Big Sur is known as one of the most breathtaking regions on the California coast, with its winding roads, rocky coastline, dramatic cliffs, and magnificent seaside views, you quickly realize why it is often featured in movies, TV shows, and photographs. It was an obvious must for our cross-country road trip.
Unfortunately the region underwent a severe winter that included multiple mudslides, fallen boulders, and a collapsed bridge, resulting in a portion of the iconic Highway 1 being closed. When I heard this, I was heartbroken for those who live and run businesses in the area and was selfishly sad that we were not going to be able to visit one of my #1 spots on the road trip bucket list.
As the trip got closer though, I was happy to hear that they were slowly opening portions and many businesses were still open. I was doing research every week to see what else had been opened and where we could visit. Here are some tips from our recent trip:
- Adjust Your Route – While there is still a portion closed, you can head into the region from the south and north quite a bit. We personally were coming from the North and we were able to follow the coast all the way to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, where the road is closed just south of it.
- Stay in One of the Open Parks or Hotels – We were able to find a campsite at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. It is typically difficult to get campsites up and down the California coast during peak summer season, so take advantage of many not knowing these spots are open. There was also the Big Sur Lodge right there at the park and next time we come back, I want to stay at the Big Sur River Inn, complete with a restaurant, store, pool, the world’s cutest gas station (yep, that’s a thing), and the best part being that you can…
- Have a Drink in the River – Grab a drink from the Big Sur River Inn bar and head down to their adirondack chairs that are in the river, not next to, but in the river. Dip your toes in the water and sit back. Why isn’t this a thing in more places?
- Stop at Bixby Bridge – while the Pfieffer Canyon Bridge is being rebuilt, the iconic Bixby Bridge is stunning as always. I would recommend being ready to pull off on the right or left before you drive across it. Go slow because it can be quite busy, but this is where you’ll find get beautiful views easily for your photographs.
- Stretch Your Legs – while many trails are also recovering from the winter and fires, we headed over to Andrew Molera State Park for a hike to the beach. It was all flat, led you through some trees and opened up to a spectacular beach. It felt a big majestic as you looked around to see dozens of driftwood structures built by those who had previously been there.
- Shuttle Further South – The Pfeiffer Canyon Bypass Trail was created by residents and opened to the public in July. You can use this trail to access the southern side of Big Sur and can board a shuttle at Andrew Molera State Park to get there. We were hoping to do this to go have lunch or dinner at Nepenthe, but unfortunately ran out of time.
While we wanted to explore and stay longer, the road trip must go on! We were obviously not able to continue to drive south on Highway 1, but in a similar amount of time it would take, we went north (yay, one more trip over Bixby and Carmel) and took a detour to Highway 68, through Salinas Valley, to Highway 101, down through San Luis Obispo (a town that Oprah claims to be the happiest city in America) and then we continued south to Santa Barbara.
To learn more and stay up to date on openings and closures, head over to See Monterey’s website.