Big Sur: the best road trip in the state of California

Big Sur, one of the most beautiful road trips in the world

Big Sur, California. Imagine yourself for a moment inside of your car, with your favorite music on, the open window with an ocean breeze refreshing your face. Above, the sky with an intense blue, to your left immense green, yellow mountains, with flowers of all possible colors, and giant Redwoods trees. On your right, the sea beating some huge rocky cliffs.

You are on the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), one of the most beautiful road trips in the world, and it is not a mere exaggeration. It really is one of those roads that become unforgettable. Those days in which being behind the steering wheel in itself implies a wonderful day trip.

Big Sur California

This route goes from San Diego to San Francisco, and vice versa, along more than 900 kilometers.

Clarification: to June 2018 a section of the route is closed to the public due to a rock and mud detachment caused by a storm. I recommend that before planning your trip visit the official website of Big Sur to check the conditions of the routes:

In this segment, we will concentrate on a small section that goes from the picturesque city of Carmel-By-The-Sea to the McWay Falls. Shall we start?


Big Sur California

I’m not going to tell you about this beautiful fairy-tale town because I already did it in the article The Best of California: Carmel-by-the-Sea. But it is from here that our journey along the Pacific Coast Highway begins, heading south.

Just 7 kilometers from the city center, we arrived at our first obligatory stop: the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos

When you read on the internet that Point Lobos is considered “the crown jewel” of California, you do not have many options left if you are a curious traveler like us: you have to go.

The Park opens at 8 in the morning and closes at 7.30 in the afternoon. Admission is free if you go on foot, and $ 10 to enter with a car ($ 10 per car, not per person). There are hikes around the park, but if you want to see the most beautiful ones, I recommend you go in your vehicle to reach the end of the park.

Point Lobos with kids

Point Lobos

The Park is an ideal place to visit with children for various reasons. Firstly, because many of their walks are short and easily accessible, and they are still wonderful.

Secondly, because Point Lobos is the perfect place for children to enjoy contact with the purest nature and they might even be lucky enough to meet some of the animals that live there, such as sea lions.

Point Lobos

One of the best places to do it, and perhaps the most beautiful place in the whole Park, is a place called China Cove. It is a wonderful cove with crystal clear waters surrounded by dark cliffs that give even more contrast to the place. There, at the right time of the year (April / May) you will be able to see dozens of sea lions resting on the white sand.

Point Lobos

Point Lobos

Another of the beautiful and short trails, which also leaves from that same place, is known as Bird Island Trail.

The name is not random. Indeed the walk takes us to face an island whose only inhabitants are birds. And we see them there, a few meters away from us. For the small children, it is an unforgettable experience.

Point Lobos

The road crosses cypresses forests, bridges, cliffs. It gives us incredible views of an increasingly wilder coast.

That is one of the many paths that the park offers. Here I leave a map with the other options:

Point Lobos is an ideal place for nature and photography lovers. With children or without them is a must stop within a route through Big Sur. I leave some more photos in case I still can not convince you to go.

Point Lobos Point Lobos Point Lobos Point Lobos

Garrapata State Park: Rocky Ridge Trail

This Californian park is not very well marked on the road, so if you are not paying attention to a map it is difficult to see it. In fact, we found this beautiful treasure simply by seeing cars parked on the side of the road. Our curiosity forced us to stop and see what was there.

The Rocky Ridge Trail is a somewhat demanding walk of more than 10 kilometers that takes you from the coast to the interior of Garrapata State Park. We did not do the full walk, and this is where the secret of traveling with children lies so that you do not die in the attempt.

Sometimes you have to adapt and find beauty in that adaptation. I assure you that what we saw of the Rocky Ridge Trail was perhaps one of the most beautiful moments of the day.

On the shores of the sea, descending between rocks and cliffs, surrounded by flowers of all colors. We did not need to walk 10 kilometers. With just stopping to enjoy the majesty of nature, it was enough. Don’t you believe me? Take a look:

Garrapata State Park Garrapata State Park Garrapata State Park Garrapata State Park

Bixby Creek Bridge: Big Sur most famous postcard

When you think of Big Sur, in addition to cliffs and sea, the first thing that comes to mind is the postcard of the famous Bixby Creek Bridge.

Not only the bridge itself is striking, but its natural environment is simply magical.

The bridge, 218 meters long and 85 meters high, was inaugurated in 1932 and meant a huge change for the residents of Big Sur. Before its existence, any strong storm left the inhabitants of the area totally isolated due to the destruction that the water produced on the old road.

The ideal view is just before crossing it, in a break from the road on the right hand coming from the north. You have to walk very carefully. There are no guardrails and in front of us, there is nothing left but a huge cliff and a long and deadly fall. Please take care of your children and hold them tight.

Bixby Creek Bridge


Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: McWay Falls

When you travel with children, the plans change as you go. Our original idea was to do some of the hiking that Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park offers. But when we arrived it was rather late due to the infinity of obligatory stops that the landscape makes you do. So we settled for just one visit-and beautiful by the way-: the McWay Falls.

McWay Falls

Before 1983, the McWay waterfalls were one of two waterfalls in California that fell directly into the ocean. But a fierce storm caused large landslides that were deposited in the sea. The waves transported those remains and in what was once a cove where the sea hit the cliffs, a sandy beach was generated.

Nowadays the McWay waterfalls only meet the sea water when the tide rises, but in a few years, with the erosive action of the water, the beach will disappear again and the waterfalls will find their end again in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

There is no way to access that beach so you have to settle for the views from above. But it is a nice and easy walk to conclude a day surrounded by the most wonderful nature that the coast of California has to offer.

Now it´s time to turn around and return to where you came from. When we made this road trip, Highway 1 was closed in a section due to landslides. But if you are lucky enough and you find all the road open, it is not necessary to return but you can continue enjoying this wonderful route for several more kilometers.

Undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful road trips in the world.

Do you want to discover other road trips that we traveled around the planet? Enter our ROAD TRIPS section and take a look.



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Written by Pie & Pata
Happy is he/she who enjoys family travel.