From the issue Coastal Classics
Big Sur for the Soul
Big Sur is California's soul-refreshing capital. To get right into the heart of this storybook landscape, hike Andrew Molera State Park's 8.4-mile Ridge Bluff loop. Duck through sturdy oaks and imperious redwoods as you climb high above the world on a ridge, where you take in the Pacific's blue waters to the west and the wild Santa Lucia Mountain Range to the east. "It's like Narnia out there," according to one ranger. Be sure not to miss Spring Trail, a short 0.1-mile offshoot to one of the most remote beaches on the Big Sur coast. Kick off your shoes and run your feet through swirls of pink and lavender sand, enjoying your own private wonderland.
TIP: Though it's not immune to crowds or filling-up, Andrew Molera State Park is your best bet for eleventh-hour camping because you have to walk a third of a mile (a deterrent for many) to the 24 tent sites, and it doesn't take reservations.
The moderate trail can be hiked in either direction. From the parking lot, cross the bridge (which is removed in the winter) over the Big Sur River and head west on the Beach Trail. Then go southeast on the Bluffs Trail; Spring Trail is reached after 1.7 miles. Continue climbing on Panorama Trail (a butt kicker!), and then descend down the Ridge Trail. Take the Hidden Trail down to the River Trail, which goes back to the parking lot. Or you can make a shorter 6-mile route by hiking out to Spring Trail and back along the Bluffs Trail. Dogs are not allowed on the trails.