Top Ten Northern California Adventures
|Magical Big Sur|
With waterfalls, hot springs, swimming holes, lush forests, and mind-blowing beaches—all within about 12 miles of one another— Big Sur deserves its reputation as an earthly paradise. Situated just south of the Monterey Peninsula, this is one of the most extraordinary sections of the California coast, as well as an ideal spot for inland hiking and camping. The area is divided by Highway 1 into the Big Sur State Park on the coastal side, where you'll find forest paths leading down to dazzling beaches, and the Ventana Wilderness on the inland side, offering miles of trails for hikers and backpackers alike.
If you're a hot-springs enthusiast, strike out eastbound on the Pine Ridge Trail and spend the night at Sykes Camp, on the east bank of the Big Sur river. In addition to the empyrean hot springs, there's an ideal swimming hole and plenty of shady camping spots. For the casual day hiker, the Pfeiffer Beach Trail is superlative, offering an easy walk through a cypress forest before depositing you on the beach. Or head the other direction toward Pfeiffer Falls, where Redwood Creek plummets off a 40-foot precipice into a mossy grotto.
Difficulty rating: Easy to moderate
When to go: April—October
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication