Big Sur, CA 93920From beaches to mountains, Big Sur has it all. Hike along the streams in the cool, tree lined valleys. Climb up on the high ridges for a spectacular view of the coastline on the western slope and gaze into three million acres of wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest on the eastern slope.
Evenings offer the opportunity to dine in restaurants from fanciful to exquisite. Relax in lodging that ranges from rustic to luxurious. Camp out in the many well equipped campgrounds. Luxuriate at the local health spas. And of course one of the favorite past-times of Big Sur, Do Nothing!
That's right. Relax and take in the magnificent beauty of Big Sur. Once you are here there is no reason to do anything more. Replenish your spirit by simply absorbing the weepingly beautiful vistas of Big Sur. Do Nothing in Big Sur and leave refreshed and rejuvenated from head to toe. Big Sur has been here for millions of years. We don't have that luxury. Make your reservations today!
Thirteen miles south of Carmel stands one of the world's highest single-span concrete arch bridges, Bixby Bridge. Its beauty is matched only by the ocean waves crashing on the rocky coastline below. Reaching over 260 feet high and over 700 feet long, it is a structural masterpiece, and probably the most photographed object along the coastal route.
It is here, at the rivermouth that flows under the Bixby Bridge, that the endangered California Sea Otter was rediscovered playfully frolicking in the kelp beds and rescued from "extinction."
Camping in Big Sur is as varied as the lodging. Enjoy the "environmental camps" at Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Andrew Molera State Park or streamside camping at several other campgrounds in Big Sur.
From 4-star restaurants to local pubs, Big Sur offers a wonderful range of dining and libation choices. Most restaurants offer a unique view of the mountains or coastline.
While Big Sur's beaches hardly resemble the vast stretches of sun-baked sand that dot Southern California's easily-accessible coastline, they offer the visitor a wide variety of recreational possibilities.
Even during the summer, Big Sur's beaches are subject to generally cool weather. Sunny days are sporadic as a blanket of seasonal fog often hugs the coastline, dropping the temperature in the process. To be prepared, bring a change of warm clothes. Also, bring a pair of sturdy shoes. Big Sur's beaches require at least a short hike.
Private property and Big Sur's steep terrain makes most of its coastline inaccessible to the public. Fortunately for the visitor, however, several State Park and U.S. Forest Service beaches are open to the public all year. The following beaches are recommended due to easy access and breath-taking scenery:
ANDREW MOLERA STATE PARK - Located 23 miles south of Carmel, Andrew Molera State Park is the largest state park on the Big Sur Coast. A wide, scenic, mile-long path leads to a sandy beach that is sheltered from the wind by a large bluff to the north. The path itself is as much a delight as the beach, taking you through a meadow filled with wildflowers and sycamore trees, offering fine views of the coastal mountain range to the east. The path parallels the Big Sur River, which enters the sea adjacent to Molera's beach.
PFEIFFER BEACH - Big Sur's most popular coastal access point, Pfeiffer Beach is hard to find if you've never been to it before. The trick is locating unmarked Sycamore Canyon Road. Here's a tip - Sycamore Canyon Road is the only paved, ungated road west of Highway One between the Big Sur post office and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Once you find the turnout, make a very sharp turn. Then follow the road for about two miles until it ends. Drive carefully - this is narrow and winding road. It is unsuitable for trailer traffic. From a large parking area at the end of the road, a short, well-marked path leads to the beach. Cliffs tower above this breathtaking stretch of sand, and a large arch-shaped rock formation just off-shore makes for some dazzling sunsets.
JULIA PFEIFFER BURNS STATE PARK - Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park stretches from the Big Sur coastline into nearby 3,000-foot ridges. The park features redwood, tan oak, madrone, chaparral, and an 80-foot waterfall that drops from granite cliffs into the ocean from the Overlook Trail. A panoramic view of the ocean and miles of rugged coastline is available from the higher elevations along the trails east of Highway 1. The park is 37 miles south of Carmel on Highway One; 12 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. (not to be confused with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park).
