We’ve already told a lot about California State Route 1 (Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway or whatever you’d like to call it) and why we are so in love with its breathtaking ocean views and wildlife watching opportunities.
Now we want to highlight our favorite part of this long highway and share our 1 day itinerary for roadtripping along the Big Sur coastline in Central California.
The most scenic section of Highway 1 in 1 day
In our opinion Big Sur is the most wonderful section of Highway 1!
It’s very close to the ocean all the way, it’s a wild coastline with high cliffs and charming little bays, there’s tons of shorter and longer hiking trails on the coast and in the nearby forests – and there are those famous bridges above the ocean…
Monterey and Carmel-By-The-Sea
We started at Monterey which is a charming little coastal town. It’s worth to take a walk in its lively harbour with tons of sea lions and birds any time of the year. The best whale watching cruises also start from Monterey, but more about those in a later post…
Carmel-By-The-Sea is right next to Monterey and it’s also such a lovely town! It’s famous for its art galleries and its central walking street heading to the beach is nice, too.
Then comes that wild coastline!
But after a short walk in Monterey and Carmel it’s time to head south into the wild beauties of the Pacific Coast!
We want to mention all the famous vista points and short hikes we’ve done during this drive, but if you ever decide to do it, you will see that it’s impossible to mention every place which is worth a stop. Because we stopped like after every curve and we just couldn’t get enough of these views…
Andrew Molera State Park
This state park was our first longer stop. It has an 8.8 miles loop trail (Andrew Molera Loop) on the coast which offers spectacular views and access to some very beautiful remote beaches.
Of course, doing the whole loop and driving all along Big Sur takes more time than what would fit into a day (but if you have more, that’s great!), but you could do just part of it, that’s what we did.
Maybe because we arrived relatively early in the morning, but we didn’t find this park busy at all. There were very few people around us and we had our perfect romantic beach walk. 🙂
Watch out for the trailhead of Partington Cove Trail, it comes a little bit before Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. There’s a short (1 mile round-trip) and steep hike down to a scenic rocky beach and through a tunnel to Partington Cove.
McWay Falls is probably the most popular spot along Big Sur – and probably the most photographed, too. This magically beautiful bay with the waterfall that flows into the ocean is like a perfect painting – it’s hard to believe it exists in reality, but it does!
The Waterfall Trail is only a 0.64 mile easy round-trip and you can just park next to the road to access the trail.
Pacific Valley Bluff Trail
This awesome coastal bluff walk is somewhere between Lucia and Gorda and you need to watch out for a larger pullout and the sign for Pacific Valley Bluff Trail. This area is especially wonderful in early spring when hundreds of California poppies are in bloom!
Another waterfall stop: Salmon Creek Falls
Salmon Creek Falls is just a bit north of Ragged Point. It’s a 10 minutes hike to reach the falls which is hidden in the forest. It’s less popular and also less crowded than McWay Falls.
We could actually see the top of the falls from the road – then we just parked at a pullout and found the sign indicating the trailhead.
A perfect ending: Pacific sunset
I think ‘officially’ Ragged Point is the end of the Big Sur coastline and by the time you reach it, I bet it will be already late afternoon.
Driving back to McWay Falls for viewing the sunset could be a perfect ending of this road trip. But if you don’t have time to get there to catch the sunset, you can just stop wherever you want, Big Sur won’t disappoint you!
Do you have any favorite coastal road trips?