Andrew Molera State Park Review: Top 5


There are some days when the very air you breathe seems to embrace you like a comforting hug. September 9th was not one of those days.

It was better.

We had just left Pfeiffer Burns Park, home to my absolute favorite waterfall in the US, the breathtaking McWay Falls; and on our way back north, my aunt and I spotted another captivating park within Big Sur: The Andrew Molera State Park (or AMSP).

As it turned out, this second stop in Big Sur would give me the opportunity to touch the waters of the Pacific for the first time in over four years. And in this article I’m going to recount the time when I charged a huge gaggle of seagulls (and lived), as well as show you the top five most memorable aspects of my visit. Not surprisingly, the first has to be…

1. Big Sur’s stunning coastline

From the road, the AMSP doesn’t look like much, but appearances are deceiving. To get to the good stuff, we followed a trail that led toward the beach. As it turned out, the trek to the beach was at least twice as long as we had thought. Thankfully though, the trail itself was alive with activity. Along the way we saw a deer (which actually had the courtesy to pose for a photo) and crossed a bridge over a fast-flowing river that I later found out was the Big Sur river itself.

Pebbles and Sand on Andrew Molera Park beach

After walking for nearly a half hour, the trail opened up onto the beach, and we finally saw the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. Blue waves lapped the pebble-covered shore; and instead of being the warm embrace I mentioned above, the sea air was brisk and cool that day, and the smell of the Pacific sharpened my senses.

Something seemed out of place though. What was it?
Oh yes, how could I possibly forget the…

2. Mysterious, Crude Huts on the Beach

Crude wooden hut on Andrew Molera State Park beachNot pictured in the photo above were the strange, crude wooden huts that we found along the beach. Made primarily of driftwood, they were large enough for one or perhaps two people to squeeze inside, but they certainly weren’t going to keep any rain out. I got inside one, sat down, and looked out onto the crashing waves. In the distance, I heard seagulls.

I wondered what it would be like to actually live here on the beach, to let the sound of the waves become my lullaby and the sound of the seagulls become my alarm clock. I wondered what it would be like for even just a few days. Or, if I were marooned here far into the past, how my perspective of this place would change after being here for more than a week.

Of course, I’m sure they’d never allow it today. The beach isn’t one of the 24 designated camping spots in the park. Still, I wondered who made these huts and for what purpose.

After examining the huts, I began walking along the beach, studying it. In my observations, I was shocked by the…

3. Stunning Patterns in the Sand

Wavy Erosion Patterns in the Sand (closeup)

Now, I’d walked beaches before. (I was born in California, after all.) But I’d never seen anything like this.

Beneath my feet, the water had created an exquisite pattern of curving lines etched in the sand. Like ancient tree roots reaching deep into the Earth, these curving lines which changed in width and depth were reminiscent of an ancient pattern in geometry of which I had no name for. Perhaps I’d never seen this before because this phenomenon only happens when the beach is littered with small pebbles… Whatever the reason, the effect was very elegant and caught me by surprise.

Something about the river behind me caught me by surprise, too. When I looked behind me, I was greeted with a beautiful sight.

Towering high above the river was mountain peak in the distance that, after doing some research, I can only guess is Post Summit (though I can’t confirm that). That wasn’t the surprising bit though. The surprising bit was the…

4. Crystal clear water of the Big Sur River

Crystal-clear Big Sur RiverWhen I approached the edge of the river, I instantly knew that this river was special. Even as the river dropped off, I could see to the bottom of it easily. The submersion of the two large stones before me almost seemed to be a lie. They seemed way too defined to be underwater… but they were. In fact, if it weren’t for the reflectivity of the water, I could probably have seen the entire riverbed from where I was standing!

I decided to follow the river north, and it soon curved west again and emptied into the ocean as I’d seen before. And where it was emptying into the ocean, I could actually see where the river had eaten into the side of the beach. I can only surmise that, over time as the beach continues to grow, it gets overtaken by the river periodically, only to eventually reform again.

How many times do you think this cycle has occurred? After all, this river had been here, in some form, for thousands of years at the least.

But of course, the most entertaining element in Big Sur region is the…

5. Fascinating Wildlife (Alive or not.)

Dried-up remains of a Pelican on the beachNear the river, I began to notice some oddly mesmerizing signs of life, the most interesting of which was the dried-up remains of a large pelican. It was spread out, wings slightly open, and its head was resting on its side. The pelican corpse seemed to fit in with the pebble-covered sand perfectly; and, in the strangest way, I found this dead thing aesthetically pleasing to photograph.

Perhaps if anything stays in one place long enough, it starts to look as though it belongs there. I knew I wouldn’t be there for much longer, though. Soon, it would be time to leave, but before I left, I knew I had to make some time to interact with much livelier subjects.

It was then that I began my approach.

Dozens of Seagulls feeding on the beach

I carefully approached a group of perhaps two dozen seagulls standing near the waves. I came closer and closer, seeing how close I could get before they flew off, but they didn’t seem to mind my presence much.

So, in a crazy moment of wild abandon, I charged at the entire flock.

