Explore the Big Sur River Gorge

River Gorge Trail

Explore a beautiful granite river gorge that is a quick 0.5 miles off-trail. Once there, enjoy waterfalls and a great swimming hole to cool off in. 

If you are in the Big Sur area during the summer, exploring the Big Sur River Gorge is a must! The gorge is located in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and your closest parking will be day use parking lot 3. The trailhead to the gorge can be found at the northeast end of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground between camp sites 111 and 112.

Before you start on this trail it helps to know that there are multiple river crossings as well as climbing rocks, so its best to do this in a swimsuit. The trail starts off very easy and soon leads to a river crossing. At this point, its pretty much up to you on how you wish to continue on and choose your own path. I have found crossing to the left is easiest. As you journey up the river, you will come across countless small waterfalls that you will want to take breaks near and enjoy.

After a quarter mile continuing upstream, you will reach the main destination in the gorge, a giant swimming hole! You will notice a large tree suspended between the granite cliffs, this was due to a flood many years ago. Many people enjoy their time at the swimming hole due to a nice rocky beach to relax at. More experienced adventurers will want to continue swimming past the suspended tree, which leads to more awesome swimming holes as well as ropes leading up the granite cliffs. These ropes make for some epic cliff jumping, but make sure the water is deep enough before you decide to jump!

I do not recommend exploring the river gorge with small children as it may be too difficult/dangerous for them.

Pack List

  • Swimsuit
  • Water Shoes
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Backpack
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RT Distance 1 Miles
Activities Chillin, Camping, Photography, Swimming, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Forest
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildlife
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Best in the summer

In the summer, it will likely be warm enough out to brave the cold water. Last time I was here, there was a rope swing. Pack a lunch and hang out in the sun. Great day!

Hard To Imagine This Place Exists!

Definitely feel like you're in a foreign land exploring through the gorge! If you're able to hike in a small raft I recommend paddling through the deeper sections. Maybe I'm just a wimp but swimming was tough in the freezing water!

Been coming to this gem since I was a kid

Amazing spot! Don't expect the place to yourself though. You'll have plenty of friendly company on a summer or holiday weekend. Due to a fire a few years back, the main swimming hole was largely filled in so cliff jumping isn't a great option anymore, but still plenty deep to cool off. I haven't been further up though so maybe there are still some hidden gems to be discovered.


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