Poet Robinson Jeffers, author Jack Kerouac and photographer Edward Weston were equally enchanted by the raw majesty of the Big Sur coastline. Hauntingly windswept cypress trees, fog-enshrouded inlets nestled into steep seacliffs juxtaposed with sun-drenched sandy coves define the region. Migrating gray whales glide by, California condors soar overhead and the monarch butterflies return each year.
It’s clear why Big Sur has long captured the imaginations of writers, poets and photographers. It’s a haven for tourists and locals alike. And, it’s an icon of California. This is what the world thinks of when they think of a healthy and prosperous California.
At the heart of Big Sur lies Andrew Molera State Park, a 7 1/2–mile jewel offering some of the state’s best of fishing, hiking, beachcombing and biking. Miles of trails wind along Molera Ridge through chaparral and then drop into oak woodlands, redwood groves and stands of sycamores and madrones. Keep walking and you’ll find yourself at the beach, where the Big Sur River empties into the Pacific Ocean and the sun sets slowly into the horizon.
The Conservancy’s Role
It was the Conservancy that first protected this land in 1965. The area was part of the large Rancho del Sur property that belonged to the Molera family. Andrew Molera ran the ranch from 1915 until his death, at age 34, in 1931. The ranch was well-known in the area for its Monterey jack cheese, horses and vegetables — Andrew was one of the first in California to commercially cultivate artichokes.
Andrew’s sister Frances, an avid student of California history, wanted to preserve the land. She contacted the Conservancy, asking us to serve as a holding agency for the property until her death, with the intention that the land be turned into a state park named in memory of her brother. Frances died in 1968, and Andrew Molera State Park opened in 1972.
Today, the park typically hosts 55,000 visitors each year. There are approximately 20 miles of trails offering more hiking possibilities than any other coastal park, making it a favorite of day hikers. And its 24 walk-in campsites are bucolic. But most of all, it is the sheer beauty of Big Sur that makes Andrew Molera State Park a must-see.
In the 1960s, Nature Conservancy acquisitions along the Big Sur coast and in the foothills of the Monterey Peninsula led to the creation of Andrew Molera State Park and Jacks Peak County Park. The former Molera family ranch is home to a remarkable diversity of native plants and wildlife, including reintroduced California condors. From the park’s headlands and sandy beach, visitors can spot sea otters, harbor seals and sea lions in the swaying kelp forests of Monterey Bay.