Suddenly, the entire group took off into the air, flew over the ocean, and circled around, most of them landing on an outcropping of rock that was farther out. (The trick to charging a flock of seagulls is to pay close attention to where they flee and have somewhere to take cover. After all, you don’t want poo in your hair… or worse.)

After a few minutes, a few of the seagulls did return to where they’d been standing. Those few were the brave ones; and henceforth they were known as the Bravegulls.

See AMSP & Pfeiffer Burns in 1 Day

I recommend seeing the Andrew Molera State Park (AMSP) if you have time after seeing the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (which is more photogenic and easier to access). In addition to being considered the most reliable surfing area within Big Sur, overall it’s a wonderful place to relax, observe the local wildlife, and simply enjoy the Pacific. And since the AMSP is only a 20 minute drive north from the Pfeiffer Burns Park, it’s easy to visit both on the same day.

I hope you enjoyed this overview of the AMSP. As always, Marco the Spacefarer followed me and appears in each of the 21 photos in the photo gallery that accompanies this article.

The “Where’s Marco” game is like Where’s Waldo, but more challenging. If you’re new to “Where’s Marco”, learn how to play →

And don’t forget to:
Checkout the Andrew Molera State Park photo gallery →

Next: Last Glimpse of Big Sur (Sunset Timelapse video)

When was the last time you saw a sunset? I mean really saw it. Have you ever seen the last morsel of the sun slowly dip below a watery horizon? See just that in the next article which features a video of an authentic Big Sur sunset…

See what happened next →


All photos from this event are in the Andrew Molera State Park gallery. All photos in the Gallery can be used as desktop wallpapers because they are high resolution (1920×1440).





14 bits on Andrew Molera State Park Review: Top 5

  1. The patterns in the sand kinda looked like snakes roamed around the beach. Nice shots. If the hut was bigger, it would probably fun to hang out in it and watch the sunset.

  2. I love big sur! Used to go there when I was younger. It is truly a pristine place to hike and camp!

  3. I live in California as well and I don’t make it out to Big Sur as often as I want to. You don’t often see dead wildlife out in the wild like that pelican you saw because they so quickly “integrate” back into the Earth. It’s doubtful it was a year old, though the dry sun and sand may have something to do with it.

  4. Diana,

    That was best guess, but I’m no expert on cadaver decay as you might have guessed. I’ve corrected it in the article.

    Big Sur was refreshing to say the least. Thanks for the feedback, Diana!

  5. The beach is simply amazing!! It can be a place for dating and even picnic and bonding with the family…Thanks for the idea…

  6. Pingback Traveler’s Show & Tell – Desert Ruins & Summer Snow « Mental Mosaic
  7. Sounds like a fun time. Makes me want to run barefoot on the beach and maybe charge at a seagull or two. Great photos, too. My fave is that one of the lines in the sand – nice!

    Thanks again for joining in on the Traveler’s Show & Tell blog carnival over at my site, Mental Mosaic: Even Home is a Travel Destination. I hope you will join in again soon. 🙂

    ~Tui

  8. Wow all pictures are amazing,love to go there with my family and the beach look very clean love to ply there with my daughter.thanks for the great post.

  9. Last time I was in California, I had a bad experience with a seagull, glad yours was better! Really nice post, wonderfully written; I really want to know who built those huts…

  10. Wow! I didn’t expect to get this much feedback on this article, so all of these comments came as an unexpected surprise. Thanks so much for the positive thoughts, guys! It’s very encouraging to hear from you all.

    @Evan
    The beach IS amazing! I’m glad you agree. If you’re within an hour of one, I highly recommend it. Restores my soul.

    @MM
    It was a lot of fun! Great weather that day, too. Thanks for including this article in your blog carnival! I really appreciate it. I know it won’t be the last time, and I’m really glad you enjoyed the photos. Many hours went into post-processing them and getting them ready for publishing to the web.

    @Vinecar
    You’re very welcome. So glad you enjoyed the sights! Spread the word. 🙂

    @Matthew
    Thanks for stopping by, Matthew. I swung by your blog, and I like your conversational writing style. I think once you hone in on what your unifying message is, your blog will get more popular. At least I know that was true for me. And that comes with time and experience.

    Thanks so much for the kind words. I put a lot of time into writing this and the photos, so that’s wonderful to hear!

    What happened between you and the seagull? Thankfully the one I found was safely… dead. ^_^

  11. I think that the pictures are extremely stunning! How i wish i could go there and see it in actual. thank you so much for sharing this post. I was completely amazed on its beauty.

  12. @Andrew – Thanks for the comments. My experience with the seagull? Well, I was visiting Alcatraz, and so obviously, cut off from civilisation, a seagull decided to poop on me. That’s now my over-riding memory of Alcatraz…

    (When I was in Toronto, a pigeon got me. I’ve got to stop leaving Britain!)

  13. I really like the photos except the corpse of the dead Pelican. I really get pity with what had happen to this animal but that’s life. I really like the view of the place.

  14. Lovely place. great place for relaxing together with your family…Wish to go there..