Monterey Section 12A (Alternate)

Lucia to Kirk Creek Campground

Monterey Section 12A (Alternate)

Lucia to Kirk Creek Campground

The road shoulder walk through the grand terrain of the immense Big Sur country continues on this short section, where the highway route and the wilderness high route rejoin at the Vicente Flat Trailhead across from Kirk Creek Campground. Even then the highway walking doesn't end. It continues for 3½ miles to Pacific Valley where a broad marine terrace provides a delightful 3⅝-mile respite from the pavement. Typically you'll have to contend with somewhat less vehicle traffic in southern Big Sur than you encountered in central Big Sur, but you never want to let your defenses down or let your mind wander far from the task of staying out of harm's way when walking this scenic highway where drivers may be distracted, frustrated or downright crazy.

Follow the highway shoulder down the coast, ascending east out of Lucia with views south to Cape San Martin 10½ miles away. Climb across a gulch at ⅜ mile and reach the first summit at ½ mile. You soon descend, crossing another gulch at ¾ mile, then dropping across an immense slide from 1⅛ to 1⅜ miles. Continue your road shoulder descent, rounding a steep and narrow rocky point around 1¾ miles.

Cross the bridge over Limekiln Creek at 2 miles, coming to the access road to Limekiln State Park on the left at 2⅛ miles. Limekiln has no through trails (the old Girard Trail that once climbed to Vicente Flat on Section 13 has become a bushwhacker's delight), but does offer 40 pleasant if somewhat crowded campsites with showers. It also has a pleasant side trail (one mile round trip) up the wooded creek of Limekiln Canyon to the rusting hulks of old metal kilns in a peaceful spot. Or take an easy ¼-mile round trip stroll to a small beach.

CCT's road route continues, making a gentle ascent for the next 1½ miles. Enter Los Padres National Forest by 2½ miles and cross a creek before 2¾ miles, reaching the summit at 3⅝ miles. Descend gradually across the steep coastal bluffs, coming to the lower Vicente Flat or Kirk Creek Trailhead on the left at 4⅛ miles. The wilderness boundary lies a few feet up the trail. The CCT Big Sur high route rejoins the highway route here. Across the highway is Kirk Creek Campground. Section 14 begins at Pacific Valley 3½ miles down the coast on Highway 1. For a description of the 3½ miles between here and there, see the last two paragraphs of the route description for Section 13.

ALTERNATE ROUTE: See Monterey Sections 11, 12 and 13 for the preferred high route, a strenuous, seasonal alternative to the highway.

SUGGESTED ROUND TRIPS & LOOPS: Walk the trail to the limekilns at Limekiln State Park, one mile round trip, and stroll down to the beach at the mouth of the canyon.

You can visit an even more secluded beach via two trails that leave from the north and south ends of Kirk Creek Campground. At low tide they offer a ⅞-mile loop. Best of all, if also most challenging, ascend the Vicente Flat Trail, part of the Big Sur high route, for heart-stopping vistas up and down the Big Sur coast. The latter hike can be as long or short as you like, but for a good workout, hike the 3½ miles to Espinosa Camp, perched on small ridge beyond a small redwood grove, a have a picnic lunch and return the way you came.

Distance: 4⅛ miles (6.6 kilometers).

Open to: Hikers, bicyclists.

Surface: Highway shoulder.

Access point: Lucia.

How to get there: Lucia is a tiny cafe/motel on Highway in central Big Sur at Milepost 22.8, about 23 miles south of the Big Sur post office.

Other access: Anywhere along section.

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain/loss: 350 feet+/510 feet-.

Cautions: Narrow shoulders! Use extreme caution if you road walk this narrow, winding and busy section of highway. Wear bright clothes, walk in a group and walk single file. Midweek is best time to do this road walk.

Further information: Los Padres National Forest, Monterey Ranger District (831)385-5434.

Facilities: Cafe at Lucia. Water and restrooms at Limekiln and Kirk Creek.

Campgrounds: Limekiln State Campground is en route, with several units, showers and a very small store. Kirk Creek Campground at section's end has no showers.

Lodging: Lucia has rooms for rent. Next rooms to south are at Gorda.

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