Our northernmost destination on our roadtrip was Big Sur. It’s long been on my list of places to see, and it was definitely worth the drive. The best and only way to see Big Sur coming from the south is to drive along the 1 north of San Simeon and stop whenever you like to enjoy the view or go on a hike. It’s a very windy road that largely hugs the coast, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But take your time and enjoy it—there are plenty of turn-offs, viewpoints, and trails to enjoy.
Our first stop was Ragged Point, which is where Big Sur begins at it’s southernmost point. It consists of a hotel, viewpoint, cafe, and expensive gas station (pro tip: fill up in Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo if you’re driving north. The gas is stupid expensive is Big Sur and few and far between). We parked and walked along the viewpoint, spotting a whale or two from the coast and watching for some time. It’s a great introduction to Big Sur and a chance to stretch your legs.
Another great stop is McWay Falls, which is in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Park near the entrance of the park (there’s a big state park sign) and walk across the 1 towards the coast. There is a very short and easy trail leading to viewpoints all around the falls, which drops directly into the ocean. There is also a trail or two that start across the street in the park, and afford great views and lots of redwoods.
We camped in Big Sur, and this was our tent plot. We were in a circle of beautiful redwood trees! Camping is a great way to experience the region, and fancier accommodations can get pretty expensive. Do your research and book early when it’s high season.
On our second day before starting the drive back down, we drove up a few miles to Bixby Bridge. Next trip I’d like to keep going north a bit and check out the Monterey area.
On our drive back down through Big Sur, we stopped at an unmarked trail that led us down to the coast, past a stream, through a tunnel, and to a couple of coves. Basically, you can’t go wrong stopping at any official trail. They all lead to something beautiful.
Redwoods! This is the view looking up from our tent site.
One last view. Every view is beautiful in this part of the state, including inland, since there’s lovely forest, streams, and big beautiful trees. We saw whales a few times while just staring out at the ocean, and sometimes you can spot happy seals. We’ll be back, and you should check it out, too.