Big Sur View – This may be the most dramatic hike in the Lower 48. It stretches across 90 miles of jagged cliffs and scenic views, and it turns out there are more twists and turns than Dan Brown’s latest bestseller. Is Big Sur, California’s “Big South,” and the famous white walk along Highway 1 is only part of the story.
The first Beautiful Big Sur View is On my recent trip, I set out to explore the best of both worlds. The rocky and windswept beaches of Highway 1, and the rugged mountains of Big Sur’s interior. A trip like this can be done in about three or four days without feeling rushed, even for travelers like us flying in from the East Coast. In our case, we arrived in San Francisco in the middle of the afternoon and ended the first day of my visit at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, about a three-hour drive south of the Bay Area.
Flanked by the Santa Lucia Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Pfeiffer Big Sur is home to family-friendly day hikes such as the Pfeiffer Falls loop (to a 60-foot waterfall and back), the Valley View trail (through the misty redwood forest), and the moderate hike to Buzzard’s Roost (with views of the mountains stretching back to the sea). We were able to finish all three trails before lunch on the first full day. We saw students, families with young children, and seniors in their 60s on the Valley View and Pfeiffer Falls trails. On the more challenging Roost Trail Buzzard, I had the beautiful scenery all to myself.
Big Sur Outback
However, the real hinterland of Big Sur in the Ventana Wilderness. Ventana is a 167,000-acre stretch within the Los Padres National Forest where mountain lions roam the Santa Lucia Mountains, which soar almost a mile into the sky. This is Greater Sur that people rarely see, and while not to be taken lightly, it is ripe for active travelers to explore.
For an exposed view of the Ventana Wilderness, physically fit hikers should save an entire day for the 10.8-mile Peak Peak Trip. The hiking trail starts inside Pfeiffer Big Sur and is well worth the hike, but don’t try it without plenty of water, good hiking shoes, and proper preparation. You’ll need more than four days to explore the rest of the outback, but if you choose to do so, several campers I spoke to recommended the Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes Hot Springs, about 23 miles into the wilderness.
Coastal route (Big Sur View)
Highway 1 is dotted with country campgrounds and cabins. Some are affordable (as low as 25 USD for a campsite in Pfeiffer Big Sur), some are reasonable (74 USD for a room with TV and hot shower at the Glen Oaks Motel just outside Pfeiffer Big Sur), and some are unreasonable (at over 1,000 USD per night for the best room at the Post Ranch Inn). In all cases, reservations are recommended in the summer. Although we had no trouble finding accommodation on short notice when I was traveling in early April.
Save time when stopping for lunch or dinner (or, for a real treat, renting a cabin) at Lucia Lodge, staggering on the edge of a cliff about 25 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur. Above-average Americana fare (large hamburger and cold beer) complemented by ocean views from the deck and picnic area.
Dinner at The Big Sur Roadhouse (across from the Glen Oaks motel) is pricey but very sophisticated given its remote location and relaxed atmosphere. Ripplewood Cafe, close to several campsites. Good for breakfast (buttermilk pancakes, any style omelet) and better for people watching. It is frequented by hikers and campers who trudge from nearby Ripplewood Cabins before setting off for the day’s adventures.
Due to its proximity to Santa Lucia coverage, there is limited radio and cell phone signal along Highway 1. But who needs it? Slow down your vacation moments, listen to the waves, and feel the sea air as you drive. While the entire coastline is often shrouded in mist due to the area’s unique environment, it is these same conditions that give life to coastal redwood, which is found only in two other places in the world. The fog doesn’t spoil the experience, that’s part of it.
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How to Get There to See Big Sur View
Big Sur covers a large stretch of California’s central coast. The best advice for saving money on transportation is to research fares from your city to different California airports. San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose in the north; Los Angeles and surrounding cities in the south. We saved almost 200 USD by choosing the Bay Area over Los Angeles.
Whatever your interests, your visit to Big Sur will benefit from Wilderness Press’s recently published Hiking & Backpacking Big Sur view. This invaluable guide by Analyse Elliott was a welcome companion on our travels and provided helpful tips, accurate trail descriptions, and interesting reading on the geographical and natural history of the area. For driving along Highway 1, we also found Lonely Planet’s Coastal California a good, if too short, starting point for a journey.