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2. Salmon Creek Trail to Three Peaks Camp, Silver Peak Wilderness

Salmon Creek falls surrounded by lush green vegetation makes for a great place to cool off after a hike in Big Sur.

Salmon Creek Falls offers a great spot to cool off on a hot day.This Big Sur backpacking trip has one of the best beginnings of any trip: a double waterfall! Most hikers you’ll see will be going only as far as Salmon Creek Falls. With an especially impressive flow after a rainstorm, it’ll remind you of waterfalls on the western slope of the Sierra, like you see on the hikes in Yosemite.

Getting to Three Peaks Camp

From a signed intersection, climb switchbacks far into the interior of the Santa Lucia Mountains. At Spruce Creek Camp, you’ll reach a confluence of perennial springs and a place to overnight with reliable water. If you’re visiting after rain, know that Spruce Creek can rise 4 feet after an inch of rain. Backpackers have been trapped on the wrong side of the creek, so plan accordingly and always check the weather before you go.

Further up the trail is Estrella Camp, which has numerous spots to sprawl out. For those of you headed to the peaks, this will likely be your last water source. Camp here and fill up. Once you reach the dirt South Coast Ridge Road, the walking gets easier with great views as you bop along the ridge towards Three Peaks Camp.

It’s open to cars during certain months of the year, but you’re unlikely to see traffic as it barely looks passable to any kind of motorized vehicle. Take the gated (but not signed) Three Peaks Campground Road to a primitive campground below Three Peaks that has a perennial spring.

You can also access Three Peaks Camp by taking Spruce Creek Trail via Dutra Flat, though I think the camps and trail conditions along the route as described are nicer and in better condition. It’s 16 miles roundtrip with 4,700 feet of elevation gain to Three Peaks Camp as described.

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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