Ready to experience where forest meets the sea? Big Sur is a 90-mile stretch of rugged and gorgeous coastline between Carmel to the north and San Simeon (Hearst Castle) to the south.
Exploring Big Sur is an awesome adventure you should do SUPER soon!
Located along Scenic Highway One approximately 150 miles south of San Francisco and 300 miles north of Los Angeles. [25 miles south of Carmel]
Historically, the name Big Sur was derived from that unexplored + unmapped wilderness area which lies along the coast south of Monterey. It was simply called el país grande del sur, the Big South Country.
Today, Big Sur refers to that chuck of the Pacific Coast Highway [Highway 1] with lush forest filled mountains [Santa Lucia Mountains] and the rocky cliffs of the Pacific Coast on the other.
To one side you have the always green hills, that somehow always have wildflowers. On the other side, kelp filled waves crash into the rocky shore and in the distance otters float on their backs. They are clever critters, and obviously have excellent property preference. Really, just tons of natural magic + general gorgeous-ness can be discovered when exploring Big Sur!
There are many camping and lodging options in Big Sur. Like to camp? You can enjoy the State Parks or the privately owned campgrounds, both located throughout Big Sur. [Stream side camping is available in the Big Sur Valley and oceanview, bluff camping is available in the southern end of Big Sur].
Camp @ The Big Sur State Park
Why not sleep under the stars in the actual State Park? I highly recommend it. Because of the vast beauty of the Park, reservations are suggested. Click on the link above to book your campsite in advance and below is a map of the campground. [I recommend the river spots but they do cost a bit more]
Deep in the heart of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Big Sur Lodge shelters writers, artists, seekers of beauty, and weary travelers in search of the peace and majestic splendor that the aged redwoods bestow on body and soul. [Courtesy of bigsurlodge.com]
Below is map of the property…call and book in advance to make sure you get a spot (the closer to the river the better, in my opinion).
Prefer a real bed? Not a fan of roughing it in nature? There are lots of other lodging options besides camping…I suggest these two:
An unforgettable one-stop vacation destination where traditions are born and thrive, year after year. Nestled amid towering redwoods along the scenic Big Sur River, the River Inn was Big Sur’s first hotel and restaurant, and remains a beloved gathering place for locals and visitors alike. [Courtesy of bigsurriverinn.com]
“Searching for an ocean-side hotel near Hearst Castle? Don’t miss Ragged Point. We also serve cooked-to-order fast food and have a variety of fun-filled summer weekend concerts for your drive down California’s scenic Highway 1.” [Courtesy of raggedpointinn.com]
Located about 15 minutes via scenic drive from Big Sur, right off of Highway 1, is this yummy restaurant. But really though – does the food even matter?! Look at the view! [J/K…food always matters and they do have some tasty options here].
Creative American comfort food, wood-fired pizzas, fresh pastries & desserts in a rustic setting. Absolutely delicious!! Located on Highway 1…don’t drive past without stopping here, even if you just grab a treat for the road.
HIKING! There are a handful of amazing trails in the Big Sur State Park and surrounding areas. These are my favorites:
*Please note that pets are permitted [on a leash] in developed campgrounds and picnic areas only…they are NOT allowed on hiking trails.
McWay Waterfall Trail [0.64 mile roundtrip] When you look up Big Sur most likely you see a pic of this waterfall. This hike is super easy, quick and a must see.
Ewoldsen Trail [4.6 miles roundtrip] This is a moderate to strenuous trail with lots of huge Redwoods and beautiful ocean viewpoints. Lots of uphill (hence the pretty view along the way) so bring some water! Located across the parking lot from the McWay Waterfall Trailhead.
The Mount Manuel Trail [9.4 mile roundtrip, 3050 ft climb] For those who want a challenge this Mt Manuel Peak Trail will definitely provide that. The trail climbs steadily alongside the gorge of the Big Sur River with the Big Sur Valley as your background. It begins as part of the Oak Grove Trail on a well maintained path [approx 2 miles] and then gets rough with lots of climbing. Worth it if this is your thing!
HOT SPRINGS!! Big Sur has two hot springs which are open to the public.
Sykes Hot Springs and the hot springs located at the Esalen Institute. A third is located at the Tassajara Zen Center which is accessible by way of Big Sur and an 18 mile hike over the rugged Ventana Wilderness or by automobile through Carmel Valley.
Sykes Hot Springs is a popular hiking destination, but the springs are a bit further down the stream than the instructions I was given. “Sykes Hot Springs has a stone lined natural tub that sometimes gets washed out in winter storms. Its about 8 feet across and knee deep. It averages about 102 degrees Faihrenheit and can hold about four adults.” [Courtesy of bigsurcalifornia.org]
There are strict rules when visiting the hot springs. Be sure to read all about them here.
WHAT TO PACK
Like most coastal destinations, this area can get chilly, damp + cold during the night and early morning hours and by afternoon it has all burned away into a sunny + warm day. This is definitely a spot to pack layers for. But, don’t forget your swim attire – although quite cold, you’re gunna wanna jump into that Pacific!
POISON OAK — “This toxic plant is found in Big Sur in abundance. Exposure to the plant can be spread by hands, clothing, pets, or equipment which has come in contact with the plant or from the smoke generated when burning it. Much of the reactive substance can be removed by immediate washing with cool water and soap. Look for the triple leaf pattern, with prominent veins and a shiny surface. During the summer and fall, the leaves take on reddish hues. Avoid this plant.” [Courtesy of bigsurcalifornia.org]