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5. Pfeiffer Falls Trail

A female hiker on a wooden footpath along the Pfeiffer Falls Trail.

The recently-renovated Pfeiffer Falls Trail is probably the most accessible trail in Big Sur—hence the crowds.After suffering immense damage in a 2008 fire, this 1.3-mile trail was fully rebuilt from the ground up and is now better than ever before. Starting from Big Sur Lodge in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, the trek takes you up a shaded redwood gorge to a small waterfall. From there, you can head back the way you came, or extend your trip by taking the Valley View Trail, enjoying just that, views from Big Sur River Valley all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

The old route ran along the bottom of the canyon, while sections of the new one are cut right into the cliffside, with a look onto the redwood groves below. The terrain is very forgiving as you’ll mainly walk on dry dirt, bridges, steps, and wooden footpaths. Just keep in mind that the trail gets busy in the peak summer months, and you’ll likely encounter hundreds of people on a weekend day. With that said, it’s popular for a reason, considered one of the best hikes in Big Sur to do with young kids. However, it’s not dog-friendly.

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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