Tour Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is the recreational heart of Big Sur country that features one of the most southern habitats of the coast redwood. The redwoods of Big Sur aren't as tall or massive as their cousins in Humboldt County, but still tower over neighboring oak and madrone trees. The Santa Lucia Mountains soar right out of the ocean to over 4,000' with the gorge of the Big Sur River its most prominent drainage on the west. This state park lies where the river emerges from a deep gorge then heads northwest to the ocean first through a redwood forest then a hardwood riparian forest then through open coastal scrub. The park's most notable hike is allegedly Pine Ridge Trail which travels east deep into the Ventura Wilderness which I hope to visit soon. This hike combines two decent hikes into a scenic and aerobic trek through some beautiful country.
There is a large parking area just past the entry kiosk ($10.00 on Sunday, February 21, 2016) on the right. The hike starts on the trail that heads south across a small bridge just south of the restrooms in the parking area. Crossing the bridge leads one to a trail on the south side of the Big Sur River that leads to the Buzzard's Roost Trail before crossing another bridge near the lodge to the start of the steep trail up to Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View. There is also a trail on the north side of the river that serves the same purpose, but it has the added attraction of a wooden deck around some particularly large redwoods.
The Valley View Trail heads steeply uphill from about 200' ASL to 600' in the first 1.4 mile with eastern views of Manuel Peak. Take the right fork to see Pfeiffer Falls which was flowing nicely on my visit. There were a lot of people there including many who were basically sitting in the falls. It's probably a magical place if one is the only person there.
The left fork heads uphill to Valley View. There are actually several spots to venture a short distance to the left of the trail that provide nice views of the valley that the Big Sur River has carved in its inexorable path to the sea. The upper limit of the Valley View Trail is only about 100' and a third of a mile beyond the Pfeiffer Falls junction, and there's a small bench with a world-class view after a short and steep climb. Head back down the Valley View Trail to the bridge near the lodge, and cross to the south to the Buzzard's Roost Trail. This is about 3 miles into the trip.
The BR Trail first heads west to a junction with going straight leading to the group camp, but you'll head uphill to the left. This steep portion travels through a deep forest of bay and redwood until reaching a junction with a 1.6 mile loop up to Buzzard's Roost. Go either way as the trail switch-backs up to the top of a ridge with a small building on top of it. There are nice views in all directions with Manuel Peak and the Big Sur River gorge to the east and the Pacific Ocean 950' down to the west. Much of the vegetation around the summit has obviously been scorched by wildfire, and I'd guess that lightning is the likely suspect. Take the other leg of the Buzzard's Roost loop back to the junction and your return to the river. Go right at the river back to the parking lots back to the beginning.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.