Hikes in Monterey County

Monterey County is a beautiful coastal area of California. Some of Monterey County’s finest trails are found around Big Sur, a charming town 140 miles south of San Francisco. The Big Sur name also applies to the fifty miles of coastline between Big Sur and San Simeon, which is as beautiful as any in the world. Big Sur is defined by dramatic and beautiful landscapes. Tall green mountains drop to rugged shores and mesmerizing blue waters.

Highlights of Monterey County

  • This 0.6-mile hike in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park observes a stunning Big Sur waterfall that pours 80 feet right on to the beach.
  • This 1.1-mile hike extends from Highway One to an ocean bluff with fantastic views of the Big Sur Coast.
  • This short hike visits a fine 120-foot waterfall near the start of Salmon Creek Trail in Los Padres National Forest.
  • 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.
  • This 5 to 9.25-mile 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, 2.5 miles from Highway One.
  • This 6.5 to 9.25-mile hike reaches incredible 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.
  • This 8.7-mile loop at the north end of Big Sur crosses a picturesque coastal ridge and bluffs in Andrew Molera State Park.
  • This short walk reaches a Big Sur beach with awesome rock formations rising out of the sand.

Visit Monterey County

The drive up Highway One is so scenic that many people don’t get out to hike at all, but they should! The region offers numerous great trails. Los Padres National Forest protects much of the wild coast, but several other state parks are also involved, including Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, home of one of the most spectacular waterfalls on the planet, McWay Falls. Many of the trails in the Big Sur region are free, so get out of the car and stretch your legs on these fine trails with unforgettable ocean views.

Bad News: Winter storms caused major damage and multiple closures along Highway 1. Several parks are closed and numerous trailheads are inaccessible. As of April 2017, Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park are all closed. Pfeiffer Beach is also closed. Salmon Creek Falls, Buckeye Trail, and Cruickshank Trail are all inaccessible due to road damage.

Is there any good news? A short area of the coast is accessible from Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. This open area between closures on Highway One makes it possible to reach Limekiln State Park (campground and trails), King Creek Campground, Plaskett Creek Campground, Sand Dollar Beach, Pacific Valley Bluff Trail, and Jade Cove & Plaskett Rock Point.

Monterey County Hiking

This collection of trails covers Monterey County along the California coast between Big Sur and San Simeon. These hikes are listed from north to south, but the table may also be sorted alphabetically or by distance to help you pick your next hike. Each trail links to its own report complete with directions, photos, GPS maps, elevation profiles, and all the other information needed to locate and enjoy these day hikes. You can also view hikes around Monterey County on the Hike Finder Map.

Trail
Description
Distance
Location
Pfeiffer Falls Valley View017Ridge Trail - Panorama Trail - Bluff Trail Loop
This loop in Andrew Molera State Park crosses a coastal ridge, bluff, and beach that are packed with amazing Big Sur views.
8.7 miles
1,100 feet
36.28741,
-121.8441
Pfeiffer Falls Valley View020Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View
This out and back trek is like two hikes in one, reaching a waterfall in a canyon of redwoods and a vista point overlooking the Big Sur River Valley.
2.4 miles
550 feet
36.25066,
-121.7858
Pfeiffer Falls Valley View022Nature Trail - River Path Loop
This easy loop explores woodlands along the Big Sur River and a redwood grove that includes the unique and impressive Proboscis Tree.
0.55 miles
15 feet
36.250472,
-121.781215
Big Sur River Gorge025Big Sur River Gorge
This 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.
0.5
50 feet
36.2464,
-121.7721
Pfeiffer Beach030Pfeiffer Beach
This short walk reaches an absolutely stunning beach that's a classic feature of the Big Sur landscape.
0.2 miles (or more)
10 feet
36.2382,
-121.81353
Partington Cove050Partington Cove
This out and back hike visits a tunnel-accessed cove and a secluded beach in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park along the scenic Big Sur coast.
1.5 miles
270 feet
36.175267,
-121.696075
Canyon Trail Big Sur053Canyon Falls
This out and back hike heads inland up McWay Creek past a picnic area in a redwood grove to a lovely little waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
0.9 miles
225 feet
36.16014, -121.668523
McWay Falls055McWay Falls
This out and back hike looks out on a stunning Big Sur waterfall that pours 80 feet right on to the beach in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
0.6 miles
50 feet
36.15776,
-121.672406
Limekiln Trail Limekiln Falls Hare Creek hike057Hare Creek Trail, Limekiln Trail, and Falls Trail
This out and back hike in Limekiln State Park explores a trio of trails along lovely streams in redwood-lined canyons, reaching Limekiln Falls and historic lime kilns.
2.65 miles
250 feet
36.010436,
-121.518588
Pacific Valley Bluff Trail060Pacific 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.
1.1 miles
50 feet
35.932648,
-121.468927
Sand Dollar Beach063Sand Dollar Beach
This short hike to Big Sur's longest beach passes two scenic overlooks on the way to the sand.
0.5 miles (or more)
125 feet
35.921639,
-121.466913
Jade Cove065Jade Cove and Plaskett Rock Point
This loop across ocean bluff visits a prominent peninsula and a small cove.
1.5 miles
150 feet
35.917096,
-121.469079
Cruickshank Trail hike070Cruickshank 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, 2.5 miles from Highway One.
5 - 9.25 miles
1,150 - 1,925 feet
35.843073,
-121.403025
Buckeye Trail075Buckeye Trail
This hike reaches incredible 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.
6.5 - 9.25 miles
1,450 - 1,925 feet
35.821754,
-121.374454
Salmon Creek Falls080Salmon Creek Falls
This out and back hike visits a fine 120-foot waterfall near the start of Salmon Creek Trail.
0.25 miles
60 feet
35.816032,
-121.356699

