This sprawling park at the northern end of Big Sur — the largest on the Big Sur coast — was once a ranch belonging to Andrew Molera, the guy who encouraged farmers to plant artichokes in the early 1920s near Castroville, now dubbed the Artichoke Capital of the World.
About 20 miles of hiking trails, from easy to moderately difficult, wind through the park’s exceptionally diverse terrain.
Note: One or more of the park trails may be closed for repairs. Check the park website for updates.
If you take the River Trail, be prepared to wade across the river mouth. Seasonal bridges to cross the river usually exist from April to October only.
Even if you don’t hike, stop to picnic, snap photos (fantastic views abound), and learn about the California condor and other wildlife at the Ventana Wildlife Society’s Big Sur Discovery Center. Or surf, fish, ride horses, and mountain bike alongside the locals. Be sure to check out the redwood Cooper Cabin, the oldest structure on the Big Sur coast. From January to April, head to Molera Point and you’ll probably spot migrating gray whales.
The gentle Beach Trail (about a mile) follows the Big Sur River down to a stretch of pristine sand and a lagoon, protected from winds by a giant bluff on the north side. Along the way you venture through grassy meadows and groves of sycamore trees. Return the same way or loop back through the Creamery Meadow Trail. Seasoned hikers head up more strenuous trails: Bluff, Panorama, and Ridge. The park has restrooms in the parking lot, but no other facilities.
Note: dogs are not allowed on the trails or beach.
Camping: The park has a primitive, walk-in trail camp with 24 sites about 1/3 mile from the parking lot. Registration is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Note: Trail Camp is closed for repairs. Check the park website for updates.
Location: Southern end is near Milepost 51.