California Coastal Trail in Big Sur: A brief History & Update

In 2001, the California Legislature enacted Senate Bill 908 (SB 908) with the intention of creating a coastal hiking trail through California, from Oregon to Mexico, the California Coastal Trail (CCT). SB 908 specifies that the California Coastal Conservancy, in consultation with the California Coastal Commission and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, will coordinate development of the CCT.

You can read SB 908 here

In April of 2007, the Coastal Conservancy asked for proposals from trail planning contractors interested in planning the portion of the CCT that passes through Big Sur, from the Carmel River to San Luis Obispo County (Big Sur CCT). The following month a meeting was held in the Big Sur Grange Hall to discuss the Conservancy’s trail planning process. During that meeting concern was expressed that a contractor-based planning process would likely result in a plan that did not adequately reflect input from the Big Sur community. A community-based planning process was advocated for as having the best chance of planning a trail that would be noncontroversial and work for both the visiting public and the Big Sur community.

A committee of interested Big Sur residents formed and invited public agencies to participate. They worked for about a year writing a planning process that would be inclusive of various stakeholders, including community landowners and residents, government agencies, and the general public, to be used to write the Master Plan for the Big Sur portion of the California Coastal Trail.

However, after that planning process document was completed, unstated public agencies were said to have unstated problems with the planning process.

Then-Assemblymember John Laird brought public agency representatives and representatives for the trail committee to the table and headed discussions to resolve disagreements. After Assembly member Laird termed out, Assembly member Monning stepped in and continued to lead negotiations. With Assembly member Monning’s support (ultimately Senator Monning), after some 6 years of negotiations, an amended community-based planning process document was developed.

Five community meetings were then organized over the course of about a year, from south coast Big Sur to Carmel Highlands, to give a presentation on the proposed planning process to Big Sur community members and then ask for a show of hands of support. At each of those meetings the planning process received an overwhelming show of community support.

You can read the Big Sur CCT planning process document here

The planning process divides the almost 80-mile-long Big Sur CCT into six planning segments, and provides that a Local Workgroup comprised of people who live in and/or own land in the planning segment will decide where the trail will go and what it will be like in that planning segment, in collaboration with public agencies with land in the planning segment, and determine which public agency will be responsible for policing and maintaining each portion of the trail.

The planning process includes development of a website, to facilitate communication between Local Workgroups and enable participation by people who cannot attend Local Workgroup meetings. On the website each of the six Local Workgroups has a blog page to report on progress, and on which anyone in the world can post comments.

The website is here

Hard copies of maps being used by Local Workgroups can be printed from .pdf files on this page Those maps will be updated as needed.

To sign up to be notified by email of Local Workgroup meetings and other information you can go to the website and use the signup form for the Local Workgroup(s) that will be planning the portion(s) of the Big Sur CCT you are interested in.

A map showing the location of the Planning Segments is on this web page

Though the planning process has faced delays from wildfires, floods, landslides, bridge failure, and glitches, it is working. That is outstanding given it is the first known trail planning process of this kind.


PO Box 59 Big Sur,
CA 93920



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