Sea and Mountains
Along the 90 miles of shoreline where the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the sea -- between Carmel and San Simeon -- is the finest coastal drive in all the United States. This majestic piece of scenery is just south of Monterey and Carmel. Except for some redwood lumbering at the turn of the century, Big Sur remained almost pure wilderness until the Pacific Coast Highway was built in 1937.
Coastal mists and abundant rainfall provide a perfect growing environment for the coastal redwoods in many deep canyons. The spectacular beauty of the rocky coast, the mountains and forests attract visitors for sightseeing and scenic driving. There is a good selection of places to stay including rustic cabins, small motels and a few luxurious lodges. State parks and the Los Padres National Forest provide hundreds of camping spaces while the Ventana Wilderness and Molera State Park offer walk-in camping.
Small hotels and motels are found along the Big Sur Coast. Ventana, the famous lodge on the hillside is a favorite vacation place for many visitors. It has an excellent restaurant. To check out Big Sur Hotels and lodges, go here.
What to See & Do
Immediately south of Carmel is a major attraction, Point Lobos State Reserve. A scuba diving mecca, the reserve features camping, picnicking, hiking trails, beach activity and wonderful scenery.
Parks along the route include Andrew Molera State Park and Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park. Both are located in the northern third of the drive, on either side of the community of Big Sur. Molera offers day-use activities and walk-in campsites. Guided trail rides are available from April 1 to November 30. For information and reservations, call (408) 625-8664. Spreading over 810 acres, Pfeiffer-Big Sur has 218 camp sites (without hookups) and a dump station. The park offers picnicking, hiking, fishing and river-wading. Nature interpretation programs are held, and nature walks are conducted by rangers. The Ventana Wilderness is a large natural area on the mountain, offering hiking trails and wildlife viewing.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a small, but no less impressive day-use park located north of Lucia. This quiet park features picnic tables set under the redwoods alongside McWay Creek. A trail leads under the highway bridge to McWay Cove and a waterfall, which plunges into the ocean. Other things to do include visiting the Henry Miller Library. The writer and artist lived in Big Sur, and his books and artwork are on display every day from 11 am to 5 pm (May through October), and during the rest of the year on weekends and by appointment, call 408-667-2574. Big Sur is, of course, the home of the Esalen Institute, the famed residential center which focuses on human existence and potential.
To check out Big Sur Hotels, Motels, and Inns,
including Ventana and Esalen,
Go to our Big Sur Hotels Page
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
The park stretches from the Big Sur coastline into nearby 3,000-foot ridges. The park features redwood, tan oak, madrone, chaparral, and an 80-foot waterfall that drops from granite cliffs into the ocean from the Overlook Trail. A panoramic view of the ocean and miles of rugged coastline is available from the higher elevations along the trails east of Highway 1. The park is 37 miles south of Carmel on Highway One; 12 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
Info: (831) 667-2315
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Offering camping (218 sites, no hookups, sanitation station), picnic tables, hiking & swimming.
has 810 acres of redwoods, conifers, oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, maples, alders and willows - plus open meadows. Wildlife includes wild boars, raccoons, skunks, and birds, such as water ouzels and belted kingfishers. Hikers can enjoy the many scenic loops, including a self-guided nature loop. Valley View Trail provides spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the Big Sur Valley. Campsites are along the Big Sur River. The Big Sur Lodge operates room and cabin accommodations. The park is located 26 miles south of Carmel on Highway One.
Info: (800) 444-7275
Andrew Molera State Park
Andrew Molera State Park is a walk in campground. Park the car & walk a third of a mile to the camping area with 24 sites in a meadow. Containing 4,800 acres, The Big Sur River runs through the park. Miles of trails wind through meadows, beaches and hilltops. A primitive trail camp, popular with hikers and bikers, is located approximately one third mile from the parking area. The area is still relatively undeveloped and offers great hiking opportunities as well as fishing and beachcombing. Reservations opn a first-come first-served basis.
The park is located 20 miles south of Carmel on Highway One.
Info: (831) 667-2315
Big Sur Campground & Cabins
Year-round family camping in the redwoods trees along the Big Sur River. Store, laundry, playground & basketball court. Inner tubing on the river. Tent camping with hot showers. RV camping with water & electric hook-ups as well as a dump station.
Big Sur Campground and Cabins has 81 sites with water, sewer and electricity. 36 pull through sites. Hot showers, telephone, fishing (Nov.-Feb.), beach and trail access within 10 minute drive.
Tenters Welcome. Rental Accommodations.
Reservations accepted. Open all year. RV sites (up to 8 tons)
Info: (831) 667-2322
Limekiln State Park
33 developed sites are situated on 716-acres in the southjern part of the Big Sur coast.. The park features great views of the Big Sur Coast. Iy's located 56 miles south of Carmel, off Highway One; two miles south of Lucia. Info: (831) 667-2403
Plaskett Creek Campground
A Forest Service campground, with 44 Sites. Summer & winter., Hike & bike camp. Group site reservations. Info: (877) 444-6777 or (805) 434-1996
This is a private campground at Ventana Lodge, Sst in a 40-acre redwood grove and located in a secluded redwood lined canyon along Post Creek. There are 80 campsites situated on the canyon floor and in various side canyons and along the ridges. Each site is unique and is complete with a picnic table, adjustable fire ring, and drinking water is near all sites. In addition, the campground has three bath houses with hot showers and is heavily forested with coast redwood trees. Located 28 miles south of Carmel and 65 miles north of Hearst, San Simeon.
Info: (831) 667-2712
To check out hotels and inns along the Big Sur Coast,
go to the Big Sur Hotels Page
Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide
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