20 Best Big Sur Hiking Trails (Most Beautiful & Dog-Friendly)

From beaches to mountains, you can hike along streams in the valley-covered trees. You’ll be able to climb up on ridges for views of the coastline and look at acres of the National Forest. While your visit to Big Sur may be overwhelming there are guides you can rely on to meet your specific goal. On your trip, you can even request to have a hiking tour guide if you’re a little unsure of where to begin. It’s a special place for many people, so during your trip please respect the conditions of these trails.

Big Sur, located just next to Highway 1, has some of California’s best hiking locations. From overlooks of the Pacific Ocean to redwood canyons, waterfalls, and ocean views, it’s California’s top area for scenic landscapes. With Big Sur being a top travel destination, visitors tend to drive along the coast and look for popular landmarks. Some of Bug Sur’s hidden locations are located just beyond Highway 1. There’s no other way to experience the beauty than hiking the trail system. Here are our top twenty-five trails in Big Sur.

**Please Remember: Before making the trip to any location, call ahead to find out operating hours and if there are parking fees. Make sure you bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots, plenty of water, food, a hat, sunscreen, a map, and bug spray. If you plan on bringing your pets, make sure to bring enough food and water for them. Certain trails tend to run out of water if it’s a heavily-populated area.

Since many of these trails are along cliffs, we recommend hiking with a partner. Know how to get to your destination if that means buying a map. Know where to find water and mark it on your map. Always look at the weather forecast ahead of time so you can dress weather-appropriate. Always check to see if pets are allowed since trails have different rules.

To keep yourself safe, stay on the trail and don’t take shortcuts. Know your capabilities and don’t attempt a hike that you know is out of your skill level. Take hiking poles to take the strain off of four legs and knees. Keep your backpack light. Your heaviest items should be food and water. Stop once every hour for ten minutes even if you think you don’t need to rest. Always make sure you’re not hiking on an empty stomach. Finally, make sure your foods are packed with carbohydrates and salt. The carbohydrates will give you energy and the salt will keep your electrolytes steady.

25 Best Hikes in Big Sur, CA

1. Timber Top and Boranda Trail

Credit: Aaronj9

The Timber Top and Boranda Trail is a hard hike that will take you a little over four hours to complete. This trail is pet-friendly and may be off-leash in certain areas. This hike has a lot of steepness and is all uphill. The trail is smooth and well-maintained, and there’s even a water source that people don’t know about. When you reach the top you’ll have amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. This trail has little to no shade so make sure to pack plenty of sun protection.

Based on reviews, visitors say parking is limited in this area. Once you get to the top of this hike, many people like to camp out overnight before making the hike back down. You’ll want to wear a sturdy pair of hiking boots for this climb due to the inclines. You will surely get your butt kicked on this hike so bring plenty of food and water.

Difficulty: Hard
Distance: 5.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 2,503 Feet

2. Overlook Trail to McWay Falls

Credit: Margaret.Wiktor

This is an easy hike that should take you around thirty minutes to complete. The peak time to visit this trail is from September to December. You’ll have to think twice about bringing your dogs along on this hike, sadly, no pets are allowed. This tail is a part of a state park so there is a fee per vehicle to park. The waterfall has the best views with its aqua water.

Based on reviews, visitors say a lot of the trail is closed off, which prevents you from coming close to the waterfall. You can, however, take pictures from the overlook.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 193 Feet

3. Buzzards Roost Trail

Credit: Jacob Avanzato

Buzzards Roost Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you around ninety minutes to complete. The peak time to visit this trail is from March to October. Sadly, pets aren’t allowed on this trail so you’ll need to leave dogs at home. The hike is short but gives you a good workout with a steep climb. It is very well-maintained, well-marked, and has gorgeous views once you reach the top. You’ll see beautiful redwoods, wild strawberries, and flowers.

About half of this hike has many old-growth redwoods. As you climb through the trail, you’ll pass lowland redwoods, then upland redwoods. After that you’ll go through the pine forest, making this hike one of variety. Based on reviews, visitors say they love the stunning ocean vista overlook. This trail does get busy so make sure you get there early in the morning or on a weekday.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 810 Feet

4. Partington Cove Trail

Credit: M. Adjemian

Partington Cove is a moderately challenging hike that will take you around forty minutes to complete. The trail is open all year long but is not pet-friendly, so you’ll need to leave dogs at home for this hike. You’ll be able to get down to the ocean using multiple areas of this trail. It’s downhill the entire way to the water, which makes for a great workout on the way back. On the way back there is a massive steep portion, but very worth it! Some areas of this trail have wet and rocky parts so make sure you wear a sturdy pair of hiking boots.

