Big Sur, an approximately 90-mile mountainous coastline in central California, is more of an experience than a destination. It’s where the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific Seaside, and headlights shine over spectacular ocean sunsets as Highway 1 slows with hairpin curves throughout the state.
Every mile of the Big Sur coast is dotted with postcard-worthy wonders such as Keyhole Rock formations and 80-foot waterfalls plunging into the ocean.
The coast is sometimes shrouded in fog in the early morning, but it usually clears by the afternoon, revealing a complicated landscape of redwood canyons and 300-foot coastal cliffs. Numerous state parks and public access sites border this rugged part of the coast, from San Simeon in the south to Carmel-by-the-Sea in the north, and offer a multitude of activities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Expect to spend a whole day or more driving the Big Sur coast, with areas like Pfeiffer Big Sur and Limekiln State Parks offering hours of exploration and some of the greatest Big Sur campgrounds.
On the Big Sur coast, each stop seems more magnificent than the previous, with places like Pfeiffer Beach and the Bixby Bridge delivering one famous vista after another.
Along with the spectacular ocean vistas and neighbouring green wildlands, expect to see a diversity of species along the Big Sur coast. Elephant seals, California condors, and the odd tourist pulling over to take photographs are common sightings along this untamed border of the continent.
The short and curving two-mile road to Pfeiffer Beach is little over a mile south of the entrance to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and is slightly off the main path. A short route leads from the parking area to a stunning ocean vista unsurpassed anyplace else on the coast, which is inaccessible to RVs and trailers.
The massive sea stacks at Pfeiffer Beach elicit immediate amazement and astonishment, with choppy waves providing a hypnotic and steady power against a background of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Keyhole Rock is the primary attraction in Pfeiffer Beach. This massive rock structure is admired and frequently photographed, and it features a spectacular natural arch that pulses with ocean and sunshine. Pfeiffer Beach is a favourite site to view the sunset in Big Sur, although taking a beach chair and watching the surf is enjoyable at any time of day.
Big Sur, California, Sycamore Canyon Road
The Bixby Bridge, an iconic emblem of the Big Sur coastline, is photographed by travellers from all over the world. This contemporary engineering masterpiece, also known as the Bixby Canyon Bridge, was finished in 1932 and stands 260 feet over Bixby Creek.
Parking might be difficult to find while visiting the bridge and posing for photos, however several pullouts and parking spots border the north side of the bridge. Multiple vistas of the bridge are also available, offering plenty of angles for the thousands of cameras that are directed at it every weekend.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, named after a prominent pioneer in Big Sur territory, offers higher vistas to explore near to the coast.
Hiking pathways such as the Ewoldsen Trail wind through a colourful canyon teeming with coastal redwoods and Pacific madrone, and the spectacular McWay Falls can be viewed plunging over 80 feet into the ocean with a half-mile walk from the parking lot.
Natural events such as mudslides and wildfires can have an impact on path conditions inside the park.
Big Sur, California 52801 California State Route 1
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of the most popular on the coast, located along the banks of the Big Sur River and flanked by the rugged Santa Lucia Mountains. Every acre of this state park is surrounded by breathtaking beauty, especially on the trails that follow the Big Sur River and wind through massive redwood woods.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, one of the nicest campgrounds in Big Sur and typically booked months in advance, features approximately 150 campsites along the river that allow tents and RVs.
47231 CA-1, Big Sur, California
Point Lobos, located at the northern extremity of the Big Sur coast, is popular with photographers, SCUBA divers, and a variety of animals.
Numerous hiking routes traverse the perimeter and interior of this exceptionally picturesque coastal point, allowing visitors to take in the natural reserve’s lush meadows and stunning shoreline. The sheltered waters surrounding Point Lobos are home to hundreds of marine species, making it a popular SCUBA destination.
Seabirds are another regular sight at the park, with many of them congregating on the appropriately named Bird Island. Whalers Cove, located on Point Lobos, was originally the site of a whaling and abalone industry in the 1800s, the ruins of which may be viewed and studied about.
Point Lobos is the crown gem of the California state park system, with a large expanse of habitat that readily disperses weekend visitors.
Address: 62 CA-1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA
Traveling fifteen miles south from San Simeon, guests may also see the unique animal environment within the Piedras Blancas State Marine Reserve.
A roadside elephant seal rookery along this protected stretch of shore gives access and viewing areas for hundreds of extremely huge, and very vocal, elephant seals in their natural environment. Salmon Creek Falls, located just north of Ragged Point, is a beautiful water feature that may be reached through the Salmon Creek Trailhead.
Ragged Point, California is located at 19019 CA-1.
Limekiln State Park encompasses redwood trees and the majestic aspect of the Santa Lucia Range running into the coast, highlighting much of what makes Big Sur so distinctive. Limekiln State Park includes about 700 acres and is next to the Ventana Wilderness inside the Los Padres National Forest.
It has hiking trails, picnic spaces, and campsites, as well as three ancient lime kilns for which the park is named. Other hiking paths in Limekiln State Park go to waterfalls, redwood trees, and panoramic views of the coast.
63025 CA-1, Big Sur, California
Big Sur’s austere beauty and shifting terrain have influenced innumerable artists over the last century, including authors, poets, singers, and the occasional intellectual vagrant.
The non-profit Henry Miller Library is centred on the works and character of Henry Miller, a late Big Sur native and writer, and celebrates the creative side of Big Sur with changing artworks, live performances, and shelves of books for sale from local and regional writers.
This unusual and self-proclaimed “strange” institution offers a place to connect with Big Sur’s culture and creativity. It is not a library in the traditional sense. In addition to works of fiction and biography, as well as environmental guides and area history literature, the Henry Miller Memorial Library provides live music and community activities on a regular basis.
48603 CA-1, Big Sur, California
Garrapata State Park, located near the north end of the Big Sur coast, provides beach access, coastal canyon hiking paths, and spectacular headland vistas. Garrapata Beach is located on the south end of the park around mile markers 17 and 18. It is accessible by several pullouts on Highway 1. Inland hiking paths travel up and down Soberanes Canyon further north.
The hiking route that leads to Soberanes Point is significantly less popular than the trails at other state parks in the vicinity, and it offers some of the largest waves and greatest views of the Big Sur coast.
34500 CA-1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, California
Partington Cove, two miles north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, provides a coastal canyon path to the ocean. Tourists park on a big sweeping curve of Highway 1 and cross the road to a massive metal gate to stroll down the winding woodland path to Partington Cove.
Following a steep mile descent, a historic 60-foot tunnel displays some of the cove’s tanbark heritage, with the calm waters arriving shortly after exiting the tunnel.
Location: 51700 CA-1, Big Sur, California
Andrew Molera State Park, the largest on the Big Sur coast, is also the greatest for exploration. Miles of hiking paths wind through a diverse landscape of coastal redwoods, steep bluffs, and sandy beaches, and with so much to see and do, it’s possible to avoid the crowds, even on summer weekends.
The walk to Andrew Molera’s isolated beach is little under a mile long, including a Big Sur River bridge, and guests who make the journey will find plenty of beach area to themselves.
Location: 45500 CA-1, Big Sur, California
Point Sur State Historic Park is number twelve on the list.Point Sur State Historic Park is located north of Andrew Molera State Park and slightly over 20 miles south of Monterey. It is focused around the turn-of-the-century Point Sur Lighthouse.
This historic lighthouse, which has been in service since 1889, has directed many various sorts of tourists to the state of California. The only way to get a close look at this ancient lighthouse is to attend a guided tour, which are offered on weekends throughout the year.
CA-1, Monterey, California is the address.