Pacific Valley Bluff Trail Big Sur hike Los Padres National Forest Ocean view bluff hike

This short, level hike in Big Sur’s Los Padres National Forest ventures to the end of a grassy point topped by a crown of spiked boulders. The bluff offers fantastic views of the coves and rocky sea stacks up and down the rugged coastline of Big Sur. The trailhead is conveniently located along Highway One, and at 1.1 miles round trip with 50 feet of elevation change, the views far outweigh the effort.

Pacific Valley Bluff Trail
The start of Pacific Valley Bluff Trail

Find the trailhead on the west side of Highway One, about a mile north of the trailheads for Plaskett Rock Point and Sand Dollar Beach. Take the steps up and over a cattle fence and begin hiking west down a grassy trail toward the coast. Ahead you will see a jumble of tall boulders poking skyward near the end of the bluff.

Hike 1/3 of a mile, coming alongside the boulders, where you will find another fence with a pass through that allows hikers to continue heading west (a path to the right runs down along the fence for additional exploration up the coast).

Step through the gap in the fence and follow a worn single track for another tenth of a mile to a picturesque landing on the edge of the bluff. This is the hike’s premier view, looking north up the coast past a sandy cove toward black and tan sea stacks jutting into the surf. Farther to the north, green mountains of the Santa Lucia Range rise above the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. It is quite a sight!

Pacific Valley Bluff Trail
A cove north of the bluff
Pacific Valley Bluff Trail
Sea stacks along the coast to the north

The path continues from this fine viewpoint out to the west end of the bluff. Have a seat and watch the waves crash against the rocky shore below.

Pacific Valley Bluff Trail
A rocky point at the end of the bluff

A use trail wraps to the left, heading south along the edge of the bluff. As you cross to the other side of the point, you will pass a survey marker and gain a new perspective south over more dynamic Big Sur coastline. A crescent shaped cove is speckled with dark rock pillars that break up the rolling waves.

Pacific Valley Bluff Trail
Lookout south down the coast toward Plaskett Rock Point

If you continue down the path, you’ll come to a miniature sand dune where wind-carried sand has deposited in a pit on the bluff. From here there are views south down Sand Dollar Beach toward Plaskett Rock Point. The best option now is to return the way you came. However, it is possible to make a small loop around the end of the bluff. When continuing south down the coast becomes impeded, you may spot a large arrow pointing to the left made of stones laid upon the sand. The arrow will lead you to a narrow track that cuts through brush toward the north side of the point. The path is very overgrown and lined with poison oak, so you may wish to avoid it entirely and double back along the bluff, taking in a second helping of the great views.

However you get back, just head out across the grass field up the trail you came in on. While not as dramatic as the coastline behind you, the mountains to east are not bad to look at either. There is no fee or permit to required to hike Pacific Valley Bluff Trail in Los Padres National Forest. Dogs are permitted, but the short trail is not suitable for bikes. There are no bathrooms at the trailhead.

To get to the trailhead: From the south, drive up Highway One, 16.1 miles north of Ragged Point Inn (or 39 miles north of Cambria) and park along Highway One. The trailhead for Pacific Valley Bluff Trail is on the west side of the road, a mile north Plasket Creek Campground. From the north, drive 21.1 miles south from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (home of McWay Falls) to reach Pacific Valley Bluff Trail.

Trailhead address: Cabrillo Highway (Highway One), Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur, CA 93920
Trailhead coordinates: 35.932648, -121.468927 (35° 55′ 57.53″N 121° 28′ 08.13″W)

Trail Map
View Big Sur in a larger map
Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.

You may also view a regional map of surrounding Central Coast trails and campgrounds.

Photos

Pacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff TrailPacific Valley Bluff Trail

These photos were taken in February of 2013. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Sand Dollar BeachSand Dollar Beach
This short hike to Big Sur’s longest beach passes two scenic overlooks on the way to the sand for a hike of 0.5 miles (or more) round trip.
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.
Salmon Creek FallsSalmon Creek Falls
This short hike visits a fine 120-foot waterfall near the start of Salmon Creek Trail.
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.
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.
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.
Big Sur HikingMore Central Coast Hikes
Explore other destinations along the California coast between Ventura and Monterey, including trails in Los Padres National Forest.
Nearby 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.
OK! Add to trails I’ve hiked
OK! Add to trails I want to hike
Tagged with · Big Sur · Free Trails · Los Padres National Forest · Ocean Views
Distance: 1.1 miles · Elevation change: 50 feet

Ask a question or share your experience

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *