The best way to start any day at Ventana! Every morning at 10 a.m. our Ventana guide leads a one-hour walk around the property. Guests learn about the history of the property, Big Sur and the flora and fauna native to the area. Wildlife viewing may include California condors, eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and a myriad of other birds. Trees and plants include California redwoods, bay laurel, rosemary, Dalmatian sage, chaparral, and pride of Madeira. During migration season (December/January and April/May) whales can often be spotted from several vantage points on the property.
DIRECTIONS: Meet at the lobby at 10 a.m. The loop hike returns to the lobby at 11 a.m
Daily excursions into the Soul of Big Sur, these treks are designed for all capabilities and offer a 2 and a half hour to 3 hour adventure, into the beautiful Big Sur Wilderness. Experience gazing upon incredible vistas of the Pacific Ocean as the California Grey Whale migrates; or an array of wildflowers that will overwhelm all of your senses, or marvel at the feeling of the mist hitting your face, fifteen feet from the tallest waterfalls in the area, or most importantly ...dance around with the tallest living thing on earth, the California Coastal Redwood. All hikes are led by Big Sur Guides and Hiking. These hikes cost $75 per person and include lunch.
DIRECTIONS: Meet at the lobby at 11:20 a.m. Guests drive their cars to pick up lunch at the deli, and follow the guide to the trailhead.
INFO: 831.658.0199; 831.594.1742; www.bigsurguides.com
North Coast Ridge Road
Start the hike on the Ventana Inn path leading to the library. The path becomes North Coast Ridge Road. Continue on the path past the library. The path then becomes Cone Peak Rd. and takes you above and around the Ventana campground. On a clear day, enjoy epic views of Ventana, Post Ranch and as far as the Big Sur Lighthouse.
Big Sur Hikes
This short hike will lead you to the Allan Memorial Grove, which is one of the last two remaining areas of Monterey Cypresses in the world. With branches growing low and crooked, and roots covered with bright orange lichens, these trees have intrigued many artists and spiritualists.
DIRECTIONS: Drive north on Highway One for 27 miles. Enter the Point Lobos State Reserve on the west side of the highway. Park at the Sea Lion Parking Area.
Start this scenic loop on the South Shore Trail, which takes hikers to the south-facing shore of Point Lobos. Cross the junction with the Mound Meadow Trail to explore more coves, inlets and colorful kelp beds along Weston Beach. Continue to Hidden Beach, where the South Shore Trail becomes the Bird Island Trail. Explore China Cove and Bird Island, some of the most remarkable destinations within Point Lobos. The Bird Island Trail leads to Pelican Point, where hikers can take the South Plateau Trail to Gibson Beach, a protected wide sand beach. Finally, turn left onto Pine Ridge Trail, which takes hikers through a Monterey Pine grove, and left towards Piney Woods to return to the South Shore Trail where the hike started.
DIRECTIONS: Drive north on Highway One for 27 miles. Enter the Point Lobos State
Reserve on the west side of the highway. Park at the South Shore Trail parking area.
Soberanes Canyon shelters groves of the world’s tallest living organism, Sequoia Sempervirens (or more commonly referred to as California Redwood), while the Rocky Ridge Trail offers breathtaking views of the Big Sur coastline. After 1.5 miles, Soberanes Creek crosses the Rocky Ridge Trail.
DIRECTIONS: Drive north on Highway One for 21.7 miles. Part of Garrapata State Park, the entrance for both Soberanes Canyon and Rocky Ridge Trails is on the east side of the highway.
The trail starts through a lush riparian habitat alongside the Big Sur River. After 0.2 mile, the trail widens as it leads to the spacious walk-in campground. The trail forks 100 feet after the campground. Take a right to get to historic Cooper Cabin, the oldest standing structure in Big Sur (built in 1861). Bear left, the trail takes hikers through a dense forest to reach the Headlands Trail junction. Bear right and head up the stairs to access breathtaking views of Molera Point, Molera Beach, and the Big Sur River Estuary.
DIRECTIONS: Drive north on Highway One for 7 miles. Enter the Andrew Molera State Park on the west side of the highway. Turn right at the park’s entrance. The trailhead is located at the north end of the parking lot.
This hike affords the most panoramic views of Big Sur with the least climbing.
Start by crossing the Big Sur River on the bridge by the parking area, then take the
Creamery Meadow Trail to the beach. Don’t go onto the sand; instead, turn left to
take the Bluffs Trail, which gives a great vantage point for whale-watching if during
whale migration season (December/January and April/May). After 2.4 miles, the
Bluffs Trail ends at the Spring Trail, which takes you to an isolated beach. Continue
south onto the climbing Panorama Trail to reach Pfeiffer Ridge. Follow the Ridge
Trail north until it returns to the Creamery Meadows Trail.