Monterey County Camping

There are many places to camp along the Big Sur coast in Los Padres National Forest and various California State Parks. Here are a few of the developed campgrounds:

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.
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.
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.

 

View Central Coast trails and campgrounds in a larger map
Or explore hikes around Monterey County on the Hike Finder Map
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Rinconada Trail Hike Santa Lucia Mountains Los Padres National Forest Bell Mountain Rinconada Hiking Trail Santa Margarita California
Rising through grassy meadows, oak woodlands, and chaparral slopes, Rinconada Trail provides North County access to the Santa Lucia Mountains in Los Padres National Forest. Gaze over bucolic valleys on the hike up to a high point in a grassy mountain pass with views over remote ridges and canyons in the Santa Lucia Wilderness. Turn around at an overlook by the crest of... Read more.
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Tagged with · Free Trails · Los Padres National Forest · Santa Lucia Mountains · Santa Margarita · Summits
Distance: 3 miles · Elevation change: 625 to 865 feet
By: Published: Last updated: April 25, 2017
Santa Paula Canyon Trail The Punchbowl Hike Santa Paula Canyon Punch Bowls Big Cone Camp East Fork Trail Los Padres National Forest Topatopa Mountains California
Framed by tall, rugged ridges in the Topatopa Mountains, Santa Paula Creek slices through the rockbed of Santa Paula Canyon, carving out alluring pools and cascades called the Punchbowl (or Punch Bowls). Finishing with a flourish, the Punchbowl has a 25-foot waterfall and a pool that you can relax beside. The Punchbowl is located between Big Cone Camp and Cross Camp,... Read more.
By: Published: Last updated: April 17, 2017
Sisar Canyon Trail Hike Sisar Canyon Road Summit Ojai Santa Paula California Los Padres National Forest Sisar Creek Hike
Sisar Canyon cuts into the mountains above Upper Ojai Valley, halfway between Ojai and Santa Paula. A wide dirt trail travels up the canyon toward Topatopa Ridge, a striking bluff of striped rock. Rather than taking Sisar Canyon Trail (also known as Sisar Canyon Road) deep into the Topatopa Mountains, turn around at an overlook 2.75 miles up the trail for a picturesque... Read more.
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Tagged with · Creeks · Free Trails · Los Padres National Forest · Ojai · Santa Paula · Topatopa Mountains · Upper Ojai Valley
Distance: 6.5 miles · Elevation change: 1200 feet
By: Published: Last updated: April 17, 2017
Horn Canyon Trail Hike Ojai California Los Padres National Forest Thacher Creek Canyon Thacher School Trailhead
Horn Canyon Trail rises into the frontcountry of the Topatopa Mountains from Ojai, California. While you can spend a full day (and a full workout) hiking up Horn Canyon Trail, you can also opt for the shorter option described here, trekking up the trail's moderate opening mile, past multiple creek crossings and views down Ojai Valley, before venturing off trail up the... Read more.
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Tagged with · Creeks · Free Trails · Los Padres National Forest · Off Trail · Ojai · Topatopa Mountains
Distance: 2.9 miles · Elevation change: 750 feet
By: Published: Last updated: April 17, 2017
Oak Creek Canyon Loop Trail Los Robles Open Space Thousand Oaks California Santa Monica Mountains
Oak Creek Canyon Trail is a rather special trail in Los Robles Open Space that is designed for the blind as well as the sighted. The all-access nature trail has a dozen and a half signs in English and Braille. While blind hikers will probably want to turn around at the end of the guide fence, for a 0.55 mile hike with 50 feet of elevation change, others may continue on to... Read more.
By: Published: Last updated: April 5, 2017