People from around the world travel to Southern California, where they rent cars and wind up the coastline on Highway 1. Most drive through Big Sur, the prettiest stretch of coast in just one day. They avoid the hassle of searching for an overpriced room with limited options.

I like to do things a little differently, there’s just too much in Big Sur to explore to drive through it in one push. I need a minimum of 4 days to feel like I’ve even scratched the surface. It doesn’t take much to have a real adventure in Big Sur, just a little research and some exploring. Here are 6 tips that I’ve learned on my yearly pilgimage to Big Sur.

1. Big Sur

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Big Sur has a few hotels and motels, and a few amazing campgrounds. I recommend the Fernwood Lodge, or Andrew Molera State Park, but If your goal is to find your own site where you can be alone, there are options for the motivated adventurer. The secrecy of these places is important in order to keep them private, and to make sure they remain uncrowded. You’ll need 4WD, self sufficiency, and to keep your eyes open to find the hidden roads which head up into the mountains. If you do find one of these places, you’ll be rewarded with the best views in Big Sur.

2. Sand Dollar Beach

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Sand Dollar beach is one of the easiest access and friendliest breaks in Big Sur. It’s no secret spot, but the fact that it’s so far from any major town means you’ll likely only have a few other people in the water with you. It’s the biggest beach in Big Sur, so it’s also a good spot to find some sand and spend the day.

3. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

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If you’re looking for easy access to beautiful redwood forests, Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park is my go to spot. Within moments you’ll be in the midst of a huge grove of redwoods. I recommend using your time here to wander rather than to hike. Logs criss-cross the creek and lead to spots off the beaten path. For me, this area is about taking it all in and having a moment in these ancient trees. There are other spots to go if your goal is to go far. Bring a picnic basket and relax here for a while.

4. McWay Falls

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McWay Falls is one of the most dramatic coastal views in Big Sur, and it’s always worth stopping to take it in. The trail to the falls is short, but across the street is Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park where you can find some beautiful trails through the redwoods.

5. China Cove

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The area around China Cove, between Carlsbad and Big Sur is rife with hidden coves and beaches. China cove itself requires a $10 fee to take your paddle board into the water, but it’s not necessary as there are plenty of coves to explore to the south. The water here is crystal clear, and even on a windy day you can find protected sections of water to explore. Keep your eyes open for harbor seals and sea otters in the kelp beds.

6. Ewoldsen Trail

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An incredible moderate hike is the Ewoldsen Trail, it starts in Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park and climbs 1520 feet up out of the redwoods and onto an elevated ridge line where you can take in views of a long section of the coastline. It’s a 5.3 mile round trip hike, and has some fairly steep climbing along the way. If you’re there to see one of Big Sur’s iconic sunsets, don’t forget to bring a headlamp for the hike out.

Special thanks to Eagle Creek, Surftech, and Tepui Tents for supporting this adventure and providing the gear we used along the way.
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