Big Sur is a Northern California classic for a reason: the empty stretch of coastline where the Santa Lucia Mountains plunge into the Pacific is a playground of beaches and mountain trails. We put together a perfect simple itinerary for first-timers.
Where to Hike
The 8.8-mile loop at Andrew Molera State Park is a challenging hike with stunning views. Start with the Ridge Trail, and come down the Panorama and Bluff Trails. Take the Spring Trail to find a quiet, hidden beach. For an easier day of hiking and a close up look at sea lions, otters, and plenty of Cypress trees, check out Point Lobos State Reserve.
Where to Stay
Glen Oaks Big Sur has modern rooms and cabins that don't skimp on amenities. Most have kitchenettes for cooking and food storage, fire pits for evening marshmallow roasting, and heated bathroom floors. From $225 a night.
Where to Eat
A trip to Big Sur must include a meal (or three) at Nepenthe. Enjoy stunning views while you wait for an outdoor table. Order the roasted garlic to start, followed by the Ambrosia burger and a half basket of fries. Don’t skip dessert—take a slice of four-layered chocolate cake to go if you’re too full.
What to Bring
Trail running shoes or light hiking boots will be enough for day hikes. It can be hot with the sun blazing, and cool in a Redwood forest, so layers are a good idea. No matter the temperature, consider wearing jeans or hiking pants to protect against ticks and poison oak and bring a sweater or jacket for evenings—temperatures can dip into the mid-40s and 50s.
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