Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park


What? :

The park is located on the western slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains, inside the Big Sur River Gorge along highway 1. The park land is covered by lash forest of redwoods, oaks, sycamores, and others. There are few hikes in the main park valley and others that climb the mountain peeks on both sides of the creek (and highway 1).

The combination of the surrounding mountains landscape, redwoods and forests, running river and the location along the scenic highway 1 one made this to be of the most popular parks along Highway 1.




UPDATE (Wednesday- February 1, 2023)-Day Use areas and Campgrounds at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park are open. Pfeiffer Falls trail remains closed due to bridge damage, however the falls can be viewed by hiking up and back on the Valley View trail. The Los Padres National Forest us under a 60 day closure order through March 14, 2023. The Pine Ridge and Mount Manual trails remain closed. For more information about USFS properties, please visit

During my Early March 2023 visit Pfeiffer Beach was also close to visitor access.



Where? :

The park entrance is located at mile marker 47.2 on Highway 1, 26 miles south of Carmel or 63.5 miles north of the Hearst Castle turnoff.

If you are coming from the south this is right after crossing the bridge, you will see the entrance on your right.

Google Map Link



When? :

The park is open year-round.


For many highways 1 nearby parks and places to visit, see my blog links:



Due note 1: This is a state park and entrance fee is 10 $.


Due note 2: There are many restrooms and drinking water facilities in the park.


Due note 3: There are several family picnic areas in the park, many next to the Big Sur River.


Due note 4: It is allowed to cool off or swim in the Big Sur River.


Due note 5: Bicycles and scooters are allowed on the paved roads of the park only, not on trails.


Due note 6: link to up-to-date trail condition:


Due note 7: Dogs not allowed on any trails. Dogs allowed on the Warden's Path and River Path, and in campgrounds.


Due note 8: there is no beach access for this park.


Due note 9: Pfeiffer Beach is located on Highway 1, approximately one mile south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park's entrance. Pfeiffer Beach is not a California State Park and charges a separate entrance fee.


Due note 10: There is a large campground in the park, located along the Big Sur River.


Due note 11: Big Sur Lodge is in the park, you can find here cafe, and a grocery store.



My thoughts:

This is one of the most popular parks in this area and there is a good reason for that.

Located in the Big Sur section of highway 1 in a deep canyon between two mountains. Many people come to this park because its location and the many options for camping.

The hikes to the waterfall and the Buzzards Roost Viewpoint are fun to do and you are protected from the sun or rain by the tall trees.



The visit:


The river that is crossing the park can be easy going or when I visit here, early March 2023 after major rainstorms, flowing and gushing.

It is fun just to spend time in the main park valley, enjoy the river and the short and easy to walk hiking trails.



This park is the southernmost habitat of California’s coast Redwoods, and you can see the redwoods grove near the creek at the park entrance. This may not be as impressive as the more northern redwood parks but those tallest trees on earth trees are always enjoyable to see.



The redwoods and all other trees provide deep shade during your hike, this, together with relatively mild temperatures year-round protect you from the sun during summer months and protect from the rain and wind at a winter day.


Where to park your car:

For both recommended trails below, I parked in the same day use parking lot.

After paying the fee and entering the park you will see the first large parking lot on your right, I recommend to park here.



Hike to Pfeiffer Falls:

This is a 2.1-mile out-and-back trail, although it has climbing section with overall 400 ft of elevation gain it is considered to be an easy route, it will take you at least 1 hour to complete this hike.

This is probably the most popular trail for hiking in the park so do expect to see other hikes here.


The highlight of this hike is the redwood grove and Pfeiffer Falls that is a 60-foot waterfall flowing on the rock cliff.


The wide and well-maintained trail begins near the parking lot along the river, head into the direction of the park entrance.

Soon you will reach a small redwood grove with boardwalk, keep walking to the lodge and cross the road to the trail on the other side.

From here the trail start to climb into the forest.

Soon, you will reach another trailhead and from here you will get into another large redwood grove.

The trail reaches a trail junction where the right trail is close, turn left and cross the wooden bridge to the other side of the creek.

From here the trail start climbing the mountain side with few switchbacks, after a short climb you’ll see the trail that is leading to Valley View overlook on your left.

Keep walking on the main trail leading down to the waterfall.

From here the trail start descending into the gorge, crossing a side creek and once you climb the wooden staircase you will reach the base of the waterfall.

From here you need to hike back the same way.


A forked trail from this hike leading to the waterfall will take you to the Valley Viewing point. Because I went to the much higher Buzzards Roost Viewpoint located on the mountain ridge west of the river than I did not hiked this side trail.



Hike to Buzzards Roost Viewpoint:

This relatively strenuous 3.5-mile loop hike, with 800 ft elevation gain, climb west of the river mountain ridgetop all the way to Buzzards Roost Viewpoint.


The trail starts at the parking lot after the park entrance.

From here turn left (east) on the river trail and soon you will see the new bridge crossing the river.

After crossing to the other side turn right. Here you will walk along the Big Sur River then you will pass below the old iron bridge and soon after the highway 1 large concrete bridge.

Here you will walk along the river and after short walk you will see the trail heading left and up the mountain.

The Buzzards Roost Trail climbs through shady redwoods forest and after 0.5 mile of climbing you will reach the loop trail junction.

You can hike in both directions, I decided to turn left.

You will climb for almost a mile until reaching the exposed sunny ridge line, soon after you will see the top viewing point on your left near the antennas.

From here you have panoramic view of the ocean, Sycamore Canyon below you, and the high Santa Lucia Mountains on the other side of the canyon.

After resting and enjoying the view you start you way back down completing the loop hike.

At the junction turn left and hike down to the river level and back to the trailhead.







Additional Pictures: