Living in San Francisco, I’m super lucky to have many beautiful destinations within a few hours’ driving distance. Mendocino, Napa, Carmel, Big Sur… For me, that means that most of these places have been done as long day trips, especially when it’s a less strenuous trip.
Tag: central coast
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a beautiful park, but it’s a fairly small park. There is probably less than 15 miles of hiking trails, some connecting deeper into Ventana Wilderness like Sykes Hot Springs via the Pine Ridge trail. Some are gems like the Big Sur River Gorge and Pfeiffer Falls. Others are less so.
Big Sur is one of my favorite places to escape for the weekend. With unparalleled views of the California coastline and little to no cell service, it’s the perfect place to recharge, if only for a little while. Day two of the long long weekend was reserved for some hiking, and hike we did. I decided to lead our group of campers to the Tin House via the Tan Bark Trail. I’d been here last Christmas, but the hiddenness of this trailhead changed our start point to park headquarters instead.
A couple friends and I took advantage of the three day weekend and drove down to Big Sur for some good ol’ group camping. With temperatures hovering well above 70 degrees, it was the perfect time to head down to the central coast to get outside and relax.
My car drove down bright and early on Saturday morning to beat traffic on Highway 1 and maximize the fun. (Seriously, Highway 1 minivan traffic is no joke on the weekends) Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has one campground open in the “winter”. The campsites are all packed in four rows. They can fit 8 people but its a squeeze to get four 2-person tents in with room to breathe. Each site also holds two cars.
Hike: Big Sur River Gorge
Where: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Trailhead: Big Sur River Gorge/Mt. Manuel next to Parking Lot 3
Length: 1.2 miles out and back
Gear: Icebreaker Aero Tank, Outdoor Research Turbine Shorts, Boreas Topaz 25, Outdoor Research Echo Ubertube, Outdoor Research Ultralight Dry Sack 2.5L, and Ahnu Tilden Sandal
Cost of Parking: $10 inside the park
I had accidentally stopped by Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and headed up the Big Sur River Gorge last summer when we stopped too early in an attempt to do the Tanbark Trail & Tin House loop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. I mean, the names are confusing. Really.
The last time I was here, we made it up the river to the swimming hole, but opted to come back at a later time to jump in. I was determined to check this place off my bucket list! And this weekend, I did. Headed down to the park on a hot Sunday morning with some friends. We were afraid it would be foggy and cool, but the fog quickly burned off to reveal blue, blue skies for a marvelous trek up the river.
We parked at Parking Lot #3 and made our way up a paved road to the river where we began to walk up. Even with the drought, there was still a solid amount of water in the river. I found myself up to my waist during certain portions. I highly recommend bringing watershoes to hike in the river. It makes it 10x easier than trying to scramble and boulder hop on slippery wet rocks or avoiding getting your feet wet. I was able to just hike up in the river for a good portion of the hike which made it quite enjoyable. The water temperature was cool, not too cool, and refreshing.
At the end of the trek, you reach the largest swimming hole, nestled by towering granite walls. Even with this year’s drought, water levels are still high enough for swimming and jumping off rocks. This spot is very popular in the summer on a warm day so don’t expect much privacy. There are swimming spots along the way up if you prefer less of a crowd.
Remember to pay careful attention to your surroundings. The rocks are slippery and loose and mossy, and sometimes water may be deeper than it seems. Your safety is your responsibility.