Salmon Creek Falls Big Sur Hike

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.

Salmon Creek Falls
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
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.

Salmon Creek Falls
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

Use the map below to create your own directions:

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These photos were taken in May of 2010. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Buckeye Trail hikeBuckeye Trail
This hike of 6.5 miles or more reaches incredibly ocean vistas and trail camps in the Silver Peak Wilderness. Connect Cruickshank Trail and Buckeye Trail for an excellent shuttle hike of 8.25 miles or more.
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Big Sur HikingMore Central Coast Hikes
Explore other destinations along the California coast between Ventura and Monterey, including trails in Los Padres National Forest.
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19 Comments on Salmon Creek Falls in Los Padres National Forest

  1. kshoufer says:

    Wow! These falls are really flowing. This will definitely be high on my to-do list for hikes in Central California. Thanks for the detailed write-up.

  2. Chuck says:

    Can you take your dog?

  3. hikespeak says:

    You sure can, but little dogs might have trouble getting over the rocks at the end.

  4. michele says:

    how accessible is the trail to the first good viewing point? thank u

    • hikespeak says:

      The trail is by no means wheelchair accessible and you have to be agile to cross the rocks to resch the base of the falls. The trail itself is short and will not challenge most hikers.

  5. IOSMX says:

    Is it good to visit with a four year old ?

  6. Armadillo says:

    Has anyone been to the Upper Falls? I tried to find them the other day and failed. I was just passing through, so I guess I will try again on the next trip.

  7. Larry says:

    Does an overnight at the Salmon Creek Trail require an Adventure Pass?

  8. Darcie says:

    where do you park to go to the falls?

  9. mindysf says:

    can you overnight at any of the camps along this trail without reservations or a permit?

    • hikespeak says:

      The Salmon Creek Trail enters the Silver Peak Wilderness where no permit is required to stay overnight at any of the trail camps. An easy-to-obtain campfire permit is required if you would like to use a stove or make a fire, but that’s the only red tape. Enjoy your trek!

  10. Judith Grace says:

    How to you get the camfire permit??

  11. Saundra Alvarez says:

    Are there campsites nearby?

  12. Mara says:

    Can you camp on the trail with no reservations for free? Or is there an entry fee?

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