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Nature Trail at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

A short self-guided nature trail to explore the native plans and surrounding habitat of Pfeiffer Big Sur

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Rating: 4 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 0.3 miles
Duration: Less than 1 hour
Family Friendly

Overview :  Take a short walk along this nature trail to discover some of the native plants and wildlife that surrounds you. The terrain changes ... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Bay Laurel

This section of the trail differs dramatically from the end where you will encounter giant Redwoods. Notice the Bay Laurel tree here to the side of the trail. This tree is important to the nearby ecosystem: its nuts are a food source for animals.

The Laurel tree was once used in the ancient Greek olympics, where a crown was made from the leaves ... More

2. Fire Damage

In June and July 2008 a significant part of this area was destroyed by fire damage. Fire hurts the area in multiple ways: not only does it often kill all small plants and shrubs in its path, but without these plants and their root systems, the hillsides can become much more vulnerable to landslides and mudslides during heavy rains without the... More

3. Coast Live Oak

Look up the hill here and you will see a Coast Live Oak standing by itself with its gnarled trunk and branches. These oaks can grow anywhere between 30 and 75 feet and some live to be over 250 years old.

The leaves are usually between 1 and 3 inches long, oval, and dark green, and 1-inch acorns can be seen in late spring.

4. Decomposition

If you look around you, you may see a number of leaves, sticks, and trees on the ground. While they may no longer be living, they are all providing valuable nutrients to the other plants around them.

Bacteria, worms, insects, and other animals help the decomposing which breaks down the plants and releases important nutrients and minerals back ... More

5. Western Chain Fern

This area is particularly lush due to a nearby spring that supplies more moisture than to other areas along this trail. Look around to see if you can see the Western Chain Fern.

This fern is one of the largest ferns, growing to 9ft in some places. It is named for the pattern of its spores, which resemble a long chain. Ferns reproduce by... More

6. Poison Oak

Don't get too close! Poison oak can cause serious rashes and uncomfortable itching.

You can recognize poison oak by its shiny leaves clustered in groups of three, with smooth stems. Or just remember the rhyme "leaves of three, let it be! But if it's hairy, it's a berry"

Poison Oak can be found all around this region, so watch your step and... More

7. Live Oaks

Look for a Live Oak on the left side of the trail here, and recall what we learned about oaks back at stop #3. The acorns from live oaks were used by Native Americans in this region in their daily diet. They would grind the acorns into a fine meal, then soak it to remove the bitter taste before baking it over a fire.

8. Redwood Grove

After walking only a few feet the world around you will change dramatically. The small trees are replaced with a giant redwood forest, surrounding you on all sides.

Redwood trees grow in dense groups and allow very little sunshine to reach the ground, making it difficult for smaller plants to survive, and making the forest seem much more open.

9. Redwood Roots

Look at the roods of the nearby redwood trees. Their roots stretch out very far but do not go very far down into the ground, which means that they can soak up a lot of water near the surface.

You can often see smaller trees sprout from the base of older trees, which is often how they reproduce.

10. Proboscis - Large Redwood

At the end of the trail you will see a very large redwood on the hill to your right. This tree is around 500-800 years old and is named Proboscis (which means "the nose") and it is one of the largest in the entire park.

The coastal redwood trees are the largest trees in the world, with the largest being in Northern California, in Humboldt,... More