Driving Time: 45 minutes
The road stays in trees for a while north of Big Sur, then emerges from the forest, continuing inland a short distance north of the town of Big Sur before returning to the sea. The landscape is different than it is further south, with the road running closer to the water, its sides lined with red ice plant and yellow-blooming fennel.
From time to time, winter rains precipitate mud slides that can close California Hwy 1 near Big Sur. Use this guide to find out how to check conditions and find detours.
Points of InterestThe information below refers to highway mile markers, which will help you know exactly where to find things. How to read a California mile marker.
Sur Lighthouse ★★★☆: The lonely lighthouse you see on the big rock warned
mariners of danger for almost 90 years. Tours are given on weekends. The entrance is located at mile marker 54.
- Bir Sur River Vista Point ★★★★: It's one of the imponderables of traveling in California, but if the sign says it's a "vista point," you can be 99% sure it doesn't have much of a view. Instead of stopping at the marked spots, try a couple of our favorites. Between miles 55 and 56 it's particularly scenic: the beach widens as a stream cuts it way through the sand toward the ocean, curving around a big rock that seems determined to stop its progress.
- Vista Point ★★★★: For one of the best views between Monterey and Big Sur, stop in the paved parking area on the ocean side of the highway between miles 58 and 59, where you'll find a spectacular scene of jagged coastline and crashing waves. If you're driving north, resist the urge to pull off in the unpaved area you'll reach first - the best views are blocked from there.
- Bixby Bridge ★★★☆: You can't avoid the Bixby Bridge, the arched span you've no doubt seen in countless automobile advertisements. The best place to stop and get a look or snap a picture is in the parking area just north of it. It's between mile markers 59 and 60.
Gasoline and food are not available between Big Sur and Carmel, but it's only a short drive.