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The Ultimate Guide to Andrew Molera State Park
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The Ultimate Guide to Andrew Molera State Park

Andrew Molera State Park is a popular destination in Big Sur. Check out the attractions, campgrounds, and hiking trails in the park.

Roubina Al Abashian

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4 min read

December 27, 2021

Every scenic drive in Big Sur requires a stop at the largest state park in the area—Andrew Molera State Park is one of California’s most diverse destinations. The outdoor lover’s paradise offers 4,766 acres of rugged beauty. Pathways snake through river banks, redwood-covered hills, and lush meadows, ultimately leading you to the picturesque coastline; the best things to do on the Central Coast are right here. Care to go on a hike? You got it. Want to try your hand at fishing? Be my guest. Hoping to camp the night? Make yourself at home. A visit to this awesome California state park might just be the coolest thing in Big Sur.

An undeveloped area in the breathtaking Big Sur, Andrew Molera State Park offers the most panoramic views of the Central Coast.

All About Andrew Molera State Park

Named after the man who introduced artichokes to California, Andrew Molera State Park has a long and interesting history. It all started when John Bautista Rogers Cooper, a pioneer of California, traded his ranch in Salinas Valley for Rancho El Sur, where the park is located today. After California was ceded to the United States by the Mexican Government in 1851, Cooper filed a claim for his land and received the legal land patent in 1866. Later, his son John Bautista Henry Cooper built a home on the ranch in 1899 but didn’t live long enough to fully make the best of his estate.

After his death, his sister Francisca Cooper inherited the ranch and passed it down to her children.  Her son, Andrew, died of a sudden heart attack in 1931, leaving the daughter Frances Molera as the sole owner of the family’s property. In 1965, Frances arranged to sell 2,200 acres of her grandfather’s land to the Nature Conservancy with the intent of turning it into a state park. One of her demands was that the state park be named after her late brother Andrew Molera. After Frances’ death, the state bought her half of the original Rancho El Sur, and thus, Andrew Molera State Park became what it is today.

Nowadays, the state park is open to the public from sunrise to sunset. Many people come here to swim and surf, but during the winter months, visitors explore the hiking trails, go biking, camp at night, enjoy picnics, go on wildlife viewing tours, and engage in many other outdoor activities. 

It’s important to note that dogs are only allowed in the state park on leash; however, your four-legged pal cannot accompany you on Andrew Molera State Park’s trails

The historic Cooper Cabin, built in the 1860s, in located in Andrew Molera State Park; it's the oldest structure in Big Sur.

Attractions to Check at Andrew Molera State Park

Andrew Molera State Park is home to the oldest standing structure in Big Sur, the original Cooper Cabin. It is said that the cabin was constructed in 1862 out of hand-hewn redwood logs. This three-room structure is open for visitors to admire when touring the state park.

Another interesting attraction in the park is the Andrew Molera Ranch House Museum. Here, guests can get acquainted with Big Sur’s rich heritage. You’ll find exhibits and artifacts by artists, authors, pioneers, and the Indigenous people on display. The museum is only open for short periods of time during peak seasons, so make sure to call and check before visiting.

The Ventana Wildlife Society's Discovery Center is also located at Andrew Molera State Park. The discovery center aims its attention on exploring the area’s wildlife, with a special focus on the California condor. Pay a visit to the center, check out the bird banding lab, and meet local biologists and naturalists to talk about Big Sur’s nature. 

A primitive walk-in trail camp that hikers and bikers like to make use of is located close to the parking area of the state park.

Andrew Molera State Park Camping

Camping at Andrew Molera State Park is an experience everyone needs to have—since there’s so much to do, staying the night will help you recharge for the next day. Trail Camp is a hike-in Andrew Molera campground equipped with all the essentials. Visitors need to hike a quarter of a mile to actually reach the campground, but don’t fret; it’s not a difficult one. Situated near the Big Sur River, the campground features 22 regular tent sites and two hike-and-bike campsites. Each campsite comes with a fire pit, picnic table, and a food storage container. Restrooms with flush toilets and potable water are also available. Thanks to this backcountry camping spot in Big Sur, visitors can make a long weekend getaway out of their visit to the state park. 

Andrew Molera State Park is an outdoor lover's haven, boasting more than 20 miles of hiking trails of rugged beauty.

Andrew Molera State Park Trails

Andrew Molera State Park has 20 miles of trails that make up some of Big Sur’s best hikes. Ranging from coastal hikes to lush meadow trails, you’ll find a path that works best for you. The first Andrew Molera State Park hike to go on is the trail that runs from the mouth of the Big Sur River to Cooper Point. This path travels through the scenic shoreline of the area. While the hike is incredibly scenic, the trail is only available during low tide. Make sure to check out the tide charts before adding this to your Central Coast itinerary

The Creamery Meadow Trail is one of the easier Andrew Molera State Park hikes—the path leads you straight to the ocean. Cross the Big Sur River using the seasonal footbridge in order to get to the trailhead; however, the footbridge is only available between June and October. So, if that’s a track you want to hike, you better go during the summer.  

Some of the state park's trails take you to the shore; others guide you along the Big Sur River; others take you to scenic overlook spots.

Another hike to tackle is the Panorama Trail. Although steep and somewhat difficult, this trail is one you shouldn’t miss. Arriving at the top exposes you to spectacular views of pure rugged beauty. The trail passes through a pygmy redwood forest, where you’ll also get the chance to view local wildlife.

And the last hike in Andrew Molera State Park you’ll want to do is the Headlands Trail. This path starts a quarter of a mile north of the park entrance at Surfer’s Pullout. Taking you towards the Cooper Cabin, the trail snakes through the state park until you arrive at the Big Sur River. Even though you won’t have beach views, the charming woods will surely provide you with gorgeous views. 

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