Adventure Time: The Best Place to Hike in Big Sur

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There’s a reason ‘going west’ is so close to the heart of American culture and history, and a quick look at the best big sur hikes on the California coast will all the more help you understand why the western United States is so treasured by outdoor and nature enthusiasts alike.

Whether you’re after pristine waterfalls, enchanted coastlines, or sublime forests, Big Sur, and the hikes offered there, are dangerous. Not dangerous in a ‘lose limb or life‘ kind of way. No, Big Sur is dangerous of an enchanting ‘won’t want to leave’ and ‘nothing else compares’ kind of way. Here is just a quick glimpse at some of the best hikes Big Sur has to offer.

Best big sur hikes

Andrew Molera Trail

The Andrew Molera loop is one of the longer trails you’ll find in Big Sur. However where it taxes you in terms of length, it more than rewards you in terms of pristine, varied views throughout the loop. For nine miles you’ll experience redwood groves, mountain peaks, and finally, a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean that would be all too fruitless to try to put into words. The loop stays fairly tame and consistent in terms of elevation, and it is just one of the various trails and highlights within the the greater Andrew Molera State Park.

Tanbark Trail (and Tin House)

The Tanbark Trail offers some of the variety you’d expect with a Big Sur hike, but with its own added flair of pizazz. This trail is the optimum half-day excursion for a few hardy hikers wanting to work up a good sweat while breathing in the fragrant aroma of some of California’s renowned redwood forests. The trail offers its own unique cherry on top in the form of the Tin House which features a history and story as peculiar as its design. You’ll just have to hike it to see it for yourself!

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

There is nothing more iconic to Big Sur than Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This is where the ruggedness of the mountains clashes with the serenity of the ocean in an array of coves, kelp forests, and sandy beachesThe park itself offers a variety of trails and excursions, like the Ewoldsen, but no trip to Julia Pfeiffer is complete without hiking the McWay Waterfall Trail which takes you from following a winding creek to discovering the coastal McWay Waterfall.

Features and Specifications

As already mentioned, Big Sur has no shortage of hikes and breathtaking trails to explore. Here are just a few things you can be sure to expect from the area:

  • Big Sur offers a variety of nature experiences including towering forests, jagged coastlines, and sandy beaches.
  • In addition to the plethora of individual trails offered by the region, the area also boasts a few incredible parks, like the Julia Pfeiffer Burns and the Limekiln state parks.
  • If you make the trip out to Big Sur, don’t count on just limiting yourself to hiking. Pitch a tent, grab a surfboard, or mount up on a bike as well, whatever helps you to rejuvenate in that West Coast sea breeze!
  • The location of Big Sur in proximity to the Bay Area not only makes it easily accessible, but also provides the weary hiker, or indulgent visitor, a vast array of side attractions in the area.
  • Big Sur also offers a unique glimpse into American heritage. The West coast marks the end of U.S. territory, but the beginning of a new world of culture and insights.

What Customers are Saying

Big Sur has had no shortage of hikers, tourists, and adventurers coming through over the past few decades. As such, they’re constantly remarking how the sea air lifts the spirits and rejuvenates the soul weary from the grind of city life. In particular, hikers in Big Sur are most impressed with the regions array of unique coastline and majestic waterfalls. The effects of mountains meeting the ocean, as seen in Big Sur, produces such beauty in nature as only can be experienced in Big Sur.

However, even with the constant stream of satisfied outdoor enthusiasts who have visited Big Sur, some people have also made remarks concerning their frustration with closed or blocked trails. It’s important to remember that these trail closures are often for the safety of the public and natural environments as park rangers are constantly trying to insure areas recover well from forest fires and other natural incidents. The unique landscape and serenity that Big Sur offers in terms of hiking is all the more reason for us to recommend to any hiker to head west and see what the area has to offer.

Who Should do these Hikes?

Big Sur is best suited for the hiker who wants to experience a bit of sensory overload. Often with hiking we choose one niche, and immerse ourselves in it for a day or weekend. Maybe we want forests and plains, or canyons and overlooks. The thing is, Big sur offers it all in a relatively confined space! The hiker who wants to feel the sand beneath their toes, the salt spray in the air, as well as the trickle of stream and roar of waterfalls will be more than satisfied with Big Sur.

Who Shouldn’t Hike Big Sur

As such, keep in mind that hikes at Big Sur do tend to be on the shorter side. Most can be tackled within half a day, with a few maybe requiring a whole day’s dedication. The hiker wanting to spend a few uninterrupted days on one trail may be a little disappointed in Big Sur. While it is beautiful, keep in mind that Big Sur is not entirely backcountry or isolated when setting expectations.


Big Sur embodies the majesty and remarkable beauty the West coast of the U.S. has to offer. Whether you’re standing under McWay Waterfall or climbing up to the Tin House, the hikes of Big Sur are guaranteed to thrill anyone willing to set foot on the trail. We hope that the best big sur hikes was helpful on making you chose what the best place to hike.

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Meet the Author

'Mountain Man' John

'Mountain Man' John is a Survival and Preparedness enthusiast who loves everything outdoors. He has a passion for learning anything and everything to help sustain his and his families way of life post SHTF. He frequently shares his knowledge on a variety of topics from his hands on DIY projects, learning new skills such as hunting and trapping along with reviews on his Survival related purchases - Prepping has been in his family for generations, it's in his blood.