Technology Hiker

Best Big Sur Hiking After the Soberanes Fire

Spending time outdoors reminds me that I am usually not in control.  The conditions dictate what is possible.  I’m looking forward to hiking in the Big Sur over the holidays, but the Soberanes Fire burned over 132,127 acres this summer.  The fire cost $236M to fight and will impact hiking in the Big Sur for years.  The Los Padres National Forest and California State Parks protect most of the Big Sur trails.  While many USFS lands & CA State Parks are closed along the CA 1 corridor, several outstanding big sur hiking options remain after the fire.

The rule of thumb is that most trails West of CA 1 are open while most trails east are closed.

Where to Go

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is the northern most Big Sur park, and it is 100% open.  Just south of the Carmel River, the Point Lobos peninsula is a microcosm of the Big Sur with rocky shores, protected coves, beautiful trails, and much wildlife (sea otters, sea lions).  Point Lobos is one of the most scenic California State Parks and preserves some of the best big sur hiking after the fire.

Julia Pfieffer Big Sur State Park sits 35 miles south of Carmel and remains 100% open.  Julia Pfieffer SP is another jewel of the CA State Park System.  It protects McWay Falls, one of the most photographed spots in California.  The waterfall falls directly into the ocean and can be viewed after a hike of less than a mile from the parking lot.  Two classic Julia Pfieffer big sur hikes are open after the fire:  the Tan Bark Trail with Big Sur vistas and the Ewoldsen Trail through a redwood canyon.  However, adjacent USFS land is closed.


Andrew Molera State Park.  Most of Andrew Molera Park sits east of CA 1, so most of the trails remain open.  The Panorama and Ridge Trails provide good views of the park’s forests and bluffs.

Junipero Serra Peak is accessible.  At 5862 feet, Junipero Serra is the highest peak in the Big Sur’s Santa Lucia Mountains.  Due to a 4000+ vertical gain, Junipero Serra is often used by CA mountaineers to train for Sierra climbs.  Even though it sits in the Ventana Wilderness, its southern and eastern location isolated it from the Soberanes Fire.

Where to Avoid

Much of the Ventana Wilderness in Los Padres NF is closed to hikers.  This includes trails that start in State Parks but quickly transition to USFS land like the Sykes Hot Spring Trail.  Other significant trailheads like Bottchers Gap burned.  Most of Pfieffer Big Sur State Park and its large campground are closed.  Access to Garrapata State Park, where the fire began, is closed east of CA 1.  Many car camping locations are also closed.

Take what is given and enjoy a world class adventure in the Big Sur.  Many quality shorter routes remain open (Point Lobos, Julia Pfieffer) while most longer trails and multi-day backpacking options are closed.  Several quality Big Sur hiking options remain open after the fire.  For the latest conditions past December 2016, please check the following Ventana Wilderness & CA State Park sites.