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A Perfect Weekend for Big Sur Beginners

An insider-approved itinerary

An insider-approved itinerary

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

(Jeremy Raff-Reynolds/Flickr)

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

(Cassie Carothers)

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

(Sandip Bhattacharya/Flickr)

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. 

Filed To: California / Hiking and Backpacking / Lodging / Bars and Restaurants
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.