From San Francisco to Los Angeles
Road tripping the California Coast is something that is on a lot of people’s travel bucket list. To finish off our California trip, Allie and I picked up our Jucy RV and took off down the Coast! To read all about our experience in our Jucy RV click here.
We missed a lot of things on the Big Sur because the 1 highway was closed. In early 2017 the Big Sur had a lot of really bad weather that caused landslides which demolished a lot of the roads and bridges. This means we were able to drive from the north down to Pfeiffer then had to drive around the Big Sur area and drive back up from the south to Salmon Creek.
Our Top Stops
Hike in the Redwood Trees
Seeing the Redwood Trees has always been on my bucket list, and this trip to California was the perfect time to check it off. The Big Basin Redwood State Park is large state park in Santa Cruz County.
We went for a hike in the Big Basin Redwood trees. The beauty of these trees can’t possibly be conveyed in photos or even through words. The Redwood trees are estimated to be up to 2000 years old. They are unbelievably massive. They reach up towards the sky and are impossible the capture fully in photos. The trees are just so gigantic.
After parking our Jucy Van we went to the ranger station to ask about the best hikes to do in the park. We settled on the Redwood Nature Trail that was 0.6 miles long. Along the walk are the two largest Redwood Trees in the forest, called the mother of the forest and the father of the forest. We had some extra time after our hike so we explored some of the other trails just a bit before heading out of the park.
Santa Cruz is a college beach town on the California coast not far from San Francisco. Our main reason for visiting Santa Cruz was to see the boardwalk. The Santa Cruz boardwalk is a full of amusement park rides, games, and food stands, all on the beach. It was really fun to see! We didn’t spend much time here or ride any rides, but just seeing it was a really fun experience.
Montery – Pacific Grove Marine Gardens Park
Driving through the town of Montery was a last minute decision. I had heard so many great things about this town and wish we could have spent more time! We did end up exploring the Pacific Grove Marine Gardens Park. This is a rocky, coastal area filled with birds. There are lots of tidal pools and marine life to see in this conservation area.
Hike the Calla Lily Valley and Garrapata Beach
Lilies have a special place in my heart since my fur baby shares the name. The Calla Lily Valley along the PCH is filled with these white flowers during the late winter and early spring. We went in October and were still able to find a few beautiful flowers. There is a small stream flowing through this valley that you can cross on rickety logs
If you wander along the side of the stream you can reach an isolated stretch of beach. This is Garrapatas Beach, but you come out further down the beach than the staircase, so there is not really anyone around. Along this stretch we found a few small beach huts made out of driftwood held together with seaweed. These were obviously lovingly created by someone who knew a bit about building! We spent time in one and it made us feel like we were castaways on a little desert island.
Big Sur Bridges
The bridges along the Big Sur are known for their architectural beauty. You really can’t tell when driving over the bridge that they are amazing. They seem simple from the top, but People stop in both directions at the bridges to snap a photo of them. We saw both the Bixby Creek Bridge and the Rocky Creek Bridge.
Friends of the Elephant Seal
I was really excited to stop and see the elephant seals! These animals are so amazing and unbelievably huge. When you stop at this lookout the elephant seals can just look like rocks at first, but they are actually huge seals.
Ragged Point is a restaurant and inn. We stopped here to grab a quick bite to eat and explore the property. There is a really nice walk around the property and looked at the large wooden sculpture. If you look through the large wooden ring you are able to see up the coast in a very pretty frame.
Big Sur Road Trip Tips
Gas stations along the Big Sur are few and far between, and trust me when I say you DO NOT want to get stuck without gas in this rugged terrain. Know where the gas stations are and keep your tank as full as possible through your journey.
Check ahead of time if you can have a campfire
We absolutely love to have campfires while we are camping, but before you light it make sure you check if you are allowed. To prevent wildfires, campfires are not always allowed. It depends on when they have last had rain in the area and how dry the land is. You don’t want to cause a natural disaster right? Then check ahead.
The Big Sur is miles and miles of coastal driving, but coastal driving means cliff side driving. Follow the posted speed limits and be extra aware of your surroundings. Being such a tourist hot spot also means that there are lots of slow drivers out there. Be ready to stop quickly around blind corners in case you come up on a driver going way under the limit. Driving slow also allows you to pull over quickly if you see a lookout you want to stop at.
Also be aware of wildlife, including deer and falling rocks. Landslides are common in these parts so keep your eyes peeled.
Have lots of water
This is a bit more of common sense camping tip, but it’s good to keep in mind regardless. Before going camping make sure that you have plenty of drinking water on hand. This is something you really don’t want to run out of while you are camping and it is always better to have too much than to have too little.
Keep in mind that there is little to no cell phone service in the Big Sur. Load all of your maps ahead of time or have paper copies on hand to keep you from getting lost.
Also have a list of all the sites you want to see written down so that you don’t miss any when you are out of the service area.
Check ahead for closures
As of 2017, a lot of the Big Sur is actually closed. During the first part for 2017 this area experienced intense periods of rain which caused landslides that wiped out many main roads and bridges. They are working on getting it back up and running but these things take time.
Many hiking trails, campgrounds, and beaches are also closed until they can be cleared out and made safe for visitors. It would be extremely disappointing to head to a spot only for it to be closed and during our travels we encountered people who had no idea that parts of the Big Sur were unreachable. Avoid the disappointment and do your research before hand.
This road trip is near the top of the list of my favourite trips ever taken. The views are unbelievable and make you feel like you’ve been transported to a different country entirely. If you are lucky enough to drive the Big Sur make sure to take your time and enjoy!