Hare Creek and Limekiln Trails is a 2.2 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Big Sur, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October.
Limekiln State Park is a 716-acre park along Highway 1, just south of the small settlement of Lucia in the Big Sur region. The park features a two-unit campground with a group of sites in the redwood forest and a second group of sites closer to the beach. There are also a few picnic tables for day use. There is no visitor center within the park, but interpretive information is available 26 miles north on Highway 1 at Big Sur Station. Limekiln State Park's main attraction is its short network of trails that head inland through a mixed forest of oaks and second-growth redwoods. The main trail splits into three separate trails: (1) the Hare Creek Trail, which ascends the narrow canyon of Hare Creek, (2) the Limekiln Falls Trail, which leads to 100' Limekiln Falls, and (3) the Limekiln Trail, which visits the old 19th Century lime kilns for which the park is named. Start your hike from the small day-use parking area just past the park's entrance kiosk. The route starts next to the restrooms adjacent to the parking lot, following the access road for the park's upper campground sites. At the far end of the campground, a narrow trail continues on a wooden bridge over Hare Creek and then quickly reaches a T-junction. Here, the Hare Creek Trail branches off to the right, while the Limekiln Trail turns left. Turn right to follow the Hare Creek Trail up along Hare Creek. The trail stays very close to Hare Creek and passes through several small redwood groves before dead-ending at a burned and downed redwood in the Hare Creek Grove. Although it lacks the large waterfall and historical ruins of the other two trails, the Hare Creek Trail is perhaps the prettiest trail in the park. The trail passes through numerous small redwood groves and usually stays close to the banks of picturesque Hare Creek. From the end of the Hare Creek Trail, return back down to the T-junction, where you'll turn right onto the Limekiln Trail. Now running along the left bank of West Fork Limekiln Creek, this trail shortly reaches a junction with the Limekiln Falls Trail. A right turn here leads to an easy step-across crossing of East Fork Limekiln Creek, then a brief climb via a switchback before reaching the trail's end at the base of Limekiln Falls. This 100' waterfall drops vertically over an exposed limestone face and offers views up into the park's rugged interior. A steep, slippery use trail on the left side of the falls leads to a closer view of the pool at the base of the falls. Use extreme caution if you decide to venture up this unofficial trail. After exploring the falls, backtrack again down to the junction with the Limekiln Trail, turning right to continue up along West Fork Limekiln Creek. The trail crosses another bridge, then continues up to its end at the site of the lime kilns themselves. Here, four rusted lime kilns still stand, surrounded by second-growth redwood forest. The kilns date back to the 1880s, when this site was used to process limestone quarried from the surrounding hillsides. The Limekiln Trail itself follows the route of an old wagon road that connected the kilns to the beach at Rockland Landing, where the processed lime was shipped to San Francisco to be used in making concrete. From the kilns, return back down the Limekiln Trail to the parking lot. After your hike, be sure to walk down the paved road through the park's Ocean Campsites to visit the small pocket beach at Rockland Landing. Hare Creek empties into the ocean here, and if it isn't too foggy, you'll have an excellent view of the Highway 1 bridge and distant Cone Peak on the horizon.