Big Sur Hiking Trails

Southern Big Sur Trail Report

Highway 1 Trailheads from Lucia to Ragged Point


Hiking these trails is wonderful if you are prepared for a true wilderness experience. Be sure you have food, water, sunscreen and a good pair of hiking boots or at least new tennis shoes with good tread. There are serious drop-offs and washouts in places, so be careful crossing these sections. Poison oak and ticks are everywhere in the Spring and Summer in these mountains. CalFire staff and area volunteers try and maintain the trails for your safety.

Solo Hikers and Backpackers: Be sure and let someone know where you are going and when you are expected back.

Poison Oak status. Poison Oak is growing on all trails We will be cutting it back as frequently as possible, usually between the trailhead and the first campground (approx. 2-3 miles in). If you intend to go further in, you should take clippers and cut any poison oak that is across the trail. Be sure that you cut only poison oak. .

Wildlife and flowers. Wildlife and wildflowers seem to be returning to the Big Sur hills after 3 years of drought.

Salmon Creek

The first part of this trail is a real killer with constant uphill that never seems to level off, but only get steeper. Don't get discouraged. Soon after you pass the old jade mine site, the trail will level off. Be careful going over the washouts in this part of the trail. More.

Trail Conditions as of 04/20/15. The trail is mostly free of Poison oak as far as Spruce Creek campground . The trail at the big washout between Spruce Creek and Estrella campgrounds has been widened by a CCC trail crew. River crossing at Spruce Creek OK. Ticks are present on the trail. Spruce Creek trail towards Dutra Flats been cleared of poison oak for about the first two miles. Bring your own clippers for the rest. A short detour has been cut around the very large tree is across the trail about 2 miles in. Water available along Salmon and Spruce creeks.

Soda Springs

This is a short trail that allows you to access Buckeye trail north of Salmon Creek. Oak groves and nice views. More.

Trail Conditions as of 04/23/15. Trail is mostly clear of poison oak. Washouts have been dug out and the trail has been reconstructed in spots. Stair steps have been installed at two locations on the trail where there are steep slopes. Small debris has been cleared away. NO drinking water on trail.

Redwood Grove

This very short trail leads you a nice redwood grove and two active waterfalls. Picnic and campsites.

Trail Conditions as of 03/16/15. Trail is clear of poison oak. The trail has been reconstructed in spots, brush has been cut back and small debris has been cleared away.


Don't be put off by the steady uphill of the first part of this hike. After you do all the switchbacks the trail levels off. Note that the switchback part of the hike is on a south-facing slope and gets VERY hot, so start this one early in the morning. More.

Trail Conditions as of 04/23/15. Trail is clear of poison oak but it continues to grow back. Ticks are present on the trail. No major washouts or downed trees. A CCC trail crew has widened the trail as far as the campgrounds and installed stair steps on some steep slopes. Water at Lower Cruikshank, Upper Cruikshank and Villa Creek camps.

Willow Creek

This is the only trail that does not start near highway 1. I do not recommend hiking in to the trailhead on the dirt road. Drive in about 2.4 miles (weather permitting) untill you see a primitive jeep trail sloping down in a heavily wooded area and park. This is a great hike with redwoods and oaks almost all the way down to the camping area. More.

Trail Conditions as of 03/26/15.Trail to campsites is clear of poison oak . Trail just past jeep track turnaround at site of minor landslide is now passable. Cross with care. Trail on the north side of Willow Creek past the second campsite area has been opened up the canyon as far as the narrow rocky gorge. The unmaintained trail up the slope on the north side of Willow Creek has been partially cleared and reconfigured. Water just below the turnaround at the end of the jeep trail and at Willow Creek.

Mill Creek

Mill Creek trail follows Mill Creek east for a number of miles. The route is lined with giant redwoods. Since the trail is almost always in shade, it's a great place to hike in summer. To get to the trailhead, drive about 1 mile up Nacimiento-Fergusson Road until you see the sign at the trailhead on your right. More.

Trail Conditions as of 03/29/15. Trail is mostly clear of poison oak but it is growing back so watch your step. . Ticks are present on the trail. No washouts. Debris from a number of downed trees has been cleared. Water available all along Mill Creek.

Vincente Flat (AKA Kirk Creek)

Vincente Flat trail follows the west facing slope of the Santa Lucia's for a number of miles. The route is all chaparral for the first couple of miles. Since the trail is almost never in shade, it can be VERY hot, so start this one early in the morning. Your reward is spectacular ocean views. The trailhead is right on Highway 1 across from Kirk Creek campground. More.

Trail Conditions as of 04/06/15. Trail is mostly clear of poison oak from trailhead to redwood grove (approx. 2 mi.) but it continues to grow back so watch where you walk . No washouts. Ticks are active, so check your clothes as you hike. No water on this section of trail.

Bears, Mountain Lions, Rattle Snakes, Poison Oak and Ticks

Due to the drought, there is little chance that you will have any problems with bears or mountain lions. You may see a rattlesnake. If you do, step away from it and let it move off. Ticks are a nuisance, but due to the drought, they seem to have died off last summer.

The biggest problem that you may have is with Poison Oak. Nine out of ten people get a rash from poison oak. This rash is caused by an oil found in the plants. This oil is called urushiol (you-ROO-shee-all). The itchy, blistering rash often does not start until 12 to 72 hours after you come into contact with the oil. Most people see the rash go away in a few weeks. To make the skin feel more comfortable during this time, you’ll find tips from dermatologists here . If you have a serious reaction, you need to see a doctor right away.


Permits required. Be sure and douse your fire with water. Do not leave your campfire smoldering.

These trails are maintained by CalFire staff and volunteers from San Luis Obispo, Monterey and other nearby counties. You can help too. Contact Ventana Wilderness Alliance at You can download a trail map from them here.

Trail Report in Word format: here.

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