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Andrew Molera State Park picture in Big Sur
Allie_Caulfield / Flickr

Details

  • Beaches, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
  • Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.6
Overall
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Scorecard

  • Value
    4.5
  • Facilities
    3.0
  • Atmosphere
    5.0

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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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#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 ...

Read more » lucky-photographer / Getty Images

#2 Andrew Molera State Park

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 ...

Read more » Allie_Caulfield / Flickr

#3 Pfeiffer Beach

If you're on a tight itinerary and don't have time to traverse any state park trails, head to Pfeiffer Beach. Located about 7 miles south of Andrew Molera ...

Read more » Eric Lowenbach / Getty Images

#4 Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Not to be confused with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or Pfeiffer Beach, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest and covers 1,600 ...

Read more » Gary Denham / Flickr

#5 Garrapata State Park

Situated between the base of the St. Lucia Mountains and the rugged Pacific coastline, this 3,000-acre state park is overflowing with trails highlighting the park's diverse landscape. From ...

Read more » Ingmar Wesemann / Getty Images

#6 Sand Dollar Beach

A great option for those who don't want to work up a sweat on the trails but want to experience Big Sur's beauty from outside the car is ...

Read more » Skyhobo / Getty Images

#7 Limekiln State Park

Located about 7 miles north of Sand Dollar Beach, Limekiln State Park is one of the smallest state parks in Big Sur, but it packs some serious history. The 716-acre ...

Read more » Photo Courtesy of California State Parks

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park picture in Big Sur
Andrew Molera State Park picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park picture in Big Sur
Garrapata State Park picture in Big Sur
Sand Dollar Beach picture in Big Sur
Limekiln State Park picture in Big Sur
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park picture in Big Sur
Andrew Molera State Park picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park picture in Big Sur
Garrapata State Park picture in Big Sur
Sand Dollar Beach picture in Big Sur
Limekiln State Park picture in Big Sur

McWay Falls is the star attraction at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The 80-foot waterfall used to fall directly into the ocean until a landslide created the beach it now graces.  lucky-photographer / Getty Images

Get your fill of coastal views at Andrew Molera State Park. The 8-mile-long Andrew Molera Loop takes visitors  on the edge of the coast with smaller trails leading down to secluded beaches. Allie_Caulfield / Flickr

It's not uncommon to see hordes of photographers at Pfeiffer State Beach, especially at sunset. The keyhole arch rock is considered to be one of the most photographed natural attractions in Big Sur after Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls. Eric Lowenbach / Getty Images

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is the only state park in the region that doesn't offer coastal trails or coastal access. But that doesn't mean it's lacking in attractions. The Buzzard's Roost Trail, pictured above, snakes through the Big Sur Valley, as well as redwood groves.  Gary Denham / Flickr

Of all the state parks in Big Sur, Garrapata is the hardest to find. There is no sign indicating its presence, only turnout points on the highway leading to certain trails. On the upside, it is by far the least crowded. Ingmar Wesemann / Getty Images

Sand Dollar Beach is heaven for treasure hunters. On the southern end of the beach, visitors can find serpentine or jade if they look hard enough. Skyhobo / Getty Images

Limekiln Park got its name from a limestone business that used to operate out of the park's forest. Venture down the Limekiln Trail and you'll see four old limekilns that once provided materials for making cement.   Photo Courtesy of California State Parks

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