Limekiln State Park and Limekiln Falls in Big Sur

I am constantly shocked by how amazing the Big Sur coastline of California is. Every time I visit, I stumble on something new that takes my breath away such as Partington Cove, and while Limekiln State Park is certainly not a hidden place it is still not given the recognition it deserves. On my most recent trip up the coast I set out to hike some of the trails and to visit the famous limekilns themselves. This actually may be one of the most beautiful parks in the Big Sur area.

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Details

  • Cost: $10
  • Hours:  8AM to Sunset
  • Camping is available
  • Watch out for poison oak
  • State Park brochure

The Park

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Established in 1994, this 710 acre park is home to redwoods, a beach, a waterfall and four 100 foot tall lime kilns used in the late 1800’s. It is shrouded in beautiful and lush forest and often feels like you have been swept away into a dreamworld as you shuffle along the hiking trails along the forest floor. I was blown away by the history and beauty of the park and when I was there on a Sunday afternoon, I was the only person in the parking lot. After paying the 10 dollar entry fee I made my way to the trailhead to hike to both the lime kilns and Limekiln Falls, but the first thing I passed was the campground.

Camping

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There are 24 campsites at this state park, and each of them are nestled up against the hills, under the shade of the massive redwoods. The sites are well-kept up and have fire rings, parking spots and even a bathroom. At $35 a night this is a great place to stay while in Big Sur, especially since it also has a beach within walking distance.

Limekiln Falls

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When heading out on the trailhead you will quickly see a fork in the road. You will want to head left to visit both the falls and the kilns. About a quarter of a mile later you will see another fork, and this time the right trail leads to the falls and the left to the kilns.

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Heading to the left, you will cross a series of creek crossings on your way up to the stunning 100-foot Limekiln Falls.

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Even though the water was lower than normal when I was there, the falls were still majestic. They cascaded over the limestone rocks and debris of fallen tress on their way into the creek. You can scramble over some rocks to get a better view but be careful as it can be slippery.

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I took a lot of pictures of the waterfall before heading back to the kilns trail. I can’t overstate how amazing it is to be surrounded by the flowing water and the lush greens.

Historic Limekilns

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From 1887 to 1890, this area was a premier spot for harvesting limestone, because of that Rockland Lime and Lumber company built four massive 100 foot kilns which were used to heat and extract the lime.  After only 3 years in use though, Rockland had used all of the resources in the area (redwoods and limestone) to extract the lime and moved its operation elsewhere. Fast forward to current day, and even though this park was scheduled for closure you can still visit it and see the well maintained historic kilns.

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So after you arrive back at the fork in the trail you will proceed along the second path for about another quarter-mile along another creek to the aforementioned kilns.

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When you see them for the first time you will be in awe of the size. I expected them to be much smaller and to also be in worse shape.

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They were well maintained with only a small amount of graffiti and a couple with pieces falling off of them. The first thing I noticed though was how unique it was to see these 100-year-old structures and how the plants and earth had grown up around them. It felt as if you were stepping into a place where humans hadn’t been for decades.

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I loved just exploring and looking at all of them, a sort of urban decay against the beauty of nature. I took so many pictures I had to cut myself off. Here are a few of my favorites.

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After seeing the kilns you can head back and take some of the other small trails, or go under the bridge to see the pristine beach that is near the park.

Always remember to look up when in this area as you don’t want to miss views like this.

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I know for myself I am glad this park escaped closure. I wish more people would visit it as it is such an amazing place to hike and to see history. I would love to hear you comments below and make sure to add it to your list as well.

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  • fishingwishing

    My favorite Ca State Park! Camped there many times … sometimes beside the creek in the old growth forest … sometimes out in the open campsites near the beach (only accessible to park visitors and campers – what a special place!) Down the road a ways one can visit the monastery. We would drive through the military base across Naciemento Road, where at one spot the road disappeared as it crossed a wash of sorts. The history of this park is quite remarkable. I remember learning that mules once carried the limestone down to the kilns, then it was transported out to the river and subsequently the ocean where it was loaded on barges or ships to be transported. Your pictures are wonderful and it looks like the park has maintained its beauty and mystique. I am glad to hear it escaped closure and would recommend a visit here for either a day or camping. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks for the fantastic comment! I will have to check out the monastery next time I am there!

    • Nick Lanham

      Any campsites you would recommend for a last minute camper?

      • When I was there a lot of the spots were open. If you are going near Limekiln I would call the park and see if you can get a last minute spot

  • Tammy Sun

    How long is the trail? How much time should we set aside for it?

    • I was probably only in the park for about an hour and a half, it is only around 2.5 miles round trip.