Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Hike, camp or picnic among the redwood trees, waterfalls and dramatic coastal cliffs that have inspired artists, poets and writers for the past century. 

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a 1,000-acre (400-hectare) State Park on the California coast. The area takes its name from John Pfeiffer, whose family were European settlers in the 19th century. Perfect for hiking, camping and swimming, this park features stunning views across the Big Sur Valley, the Big Sur River Gorge and the Pacific Ocean. You’ll see a wide variety of large-tree species, including redwoods, oaks, sycamores and maples. Also, keep an eye out for the wildlife, including black-tailed deer, raccoons, skunks and varied birdlife.

The best way to experience the park is on foot so that you don’t miss anything. Explore the three-mile (five-kilometer) Valley View Trail, which takes in Pfeiffer Falls, the park’s 60-foot (18-meter) waterfall. The trail is a bit steep in parts, rising 200 feet (60 meters), offering stunning views over the falls and the park’s many creeks and redwoods. More experienced hikers can try the 4.5-mile (seven-kilometer) Ewoldsen Trail, at the nearby Julie Pfeiffer Burns Park, which is steeper and more strenuous in parts. Don’t miss McWay Falls, which tumble straight from the cliffside onto the beach. The beach itself is off-limits, but for spectacular year-round views, check out the overlook near the parking lot.

In summer, swim in the Big Sur River, which runs through the park and empties into the Pacific Ocean. Pitch your tent on the park’s campsites situated at picturesque spots along the riverbanks. The park offers an information center, kiosk, restrooms, showers and a laundry. The Big Sur Lodge offers motel-style accommodation and a restaurant. 

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park borders the Ventana Wilderness area, an additional 320 miles (515 kilometers) of hiking trails. The area is just inland from the California coast, 28 miles (42 kilometers) south of Carmel. Driving is the best way to get here, and there are also some coastal bus tours from travel agencies in Monterey. The park opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes after sunset. Bring a picnic or snacks as food options are limited to a café and grocery store at the Big Sur Lodge.

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