To Sur with Dogs
by Carie Broecker
Photo Courtesy of Frank Richards
Big Sur is one of the gems of the California Coast. Even though you will be hard- pressed to find indoor lodging with your dog or many pet-friendly restaurants in Big Sur, it is still a great place to hike and camp with your dog. You and your pup can enjoy much of what Big Sur has to offer, which includes a pristine river to play in, lots of redwood trees to hike through, beach time, spectacular views, and a peaceful setting to just be with your best friend after a day of activity.
Located just 25 miles south of Carmel, Big Sur makes a perfect getaway no matter where you live on the Central Coast. You can head down for the day or a long weekend, or stay over for a night on your way to Southern California.
On your way to Big Sur, treat yourself and your dog to a beach romp at Garrapata Beach. Garrapata is located off Highway One just 6.7 miles south of Rio Road. There is roadside parking. Follow the trail and steps down to the beach. As long as the tide is not too high, you will find two miles of beachfront. Your dog must be leashed, but do not let that stop you from exploring this beach. You won’t be sorry you stopped to check it out.
We have enjoyed staying at Fernwood Resort, which has great access to the river for dogs who love to play in the water or just want to cool off on a hot day. Fernwood Resort has tent camping and tent cabins that both allow dogs.
The Redwood Grill at the Fernwood Resort is one of the only restaurants we have been able to find in Big Sur that has a pet-friendly patio. The grill has an eclectic menu that includes salads, hummus, quesadillas, burgers (including veggie), and sandwiches.
Dogs are also allowed at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Big Sur Campground and Cabins, Ponderosa Campground, and Riverside Campground and Cabins.
Some of our fondest memories of our dog Sunshine are from our camping trips. The first time we went camping she was nine months old and was nervous when it got dark. There were little growls under her breath in response to unfamiliar sounds, but she soon became a veteran camper. There is nothing like cooking dinner over an open fire while your “wolf” companion gnaws on a bone before everyone snuggles into sleeping bags for a good night’s sleep.
Where to hike? On U.S. Forest Service lands, pets must be leashed in developed campgrounds and picnic areas only. In the state parks, they must be on a leash at all times and are not allowed on trails. Even with these restrictions, there are still plenty of places to hike and romp with your dog.
1. Pfeiffer Beach is one of the most popular coastal access points in Big Sur. We are grateful that it is dog friendly although dogs need to be on leash. This gem of a beach can be hard to find. The trick is locating Sycamore Canyon Road, which is unmarked. Sycamore Canyon Road is the only paved, un-gated road west of Highway One between the Big Sur Post Office and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Once you find the turnout, make a very sharp turn. Then follow the narrow, winding road for about two miles until it ends.
2. The Pine Ridge Trail takes you and your dog into the Ventana Wilderness. Dogs are allowed off leash on this trail. You can easily access the trail from the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park campground. Or another trailhead starts at the ranger station/visitor center, which is called “Big Sur Station.” The station is located just before the entrance to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This hike offers breathtaking views of Big Sur Valley.
3. The Prewitt Creek Trail is in the Pacific Valley. The ranger station is located 32 miles south of Big Sur. The pull off is exactly 8.4 miles south of Lucia. Look for the Prewitt Loop Trail North entrance sign on the east side of the highway. If you reach the ranger station you have gone too far. Parking is available in a small dirt turnout. Dogs can be off leash.
The Prewitt Creek Trail is a 12-mile loop only suitable for advanced hikers in excellent shape. For most people hiking with dogs, the trail is perfect for a one- or two-hour hike that meanders up the side of the hill with spectacular ocean views. You can hike for 30-60 minutes and then turn around and come back down. About 30 minutes into the hike, you will come to a redwood grove, which will provide shade and a nice resting point.
Here’s to exploring paradise with your four-legged family!