. This invaluable resource gives the latest information on the trails, roads, camps, and beaches in Big Sur, plus all of the area's state parks and wilderness areas.

© 2013 Analise Elliot Heid/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Hiking & Backpacking: Big Sur" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 74.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 74.

This route offers several day-hike or overnight options, including: (1) 4.2 miles round-trip to Villa Creek Camp; (2) 4.7 miles point-to-point from Alder Creek Camp to Highway 1 via the Buckeye and Cruikshank Trails; and (3) 8.4 miles point-to-point to Salmon Creek Station via the Buckeye Trail. If you can arrange a shuttle vehicle, consider the point-to-point treks, which offer unobstructed coastal views.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
Adjacent to the Big Sur River, Creamery Meadow is lined with dense riparian woodland. You’ll stroll past twisted sycamores, head-high yellow bush lupines, and gnarled redwoods. Once a cattle pasture, today it boasts some of the best bird-watching in California.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.8
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Following the 1977 Marble-Cone Fire, the US Forest Service abandoned the Black Cone Trail, which was quickly reclaimed by dense thickets of chaparral. The 1999 Kirk Complex Fires raged along most of the trail, exposing its residual tread. Soon volunteers from the Ventana Wilderness Alliance hiked the area to see whether it would be feasible to reestablish the trail. In cooperation with the USFS, volunteers removed brush and debris and regraded the trail.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 26.2
This route meanders through Carmel River canyon, lush with ferns and shaded by colorful deciduous trees. Those on day hikes or short weekend trips visit the riverside Bluff Camp, only 4.1 miles from the trailhead and big enough to hold a large group. Just 0.8 mile farther along the trail, the smaller Carmel River Camp lies at the confluence of Miller Creek and the Carmel River.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.8
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This hike leads to an idyllic cove at the west end of the Spring Trail, where the sand is tinged with pink and purple hues. The return along the Panorama and Ridge Trails promises spectacular views as you cross golden grasslands and pass beneath robust redwoods, oaks, and bays. Seals and sea otters feed in the nearshore kelp forests, raptors soar overhead, rabbits and lizards scurry into the brush, and elusive bobcats slink past the trails.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.4
This trail follows the south bank of the Big Sur beneath a canopy of redwoods and tanoaks before climbing Pfeiffer Ridge. Despite the promise of gorgeous overlooks of the Santa Lucia Range and Pacific, the trail is little used. You may find yourself alone at the top with large turkey vultures that roost in the redwoods below. In summer, fog envelops the coast, obscuring views. Fog is less likely in the spring and fall, while winter views between storms are often spectacular. Strong winds are always a factor atop the open ridge—bring a windbreaker or sweater year-round.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.1
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Carmel River State Beach actually comprises two beaches: Carmel River State Beach, at the river mouth, and Monastery Beach (aka San Jose Creek Beach), just south of the river. The trail saunters along these wave-washed beaches and atop the adjacent bluffs. The first 0.2 mile of the route crosses soft sands deposited by the Carmel River and pounded into fine powder by the often-heavy surf. The bluffs overlook granite pinnacles, wind-sculpted Monterey cypress, and a marsh and estuary that teem with life.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
This hike begins amid colorful coastal wildflowers in Carmelo Meadow and leads to Whalers Cove, the former site of a prosperous whaling station. A short stroll up the road leads to the Whalers Cabin Museum and Whaling Station Museum, each of which display historical artifacts, diagrams, and photographs. The Granite Point Trail leads through dense Monterey pines to Coal Chute Point, which overlooks the surging surf and thick floating kelp mats. Keep a close watch for harbor seals and sea otters amid the kelp.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.4
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From the Church Creek Trailhead, hikers can choose from at least four route options, each featuring a stay at beautiful Pine Valley. Destinations include: (1) Pine Valley (17 miles out-and-back) via the Church Creek and Carmel River Trails; (2) Los Padres Dam Trailhead (22.3 miles point-to-point) via Pine Valley, Hiding Canyon, and the Carmel River; (3) Arroyo Seco Campground (32.5 miles point-to-point) through Church Creek with a detour to Pine Valley via the Pine Ridge, Carmel River, Black Cone, and Marble Peak Trails; or (4) the Church Creek Trailhead (34.2 miles out-and-back) with a detour to Pine Valley via the Pine Ridge, Black Cone, Marble Peak, and Horse Pasture Trails and Tassajara Road. While the last two routes could bypass the detour to Pine Valley, that 1.7-mile trail leads to one of Ventana’s premier camps. As is the case with most wilderness trails, these routes suffer from overgrown brush and poison oak, faint tread, fallen snags, and other obstacles.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 17
You can approach this as either a strenuous day hike or an overnight trip. The camp is also accessible from Bottchers Gap via the Little Sur Trail (see TRIP 41 Pico Blanco, page 167). Although this trail is the shorter route (6 miles versus 7.4 miles), tangled overgrowth, persistent poison oak, and dangerous washouts make it tough going. If you have time, choose the overnight option, as you’ll want time to enjoy the swimming hole at trail’s end.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 12
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The hike stretches about a mile to the south end of the park via the headlands or the beach.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
You can approach this 15-mile loop as either an extremely strenuous day hike or a more enjoyable yet still strenuous backpacking trip, staying at one or more of the four camps along the route. Most people hike the 2.2 miles to Vicente Flat Camp, spend the night, and get a fresh start the following day. The onward route is slow going, as sections of the Stone Ridge Trail are overgrown with brush with faint, steep tread. If you do opt for a multiday trek, stay a second or third night at Goat, Ojito, or Trail Spring Camps. Regardless of your route, don’t miss the 0.3-mile spur to the summit.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 15
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This is the shortest trail to one of the highest peaks in the Santa Lucia Range. Trails to 5862-foot Junipero Serra, 4853-foot Ventana Double Cone, and 4417-foot Mt. Carmel require significantly more elevation gain and mileage to summit. If you’re bound for this summit when Cone Peak Road is closed (November through May), tack on the additional 5.2 miles each way between the trailhead and junction with Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.4
The route crosses the Big Sur and follows the river past mature sycamores, cottonwoods, maples, and alders before climbing high above the coastal bluffs. The Hidden Trail ascends Pfeiffer Ridge for 360-degree views of the region’s diverse topography and vegetation. The Ridge Trail gently descends to Molera Beach, offering sweeping ocean views. Bring your binoculars, as you may glimpse migrating gray whales in spring. Hundreds of bird species make this one of the state’s best bird-watching spots.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.6
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The Cruikshank Trailhead is on the east side of Highway 1, 0.6 mile south of the Villa Creek bridge, 66 miles south of Carmel, and 4.5 miles north of the abandoned Salmon Creek Station. Park at the small turnout on Highway 1 adjacent to the trailhead. There are no facilities or water at the trailhead.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.2
This short, easy trail leads to overlooks of nearshore islands and rocky coves, where sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions frolic amid multicolored kelp beds.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.8
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The Big Pines Trail ascends the ridge crest above Danish Creek, offering views deep into the Carmel River watershed. Beware of profuse low-lying poison oak along this stretch. From this ridge, the Danish Creek Camp Trail descends densely forested northern slopes to the canyon floor. Sites are nestled alongside the year-round creek. This spacious plot is the most easily reached camp from Los Padres Dam.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.6
You can approach this as either moderate to strenuous day hikes or an overnight trip to Apple Tree or Turner Creek Camps.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.4
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This route offers several out-and-back day hikes and overnight options, including: (1) 4 miles round-trip to Spruce Creek Camp, (2) 8.4 miles round-trip to Dutra Flat, (3) 12.2 miles round-trip to Turkey Springs Camp, and (4) 15.6 miles round-trip to San Carpoforo Camp. The Spruce Creek Trail becomes the San Carpoforo Trail at Dutra Flat.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 15.6
This trail switchbacks up a sheer hillside to a secluded ridge capped with redwoods. The 1.6-mile trail reaches 1550 feet, offering sweeping views of the coast and Santa Lucia Range. Bring plenty of water and a wide-brimmed hat for the exposed stretch to the ridge, and pack a sweater or windbreaker for the return hike.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.2
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