Sandy beach
Cliff jumping
Hike-in Required
Sensitive Habitat
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

If looking for a unique Big Sur adventure that’s slightly off the beaten track, consider a short trek to the crystal clear pools of the Big Sur River Gorge. A great swimming hole excursion for hot summer months or during one of those warm Pacific high pressure stretches, plan to get wet and dress accordingly.

Meandering through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, this middle stretch of the Big Sur River offers some of the best swimming holes in the Big Sur area. Upstream the river canyon narrows, giving way to a chiseled granite gorge accessible only by way of the riverbed. Once in the gorge, hikers will find plenty of pools for swimming and boulders for laying out.

To access the gorge and swimming holes, drive to the back of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to Day Use Lot 3. On foot, follow the Gorge Trail along the road adjacent to Lot 3. One you reach the bridge you can follow use trails on either side of the river to continue upstream along the redwood and oak-lined river banks. While there are welcoming swimming holes all along this scenic stretch, continue along the rocks and gravel bars within the river bed to access the more dramatic section of the Gorge. Shortly you’ll encounter larger boulders, deeper swimming holes and the narrow granite gorge itself. The Gorge section is no more than a quarter mile upriver from the bridge.

Note: The gorge can only be safely accessed when river flow is low, typically during the summer, early fall and late spring. The river swells and floods the trail following rains, preventing access. Exploring the gorge during high flow is not recommended.

Logistics + Planning

Parking Pass

State Park Fee


Hidden gorge. Crystal clear pools.


Access can be difficult when river is swollen.


Sensitive Habitat



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