San Francisco: Beach-Panorama-Ridge Loop - Backpacker

San Francisco: Beach-Panorama-Ridge Loop

This 8.4-mile circuit in Andrew Molera State Park showcases California's most prized natural assets--sandy beaches, killer sunsets, and giant redwoods.
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Trail Facts

  • Distance: 12.3



Location: 36.2874794006348, -121.844200134277

Carefully cross rocky bottom of Big Sur River (knee- to thigh-deep in wet season); footbridge erected in dry season


Location: 36.2867317199707, -121.844802856445

R onto Beach Trail, paralleling river SW to the Pacific Ocean


Location: 36.281909942627, -121.855903625488

Bear R through gap in coastal cliffs to Driftwood Beach


Location: 36.2813110351562, -121.857299804688

Crash zone: Pacific surf collides into the Big Sur River near the rocky limb of Molera Point


Location: 36.2797317504883, -121.853698730469

R @ Y onto Bluff Trail; path winds the backside of several coves


Location: 36.2671890258789, -121.84220123291

Steep bluff overlook to the bronzed-tinted Ventana Wilderness


Location: 36.2638893127441, -121.839698791504

After stream, L @ Y; begin stiff 1,000-ft. climb with long coastal views


Location: 36.2570610046387, -121.822601318359

Turn L onto Ridge Trail; gently descend into towering coastal redwoods (up to 200 ft. tall) Don't miss: .1-mile path to striking panorama of jagged coastline and crumbled, green foothills of Santa Lucia Range


Location: 36.2668991088867, -121.826103210449

L @ T; spot the white marble crest of Pico Blanco (3,709 ft.) in N


Location: 36.2746200561523, -121.837303161621

L @ Y, continuing along ridge; Big Sur Lighthouse stands in N


Location: 36.2806205749512, -121.853401184082

R @ Y away from beach; in .1 mi., L @ T to a gnarled coastal redwood; at WPT 3, turn R and return to trailhead

Big Sur Lighthouse

Location: 36.2586708068848, -121.821548461914

Sweeping 360-views. See the lighthouse on Point Sur to the distant north. ©Bill Jackson

Meadow at Dusk

Location: 36.2832832336426, -121.855125427246

Fading light in the meadow brings quiet and solitude. ©Bill Jackson

Gnarly Redwood

Location: 36.2811965942383, -121.853096008301

A giant coastal redwood stands sentinel in the meadow. ©Bill Jackson

Molera Point Through the Fog

Location: 36.2807083129883, -121.857269287109

Mouth of the Big Sur River just to the right. This is bird country, always in motion, and the sounds of surf rush over the hiking trails. ©Bill Jackson

Towering Above the Surf

Location: 36.2673263549805, -121.841499328613

A great spot for a view, when the fog moves out. ©Bill Jackson

Pico Blanco

Location: 36.2670783996582, -121.825660705566

Pico Blanco visible in the distance. Look for the block of white marble behind ridge. ©Bill Jackson

Southern View

Location: 36.258056640625, -121.820991516113

View from the ridge crest. Still fog clings to the water. ©Bill Jackson

Surf and Seabirds

Location: 36.2805213928223, -121.855674743652

Seabirds abound on this beach. The Bluff Trail follows the ocean in the background. ©Bill Jackson

Molera Point

Location: 36.2807693481445, -121.860404968262

Stretching into the Pacific, Molera Point shelters the mouth of the Big Sur River. ©David Taus

Big Sur River

Location: 36.2823638916016, -121.858070373535

Framed by the Santa Lucia Range, the Big Sur River meets the sea. ©David Taus

Pacific Foothills

Location: 36.2842674255371, -121.85279083252

Sunset over Andrew Molera State Park ©David Taus

Water's Edge

Location: 36.2801551818848, -121.859603881836

Bird rock from behind the rock wall of Molera Point. ©David Taus

Drop Off

Location: 36.2794189453125, -121.859725952148

Waves roll over the rocky limb of Molera Point. ©David Taus

Ocean Rock

Location: 36.2793579101562, -121.861137390137

A hang out for many birds, this rock rests just off Molera Point in the churning Pacific surf. ©David Taus

Beach Trail

Location: 36.2802772521973, -121.85555267334

From the Beach Trail, Driftwood Beach is just over the ridge crest. ©Bill Jackson

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