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 (35° 48′ 56.62″N 121° 21′ 31.64″W)

Use the map below to create your own directions:

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Photos

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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.
Cruickshank Trail hikeCruickshank Trail
This hike into Silver Peak Wilderness starts with bold ocean views and crosses redwood groves to reach Upper Cruickshank Camp at a junction with Buckeye Trail, 5 miles round trip from Highway One.
Big Sur hikeJade Cove and Plaskett Rock Point
This 1.5-mile hike along an ocean bluff visits a prominent peninsula and a small cove.
Sand Dollar BeachSand Dollar Beach
This stunning hike of half a mile or more reaches two scenic overlooks as it descends to a long beach on the Big Sur coast.
Pacific Valley Big Sur hikePacific Valley Bluff Trail
This short out and back hike extends from Highway One to an ocean bluff with fantastic views of the Big Sur Coast.
Limekiln Trail Limekiln Falls Hare Creek hikeHare Creek Trail, Limekiln Trail, and Falls Trail
This 2.65-mile hike in Limekiln State Park explores a trio of trails along lovely streams in redwood-lined canyons, reaching Limekiln Falls and historic lime kilns.
waterfall hikeMcWay Falls
This 0.6-mile hike looks out on a stunning Big Sur waterfall that pours 80 feet right on to the beach.
Canyon Trail Big SurCanyon Falls
This 0.9-mile hike heads inland up McWay Creek past a picnic area in a redwood grove to a lovely little waterfall.
Partington Cove Big Sur hikePartington Cove
This 1.5-mile hike visits a cove and a secluded beach along the scenic Big Sur coast. The cove is accessed through a tunnel.
Pfeiffer BeachPfeiffer Beach
This short walk reaches an absolutely stunning beach that’s a classic feature of the Big Sur landscape.
Big Sur River GorgeBig Sur River Gorge
This half-mile off-trail hike ventures up the Big Sur River on a water-wading boulder-hopping adventure to a crystal clear pool that’s a gorgeous Big Sur swimming hole.
Pfeiffer Falls Valley ViewPfeiffer Falls and Valley View
This 2.4-mile hike is like two hikes in one, reaching a waterfall in a canyon of redwoods and a vista point overlooking the Big Sur River Valley.
Pfeiffer Big Sur Nature Trail LoopNature Trail – River Path Loop
This easy 0.55-mile loop explores woodlands along the Big Sur River and a redwood grove that includes the unique and impressive Proboscis Tree. The loop can be combined with the trail to Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View for a 3-mile trek.
Andrew Molera SP Loop HikeRidge Trail – Panorama Trail – Bluff Trail Loop
This 8.7-mile loop in Andrew Molera State Park crosses a coastal ridge, bluff, and beach that are packed with amazing Big Sur views.
Point Piedras BlancasPiedras Blancas
This 3.2-mile out-and-back hike ventures up the coast from the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery to Piedras Blancas Light Station. Additional boardwalks at the rookery can be used to add another mile of hiking.
Big Sur HikingMore Central Coast Hikes
Explore other destinations along the California coast between Ventura and Monterey, including trails in Los Padres National Forest.
Similar Trails
Tangerine Falls HikeTangerine Falls in Los Padres National Forest
This 2.5-mile hike visits a beautiful waterfall on the edge of Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara.
Nojoqui FallsNojoqui Falls
This short 0.65-mile hike visits an 80-foot tall fern-lined waterfall.
Rose Valley Falls HikeRose Valley Falls in Los Padres National Forest
This 1-mile round trip trail leads to the lower tier of a lovely two-tier 300-foot waterfall.
Sturtevant Falls HikeSturtevant Falls in the San Gabriel Mountains
This 3.25-mile hike visits a 60-foot waterfall and a lush cottage-lined canyon.
Fish Canyon Falls HikeFish Canyon Falls in the San Gabriel Mountains
This 4-mile hike starts at a rock quarry with restricted access and ends up at a multi-tiered 80-foot waterfall.
Escondido Falls HikeEscondido Falls in the Santa Monica Mountains
This 3.8-mile out and back hike visits a 200 foot waterfall that is split into two tiers. The upper tier is 150 feet tall and stunning after a rainstorm.
Tokapah Falls HikeTokopah Falls in Sequoia National Park
This gradual 3.4-mile hike visits the base of the tallest waterfall in Sequoia National Park.
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This 1.2-mile hike delivers visitors to the base of the tallest waterfall in North America. The experience is not to be missed.
Nearby Campgrounds
Kirk Creek CampgroundKirk Creek Campground
This outstanding 33-site campground in Los Padres National Forest has enormous ocean views from a bluff along the Big Sur coast.
Plaskett Creek CampgroundPlaskett Creek Campground
This 45-site campground in Los Padres National Forest is positioned across Highway One from Sand Dollar Beach and Plaskett Rock Point on the coast of Big Sur.
Limekiln State Park CampgroundLimekiln State Park Campground
This small Big Sur campground at the bottom of Limekiln Canyon has sites along a creek through a redwood grove and near the ocean, with access to trails up Limekiln Canyon.
Pfieffer Big Sur State Park CampgroundPfieffer Big Sur State Park Campground
This large campground in the heart of Big Sur is spread out through oak and redwood groves along the Big Sur River.
Andrew Molera State Park CampgroundAndrew Molera State Park Trail Camp
This trail camp is easy to reach (just a short walk in) with campsites in a meadow along the Big Sur River near Molera Beach.

22 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:

      Hi-
      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?

  13. […] Our second stop on highway one was a place called Salmon Creek Falls. This is a natural waterfall about a mile hike from the highway. I haven’t mentioned it much, but I love waterfalls. Everything about them. They are super adventurous and pretty and I just love everything about them. This stop was a must for me. We hiked out there and Eric, Zach, and I immediately swam to it and got underneath it. It was cold as hell (ironic huh? Hell isn’t cold) but it was so beautiful it was worth it. Thomas lingered with the photos so Eric and I sat in there for about 5 minutes, I was prunish as hell. http://www.hikespeak.com/trails/salmon-creek-falls-big-sur/ […]

  14. Steve says:

    How bad is the poison oak around this trail and Big Sur in general this year. We are heeding up there next week (big Sur lodge) and I seem to remember a lot of poison oak. Thanks.

  15. […] edge of the land, eventually transforming into a winding cliffside lane of pavement. We stopped at Salmon Creek to check out the waterfall and take a hike up above the marine layer into the foothills inland. The […]

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