ANDREW MOLERA STATE PARK
The drive on California Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast is indisputably one for the bucket list. When you’re ready to stretch your legs, pull over at Andrew Molera State Park, 20 miles south of Carmel. The 4,800-acre park is the largest state park on the Big Sur coast. Twenty miles of hiking trails wend around redwood groves, meadows and overlooks. Watch for California condors and migrating whales.
HIDDEN GEMS: The redwood Cooper Cabin, built in 1861 is the oldest structure in Big Sur. Best hiked in morning or evening, the East Molera Trail skirts the ridge for 2.5 miles to a grove of giant redwoods where California condors sometimes roost. The Point Sur Lighthouse built in 1889 Is a National Historic Landmark. The light station still serves as beacon for ships. Tours are available.http://www.pointsur.org/
HIGHLIGHTS: Migrating Monarch butterflies rest in the park’s eucalyptus trees in winter. California Gray whales pass by in spring and fall. Birders flock to the park to look for rare birds in winter. Dangle your feet in the Big Sur River in summer.
VISITOR CENTER: Exhibits at the Ventana Wildlife Society’s Discovery Center describe the effort to reintroduce the California condor to the wild.
TRAILS: The mile-long Beach Trail leads to the mouth of the Big Sur River—a birding hot spot! From there, the Headlands Trail to Molera Point offers sweeping views of the coast. Creamery Meadow is a good place to see wildlife, particularly at night. Watch for whales, dolphins and sea otters from Cooper Point.
Camping is first come-first, first-served at a walk-in campground about half-mile from the parking area has 24 campsites.
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HENRY W. COE STATE PARK
HIGHLIGHTS: Henry W. Coe State Park is an hour’s drive—and a world away—from bustling San Jose. The landscape looks much as it did when explorer Juan Bautista de Anza traversed it in 1775. The park has grown, ranch-by-ranch, to become California’s second-largest state park.
With 250 miles of trails and dirt roads, the 87,000-acre park is a bonanza for hikers, campers, mountain bikers and equestrians.
HIDDEN GEMS: China Hole, a 20-foot-long swimming hole in Coyote Creek, is a favorite hiking destination in spring and early summer. There’s a small, sandy beach and flat rocks for picnicking and sunbathing. The trail continues past an old resort that in its heyday offered guest cabins and a dance pavilion.
HIGHLIGHTS: Coe has well over 200 miles of roads and trails for hikers and mountain bikers. Mountain bikers here refer to “The Coe Factor”— to rate the difficulty of a trail. The 3.7-mile-long Springs-and-Forest Trail Loop from the headquarters is a favorite day hike. The popular Flat Frog Trail Loop is resplendent with wildflowers in spring. There’s a challenging 9.4-mile loop via the Jim Donnelly Trail to Willson Peak that rewards hikers with views to Monterey Bay. From the Dowdy entrance, the 2-mile Burra Burra Peak Loop features the park’s only volcano—now extinct.
The Pine Ridge Association holds outings and special events throughout the year including the annual Mother’s Day Breakfast, held at a beautiful location a short distance into the backcountry. The annual Tarantula Fest and BBQ, held each October, features live music and eight-legged guests-of-honor. Families can experience ranch life firsthand on Ranch Days. Guided wildflower walks take place in spring and early summer.
Backpacking is first-come, first served. The drive-in Coe Headquarters campground has 19 campsites and there also are 12 hike-in group campsites. For campground reservations: 800 444-7275 to
For more information:
Pine Ridge Association 408 782-9241
STANDISH HICKEY STATE RECREATION AREA
The 1000-acre Standish Hickey Recreation Area near Leggett is the gateway to tall tree country. Ten miles of hiking trails range from easy to challenging. The Peg House, across from the park entrance, is a popular restaurant and grocery store that serves as the park’s visitor center. There’s live music all summer.
A historic Redwood Campground, built in the 1920s, recently re-opened. Several trails, including a 2-mile loop, pass the Captain Myles Standish tree—a 225-foot-high redwood believed to be 1,200 years old! The strenuous, 6-mile Mill Creek loop leads past a historic mill. The Grove Trail leads to virgin redwoods and is ADA-compliant.
HIDDEN GEMS: The self-guided 1.7-mile Taber Nature Trail on the east side of Highway 101 wends through giant redwoods and fern-filled ravines.
Smyth Grove on Highway 101, 1.5 miles north of Standish Hickey, features a popular day-use swimming hole on the Eel River, set amidst giant redwoods.
The Avenue of the Giants, about 23 miles north of the park, is a stunning 31-mile drive through the largest stands of virgin redwoods in the world.
HIGHLIGHTS: The Hickey Fest draws indy music fans during summer solstice weekend. The ticket price includes 3-days of music and camping fees at the park. firstname.lastname@example.org(831) 334-6286
There’s a sandy beach at Hickey Campground, and an amphitheater where interpretive talks take place in summer.
Rock Creek Campground is reserved for carless campers.
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