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Journey | Sample Trips | Big Sur

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Big Sur Ridges


The most spectacular stretch of coastline on the west coast. Highway 1 winds for more than 30 miles along beautiful scenery of rocky, rugged coast. Many secluded beaches & coves along rocky the seashore, but you'lll have to hike to find them. Discover waterfalls, redwood groves, cedar pine forest, fern canyons, hot springs, oak shaded ravines by means of hiking trails or scenic back roads. Jade coves and wildflowers are along the Pacific Valley, on the south end. Perfect spots for 'hike to coast' picnics.

Nacimiento Road

For overnight stays near Big Sur, check out Lodging

Itinerary Ideas:
Drive partially north up the coast & stay overnight at one of many interesting & beautiful towns along the Pacific Coastline:

Big Sur towns and lodging

Poison Oak
is abundant in this area, so be careful

wear pants when hiking overgrown trails

Area activities include:
  • Back Packing
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Hot Springs
  • Mountain Biking Ridges
  • Scenic drives & views
  • Sea Kayaking
  • Shops & Restaurants
  • Sightseeing &Tours
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tidepools
panoramic big sur coast

View Larger Map

Tips for Big Sur Travel:

  • Camping can get expensive in this region & hard top come by if you want toilets, so consider pairing up a few people in a cozy cabin instead. Or choose to rough it on the back roads with free camping options.
  • Reservations for busy campgrounds should be made in advance. Try the remote campgrounds of Ponderosa & Nacimiento instead. Or the primitive style at Prewitt Ridge.
  • Avoid the crowds - Explore the unmarked areas: Pull over (well off the highway) & park you car for a few hours to discover new waterfalls & trails to the oceanfront. Traffic is pretty constant on the main highway.


A detailed topographic map of the Big Sur coast and forest is advised for the visits listed below.

Partington Cove & Redwood Canyon Hike

Salmon Creek Falls

This is another great waterfall close to the highway. A short hike will bring you top the base, but make sure to wear pants - due to poison oak all over the trail. Located 8-10 mi. south of the town of Gorda in a huge hair-pin canyon turn .


Pfeiffer Beach

afterhours - The beach located at the end of a turn off just south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on a residential street. Daily the attendant collects parking fees. You can avoid these fees by arriving in late afternoon.


Off Roading / Back Roads

Many dirt roads in the Central Coast region are private driveways. Be careful to check for 'no trespassing' signage & respect other peoples property. The best area for back country exploration is up off Nacimiento Rd. Big Sur Backroads page has some details on specific routes. A Los Padres NF map would be handy and advisable. The ridge areas offer great view from an even high elevation. A few roads lead to backpackers trail heads / park spots.

The Nacimiento Road is a narrow, oak forested paved route, winding along & steep. Best route for missing San Simeon and the tourists; getting right into the Central portion of the Big Sur coast line. Nacimiento Road connects Coast Highway 1 to US Hwy 101 (via Fort Hunter Leggett military base). The drive includes ocean view spots & creekside lined oaks canyons, and an off-limits military base thru oak meadows. Wild boars run in packs and can terrorize hikers and campers, so be aware of your surroundings and the animals, especially at night. Mountain lions and bobcats are also common all along the coastal Los Padres National Forests.


There are a number of campgrounds along the coast and a few inland. Some are private campgrounds with showers located in beautiful redwood canyons, which always charge expensive fees. The two Big Sur State Parks require reservations well in advance. The Parks Management Company in this region oversee a several good campgrounds. Most are first come first serve, but double check to make sure.

Parks Management Co.
PO Box 1853
Morro Bay CA 93443
Bottchers Gap
Kirk Creek
Plaskett Creek
Cerro Alto
Primitive car camping & backpacking options can be found in the Los Padres NF


Hot Springs

for the night owl - The Esalen Institute, located on the coast, has their beautiful hot tubs open to the public after hours (midnight - 3am). Call ahead to verify.

Primitive Sykes Hot Springs can be accessed only by backpacking. Tasajara Hot Springs is a retreat center & is located on the eastern slopes of the coastal mountains & may not open to the public for day use.

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