The rugged and stunning wilderness of Big Sur State Park stretches for 85 miles down the California coastline between Carmel and San Simeon. The sparsely populated region houses numerous state parks with hiking, camping, bird watching and remote beaches to explore. With so much on offer, Big Sur is the obvious choice for a campervan adventure on the California central coast. Below is our list of things to do in this beautiful region.
An all time favorite, Ewoldsen Trail is not for the faint of heart but rewards the brave. Starting in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, this 4.6 mile trail will get you up close with mossy redwoods and take you past weird moss formations in McWay canyon, before finishing off with sweeping ocean views. Allow at least 3 hours for this hike, and be sure to take a lot of water! We advise families with young kids to turn around at the top, thereby avoiding the more dangerous sections.
VALLEY VIEW TRAIL
Valley View Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Big Sur, and for good reason; the trail winds through giant redwood trees and ends with stunning views over the mountains and the Big Sur River gorge to the Pacific Ocean. A side trail leads to Pfeiffer Falls, an enormous, rocky waterfall with a perfectly positioned viewing platform. Both routes are wide and well-maintained, so they’re accessible for kids; other than a single short, steep climb, most of the route consists of a gentle uphill. With the side trip to Pfeiffer Falls, expect to spend about one and a half hours to cover 2 miles. Find the trailhead in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, just across from the famous McWay Falls.
LIMEKILN FALLS TRAIL
Half an hour south of the famous McWay falls is the stunning coastal Limekiln State Park, filled with hiking trails, redwoods and a beautiful beach. Choose between many short hiking options- our top pick is the incredibly scenic 1.5 mile hike to Limekiln falls, a 100 ft cascading waterfall. Note there is a $10 entrance fee to the park.
Other Things To Do
Just outside Big Sur itself, the Monterey Bay Aquarium makes for a wonderful stop on the way from San Francisco. Especially if you have young ones on board! With over 200 exhibitions and nearly 35,000 animals, the Monterey Aquarium is one of the largest public aquariums in North America. Don’t miss the Penguin feeding at 10:30am, or the Open Sea feeding at 11am!
Big Sur is filled to the brim of beautiful beaches, but be sure to spend a morning down at the beautiful Pfeiffer beach and its famous sun-portal. Between the coastal cliffs, offshore rocks and the stream running into the ocean, it is certain to be a favorite. Keep an eye out for big patches of purple sand if it has recently rained, caused by certain minerals in the sand that come to the surface.
17 MILE DRIVE
Between Big Sur and San Francisco, you may consider taking the famous 17 Mile Drive, a scenic coastal road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove. Marvel at the snow-white beaches, dramatic coastal cliffs and giant trees, including the 5,300-acre Del Monte Forest Cypress trees. This drive is also known for famous golf courses and stunning million-dollar homes, so keep your eyes peeled! FYI: There is a $10.50 charge to drive this stretch, which is reimbursed if you spend $35 at local restaurants.
If at some point in your trip a fancy meal sounds appealing, you really can’t go past Nepenthe, known for its jaw-dropping cliff views and decadent dining options. They have fantastic lunch and dinner options but to tell the truth, we really can’t resist their chocolate cake!!