This past weekend Donny, his friend Ben and I decided to take a little road trip down highway 1 to Big Sur! Originally we had wanted to go camping but with the Soberanes wildfire still burning, most of the campsites were closed and we were worried that the hiking trails would be blocked off as well. So, we decided to take a day trip to Big Sur instead.
We got a fairly early start–we left the house around 11am and by around 1pm we were entering the town of Big Sur. The drive down was beautiful, especially once we got past Monterey and the road began to hug the coastline, providing us with breathtaking views of massive cliffs that plunged into the sea below. As we got into the heart of Big Sur and the vistas became more and more photoworthy, we started pulling off at various pullouts so we could properly appreciate (and photograph) the coastline below.
We didn’t have an exact plan for our afternoon, so we continued our drive south until we reached McWay Falls–a spot which, thanks to pinterest, had been on my Big Sur Bucketlist for a while. Unfortunately, when we reached the park entrance we learned that the path to the falls was closed due to the fire, so we had to settle for the view offered by the road above. Based on our experience I’d give this spot a 4/10, with two of those points coming from the incredibly blue water just offshore from the falls. The waterfall was really just a thin line of water, and nowhere near as impressive as Multnomah Falls I visited while I was in Oregon over Spring Break. Maybe it’s more striking if you’re able to get closer, but from the road above I was underwhelmed.
A bit disappointed, we continued our drive–eventually stopping at the Lucia Lodge in hopes of getting some wifi or a map to help us find an open hiking trail. Alas, you had to pay for wifi use and maps cost almost $10, but we asked the woman at the front desk for guidance and she directed us to Pacific Valley, a spot just 7 miles south of the town of Lucia. There, just a short hike down from the road, we found a beautiful, wild beach that made our drive totally worthwhile. We spent the better portion of an hour exploring the beach and its unique rock formations, before loading back into the car to begin our drive home.
Our last stop as we passed out of Big Sur was the Bixby Bridge–one of two large arch bridges in the Big Sur area and one of the most photographed bridges in California. We actually planned to stop there on our way in, but it was so crowded and there was so little parking that we decided to just stop on the way back. Parking wasn’t much better this time around and we almost didn’t stop, but we found a spot at the last minute and I’m so glad that we did. Although the abundance of tourists made getting a good shot a challenge, the image of the bridge with the mountains in the background and the wild ocean in the foreground made for some of my favorite photos for the trip, 10/10 would recommend.
If you’re planning to take a road trip down to Big Sur here are a few of my my top tips to make your visit a success:
- Plan your activities and print directions ahead of time : You will not, I repeat you will not have reception once you get into Big Sur, meaning the GPS on your phone won’t work and you’ll be left driving around without a clue about where to go or what to do.
- Dress in layers : As with much of California, the weather can change significantly in a matter of hours and it’s often windy and cold on the cliffs above the ocean.
- Pack (or rent) a wide angle lens : So much of the beauty of this area comes from the combination of mountains and sea that you’ll be disappointed if your lens doesn’t allow you to easily capture the entire scene in front of you (I know I was).
- Curb your expectations during fires : Hopefully there won’t be another large fire for many years, but in the event of another, don’t expect much access to the parks, even if their websites say otherwise.