Andrew Molera State Park

#2 in Best Things To Do in Big Sur
Andrew Molera State Park picture
Allie_Caulfield/Flickr

Key Info

Details

Beaches, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.6scorecard
  • 4.5Value
  • 3.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

This 4,800-acre park is the largest state park on the Big Sur coast and offers multiple activities and attractions, not to mention several hiking trails. Named after the man who brought the artichoke to California, Andrew Molera Park's natural wonders include secluded beaches, redwood groves, meadows and the Big Sur River along its 20 miles of hiking trails. Because of the park's flatter geography, visitors are allowed to bike and can take horseback rides throughout the park. The beach is also safe to surf, and is considered to be one of the best surfing spots in Big Sur.

There are nine trails that comprise Andrew Molera State Park, five of which are main trails and three that are considered alternative trails. The Bluffs Trail, Panorama Trail and Ridge Trail are all main trails that connect to make the Andrew Molera Loop. The Loop takes travelers along the coast via the Bluffs Trail then around into an equally beautiful wooded area via the Panorama Trail and Ridge Trail. There are also various pathways on the Bluffs Trail that go directly down to the shore.

For those unwilling to sacrifice the time it takes to cover 8 miles worth, take the alternative Headlands Trail. The trail snakes along the Big Sur River, leading visitors up to the top of Molera point, which affords panoramic views of Andrew Molera beach, the Big Sur River and the Big Sur Valley. Big Sur's oldest building, the Cooper Cabin, is also located along this trail.

Recent travelers loved Andrew Molera State Park's scenic coastal trails, with many favoring the beauty of the Headlands Trail and the Bluffs Trail. Others pointed out that although the park is flat in comparison to other areas in Big Sur, there are still elevation changes along the Andrew Molera Loop, and advised travelers to wear sturdy shoes and bring a jacket to combat chilly coastal winds. Note that Andrew Molera State Park has the most poison oak of any other park in Big Sur. Also, aside from the Headlands Trail and the East Molera Trail, all trails require visitors to cross the Big Sur River. There is a bridge to cross the river, but it is only installed from June to October.

Andrew Molera State Park is about 20 miles south of Carmel off of Highway 1. The park is open a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset and is a $10 fee to park your car. For more information about the park's facilities and various offerings, including the Park Discovery Center and Ranch House, visit the Andrew Molera State Park website.

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Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Pfeiffer Beach
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#1 Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Named after one of Big Sur's most beloved pioneers, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a favorite among both locals and tourists. A feast for the eyes, the park features seven marked trails that take travelers to tucked away coves, up to waterfalls, along miles-long creeks, through redwood-clad forests and more. Not to mention, it is one of the few areas in Big Sur where scuba diving is allowed. 

The shortest and most traveled path is Waterfall Overlook Trail. Less than a mile long, the trail takes visitors to one of the most popular attractions in Big Sur: McWay Falls. The site is lauded for its beauty, and is a culmination of all geological features typical to Big Sur: The secluded beach is flanked by jagged bluffs covered in shrubs, wildflowers and cypress trees. The falls, flowing from atop one of the cove's granite cliffs, tumble 80 feet down into the cove and get swept up by the ocean. The cove is also a prime place to spot migrating gray whales that pass through Big Sur from December to February, as well as March to May. In the past, some have even come into the mouth of the cove.

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