As a companion to the heavily travelled Pfeiffer Falls & Valley View Trails, the Oak Grove Trail loop is an excellent and modest hike through a wide variety of Big Sur’s mountain and river ecosystems.
The Oak Grove Trail loop passes by the historic Homestead Cabin of John Pfeiffer, winds through oak studded canyons, and also follows the Big Sur river.
• Length: 3 miles
• Type: Loop
• Difficulty: Moderate
• Path: Paved and easy dirt
• Elev. Gain: 600′
• Parking Fee: Yes
• Restrooms: Yes
Oak Grove Trail Map
Regardless of where you’re starting from along this loop, our preference is to travel in a counter-clockwise direction so that you’ll eventually be heading northwest along the Oak Grove Trail portion of the hike. You can also do this hike first, and then where it hooks up with the Pfeiffer Falls Trail, make a right and continue north along that route.
Pick up the Oak Grove Trail loop anywhere along the road between the Big Sur Lodge and Colonial Tree day use parking areas. If you are walking from the Lodge parking lot, make sure to take the Nature Trail detour on the north side of the road. You’ll be walking parallel to the Big Sur River, and can walk over to its shady banks in several places.
There is a signed gravel shortcut to the Oak Grove Trail that heads off to your left, but stay on the road so you can check out the Homestead Cabin.
Keep bearing left on the paved road and if you want to visit the Big Sur River Gorge first, go straight ahead and down to the bridge. Go across the bridge and up the river through the campground to find the waterfalls and boulders.
Back at the intersection of the Oak Grove Trail and the road, you’ll see the signs pointing up to the Homestead Cabin. The cabin itself was built in the 1890s by John Pfeiffer, son of Michael and Barbara Pfeiffer, the first European settlers in the area. Since it was made entirely of hand-hewn redwood, the cabin is in remarkably good condition, and you can still spot the square head nails.
John and his new wife Florence abandoned this cabin around 1902 when they were married and relocated to where the Big Sur Lodge is today, eventually establishing an inn known as the Pfeiffer Ranch Resort. In 1933, the Pfeiffers donated 680 acres of their ranch to establish Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
Just past the cabin you’ll see the sign for the Oak Grove Trail. Here, and all along the trail, are signs of “sudden oak death” which is decimating many of the oak tress in Big Sur. Tanbark oaks are particularly susceptible, and there are many large trees dying or fallen down along the path.
The trail winds along the canyon wall offering wonderful views of the Big Sur area, and crosses the start of the Mt. Manuel Trail. It is worthwhile to take a right here and hike up Mt. Manuel a bit to some of the lookouts higher up the mountain.
Back on the Oak Grove Trail, you’ll keep winding northwest until finally entering the redwoods about a third of the way up the Pfeiffer Falls Trail. Take a right to head up to the falls and around to the Valley View Trail or go left to head back down to the Lodge and paved road back to the parking areas.
The Oak Grove Trail is located in the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Look for the main entrance sign on the inland (east) side of Highway 1 about 26 miles south of Carmel, or 63.5 miles north of the Hearst Castle turnoff.
You’ll drive to the entrance kiosk to pay a small fee and then after a short drive can choose to park either on the right near the lodge/gift shop building or go straight past the lodge and then veer left to find several day use lots along the paved road.
The loop starts anywhere you find a spot to park along the road between the Big Sur Lodge lot and Colonial Tree day use parking areas.
Links To More Information
• Where this trail lies along the Big Sur coast
• Official Ca. Parks & Recreation page