This is an exceptional easy-to-moderate hike with spectacular ocean views and a nice long stretch on the beach.
Be prepared to get your feet wet - it's good to know what the tides are doing on the day you go!
You'll want to be prepared to take off your shoes and wade across shallow streams and light surf depending on the tides. Speaking of tides, when it's high, the beach section may be impassable. Time your hike with the tides.
From the trailhead, make your way directly to the beach by heading down Creamery Meadow Trail
to the West. You'll first encounter a shallow creek to cross within the first 50 yards of the hike. Take your shoes off and wade across.
Once you get to the beach, assuming you've checked the tides to make sure you won't get trapped by the water, take a left and continue down the spectacular Big Sur coastline. There may be a couple rock outcroppings that seem to block further progress down the beach but either wade around them (knee deep when I went) or look for the tunnel underneath one of them.
When you arrive at the cove where you are to begin heading inland onto a regular trail, look for the driftwood log jam. Scramble inland across these logs and in about 50 yards you'll see the Panorama Trail
From here on out, the trail is pretty self-explanatory. This is also where the majority of the uphill hiking occurs until one reaches the ridge top. From the ridge top, there is a spectacular view up and down the Big Sur coastline. Once you reach Ridge Trail
, follow it to the northwest. The Ridge Trail
wanders mostly through lightly forested terrain and with minimal elevation gain, traversing the first ridge to the east of the coast.
At about mile 5.7, look for Hidden Trail - connects Ridge Trail to River Trail
. Descend somewhat steeply on this connector to River Trail
and follow it back to the trailhead.