How to Prepare for Big Sur Backpacking Trip?

If you are crazy about leaving civilization and enjoy solitude getting lost into nature, Big Sur is the ultimate destination for you. The place is full of rugged mountains and the ocean colliding with gorgeous beaches. It offers a bounty of hiking trails and unique Big Sur backpacking weekend trips.

Where is Big Sur?

Located in central California Big Sur is a rugged mountain stretch between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon. The name originates from the Spanish name “el país grande Del Sur” which means “the big country of the south.”  This is 26 miles south of Carmel and comprises a vast pristine coastline without any formal boundary. The place is famous for its dramatic scenic beauty. This is why nature lovers call it more of a state of mind than a place.

big sur backpacking trip

Getting there

Big Sur is a remote area. It is only accessible via Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway). The easiest way to get there is by cars while hardcore adventurers cycle on the winding highway. The Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) also offers public transportation to and from Monterey. These buses offer cycle racks and ply in summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day. These run on weekends at other times of the year. These busses go up to Nepenthe and stop at several parks.

Big Sur climate

Big Sur enjoys a temperate climate throughout the year. While annual rainfall stands at 35.9 inches, winter has most of the rains with relatively less in summer. The yearly average temperature of the area is 55.2°F with a minimum of 50.2°F in January and 61°F in September.

When is the best time for Big Sur Backpacking?

As Big Sur has temperate climatic conditions backpacking in Big Sur can be undertaken any time round the year. However, it is better to avoid December and January when nights can be too cold. There is a lot of traffic in the summer. Better to avoid this as it can be very hot and suffer from intense drought. Fall is the best for the backpackers as the temperature remains very comfortable. Spring is also ideal for experiencing nature blooming in life.

Permit for Big Sur Backpacking

No wilderness permit is required to visit Ventana Wilderness and Silver Peak Wilderness. However, one has to obtain a California Fire Permit for using stoves, pressurized fuel, etc.  You can get this from Ranger stations and visitor centers. This is also available online and stays valid for a year. Print and carry the same with you.

Essentials for Big Sur backpacking

Every backpacker must carry equipment, clothing, and personal items. Carrying tent, sleeping bag and the ground pad is vital. Else, you can carry a hammock, subject to weather conditions.  This is light, yet strong and can be pitched easily. Cooking and eating accessories, travel water bottles should be taken.

Although cotton is comfortable, synthetics are better as these are quick-drying and keep the body reasonably warm even when you are wet. Underwear, pants, T-shirts, socks, jackets, gloves, and hats are essential. Never forget to a get microfiber towel, hiking boots, camp shoes, and rain jacket. Also, have a security belt with a hidden pocket for stuffing cash.

Personal items must include sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, personal medication, a flashlight or headlight, personal toiletries. Remember not to carry smelly deodorants, perfumes. Bears will be after those things.

Big Sur backpacking trails you can take

While there are many trails, Big Sur backpacking flocks congregate in Ventana Wilderness and Silver Peak. You may try these trails.

  1.  McWay Waterfall Trail

Although it is a short and easy trail, it should be visited by everyone, especially the first-timers to gain experience in hiking. It is located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This out-and-back trail is only 0.64 miles long with an elevation gain of around 50 feet. Going there one can enjoy both southern and northern coastal views beside the falls.

  1. Ventana Wilderness Stone Ridge Trail

This trail is 13.2 miles one way and lets you have the coastal views, meadows, moss-covered oak forests, redwoods, etc. You may start from near Kirk Creek Campground and can camp at Espinoza Camp or Vicente Flat Camp.

  1. Ventana Wilderness Cone Peak Trail

It also starts from Kirk Creek Campground and lets you climb the highest peak in Big Sur. Spend the night at Vicente Flat Camp and head towards Cone Peak Road. Next, follow Cone Peak Trail to the summit.  You will get a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Range.

  1. Silver Peak Wilderness Buckeye trail to Alder Creek Camp

It is the most beautiful trail of all Silver Peak Wilderness trails. You can start from the Salmon Creek Guard Station near Highway 1 and head northwest along the coastal slope. You may camp at Buckeye Flat. Blessed with a perennial spring it is one of the best backcountry campsites. Start for Alder Camp the next day.

  1. Silver Peak Wilderness Salmon Creek trail to three Peaks Camp

It goes deep into the Silver Peak Wilderness. You can follow your years from the trailhead to reach the Salmon Creek Falls. As you negotiate boulders, two branches of water will come into your sight. They drop around 120 feet and crush into the pool forming a misty spray. Most of the backpackers stop here. Move further up to Estrella Camp. This is the last water source. You can move for the three peaks camp from here.

Backpacking Big Sur hazards

Narrow roads are the most potential Big Sur backpacking hazard. Mudslides also happen in the area when heavy rains follow prolonged drought. So, one has to be very careful. Also, be careful about Poison Oaks, snakes, and ticks in the backcountry. You must wear long dresses to mitigate bites. Always check for ticks at the end of the day. Last but not least is wildfire.  Never leave a campfire unless you are 100% sure that it is out.

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