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eirekay Big Sur - A travel report by Eire
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Big Sur,  United States - flag United States -  California
8454 readers

eirekay's travel reports

Hike, Bike, Dive or Drive – Big Sur is the Trip!

  22 votes
Page: 1 2
Big Sur, located just 26 miles south of famous Monterey and Carmel, offers California Coast without California crowds! Whether you are drawn by the rugged coastline, old-growth redwoods or scenic mountains, Big Sur offers all of it with easy access! report of the month contest
Aug 2006

Looking out at Bixby Bridge in the distance
Looking out at Bixby Bridge in the distance
Over the years Monterey and Carmel have become over touristed, over commercialized and over crowded. Big Sur has been preserved. This piece of beachfront remains nearly untouched. The name refers to a 90 miles stretch of coastline between Carmel to the North and Hearst Castle to the South. It actually consists of several National and State Parks, along with private campgrounds and old California ranches. The Santa Lucia mountains, including Pico Blanco – a marble and lime stone peak which the Indians thought to be the birthplace of the earth, drop down to a jagged coastline. Flowers fill the bluffs, irrigated by the dense fog that rolls in each morning. They bloom throughout the year, offering up different color palette with each season. The base of Point Sur Light House is still a working cattle ranch. The light house still serves a function, warning sail boats out in heavy fog of the torturous rocks that line this stretch of coast.

For the Biker, the windy ups and downs are challenging but tolerable, the highway has been expanded to allow a decent bike lane and the views more than make up for the effort. Bixby Bridge, built in 1932, majestically arches across an estuary, followed within miles by dense redwood forests, housing some of the tallest trees in the world. Monterey cypress trees line portions of the roadway, incredible ocean vistas stand in stark comparison in the other side of the road.

For the Diver, Point Lobos provides the opportunity to see not only a 70 foot high kelp forest full of lingcod, cabezone and rockfish, but the chance sighting of a sea otter (seen them twice!), sea lion or even, at a distance, a whale. 50% of this marvelous Park (also a great spot for day hikes and camping) is underwater. Diving is limited to Whalers and Bluefish Coves.

For the Driver, you enjoy the same majestic views but be prepared to stop often. This is a photographer’s heaven - you won’t be able to leave without trying to capture it all!

Favourite spots:
Waterfall and Pool at trail's end
Waterfall and Pool at trail's end
To Hike/Pack in Big Sur is my favorite! So much of its beauty lies inland. There are over 100 miles of trails, offering 360 degree vistas that take in the ocean to the west and the central valley to the east. Four distinctly different habitats exist and it is possible hike through all four on a single trail. Skinner Ridge Trail to Pat Springs takes you along a stunning fir lined ridge and up to the top of Devil Peaks, before descending into a beautiful valley with a natural spring providing water year around–15 miles round trip with several good campsites along the way. Pico Blanco goes from fir forest, transitioning to dense redwood and fern at the aptly named Cardiac Hill (a killer uphill climb), on to a rocky, almost desert environ filled with spiky Yucca and Manzanita, then dropping down in to a redwood lined creek bed. The reward for this strenuous (even the guides describe this trail as stenuous) 14 mile roundtrip is the stunning waterfall and deep turquoise pool that awaits.

What's really great:
Hiking along the eco climates
Hiking along the eco climates
The climb up either Devils Peak or Pico Blanco offer panaramic views in every direction and are well worth the effort.

Palos Colorado Road, turn left 12 miles south of Carmel, has a magnificent but little known redwood preserve with meandering creeks and leafy ferns.

Watch the whale migration from Point Lobos - get there early as the Park overfills and will limit access. March and April: the gray whale migrates north to the north Pacific. June through October: blue whale. April through December: humpback whale. Elephant Seas breed here from December to March.

Jules Pfieffer Park is a gorgeous drive anytime of year. Tall redwoods line the road and the beauty is unspoiled. It also offers some splendid finds for Birders, such as water ouzels and belted kingfishers.

Beach! Not much for sunbathing as it is frequently foggy and can be cool but a number of easy access beaches line this stretch. My favorite: Carmel River State Beach. Plenty of parking and right on the Highway.

Look for the Hiker to get an idea of size!
Look for the Hiker to get an idea of size!
Old growth Redwoods are a special treat, unique to California! These trees will grow up to 2,000 years and as tall as 360 feet. A walk through a grove will almost always include beautiful rock filled streams with mossy, fern lined banks. If you can catch sight of a root system on one of the banks, it is a fascinating structure to behold. There is almost always a hollowed out one that has survived a fire and allows you to stand inside the magnificent Redwood!