SAND DOLLAR BEACH - Just a mile south of the U.S. Forest Service Station in Pacific Valley and 14 miles north of the San Luis Obispo County line lies Sand Dollar Beach.
From a large parking lot across the Highway One from Plaskett Creek Campground, a well-built stairway leads to a crescent-shaped beach that's protected, like Andrew Molera State Park's beach, from the wind by bluffs. Sand Dollar offers visitors the widest expanse of sand along the Big Sur Coast, and possibly the mildest weather. Standing on the beach and looking northeast, towering 5,155-foot Cone Peak is visible. For an interesting side trip, visit Jade Cove, which is located two miles south of Sand Dollar Beach. Big Sur's south coast is famous for its jade reserves, and Jade Cove is a popular spot for beachcombers and rockhounds.
Big Sur is located along Scenic Highway One approximately 150 miles south of San Francisco and 300 miles north of Los Angeles. Historically, the name Big Sur, was derived from that unexplored and unmapped wilderness area which lays along the coast south of Monterey. It was simply called El Sur Grande, The Big South. Today, Big Sur refers to that 90-mile stretch of rugged and awesomely beautiful coastline between Carmel to the north and San Simeon (Hearst Castle) to the south. Highway One winds along its length and is flanked on one side by the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains and on the other by the rocky Pacific Coast.
Although there were two Mexican land grants awarded in the 1830's, which included most of the area north of the Big Sur Valley, neither grantee settled on the land. It was little more than a century ago when the first permanent settlers arrived in Big Sur. In the following decades other hardy persons followed and staked out their homesteads.
The landmarks bear the names of many of those early settlers - Mt. Manuel, Pfeiffer Ridge, Post Summit, Cooper Point, Dani Ridge, Partington Cove and others. Some of their descendants still live in Big Sur.
At the turn of the century Big Sur sustained a larger population than it does today. A vigorous redwood lumbering industry provided livelihoods for many. The Old Coast Trail, which had been the only link between homesteads, was still little more than a wagon trail. Steamers transported heavy goods and supplies and harbored at Notley's Landing, Partington Cove, and the mouth of the Little Sur River.
Navigation was treacherous, and in 1889, the Point Sur Lighthouse Station began sending its powerful beam to protect ships from the hazards of the coastline.
In 1937, the present highway was completed after eighteen years of construction at a considerable expense even with the aid of convict labor. The highway has since been declared California's first Scenic Highway, and it provides a driving experience unsurpassed in natural beauty and scenic variety.
Electricity did not arrive in Big Sur until the early 1950's, and it still does not extend the length of the coast or into the more remote mountainous areas.
The proximity of the Pacific Ocean provides for a temperate climate. Winters are mild, and rainy days are interspersed with periods of bright sunshine. An average rainfall of over 50 inches fills the many streams that flow down the redwood-lined canyons. Coastal fog cools the summer mornings, but it usually lifts by early afternoon. The best weather is often during the spring and fall.
It is wise to include both warm and cold weather clothing when packing for Big Sur. A damp, foggy morning can be followed by a warm afternoon. In the interior valleys of the Wilderness Area, the temperatures are more extreme; the fog bank seldom crosses the coast ridge, so the days are likely to be hot and the nights chilly.
The scenic qualities and the natural grandeur of the coast which result from the imposing geography, the rich vegetative compositions, and the dramatic meetings of land and sea are the area's greatest single attraction to the public. Big Sur has attained a worldwide reputation for its spectacular beauty. Hiking, backpacking and scenic driving are major recreational activities.
Drive carefully. Highway One is one of the best maintained roads in the world, but its sharp curves and steep hills still preclude high speed driving. This breathtaking stretch of coastline has something to offer any visitor. So relax and enjoy the awesome beauty of the timeless Big Sur Coast.