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4. Buckeye Trail to Alder Creek Camp, Silver Peak Wilderness

A campsite under bright stars during a backpacking trip in Big Sur.

Camping in the protected wilderness of Big Sur means you get to see plenty of stars. Photo by Austin Schmid licensed from UnsplashLiving in Southern California, I like backpacking trips out of the Silver Peak Wilderness because they don’t require as long of a drive on Highway 1. But your mileage may vary.

Here, similar to hiking in the Southern California mountains, you’ll have sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and coastline below you. After that, look forward to views of the Southern Redwood Botanical Area, the southernmost area where coastal redwoods grow.

Where to camp in the Silver Peak Wilderness

There are lots of camping options on this backpacking trip, too. Buckeye Flat is the first campsite on the trail. It has a perennial spring and is considered one of the better backcountry campsites in the area. Otherwise, continue onto the Upper Cruikshank Camp, accessed via a short side trail.

If your legs still have some energy, descend to the redwood-lined Villa Camp—it’s one of the more scenic campsites and there’s a spring to refill water. If visiting just after rain (or if it’s raining during your hike), take care around the Villa Creek crossing. Some backpackers have found themselves trapped on the far side of the creek and had to call in rescuers to get back to their cars.

The next day, push onto Alder Camp through the Alder Creek Botanic Area. This section of trail can be rougher and more overgrown. Watch out for poison oak and ticks on this here, especially in the grassy area. The views along the way are incredible and Alder Camp itself is home to Ponderosas, Laurels, Sycamores, and of course Alders.

My Favorite Day Hikes in Big Sur

Rivaling Yosemite National Park—and it’s world-class hikes and climbing—as one of the top tourist destinations in the States, Big Sur stands apart because of its lack of infrastructure, parking, and roads which has preserved the dramatic scenery. Rightfully, this sliver of California’s iconic coast is known for having some of the best hikes in the country.

About the author
Professional hiker and guidebook author

Liz Thomas is thru-hiker and guidebook author best known for breaking the women’s self-supported record on the Appalachian Trail. She’s the author of the National Outdoor Book Award winning Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-hike, which won the National Outdoor Book Award in 2017. When she’s not backpacking, Liz is a motivational speaker who has presented on Capitol Hill, corporate retreats, national non-profit donor events, and colleges and universities including Yale and MIT. You can find her at or @lizthomashiking
and Facebook.

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