Flowering Bluff
Flowering Bluff
Camping: Bottchers Gap. 10 miles up windy Palo Colorado Road (watch carefully for the turn, this camp ground (no running water) is little known, requires no reservations and I've never seen it full. Several Campground in Jules Pfeiffer - make reservations 6 months in advance.

Lodges: Big Sur Lodge, built in 1908, offers fitting charm. At $239 a night, it is a little pricey, but close to several trailheads for days hikes and in a beautiful setting.

Spa: Ventana Inn & Spa is the place to be if you have money to burn. Elegant, with ocean vistas and all the extras.

View near Rocky Point
View near Rocky Point
Rocky Point Inn - even if you just go for a drink, this restaurant sits on the edge of a cliff with views beyond description. The seafood is great, and given the location, the prices aren't bad.

Redwood Grill - Every kind of hamburger imaginable. Salmon Burgers, Veggie Burgers, Buffalo Burgers. And GREAT garlic fries!

Other recommendations:
Baby Rattlesnake
Baby Rattlesnake
CAUTION; Watch out for poison oak. It is everywhere. Along roadside, along trails, at lookout points. The plant is a low shrub with clusters of three leaves each, green in Winter and Spring, turning Red by mid-Summer and Fall. The nasty rash is caused by making contact with the oil on leaves. Technu makes both a detergent to remove the oil and a itch treatment if you contact it. Be careful taking off shoes, socks, and pants if you walk through a patch. The oil can transfer from clothing (or a pet dog) to your hands and then your body. I have a lovely case of poison oaks right now, and I know better!

Also, when hiking or packing, watch out for rattlers. We heard this one before we saw him. If you do hear one, stop, figure out where the rattling is coming from and then back away slowly. I don't see them on every trip, but probably every third one.

Published on Monday August 14th, 2006

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Sat, Apr 21 2012 - 05:59 PM rating by el2995

Great report! I haven't been to the Big Sur area since I was a teenager and, as I'm planning to head down there as a day trip most-likely tomorrow, your report provides an excellent primer for the area and a lot of good info for planning my time there! Thanks!!!

Mon, Jul 21 2008 - 02:47 PM rating by here-i-come

Amazing!! I missed alot and I will reread them all over again for sure B4 heading along the coastline with Carmel & Monterey trailing behind and onto the wonders you had prescribed... great job Jill!!!

A must re-read for me to set foot back to these places which I missed back then when I was driving through with 4 ladies (one of them now my BH) in an Avis Chrysler Le Baron Stationcar... oooh we had fun all along that stretch for two over weeks!!! TQ for helping recap something like Cooky's 77th Sunset Strip for me...


Sat, Sep 09 2006 - 05:38 PM rating by mrscanada

In the second last paragraph I think you spelled poison(pioson) wrong.

Is it like having Poison Ivy? Itchy!!!!!

Fri, Aug 25 2006 - 04:32 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Your reports always deserve 5 points!

Fri, Aug 18 2006 - 06:45 AM rating by gloriajames

Hiya Eire! What a hiking adventure! Great report from u. 5*
Btw.. are u not heading to India as yet??

Fri, Aug 18 2006 - 03:52 AM rating by tph5501

hi eirekay, thanx for your reply to me. it's nice of u to visit india. i hope u will come to goa also as u know lot of tourist visit goa because of its famous beaches. so if u decide to come, please call me at +919822384586 anyday and u r welcomed to come here. i will accompany u where ever u want to go. bye ... waiting for your reply.

Wed, Aug 16 2006 - 01:50 PM rating by st.vincent

Wonderfully descriptive writing, a joy to read, and some great photos - thanks

Tue, Aug 15 2006 - 12:08 PM rating by davidx

Seems a long time since I read one of yours - but fear not; your report is as good and interesting as ever. I think you're the first to make me really wish I could get to California.

Tue, Aug 15 2006 - 10:00 AM rating by rangutan

An excellent hiking report! Refreshing information, much more about nature than just another city.

Tue, Aug 15 2006 - 09:11 AM rating by leillli

as i told you it was great,,specialy when you be in fog;)

Tue, Aug 15 2006 - 08:32 AM rating by mistybleu

Wonderful! Full of very useful information. A reallly good read. One of the adventures I missed out on when I was in California.


Tue, Aug 15 2006 - 03:48 AM rating by marianne

very interesting, very informative. Did you hike, dive or ride? I especially like your photo "hiking along the eco climates". The fog, the lone figures. The climate reminds me of Morocco's west coast. There is fog until 11 am every morning in summer. The Rocky Point photo has lots of atmosphere. I can almost taste the salty wind. I wish the bridge weren't there, it is the only man-made thing in these beautiful surroundings. But, of course, we can't do without them.

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