Treadmill Rating (out of 10): 6 out of 10
Distance: 4 – 6.5 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 1300 feet
The Salmon Creek trail is one of those hidden treasures that doesn’t take too long to drive to but it well worth the effort. The Salmon Creek trail head is about 20 miles north of Cambria California along the beautiful Highway 1. Parking is usually plentiful during the winter and may be packed during the summer. It is an excellent spot to get out of the car and have a quick nature hike. Especially if you are headed up or down Highway 1.
The main waterfall is less than 200 yards from the road and is easily accessible for any age hiker. The hike to the camping areas is beautiful but can be strenuous at times. The first mile is where most of the elevation gain happens but the views up and down this section are very majestic. Fortunately the first part of the hike is shaded which makes for cooler conditions with a pack on your back. After the first mile the hike levels out and follows above the creek. You can hear the creek in the distance for most of the hike (if there is enough water running in the creek). About two miles into the hike you will come to the first camp named Spruce Creek. This is where Salmon Creek and Spruce Creek meet. When we were here both creeks were too high to cross with our packs on, so we set up camp on the Spruce Creek side.
The camping area has a nice fire pit and plenty of room for 5-6 tents. We had 10 tents so we had to get very close to one another. You may obtain a fire permit to use the fire pit. The camp is very shaded and quiet. As I have mentioned before, this is a hidden treasure that is close by and easy to get to.
HOW TECHNICAL IS THE HIKE?
The hike isn’t very technical. It is a single track trail with some steep inclines for the first mile. But it is, for the most part, a very easy going trail. We had an 11 year old boy scout carrying his own pack on one of our trips and he made it to Spruce Camp easily.
Anyone who is in good enough physical condition to walk a few miles is in good enough condition to do this hike. But remember that the first mile can be strenuous so take your time. I would recommend this hike to families with young children as young as 8.
WHEN SHOULD I GO?
Believe it or not, but the best time to go on this hike is during the winter. Most people don’t know this, but the Central Coast of California’s best weather is during the winter months. Sure, we may get some rain, but it usually lasts just a few days. The remaining days are usually in the 60’s with little to no fog. Sometimes the weather is clearer and warmer during the winter than the summer around this area of the coast. The added bonus of the winter months is the strength of the waterfalls. They can diminish during the summer since we don’t normally get sizable rain during the summer months. But, this area of California is beautiful and temperate year round. You can come tackle this hike almost any time of the year.
As mentioned above, you will need to be aware that the first mile of this hike can be strenuous. Remember to take your time. For training, I would recommend walking around your neighborhood with a pack on for a few miles a few times to prepare for this hike if you are going overnight.
GEAR LIST (day hike)
Water, good walking/hiking shoes, hat, camera, day pack, food/snacks.