It is about 38 kms from China Camp to Big Sur Station along the Pine Ridge trail. This trail goes through the Sykes Hot Springs, so it is popular to break the hike in two/three days and camp at the hot springs. But the one-way hike can be done in one day.
China Camp is part of the Ventana Wilderness, a region near Big Sur, between San Francisco and Los Angeles (not the small China Camp State Park near San Francisco).
Directions to China Camp: heading south on Highway 1 from Monterey, turn left (east) on Carmel Valley Road in Carmel. After about 40 kms (17 kms past Carmel Valley Village), turn right (south) into Cachagua Road and then right onto forest road 18S02 (which is initially called Jamesburg Rd but everybody seems to know as Tassajara Rd) and continue on this Tassajara Road for about 16km (as of 2010, only the first two kms are paved). After about 15 km of unpaved road, you will pass White Oaks Campground on your left. After another km you reach the top of the hill (this is a good place to camp if you don't want to camp at the campground). The road gets worse and heads downhill. After about 15' (hard to calculate distances) you are almost at the bottom. There is a sign for China Camp on your right but most likely you will first notice the sign that points to "Pine Valley trail". Just 100 meters further there is a little parking lot on the left. Park there (or park on the street) and across the street from the parking is the trailhead for "Pine Ridge trail" (sorry for the confusion with names, not my fault).
The other trailhead is at Big Sur Station, 40 km south of Carmel, 6 km south of Andrew Molera State Park and 1km south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on hwy 1.
Getting to the trailhead is quite an adventure in itself if you don't have a 4WD vehicle, but feasible in dry weather with any kind of car. The trail starts uphill from just past China Camp towards the top of a hill that constitutes the westermost point of the ridge. The rest of the trail pretty much follows the ridge to the top of another hill, where it starts going down towards a redwood forest (Redwood Camp). From this point on, as the trail winds its way along the ridges (without climbing them) through Sykes Hot Springs all the way to the coast, the landscape changes dramatically, mostly tall redwood trees.
From China Camp to Church Creek Divide the trail is relatively clear. From Church Creek Divide to Black Cone Trail Junction the trail begins to be overgrown, with tall bushes encroaching it. From Black Cone Trail Junction to Big Sur Trail Junction the conditions get considerably worse, with low brush invading the trail and making it difficult even to see the trail. In this section one can easily miss a key sign or junction. If you are wearing short pants or short-sleeve shirts, you will get scratches. As you head down from Big Sur Trail Junction to Redwood Camp the trail improves. Beyond this point there are few obstacles to hiking at a fast speed, except for the poison oak.
Pictures of these hikes
Other hikes in the Ventana Wilderness:
Big Sur camping
Big Sur webcam
Rangers: Big Sur Station: 831-667-2315.
Camping near China Camp: both White Oaks and China Camp work (thankfully) on a first-come first-served basis but they only have 5-6 sites each.
Camping near Big Sur: lots of expensive and bureaucracy-heavy campgrounds near Big Sur. Best are Andrew Molera (24 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis), just north of Big Sur, and two hike-in environmental campsites in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Kirk Creek (34 sites on a first come first serve basis) is south of Big Sur, and there are two more up nearby Naciemento Ferguson Road (Ponderosa and Nacimiento).