From Sea to Summit - Page 5
BIG SUR'S WILD TRAILS
Ridge, Panorama and Bluff Trailsloop at Andrew Molera State Park (A nine-mile loop, 23 miles south of Carmel).
From the trailhead, head south and use the footbridge to cross the Big Sur River. Run for less than a mile on the Creamery Meadow Trail before turning left on the Ridge Trail. Meander uphill through trees and open meadows yielding inland views. The trail turns first into the Panorama Trail and second into the Bluff Trail. Both possess prized ocean vistas. Run all the way to the beach and turn right on the Beach Trail to return one mile to the trailhead.
Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes Hot Springs and return in PfeifferBig Sur State Park and the Los Padres National Forest (20 miles round trip, 28 miles south of Carmel).
Park at Big Sur Station and head out on the Pine Ridge Trail. Find moderate to steep climbs in the first few miles, then contouring singletrack through forest above the Big Sur River. Wade the river for the last mile to Sykes Hot Springs, a series of small, stone-lined, clothing-optional pools.
Limekiln State Park Trails (About three miles of trails, 53 miles south of Carmel).
Three out-and-back trails travel along gentle singletrack, through redwood stands and to waterfalls. Visitor services in Limekiln State Park may close in the fall of 2011 due to state-park budget cuts, but trails are likely to remain accessible. Call the park at 831-667-2403 for up-to-date information.
Cone Peak via the Vicente Flat Trail out-and-back in the Los Padres National Forest (23 miles round trip, 55 miles south of Carmel).
Park across the highway from the Kirk Creek Campground and head up the Vicente Flat Trail, which climbs steadily for about eight miles to the Cone Peak Road. Turn left and run this fire road for about 1.5 miles, then turn left again onto the Cone Peak Trail. It is two more steep miles to Cone Peak's summit. "This run has it all. Elevation change? Sea level to 5150 feet and back," says Flyin' Brian Robinson, the course-record holder for North Carolina's crazy Barkley Marathons who lives north of Carmel in Monterey. "Variety? Start on the beach, cruise up one of Big Sur's signature ridges emerging from the sea. Follow a pristine creek in a redwood canyon. Climb the canyon headwall. Follow a ridge to the granite summit that feels like it could be in the Sierra Nevada."
Trailhead :: Big Sur, California
Getting There. Big Sur's north end begins in Carmel, a 75-mile drive south from San Jose, California. Access almost all of Big Sur's trails via California's Highway One between the towns of Carmel and San Simeon.
Accommodations and Camping. Though the coastline is dotted with campgrounds and lodging facilities, regional standouts include the exclusive Post Ranch Inn (24 miles south of Carmel), the bluff-top tent sites of Kirk Creek Campground (55 miles south of Carmel) and Plaskett Creek Campground (60 miles south of Carmel), Treebones Resort's quirky yurts (63 miles south of Carmel) and the romantic Ragged Point Inn (77 miles south of Carmel).
Weather. A mild, marine climate dominates the Big Sur coastline, with 50 plus inches of rain falling mostly between November and April. The Santa Lucia Mountains create a rain shadow for the region's eastern wilds that results in hot, dry summers. Trail run year round here, but beware of frequent downed trees and high-water crossings during the rainy season.
Races. The Big Sur Trail Marathon, Half Marathon and 5-Mile Races are held in September each year at Andrew Molera State Park (23 miles south of Carmel) (www.envirosports.com).
Maps and Resources. All of the region's trails are digitized in National Geographic's Weekend Explorer 3D—San Francisco Bay Area and Big Sur, Napa Valley CD ROM. Analise Elliot's Hiking and Backpacking Big Sur: A Complete Guide to the Trails of Big Sur, Ventana Wilderness, and Silver Peak Wilderness provides precise route descriptions. The Ventana Wilderness Alliance maintains a trail-conditions website forum where area officials and trail users leave up-to-the-moment reports (www.ventanawild.org).
Environmental Considerations. Kim Neill, a Carmel native and ultrarunner now based in Boise, Idaho, says, "Poison oak is prolific in Big Sur. Exposure to it is inevitable, as branches hang over narrow trails and bare branches blend in with other vegetation. After a run, wipe down exposed skin with alcohol or Technu and wash your clothing and shoes." Ticks can also be a nuisance, particularly in spring and early summer; cover bare skin and do a thorough tick check after a run.