For most visitors, “Big Sur” means Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
HIGHLIGHTS: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is located off Highway 1, some 26 miles south of Carmel and two miles south of the hamlet of Big Sur. This beautiful park features redwoods, conifers, oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, maples, alders and willows – plus open meadows.
ACTIVITIES: For most visitors, “Big Sur” means Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The state park and its 15 miles of trails are dominated by the Big Sur River, which meanders through redwood groves on its way to the Paciﬁc Ocean, 5 miles away. Swimming in the Big Sur River is popular. The park offers ample hiking and picnicking opportunities, as well as gorgeous views of redwoods, the ocean, and more. Biking is allowed on paved roads only.
VISITOR CENTER: There is no visitor center at Pfeiffer Big Sur, however there is a staffed kiosk with information at the park entrance.
CAMPGROUNDS: 189 RV and tent sites along the Big Sur River, offering showers, bathrooms, a convenience store, and laundry. The store offers Wi-Fi access. For camping reservations, please call Reserve America at 1-800-444- PARK (7275) or visit www.reserveamerica.com (external link).
LODGING: The 62-room Big Sur Lodge says it embraces the spirit of the original homesteaders, preserving an environment free from the big-city sounds of phones, televisions and radios. Some rooms offer wood-burning fireplaces and kitchenettes. A swimming pool and restaurant are other amenities.
TRAILS: The park’s 15 miles of trails include the Valley View route, a short and easy hike for the whole family. It leads from Big Sur Lodge to Pfeiffer Falls, and returns by way of Valley View Trail. In total, it is a 2 mile trek with a 200 foot elevation gain. Throughout the course of the hike, visitors will be able to experience towering redwoods, a diverse array of other trees and ecosystems, the Pfeiffer Falls, and views of the ocean at the Point Sur headlands.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: Buzzard’s Roost, a moderately challenging 5-mile loop from the Lodge, leads visitors through a unique area where two ecosystems merge. After winding through the shade of the redwoods along the river, visitors will find themselves atop the Pfeiffer Ridge. Here, they will see an interesting blend of dwarfed redwood trees alongside the chaparral of the ridge. Whereas usually the redwood forest and chaparral ecosystems are content as neighbors, the unusual soil and climatic conditions on this ridge encourage them to mix. The result is a rare and beautiful sight, magnified in its splendor by the longer-distance views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Lucia Mountain Range.
HIDDEN GEM: Since the mid-1990s, the Ventana Wildlife Society (external link) has been reintroducing condors into the wild along California’s coast. Though the efforts to reinvigorate the wild population of condors have been slow moving, successes have been recorded. If you’re lucky, you just may see a condor during your trip to Pfeiffer Big Sur!
FEATURES ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Some campsites, restrooms, showers, campfire center, picnic areas, 0.28-mile Nature Trail.
DOGS: Not on trails, in the river, or in other natural areas. On leash in developed areas.
ENTRANCE FEE: $10 for day-use vehicle entry.
SPECIAL EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES: Pfeiffer Big Sur has active Guided Hikes, Junior Rangers (external link), and Ranger Cubs programs through the summer months.
MORE INFORMATION: Visit Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (external link). For information about the park, call (831) 667-2315.
Regan Ranoa, Outreach Manager, suggests a stop in at Fernwood Tavern (external link) for live music and a good beer.
STOP: Christine likes to stop in Monterey and see the local sights before or after heading to the park.
FAVORITE HIKE: The 2-mile Valley View route leads to beautiful Pfeiffer Falls.
DON’T MISS: Regan recommends trying Esalen’s hot springs (external link). Esalen only opens their hot springs to the public in the summer from 1-3 a.m. for a fee. The fee is well worth it since the hot springs are located on a cliff, overlooking the Pacific ocean where you can sit and listen to the waves under the stars!
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