|| california | central coast
Big Sur is famous its spectacular scenery, azure waves crashing on craggy rocks, groves of soaring redwoods and clear rivers running to the sea. Big Sur is an area with a sense of adventure and a great place to explore, so when you visit with kids, plan to spend a day or more. Get out of your car, take a hike in the coast redwoods, wriggle your toes in the sand, build a driftwood fort or sand castle on the most beautiful beaches.
Tip: Big Sur is connected by a single road, Highway 1, that goes between Monterey and Morro Bay. Going south from Big Sur, Highway 1 is a two lane road that may be closed due to landslides. Also viewpoints in this section are little more than narrow turnouts and too precipitous for little kids to get out and run around.
|Pfeiffer Beach –
This is our favorite beach at Big Sur. It’s a mile long protected cove with sandy beach, and rocks just offshore, where waves pour through openings in the rock and crash in mounds of white foam. Play and wade in the creek that flows into the beach, look for pelicans diving for food in the ocean, slide down the sand hills, bring a picnic, umbrellas and sand toys. At sunset, watch the sun dip below the horizon.
|Tip: Don't wade or swim – the waves and currents are unpredictable.
|It’s a little difficult to find Pfeiffer Beach, as the exit is not marked from Highway 1. The turnoff (Sycamore Canyon Rd.) is ½ miles south from Big Sur Station (the ranger station). It’s a paved, one lane road going west (no motor homes), two miles to the beach.
Andrew Molera State Park –
|Picnic area – This is great stop to stop for lunch, picnic tables in the shade by the Big Sur River. In summer, when the water is low, there are footbridges over the river and kids can wade in the shallow creek.
|Cooper Cabin and Monarch Grove – Walk down the Trail Camp Beach Trail to see the Cooper Cabin, built in 1861, and the oldest building in Big Sur. Constructed of logs and hand-hewn redwood shingles, the silvery-gray cabin originally housed the ranch hands for the Cooper Ranch, which ran cattle and bred horses.
|Around the cabin are eucalyptus trees, which are home to scads of monarch butterflies from late October through February. In the winter months, thousands of butterflies migrate to the central California coast, where they remain until spring, then lay eggs for a new generation of butterflies. It's just magical to see the beautiful orange and black butterflies fluttering around, sipping nectar on blossoms. When it's cold, the butterflies shelter together on the trees.
|Creamery Meadow Beach Trail – Hike to the beach on the Creamery Meadow Trail, it’s a one mile, level trail (2 miles round trip). At the beach, kids will want to play in the driftwood forts on the beach (we saw five different forts, constructed from driftwood that’s tossed up on the beach), or the sand bar where the river comes in (in summer when the water is low). The estuary is loaded with sea birds, bobbing in the calm waters amidst the seaweed. Tip: Watch out for poison oak, which does grow along the trail.
|Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park –
Pfeiffer Falls – Hike to a 60 ft waterfall.
There are two trails to the falls - Pfeiffer Falls Trail and Valley View Trail. It's fun to do the hike as a loop. Take the Valley View Trail, then return on the Falls Trail that follows along the creek, with redwoods towering overhead, ferns under your feet.
|Loop is 2.2 miles round trip, no strollers on either trail. Pfeiffer Falls Trail is slightly shorter than Valley View Trail, also more in the shade, if it's a hot day.
|Warden's Trail & Ewoldsen Nature Center – On the south side of Big Sur River, take the Warden's Trail through the redwoods, along the river. There is river access, and sandy beaches, in summer cool off in the river.
|Picnic tables are located along the trail, stop into the Nature Center, open Friday to Monday, 10am - 2pm. Inside are exhibits about local animals, such as bobcats, raccoons, skunks, quail, as well as California condor.
Day Use areas – Restrooms and picnic tables are located at day-use parking lots.
The best campground in Big Sur is right here. Camp under soaring redwood trees, go to sleep at night to sounds of Big Sur River flowing by.
This a very popular campground, advance reservations are essential: Reserve California
|Tip: Store at Big Sur Lodge has food, cold drinks and ice cream, and useful camping products, such as mosquito repellent and sunscreen.