Based on reviews, visitors love this hike because it’s short and sweet with rewarding views. If you’re feeling adventurous, they recommend going past where the trail ends on the map after you pass through the tunnel. After passing over rock, you’ll get some great views of the sunset.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.1 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 347 Feet

5. Big Sur River Gorge Trail

Credit: HannaTor

The Big Sur River Gorge Trail is an easy hike that will take you around twenty-five minutes to complete. The peak times to visit are from April to September. Sadly, this trail is not pet-friendly so you’ll need to leave your dogs at home. You’ll want to make sure you bring a pair of water shoes or water-resistant hiking boots as you will get wet during this hike. You’ll be doing river crossings, rock and boulder climbing, and walking across logs. It’s not very well-maintained and you’ll do a lot of zigs zagging across the river.

Based on reviews, visitors say they’d rank this trail more on the moderate side because of its obstacle course-like hike. The descent down to the gorge is a little steep, but the river is worth the trip.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 75 Feet

6. Valley View Overlook

Credit: Margaret.Wiktor


The Valley View Overlook Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you a little over an hour to complete. The trail is open all year long but is not pet-friendly, so you’ll need to leave dogs at home for this hike. This trail runs to the top of the ridge between two valleys so you’ll have a great view on each side. The view at the end has a great view of the wildflowers and connects to the waterfall loop. The trail climbs out of the redwood forest into scrubland and oaks with a lot of sunlight.

Based on reviews, some visitors say this trail is kid-friendly, has great lookouts, and even benches for resting. If you get there early you can avoid the crowds.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 1.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 554 Feet

7. Brazil Ranch Trail

Credit: Phitha Tanpairoj

The Branch Ranch Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you around two hours and forty-five minutes to complete. This is a fun hike with steep areas but be prepared to come across a lot of cow poop. You’ll start with a couple of switchbacks, and have a steep uphill climb for about a mile or so, they will level out now and then so you can take a rest. Once you get past the first part, coming back is a breeze.

Based on reviews, visitors say this trail is lovely, has unbeatable views, and is well-maintained.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,250 Feet

8. Soda Springs Creek

Credit: Osprey Creative

Soda Springs Creek is a moderately challenging hike that will take you about three and a half hours to complete. This trail is pet-friendly, but they must be on a leash. The beginning of the hike is shaded, has some overgrown parts, and is easy to follow. You’ll be presented with challenging inclines, so we recommend bringing a hiking pole for the trip. You’ll want to get to the trail early to secure a parking spot. Once you reach the Buckeye campground, you’ll be able to refill your water at their water source.

Based on reviews, visitors say this trail has a gorgeous view with a well-maintained trail. It does have quite a bit of poison oak so take precautions while hiking.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,676 Feet

9. Bobcat Trail

Credit: Randy Andy

The Bobcat Trail is an easy hike that will take you about an hour to complete. This trail is a great one to do if you’re taking a road trip and want something quick to complete. It has a decent amount of shade and tree coverage with river access. It’s a light trafficked trail and an easy walk through the woods. Before you arrive, make sure you have a downloaded map ahead of time because you will lose you cellphone service. It has beautiful views with several small creeks to cross so make sure you wear a pair of water-resistant shoes.

Based on reviews, visitors say this is a beautiful trail but doesn’t have great markings so it’s easy to get turned around. The trail is flat which makes this trail easy to complete.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.6 Mile
Total Elevation Gain: 154 Feet

10. East Molera Trail

Credit: Cvelez

The East Molera Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you around two and half hours to complete. It’s open all year long but is not pet-friendly so you’ll need to leave your dogs at home. This trail is quite challenging and has a lot of ticks according to hikers. The ascent is pretty intense so make sure you bring plenty of water. The steep and gravel trails are what make this hike moderately challenging.

Based on reviews, visitors say this trail could use more switchbacks to keep it manageable. You’ll have views of the ocean right away and a well-maintained trail.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,466 Feet

11. Cone Peak Loop

Credit: HannaTor

The Cone Peak Loop trail is a hard hike that will take you a little over nine hours to complete. Do not attempt this hike unless you are an experienced hiker and know what you’re doing. The trail is not well-maintained and you’ll want to have a map ahead of time so you don’t lose your way. Areas of the trail are narrow with loose dirt so make sure to watch your step. The temperature will fluctuate depending on what side of the mountain you’re on.

Based on reviews, visitors say the views are great, particularly along the coast. Overall this is a great spot if you’re new to the area or if you feel like taking your time hiking for a couple of days.

Difficulty: Hard
Distance: 13.9 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 4,960 Feet

12. Mount Carmel

Credit: Gerry Matthews

Mount Carmel is a hard hiking trail that will take you almost six hours to complete. This is a pet-friendly trail, as long as your dogs are on a leash. The beginning of this trail has a steady incline for four miles straight. The view from Devil’s Peak which you climb to get to Mount Carmel is amazing. Sometimes the trails can become affected if there is a landslide from recent rain or any fires.

