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Wild Pilgrimage: Backpacking Journey to Esalen • Big Sur

THE Esalen INSTITUTE

MAY 10-17, 2020

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The wilderness pilgrim's step-by-step breath-by-breath walk up a trail... carrying all on the back, is so ancient a set of gestures as to bring a profound sense of body-mind joy. – Gary Snyder

Embark on a transformational journey through the majestic and seldom-traveled backcountry of Big Sur, ending at the coastal grounds of Esalen. Among the fleeting gifts of Spring – free-flowing creeks, boundless wildflower fields, and vibrant wildlife – immerse in nature with an intimate wandering village, practice awareness and community, and learn fundamental skills to feel at home on the earth.

We will embody the ancient and culturally universal practice of pilgrimage on this journey of body, heart, mind, and soul. Inspired by Esalen’s co-founder Dick Price, who found healing and transformation wandering the Big Sur wild, we will carry only what we need, walk with presence and curiosity, awaken our senses, and gather meaning from our inner and outer landscapes. We will rise with the sun, hike historic trails, ascend wind-swept peaks, rest and meditate in tranquil valleys. As the sun sets behind the mountains, we will share stories and meals by the fire, and sleep beneath a blanket of stars. 

As we wander, we will respond to what the Big Sur landscape reveals and our hearts call for, engaging awareness-expanding and nature-connecting practices. Our Wild Pilgrimage will unfold over five nights and days on the trail, and complete with a weekend at Esalen to connect with its powerful land, community, and psycho-spiritual offerings.


We will begin accepting applications shortly.

If you’d like to be e-mailed when the application process opens please email us here.


Program Schedule | May 10-17, 2020

  • Monday, May 10 | Meet in Monterey, CA at 2pm. Shuttle to a beautiful remote campground for an orientation, camp cookout, and our first night under the stars.

  • Tuesday-Friday, May 11-15 | All-day backpacking through the magnificent Ventana Wilderness. Hikes ranging from 6-8 miles per day. The terrain can be steep, but our pace will be moderate, and we will take many breaks to rest, replenish, and drink in the beauty of the land. We supply delicious, nutritious, and energizing breakfasts and dinners on the trail. In the evenings we will share stories of the day around the campfire. We will sleep beneath the sheltering stars.

  • Friday-Saturday, May 15-16 | Arrive at the Big Sur coast on Friday afternoon and check into Esalen. Enjoy Esalen's extraordinary grounds featuring cliffside hot springs, organic gardens, and sweeping ocean views. At Esalen we will meet twice to practice nature connection and awareness, explore the land together, share stories, and integrate our wilderness time. Spend two nights at Esalen.

  • Sunday, May 17 | Savor a half-day at Esalen, including breakfast and lunch in the lodge. Depart Esalen by 3:00 PM.