Off The Grid: Exploring Big Sur in California
Published on 08/19/2012
By Erin Ching
Along California’s central coast lies the outdoor lovers paradise, the area known as Big Sur. The ocean meets the mountains at the shoreline, creating an ideal place for all sorts of outdoor activities like ocean kayaking, cycling and of course, camping and hiking.
Just an hour south of the San Francisco Bay Area, Big Sur is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all sorts. The stretch of coastline is one of the most beautiful in all of California, and is famous for its cliff bluffs overlooking the ocean below. Sequoias, Redwoods and Oaks thrive in this region, where cool mornings are followed by warm days – ideal temperatures for hikers as well.
One of the more beautiful state parks for day hiking is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, whose day hikes take you to such places as McWay Waterfall, one of the only waterfalls in the world that pours directly in to the ocean. Another interesting hike takes visitors to historic lime kilns and beautiful waterfalls at Limekiln State Park. This state park features day hiking trails, all of which are under a half mile and offer a peek in to Califonia’s early settler history.
If multiday hikes and backpacking is more your thing, there are plenty of trails to choose from. One of my favorite trips is to Sykes Hot Springs along the 23 mile Pine Ridge Trail, which takes hikers past 3 natural hot springs. However, Pine Ridge Trail can be crowded on weekends, so choose to go on a weekday if possible. A less crowded multiday hike is the Buckeye Loop trail in the Silver Peak Wilderness area, just north of the Hearst Castle on Highway 1. This trail is strenuous, with multiple creek crossings and a steep 1,000 foot ascension within the first mile. Don’t be too deterred though, your hard work will be handsomely rewarded by vantage points that overlook the coastline for miles.
As with most hiking in California, be on the lookout for poison oak and remember “leaves of 3 let them be”. While this area can be enjoyed year-round thanks to California’s temperate weather, summertime is best with the fog clearing early in the morning providing superior views of one of the most famous coastlines in the world.
- Waterproof Watch (to go from the trail and the waves and back) Check out these sport watches
- Binoculars (for spotting wildlife on the shore and in the sea) Check out these sightseers
- Convertible Hiking Pant/Shorts (for those variable changes in weather) Awesome adventure pants
- Weekender Pack/Travel Backpack (You will want to stay all weekend!) The perfect 36-hour pack