A great loop hike for getting the lay of the land within Andrew Molera State Park, the Headlands to Creamery Meadows Loop will help you get your bearings without feeling like an overly committed or full day endeavor. Showcasing Andrew Molera’s diversity of landscapes, this 3-mile loop explores the Big Sur River, Andrew Molera State Beach, the coastal bluff tops, and Creamery Meadow, which makes up the ecologically rich core of the park.
Heading in a counter-clockwise direction, begin at the north end of the main parking area on the Headlands/Trail Camp Trail following the Big Sur River west. Pass Trail Camp, the park’s walk-in environmental campground, and continue toward the tall grove of blue gum eucalyptus trees known as Cooper’s Grove. From October through January, Cooper’s Grove is home to a population of monarch butterflies that migrate from the Rocky Mountains to warmer climates for their winter roost. Nearby is Cooper’s Cabin, named after Juan Batista Rogers Cooper, who once owned the land that now comprises the park. Built in 1861, the cabin is the oldest surviving structure in Big Sur.
Continue following the trail west parallel to the river until you see a sign that marks the Headlands Trail Junction. Here, the Headlands Trail splits right and climbs slightly to Molera Point, a beautiful overlook ideal for marine mammal sightings. At low tide you can climb down to the beach from Molera Point via a bench platform located on the lower rocks next to the river's mouth. At high tide this approach is not recommended; rather, retrace your steps back to the junction and head right along the Big Sur River Estuary. To gain the beach, wade across the shallowest section of water you can find or throw in a couple of easy climbing moves along the rock wall for an ever shallower crossing. Fording the river may difficult during winter months following rains.
Explore the river's mouth, estuary and Andrew Molera State Beach as you head south toward the Bluff Trail. Make a left off the beach a few hundred yards south of the river's mouth, followed by an immediate, signed right, and climb to the bluff tops as you enjoy the scenic views up and down the coast. After a quarter mile, take a left to join the Creamery Meadows Trail. This trail and park service road will loop back to the parking area via a mile-long path through Creamery Meadows, an area rich with wildlife including deer, coyote, bobcat, rabbits, lizards and birds.
Keep an eye out for poison oak on and near the trail, as it is pervasive throughout the park.