Explore the Big Sur River Gorge
San Francisco › River Gorge Trail
Added by Blake Maitoza
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.
- Water Shoes
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Camping, Chillin, Hiking, Photography, Swimming
Spring, Summer, Autumn
Are we missing something?Suggest an edit
ReviewsLeave a Review
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.
More Adventures Nearby
Hike the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve Loop
San Francisco / Monte Bello Open Space Parking
This hike is best done in the late fall, winter, and spring so that the creek is running and the hills are green.
Hike Montgomery Woods State Nature Reserve Loop
San Francisco / Montgomery Woods SNR
This is a great find. We saw it on the map it was on the way from Mendocino to our next stop, Napa Valley. So glad we took the time to visit.