After we’d explored Yosemite National Park we headed over towards Monterey with plans to drive south on HWY 1, also known as Big Sur. I’d heard there were plenty of places to stop in Big Sur, that the drive is absolutely beautiful, that there were waterfalls crashing on to the beach and great walks to do too.
Unfortunately, there’s been a huge winter storm which resulted in flooded beaches and destroyed beaches. This meant that HWY 1 was closed going south near Andrew Molera State Park. On top of that, if we’d tried to hike down to the beach we’d be given a HUGE fine if caught. We decided not to risk it and enjoyed the part of the drive we could do.
The good news is that HWY 1 is fully open again. The bridges have been repaired and the flooding has receded (as you’d hope after so long!).
If you’re planning on driving HWY1 in California, then here are some of the best places to stop in Big Sur.
McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Chances are that you’ve seen a photo of McWay Falls before. It an iconic stop in Big Sur and was one of the places that we couldn’t get to when we visited on our three month USA road trip (an excuse to go back!).
The waterfall falls on to the beach and then into the sea. The photos all look incredible and I can totally imagine sitting on the cliffside whilst having a picnic!
Pfeiffer Beach is known for it’s strange coloured sand. The sand here is actually purple and that makes it well worth a stop in Big Sur whilst driving Hwy 1. The purple sand is best seen at the northern end of the beach and it’s created due to the manganese garnet rocks in the cliff.
The focal point of the beach is Keyhole Rock; an amazing natural arch (a bit like Lulworth Cove if you’re from the UK!).If you’re a keen photographer it’s best to come between December and January to capture the sun shining through Keyhole Rock.
Hike Pfeiffer Falls and the Valley View Trails, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Add some more waterfalls to your roadtrip and hike the easy two miles at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. There are more giant trees, rocky waterfalls and out of this world scenery. It’s more than worth getting our of your car for on your road trip of California’s Hwy 1.
Point Sur Lighthouse
Point Sur Lighthouse is another stop in Big Sur you should add to your list. The lighthouse stands tall on some beautiful rock just offshore and is very much needed on this treacherous stretch of coast. If you want to get a bit closer to the lighthouse you can take a guided tour where you’ll learn more about the history too.
Browse the art studios of Monterey
Whilst this isn’t exactly Big Sur itself, it’s well worth adding a morning or afternoon in Monterey to your Big Sur itinerary. Monterery is a very artsy place and there are loads of galleries and studios to check out. However, if art galleries aren’t your think you’ll find wandering the pretty, tree-lined streets reason enough to check out the town.
Bixby Creek Bridge is seriously impressive. The arch in the lower half of the bridge is beautiful and on top of that there are beautiful surroundings too! This was one stop in Big Sur we could do and we spent a while here taking in our surroundings.
Feel the sand beneath your feet at Garrapata State Park
I feel like not many people stop at Garrapata State Park. It’s pretty easy to miss the entrance, especially when you’re rushing to tick off stops like McWay Falls and Pffeifer Beach. However, make time for Garrapata, it’s totally worth it!
When we drove Hwy 1, Garrapata State Park was the only area where we could walk down to a beach. There are plenty of trails which take you through the meadows and wildflowers down to the sand. Or, if you prefer you can stay up high. If that sounds like you walk the Rocky Ridge Trail or Soberanes Point Trail.
Limekiln Falls, Limekiln State Park
If you’re after a relatively short hike head to Limekiln State Park. Once there make your way through the giant redwood trees, over streams and come out at Limekiln Falls. This 100ft waterfall may is very impressive!
Hike to Partington Cove
This is another stop in Big Sur that is very easily missed. On this short (1 mile return) hike you descend pretty steeply. You’ll begin by going down through a tree lined canyon to a rocky beach before walking through a tunnel and coming out a Partington Cove. There’s a bench at the end for your effort as well as beautiful, quiet views.
This stop in Big Sur can be found on Google Maps. However, if you don’t have signal just look out for some limited parking 2 miles north of the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
Pull offs along the road
Some of the best places to stop in Big Sur aren’t official places to stop. Drive slow and be ready to pull off of Hwy1. When you see a lay-by be ready with your camera to snap some gorgeous coastal views!