This 1-mile trail begins at the north end of the Andrew Molera State Park’s parking area and follows the Big Sur River out to Molera Point. The trail is a good introduction to the park, and it ends on a headland overlooking Andrew Molera State Beach and the expanse of the park’s setting along the Big Sur coast.
The first section of the Headlands Trail explores the lower stretch of the Big Sur River as it passes beneath a canopy of large sycamore and coastal live oak. This early section of trail is also referred to as the Trail Camp Trail, as it leads to the park's walk-in campground. After a third of a mile the trail widens to a gravel park access road before it opens up to Trail Camp (there is a trail junction here that leads back to Highway 1 a few hundred yards north of the park entrance). Continue straight toward the grove of blue gum eucalyptus trees. Known as Cooper’s Grove, the trees provide winter roosting habitat for monarch butterflies that have made the long migration from their summer habitat near the Rocky Mountains.
Continue past Cooper’s Grove through a dense riparian forest of alder and willow as you rejoin the Big Sur River and its estuary. Soon you’ll encounter a trail junction; head right to stay on the Headlands Trail and climb a few switchbacks to the top of Molera Point. The trail continues out to the end of the point to an overlook. If there is a decent sized swell in the water you'll have a front row seat to watch beautiful waves peeling down the line at the Big Sur Rivermouth. Enjoy the views of the beach, coastline, and Big Sur River. This is a great spot for viewing seabirds and other marine life; sea lions and sea otters are residents of the area, and migrating grey whales are commonly spotted from January through April.
Proceeding down from the headland, turn right at the Headlands Trail/Molera Point junction to ford the river mouth (this can be difficult with higher water during winter months and after rains) and combine a loop hike with the Beach Trail or Creamery Meadows Trail. Alternately, retrace your steps and follow the trail back out the way you came. Either way, watch out for poison oak, as it is pervasive throughout the park.