Big Sur is undeniably one of the most beautiful places in North America. With its towering mountains and sparkling blue coastline, Big Sur is a destination for anyone looking for a connection to nature and the vastness of exploring where the mountains meet the sea. This list of things to do in Big Sur will speak to nature lovers everywhere. While there is no shortage of beautiful places along the California coast, here are some of the iconic parks and reserves where you can soak in the full majesty of Big Sur.
4 Things To Do In Big Sur To Move Your Body & Connect With Nature
Los Padres National Forest
Los Padres National Forest stretches almost 220 miles from the Carmel Valley area to the western edge of Los Angeles County! In addition to its beautiful, remote forests (most of which do not have roads, which creates plenty of great opportunities for backcountry recreation), the park also has plenty of beautiful, expansive sandy beaches, some of which have picnic tables and public restrooms.
Certain beach spots throughout Los Padres National Forest are excellent for surfing and swimming. Additionally, avid fishermen can find plenty of opportunities to spend the day fishing from the beach. There are also plenty of stunning vistas for intimate picnics and sitting back to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of one of California’s largest national forests.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Point Lobos State National Reserve has been referred to as the “Crown Jewel of the California State Park System.” Famed landscape painter Francis McComas even called Point Lobos “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world.”
Its unparalleled beauty makes Point Lobos the perfect location for:
- nature study,
- jogging, and
- even scuba diving!
The offshore area of the reserve is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of the richest underwater habitats in the world.
While it was once contaminated by many large industries like whaling, abalone canning, and gravel quarries, it has now made a miraculous ecological recovery. It is now preserved for visitors from around the world to enjoy. Your little ones will be so excited!
Carmel River State Park
Carmel River State Park is a mile-long beach featuring an incredible variety of birds, making it any birdwatcher’s paradise. The scenic panoramic views of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary make it exceptionally popular for families who love to kayak.
Although its beautiful waterfront is enticing to explorers, the water can often be rough. As such, swimming, wading, or walking too close to the water can be dangerous. So, make sure your little ones are secure on shore!
The Carmel River Lagoon and Wetlands Natural Preserve is located at the north end of the state beach. It is a perfect spot to spy birds like Great Blue Herons, Virginia Rails, Brown Pelicans, and many types of egrets and gulls. Be sure to bring your binoculars! Kids will love seeing the various birds on the beach.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: TRAILS
The mountainous peaks of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park are high above the Big Sur River Gorge. The river banks are ideal for hiking, especially with kids. You don’t have to be a nature enthusiast to enjoy the spectacular beauty of redwood, sycamore, oak, cottonwood, maple, alder, and willow trees.
There are plenty of trails to accommodate hikers of every skill level, including:
- Buzzard’s Roost (750 feet elevation) with panoramic ocean views,
- River Path and Warden’s Path, which allow dogs and are wheelchair accessible, and
- the Valley View, which can take you to Pfeiffer Falls, a 60-foot waterfall.
If you have more experienced hikers in your family, you can tackle Mt. Manuel Trail (8 miles of strenuous hiking) or the Pine Ridge Trail, a 23-mile (one-way) trail with features like the Sykes Hot Springs.
Things To Do In Big Sur
Everyone should experience Big Sur at some point in their lifetime. Check out these beautiful things to do in Big Sur on your next visit, and feel connected to the natural and wild world we inhabit.
Ready for more Northern California family resources? Then check out the links below! Then, let’s chat about your next family session!
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