Hit the Trail with Landmark - Big Sur in a Day

Big Sur in a Day

Few drives are as spectacular as the drive from northern to southern California along the Pacific Coast Highway. There’s nothing quite like the oceanside cliffs, azure waves, and enchanting redwood forests along this stretch of the West Coast. Dotted with countless state parks and untouched beaches, it’s hard to decide where to hike and explore along California’s famous State Route 1, better known as “Highway 1”. But if we had to choose just one place, we’d recommend Big Sur.

With the Santa Lucia Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Big Sur is the longest stretch of continuous, undeveloped coastline in the United States. Despite being one of the most visited places in the country, this 71-mile stretch along Highway 1 has stayed rugged, wild, and beautiful.

Begin Your Adventure at Big Sur Station

Steep overlooks and crashing waves make Big Sur an unforgettable destination. They also make it unpredictable. Big Sur Station is California’s information center for the Big Sur area. We highly recommend stopping by this station off Highway 1 for the most up-to-date trail information and maps.

At the very least, call the station ahead of your visit (831-667-2315). Portions of Highway 1 are sometimes closed due to erosion and rockfall. However, you can often still reach your destination via an alternate route. The Big Sur Station can provide information on detours and park access.

Start the Day with a Hike at Pfeiffer Falls

Redwood forests are among the most peaceful places on earth, and a hike to Pfeiffer Falls will take you through these enchanting groves. This moderately difficult out-and-back trail, spanning just 1.5 miles, leads to a natural waterfall and takes about an hour to complete. Since this area is popular, we recommend starting your day here. The trail will be less crowded, and the falls are a peaceful spot to sit on a log and finish the morning coffee you brought!

Pfeiffer Falls is located in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Multiple small parking lots are located near the park entrance and trailhead. Parking is $10 for the day and is good for every Big Sur state park for the remainder of the day.

When you go, you can take the Overlook Trail or the Valley View Trail. Both trails lead to the falls, but we prefer the Overlook Trail for the views. However, this trail is sometimes closed due to rainfall and maintenance. If it’s closed when you go, the Valley View Trail is still a beautiful hike through the forest and to the falls.

Stop for Lunch at COAST

Located just seven miles from Pfeiffer Beach, this historic cafe serves fresh food almost as beautiful as the coastal views. COAST is a tribute to the local landscape and Big Sur’s unique history. Located inside two redwood water tanks milled from old-growth redwood trees, this cafe and gallery was revived in 2015 by two Big Sur locals.

We love their housemade ice cream on a hot summer day, and you can’t go wrong with any of their fresh snacks!

Take in the Ocean from Boranda Trail

Ask a Big Sur local where to hike for the best views, and they’ll likely tell you about Boranda Trail to Timber Top. This challenging out-and-back trail is 5.8 miles long and takes an average of four hours to complete. The first half of the hike is a steady incline, so be prepared to sweat and take water breaks! But the views from the top and along your ocean-facing descent are outstanding.

Since this hike is challenging, we recommend starting no later than noon and beginning your descent no later than three o’clock in the afternoon. During the summer, the temperatures can reach the nineties, so we recommend starting your day here if the forecast predicts high temperatures.

If you have time to spare and want to camp, the Timber Top Camp overlooking the ocean is the place to go. Camping here is limited, with one grill, one picnic table, and no clearly marked campsites. But it’s free, and no permit is required.

When you go, bring plenty of water and sun protection. There’s no available water along the way and almost no shade. Most of all, bring a good camera. These views are so spectacular, you won’t want to forget them!

Catch the Sunset over Bixby Creek Bridge

Built in the 1930s, Bixby Creek Bridge is an iconic California destination. It’s a must-see when you visit Big Sur, and we recommend going at sunset. It’s the perfect way to close out the day and your trip to Big Sur.

Castle Rock Viewpoint is the most popular place to park and view the bridge. It’s located on the ocean side of the bridge and offers a panoramic view of the bridge, coastline, and spectacular sunsets.

If you want a more secluded viewpoint, stop at the small pullout on the southside of the bridge. There’s a short path up to a hilltop. From here, you’ll have amazing north facing views of the bridge!

A trip to Big Sur should be on every bucket list. This majestic stretch of coastline is a national treasure and an unparalleled experience of California’s central coast.

So hop in the car and hit the trail (or road!) We hope you love Big Sur as much as we do!

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