Stop at the Bear Valley Visitor Center to pick up your camping permit, then access the Bear Valley Trail (BVT) at the end of the parking lot (1, see below) for a 12.5-mile lollipop loop that winds through pungent eucalyptus forests to the Pacific. Cruise a quarter of a mile to the Bear Valley Creek to a junction with the Mt. Wittenberg and Meadow Trails (2). Continue on the BVT for a smooth .6 mile southwest into a grove of Douglas firs (3). Pack binoculars: The trees and low-lying greenery here teem with 490 bird species, including the acorn woodpecker with its monkeylike scream and showy blue-and-black Stellar’s Jays. At 1.6 miles, the BVT forks left (4) to Divide Meadow. Keep your eyes peeled for grazing black-tailed deer as you hike through the tall grasses.
In another 1.7 miles, turn left onto the Glen Trail (5) at a three-way interchange with the Baldy Trail and BVT. The trail gains 301 feet over the next half-mile and narrows to a singletrack lined with delicate five-finger ferns. Veer left onto the Glen Camp Trail (6) and wind through Spanish moss and horsetail ferns in a forest so dense you’ll need your camera flash for snapshots. Descend through a eucalyptus glade (7) and truck into wooded Glen Camp (8) after a 4.7-mile day. The next day, head northwest on Glen Camp Trail (9) .9 mile to a junction (10) and turn west on the Coast Trail to hike to the sheer cliffs at Arch Rock overlook (mile 7.8) (11). Brown pelicans and sea lions crowd the rocks below year-round. Follow a use path on the left down to the beach to see harbor seals surfing and to take a break in the soft sand and shade beneath Arch Rock. Backtrack on the Coast Trail to link to the BVT (12), completing the loop and heading back 4.5 miles to the Bear Valley Visitor Center.