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Pets allowed
Yes
Elevation Gain
3,308.00 ft (1,008.28 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
10.00 mi (16.09 km)
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.

Big Sur is a winter and spring hiking mecca, with coastal trails extending into the Ventana Wilderness for miles on end. It's a great haven for backpackers looking to avoid lingering snow in the Sierra Nevada, and the trail up to Vicente Flat is the crown jewel. The Vicente Flat Trail offers a taste of the best that Big Sur has to offer, all crammed into an overnight trip that's only 5 miles each way. The trail starts off across the street from the infamous Kirk Creek Campground, a car camper's paradise (if you can snag one of the highly coveted revervations!). Here, you'll see a large, wooden sign boasting the mileage up to Vicente Flat Camp and beyond.

When it's sunny outside, the beginning of the trail is hot and exposed, a 3-mile uphill trek with little shade. But the views are to die for. The aquamarine waters of the Pacific Ocean can be heard rumbling below as hikers ascend a series of dusty switcbacks cut into the steep, lower slopes of Cone Peak. As trekkers climb, the views get better and better before the trail abruptly takes a right turn and heads inland toward a grove of old-growth redwoods around mile 3.

At mile 3.25, there's a primitive camp with room for three or four tents and a nearby stream just beyond. It boasts great views of the forest and a sliver of ocean, but Vicente Flat Camp is still ahead.

From here, hikers meander through grassy hillsides as the trail twists and turns toward the backcountry campground. Lupines, California poppies, western columbines, and wild oneleaf onion flowers can be found in abundance from March through April. In May, wild blackberry bushes nearby might offer hidden treats for hungry hikers, but be wary of the poison oak that likes to hide near the edges of the trail.

About a mile from camp, the trail begins a mellow descent toward a rushing creek that cuts right through the middle of Vicente Flat Camp, which is nestled deep inside a grove of towering redwood and oak trees. Though the campground is popular with weekend overnighters, there are ample flat spots and pre-existing fire rings to go around. Be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles and only use existing campfire rings, as this area is sensitive to wildfires and often has restrictions in summer and fall (secure a permit online before your trip). Also, as the stream is the main source of drinking water for you and your fellow campers; be careful to use the bathroom at least 200 feet away.

This is a great weekend backpacking trip for novice hikers, those with kids, or wilderness junkies who just want to chill out all day after a sunny, 5-mile trek. Bring a hammock and read a book and listen to the sounds of the burbling creek and the evening birdsong. When you're ready to pack up and go, you can connect this trip to other backcountry campsites in the area (like Goat Camp) or simply turn around and head back the way you came. This is one of the most magical hikes in Big Sur and is truly a gem that only California could boast.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Days

2

Pros

Stunning coastal views. Easy water access. Ample campsites.

Cons

High use trail. Hot and exposed for the first 3 miles.

Trailhead Elevation

190.00 ft (57.91 m)

Highest point

1,860.00 ft (566.93 m)

Net Elevation Gain

1,670.00 ft (509.02 m)

Address

CA-1
64955
Big Sur, CA 93920
United States

Features

Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Wildflowers
Bird watching
Big vistas
Old-growth forest

Typically multi-day

Yes

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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