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. Area volunteers try and maintain the trails for your safety, but mother nature does as she wishes up here. 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 has gone dormant for the winter. You will not see many leaves, but bare vines may still have oil, so be careful .

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. We try and repair them but as you will see the erosion is constant. More.

Trail Conditions as of 12/06/14. Poison oak is dormant this time of year but watch out for branches. Washouts have been dug out between trailhead and Spruce Creek camps. Debris from a large tree fall just before Spruce Creek campground has been cleared away. You can detour around or climb over the tree trunk with minimal effort. The big washout between Spuce Creek and Estrella campgrounds was cleared but may be closed again due to rain. Always use caution when crossing washouts. High water at Spruce Creek.

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 12/06/14. Trail is clear of poison oak. Washouts have been dug out and the trail has been reconstructed in spots. Small debris has been cleared away. CalFire has widened the trail in a number of spots.


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 12/10/14. Trail is clear of poison oak. No major washouts or downed trees. Numerous small washouts have been fixed. Sloping sections of the trail have been shored up. 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 11/11/14. Trail to campsites is clear of poison oak . No major washouts. 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. More work will be done here to provide safe access from the campground area to the old trail to South Coast Ridge Road above the canyon. 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 12/07/14. Trail is mostly clear of poison oak. No washouts. A downed tree has been cut and moved. Steam crossings OK, but use caution. Water available all along Mill Creek but may not be drinkable due to turbitity.

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 09/02/14. Trail is mostly clear of poison oak and brush has been cut back from trailhead to redwood grove (approx. 2 mi.). No washouts. 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 this 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.


Don't even think about it!

These trails are maintained by 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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