When you visit Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, this is the first trail staff usually suggests, and rightly so. A perfect, though slightly challenging hike for both kids and older folks, you get to walk among the giant redwoods and visit a rocky waterfall.
Those looking for a bit more of a workout can hike up through the picturesque oak trees to the overlook bench, with expansive views of the Big Sur River gorge.
An exceptional and fairly level hike through towering redwoods along several lush creeks, with both a waterfall and the historic limekilns among the sights.
The Limekiln Trails are well-maintained and short with modest elevation gain and a series of creek crossings to keep things interesting. As a bonus, you can then take a short walk out to the coast for a scenic rocky beach under the shadow of Highway 1.
If you've got at least half a day, here is another great hike that will take you through a wide variety of Big Sur environments.
The Tanbark Trail starts off in a Redwood forest along Partington Creek, then lifts you 1,600 feet through the oaks and eventually drops down on the abandoned Tin House. You then continue down a fire road with fantastic coastal views, and walk up Highway 1 back to your car.
One of the southernmost popular Big Sur trails, Salmon Creek offers a nice steady workout in addition to some of the most expansive views westward toward the coast.
This is also a trail that you can hike as long as you like, turning back when you run out of steam, or stopping at either the Spruce (2 miles in) or Estrella (3.25 miles in) camps for a nice break before turning back.
Great mountain, ocean and creek views, along with a wide variety of tree and plant life. This trail has it all.
After an initial set of switchbacks, the Cruickshank Trail is a fairly straight run along the canyon above Villa Creek, eventually winding down towards Villa Creek Camp and it's gorgeous redwood setting near several small waterfalls and sun-dappled pools of water.
An all-day workout or modest up and back that indulges the senses with vast ocean, mountain and canyon panoramas in addition to redwood, bay tree and oak forests.
The Vicente Flat Trail starts with an aggressive uphill for a couple miles as you climb the coastal ridge and then turns east above Hare Canyon, eventually levelling out before reaching the stunning Vicente Flat campground.
This uphill hike is all about the views and changing terrain since there are no redwood groves or rushing streams.
You'll get a good workout on a well maintained fire road where the views get better all the way to the top. This is also the southern-most "Big Sur" hike and starts right across the road from the Ragged Point Inn.
(NOTE: due to the 2008 fire, this trail is pretty much all closed. You can still visit the Homestead Cabin if you start at the south end of the hike.) As a companion to the heavily travelled Pfeiffer Falls & Valley View Trails, the Oak Grove Trail loop is an excellent and modest hike through a wide variety of Big Sur's mountain and river ecosystems.
The Oak Grove Trail loop passes by the historic Homestead Cabin of John Pfeiffer, winds through oak studded canyons, and also follows the Big Sur river.
The largest crescent of sandy beach in Big Sur, set below the dramatic Pacific Valley cliffs. Jade too!
The Sand Dollar Beach area offers both a great beach and also a nice bluff trail with expansive views up and down the coast. A perfect place to stop and combine ocean and sand with your trek through Big Sur.
A wonderful bluff trail with wide-open views of the coast and several rocky coves.
The Jade Cove Trail is a simple flat path that loops out to the coast with a steep but short path down to the water where you can hunt for jade (please follow local regulations about collecting rocks).
A quick and steep hike takes you down through a tree-lined canyon to a scenic rocky beach and through a tunnel to Partington Cove.
Used as a loading point for tanbark around the turn of the nineteenth century, Partington Cove's history comes alive as you walk through the 60 foot tunnel and pop out in a secluded cove where rusty remains of the loading apparatus perch on the rocks.
Think of this trek as a variation of the Salmon Creek hike. There are sweeping coastal views and modest oak forests along Soda Springs Creek, but these are junior versions of what you'll find at Salmon Creek.
However the canyon along the creek has its own charm and unique features worth a modest hike, perhaps as a followup to one of the others.