Vicente Flat Trail is one of the most stunning hikes you can take in California. No, this hike may not have the incline and adrenaline rush from climbing Mt. Whitney, or the spectacular views of climbing up half dome, but the views you can easily get of the Big Sur Coastline are spectacular enough. Ok, so maybe it is not as amazing as those two previously mentioned hikes, but it still offers some pretty unbelievable views.
What Makes It Great
This hike cannot be done as a day trip from Los Angeles, but that is part of the beauty of this. Take a weekend out of your busy life and go up to Big Sur. After you hike Vicente Flats, and if you are lucky, camp at Kirk Creek Campground (across Highway 1 from the trailhead) you will not regret having made the trip.
This trail has been described as the kind of trail “backpacker magazine uses to take photos of next year’s products.” It is the kind of trail that takes you breath away, even if the photos from your iPhone may not do it justice.
From the trailhead, you will immediately start climbing switchbacks. These will last for 2 miles and will offer the best ocean views of the hike. If you don’t have time to do the whole hike try to at least get to 1000 feet above sea level or so, to get an idea of what you can see. The single-track trail will alternate between change between think coastal brush and open grassy areas giving a nice mix of shade and sun.
After 3 miles the trail will start to head northeast (inland) and give you some nice views of the mountains behind you. At 5 miles in you will hit the Vicente Flat Trail Camp, a place abound with natural beauty and that offers nice mountain views and even some newer growth redwoods. The hike will almost definitely take less time than going up, but you might get distracted from the Pacific Ocean views.
Who is Going to Love It
You will love this trail if you like hiking and views and have the ability to climb some fairly steep switchbacks. The hike isn’t as strenuous as something you may find in the Sierras but it still requires you to be in shape to a certain degree. The icing on the cake is if you take the hike on a clear day, something you should not take for granted when hiking in Big Sur, the ocean views distract you from the “glute” soreness.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Directions are easy. There is only one road that gets you here; the same road that is as close to the Pacific Ocean as you can get without driving a boat. Take Highway 1/”The 1”/Cabrillo Highway from north or from south until you see the sign on the west side of the road for “Kirk Creek Campground.” The trailhead is opposite the campground sign, but it is easier to spot Kirk Creek from a moving car. Park anywhere on the road as long as you are off the shoulder without any fees.