Since it is close to the Bay Area, you’ll occasionally in the winter have the opportunity to climb the snow-covered peak. Based on reviews, visitors say the view from Mount Carmel is disappointing, but the view from Devil’s Peak is a lot better.

Difficulty: Hard
Distance: 8.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 3,038 Feet

13. Jackson Camp Trail

Credit: Andysartworks

The Jackson Camp Trail is a hard hike that will take you around five hours to complete. Since this is such a challenging hike, it’s unlikely that this trail will become crowded. It’s perfect for hiking, backpacking, birdwatching, and camping. Based on reviews, not many people have completed this trail due to its intensity.

Difficulty: Hard
Distance: 10 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 2,326 Feet

14. Big Pines Trail

Credit: Margaret.Wiktor

The Big Pines Trail is a hard trail that will take you around fifteen hours to complete. The trail is pet-friendly and dogs may be off-leash in certain areas. The Big Pine trail was once a shaded area through the Ponderosa Forest. The trail was reopened in 2011 after the fire so please call ahead for updates as sometimes there are fallen trees. It is not recommended to hike this trail during high winds or to camp next to dead trees.

Based on reviews, it’s unlikely you’ll encounter many people on the trail due to its condition and intensity.

Difficulty: Hard
Distance: 24.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 7,463 Feet

15. Pfieffer Falls

Credit: Gerry Matthews

Pfieffer Falls is an easy hike that will take you around forty-five minutes to complete. This trail is open all year long and is not pet-friendly so you’ll need to leave dogs at home for this hike. Even though this is an easy trail make sure you bring plenty of water. It is also advised to bring bug spray. In the beginning, there are stairs and then loose gravel towards the end. Take the river trail and then walk up either stage waterfall trail or Valley View trail. Both of these trails will get you to the waterfall.

Based on reviews, this trail is steep, well-maintained, and shaded. If you’re not a fan of stairs, it’s recommended to sit this hike out.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 403 Feet

16. Salmon Creek Trail

Credit: L Paul Mann

Salmon Creek Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you a little over four hours to complete. This is a great overnight backpacking trip. For the first thirty minutes, it’s pretty steep, and then steady rolling trails to Estrella Camp. There is quite a bit of poison oak so make sure to keep a close eye on your dogs. After about two miles, the trail starts to even out until you come upon Spruce Camp.

Based on reviews, visitors say this trail is well-maintained and has beautiful forest environments. If you’re looking for a nice morning stroll in the springtime, we highly recommend this trail.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7.2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 2,106 Feet

17. Boucher Trail

Credit: L Paul Mann

Boucher Trail is a hard hike that will take you about four and a half hours to complete. The trail is open all year long, but is not pet-friendly, so dogs are not allowed on this trail. This is a long hike with an extra variety of scenery. It’s easy for the first seven miles then you’ll get hit with a lot of inclines. If you get lost easily, make sure you come prepared with a map for navigation. The trail is well-maintained and restrooms and parking are available.

Based on reviews, visitors say this is a beautiful and diverse area to hike. You’ll see streams, a pond, meadows, and old-growth forest areas. Make sure you bring bug spray because there are a lot of bugs on this trail.

Difficulty: Hard
Distance: 10.1 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,519 Feet

18. South Shore Trail

Credit: Jonnie Walker

The South Shore Trail is an easy hiking trail that will you take you about an hour to complete. This is a part of a large park that is filled with many areas to explore. It’s an easy trail that has great views. If you have a pair of binoculars you’ll be able to see the sea lions out on the island. You can sit on the bench at the end of the trail to take a rest and listen to the waves crashing.

Based on reviews, visitors say this trail is well-marked and well-maintained. Their favorite part was being able to view the sea lions.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 150 Feet

19. Bird Island Trail

Credit: Marcel_strelow

The Bird Island Trail is an easy hike that will take you around twenty minutes to complete. This trail is not pet-friendly so you’ll need to leave dogs at home. Parking can be a challenge in this area, but you’ll get to see the beautiful green water and seal pups. Not many people go hiking in the early morning so if you want a less-crowded hike we recommend getting there at sunrise. The trail has smooth terrain with rocks and stairs but is primarily flat. It can become very buggy with a lot of flies so make sure to come prepared with bug spray.

Based on reviews, visitors say this trail has great scenic views. Their favorite part is being able to view the sea lions.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 95 Feet

20. Bluff Trail

Credit: L Paul Mann

The Bluff Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you around four hours to complete. Bluff Trail goes through an area of loose sand before it gets firmer and widens. The trail is a double trail grassland that will connect you to Ridge Trail.  As you continue down, you’ll be able to look over the edge of the bluff at the sand below.

Based on reviews, visitors love the scenic views that this trail offers.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 8.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,100 Feet