The Big Sur landscape is amazing and it has been kept that way due in part to the creation of the State Parks listed below. Each park features a different aspect of the unique California coastal landscape and provides enough subject matter to keep a landscape painter, photographer, or a writer busy for a lifetime. The parks are listed in the order encountered if driving from Carmel to Morro Bay.
Point Lobos: Go for the walk through the Cedar Grove and Whaler’s Cove. Great weather watching opportunities in the winter.
Garrapata: A nice beach and coastal trails that are close to Highway One.
Andrew Molera: Campground and surf and day hiking trails down to the beach!
Point Sur: Lighthouse and landscape! Cows!
Pfeiffer Big Sur: Redwood AND oak groves, hiking trails into the hills, deer, wildlife, and the Big Sur River. Camping too! Both tent and car camping, with quite a few flat spots. This is my go-to campground when I’m in Big Sur.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns: A quick hike down the trail to see the waterfall that falls onto the beach. Go to the end of the trail to see the foundation of the house once owned by Lathrop and Helen Hopper Brown.
Limekiln: Became a state park in 1995. The beautiful trails through the redwoods are some of THE nicest on the coast. A nice place to camp too, although the ocean is LOUD!
Hearst San Simeon: La Cuesta Encantada, The Enchanted Hill high above the ocean at San Simeon, was the creation of two extraordinary individuals, William Randolph Hearst and architect Julia Morgan. One must make reservations for tour of the castle.
San Simeon: Park includes beach area to the south of the pier that is directly west of the castle. The beach going north of the pier is free – park on the side of the road and walk in.
Morro Bay: Morro Bay State Park features lagoon and natural bay habitat. The bay’s most prominent landmark is Morro Rock. The park has opportunities for sailing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, and bird watching. You can rent Kayaks in Morro Bay.
Montana de Oro: This park features rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, coastal plains, streams, canyons, hills, dunes, and eucalyptus groves and features 1,347-foot Valencia Peak. Great for cliff hiking and The Hazzards is famous for its surfing. Some campgrounds available.