This 0.7 mile hike is one of the most popular experiences in Big Sur. You will start at Pfeiffer Redwood Creek and will soon reach the Valley View Trail junction. If you are seeking a shorter and less steep way to the falls, use the Pfeiffer Falls Trail. Passing through an ancient redwood tree forest, you will reach the base of the 60-foot waterfall.
DIRECTIONS: Drive north on Highway One for 2.3 miles. The Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance is on the east side of the highway. Pass the entrance kiosk and follow signs for Pfeiffer falls.
DIRECTIONS: Drive north on Highway One for 7 miles. Enter the Andrew Molera State Park on the west side of the highway. Turn right at the park’s entrance.
This steep trail offers a sweeping view of the Ventana Wilderness. Be prepared for the hot weather during the summer. Wear a hat and bring a lot of water. It is advisable to wear pants to avoid ticks and poison oak. The base of the closed paved road across from
the parking lot leads to the trailhead for the Gorge Trail and the Manuel Peak Trail. Start by going up the service road, which curves at a junction with a dirt road. Stay on the Gorge Trail. Go past John Pfeiffer’s Homestead Cabin. Past the cabin, the trail narrows and leads to the Manuel Peak Trail junction.
DIRECTIONS: Drive north on Highway One for 2.3 miles. The Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance is on the east side of the highway. Pass the entrance kiosk and the Big Sur Lodge. Immediately past the lodge, the road forks. Bear left and drive 0.7 mile past the picnic areas. Park at the base of the Gorge Trail.
This hike along McWay Creek offers a complete and gorgeous Big Sur experience, with fine redwood forests and beautiful coastal views. This is a great vantage point for whale-watching during the winter and spring. You are lucky if you see one of Big Sur’s 27 wild Condors soaring in the sky while along the ridgeline atop the Ewoldsen Trail.
DIRECTIONS: From Ventana, drive south on Highway One for 8.8 miles. The trailhead is located at the far end of the upper parking lot on the north side of McWay Creek.
McWay Falls is one of Big Sur's shortest and most spectacular hikes. Follow McWay Creek for half a mile to reach the popular view point of the 80-foot McWay Falls, nestled in a cove and plunging over a sandy beach.
DIRECTIONS: From Ventana, drive south on Highway One for 8.8 miles. The trailhead is located on the east end of the main parking lot.
Whether on a road bike or a mountain bike, cycling Big Sur is a demanding endeavor. Highway One is well known as one of the top road rides. When it comes to mountain biking, Los Padres National Forest has many challenging trails. For easier rides within proximity from Ventana Inn, try Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, which is only a few miles up Highway One, or Andrew Molera State Park. A good rule of thumb: State Park trails are closed to bikes unless explicitly stated otherwise. Mountain biking is allowed on the following trails:
• Rocky Ridge Trail in Garrapata State Park
• Old Coast Road between Bixby Bridge and Andrew Molera State Park
• Pfeiffer Ridge Trail in Andrew Molera State Park
• Cone Peak Road between Nacimiento Summit and Cone Peak
• Lake San Antonio
Molera Stables in Andrew Molera State Park offers mount rentals. Contact the Ventana reception desk or call the stables directly.
INFO: 831.625.5486; www.molerahorsebacktours.com
Big Sur’s rough and exposed coast is not the ideal environment for learning a new water sport or for the inexperienced. If experienced, be prepared with proper equipment, research the tides and wind conditions and use expert, local advice.
Launch sites include Carmel Bay, Whalers Cove in Point Lobos State Reserve (by reservation at www.pt-lobos.parks.state.ca.us) and Molera Beach. If you don’t have your own kayak, Monterey Bay Kayaks offers a variety of tours that explore the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
INFO 800.649.5357; www.montereybaykayaks.com
Point Lobos State Preserve has two diving sites: Whalers Cove and Bluefish Cove. Divers experience one of the richest marine habitats in California, with lush kelp forests, vibrant underwater colors and a wide variety of marine animals. Reservations are recommended. All divers must register at the reserve entrance. Other sites include Carmel Bay, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park’s underwater preserve and Jade Cove.
Big Sur’s rough breaks and cold water make it less hospitable than surf spots south of Point Conception. Some of the most recognized surf breaks near Big Sur’s coastline include Ghost Tree on the Monterey Peninsula, Willow Creek, and the north end of Molera Beach in the Andrew Molera State Park.
The main place to windsurf or kiteboard in Big Sur is the San Simeon Coast. The northern section of the San Simeon State Park has some of the best beaches, and the most famous is Arroyo Laguna.
For golf enthusiasts, Pebble Beach Resort is just an hour away. Ranked the No. 1 Golf Resort in America by Golf Digest Magazine in 2007, each of the resort’s four courses offers a unique heritage, breathtaking beauty, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For reservations, call 800.654.9300. There are also dozens of other golf courses on the Monterey Peninsula.