Salmon Creek Trail is a popular track with backpackers venturing deep into the Silver Peak Wilderness in the Monterey District of Los Padres National Forest, but you only need to hike 0.3 miles from Highway One to see a beautiful 120-foot waterfall. Unlike the trail overlooking beautiful McWay Falls further up the Big Sur Coast, this hike brings you up close and person with a powerful cascade pouring down the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Park at the trailhead on a big horseshoe bend in Highway One, just south of the non-operational Salmon Creek Ranger Station and Buckeye Trail. Look for the mileage sign on the east side of the highway, and start hiking up the trail south of the creek. You can basically follow you ears the entire way to the falls. At 0.2 miles, break from the trail through a garden of boulders toward the creek. The surrounding Bays add a soothing fragrance to this shaded glen.
Boulders below the falls
Cross a couple of small grottos and approach the waterfall. Two branches of water unite as they drop 120 feet and crash into the pool below, giving rise to a spray of mist. There is a boulder blocking easy access to the base of the falls. To obtain the unobstructed view on the other side, employ the assistance of a rope that hangs down the rock. Hoist yourself a couple feet and cross the rock.
Salmon Creek Falls
Even if you aren’t up for this quick bit of climbing, the waterfall is quite impressive from the rocks just downstream. When you have taken it all in, make your way back through the boulders and down the trail to Highway One (assuming you aren’t hiking further up Salmon Creek Trail). No fee or permit is required, so get out and enjoy.
Standing below Salmon Creek Falls
To get to the trailhead: Salmon Creek Trail is located on a large horseshoe bend in Highway One, 3.7 miles north of Ragged Point Inn (or 26 miles north of Cambria). From the other direction, drive 33.6 miles south from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (home of McWay Falls) or 41.6 miles from the Nepenthe Restaurant turnoff in Big Sur. The trail to Salmon Creek Falls is located right on the bend in the road, south of the out-of-service Salmon Creek Ranger Station and Buckeye Trail.
Trailhead address: Cabrillo Highway (Highway One), Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur, CA 93920
Trailhead coordinates: 35.81573, -121.35879 (35° 48′ 56.62″N 121° 21′ 31.64″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
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