Hiking, Big Sur
Even if you aren't up for a five-mile strenuous hike, you can still make a little effort and hike the short 2/3-mile round-trip Canyon Trail. Starting from the parking area for McWay Falls, the trail leads through massive redwoods to a small waterfall. It is not immensely scenic, but it offers some solitude and is a very pleasant trail.
Do not be afraid to just take a walk, even if there are no signs saying it is a hike per se. It would be tough to get lost if heading in the direction of the ocean and as long as you're not climbing down some steep cliff, you should be safe enough. We found some of our nicest spots that way. One was a gated service road. There was no “No Parking “ sign so we just made sure to not block the driveway and headed down the unpaved road. This petered out about half-way down but the path was still pretty obvious. It forked at one point, with the left side going into a small forested section and the other to a very nice rocky beach which we had to ourselves.
A steep climb to the top of the peak will bring you to 5,120 feet above the Pacific Ocean, which will be just 2.5 miles in front of you. Such an amazing view from the peak, and it's so quiet up there that you can hear butterflies as they go by...The climb is beautiful in fall and spring, but would probably be scorching hot in summer, and sopping wet in winter. Be careful of the long drive up from Highway 1; the road is very narrow and steep in places.
Three main trails originate in Julia Pfeiffer Burns (JPB) State Park: the long Ewoldsen Trail, the easy Canyon Trail, and the touristy McWay Falls Trail. These hikes are so spectacular, that both Ewoldsen and McWay Falls made the "One Day Must See Hikes" list at www.hikinginbigsur.com.
The McWay Falls Trail is certainly the most popular trail at JPB, and possibly the most hiked in Big Sur, as it is just 1/3 mile long, almost completely flat and level, and it offers stunning views of an amazing 80 foot waterfall dropping into a brilliant blue cove. From about halfway out the trail you will begin to see the falls, until the get to the end where you see the old Burns' home called Waterfall House and get treated with an equally impressive view to the north along the Big Sur shoreline.
The Canyon Trail is probably the second most popular trail in the park as it is another easy hike, though not as easy as the McWay Falls Trail. This short maybe 1/2 mile trail follows the McWay creek bed, then branches off to an even smaller creek with the falls. Along this trail you will pass a picnic area and some groves of redwood trees.
The Ewoldsen Trail is a 4.5 mile loop, making it the longest trail in JPB. It starts at the same place as the Canyon Trail but branches off just below the falls. From there the hike gets much more difficult with steep switchbacks along the narrow path. This trail continues to follow the streams for a few miles, staying mainly within redwood groves until it takes you away from the stream and into the oak trees. Later you will find a quick spur that leads to a viewpoint overlooking the canyon with a view of the Pacific. The return trip brings you back down to the McWay Canyon with the last mile covering the same route you followed in.
All three trail heads are at the same parking are at the main entrance to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, 37 miles south of Carmel. Some limited free parking is available outside of the park along Highway 1.
This isn't a terrible hike, but if you have limited time in Big Sur skip this one:
Buzzard's Roost in Pfeiffer-Big Sur State park.
It is a 1-2 hr (?) hike, no specatacular views. At the top are a bunch of radio wires/antennas. (They have been carefully cropped in the photo!) You can see the ocean, but the views from the highway are actually better. If you are in this Pfeiffer Big Sur, take the hike out to the falls.
The best thing on this trail were the banana slugs! (Which actually were really cool... we were lucky to be there the day after it rained.)
Hiking Soda Springs trail is more like a 'trace'. The benefit was that no one else was on the trail. Watch out for poison oak at trail edges. Bring water.