Driving Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
It's 65 miles between Big Sur and Hearst Castle, but likely to take longer than you expect. You'll stop for photographs, slow down to negotiate curves and slow again to enjoy the views.
Between Hearst Castle and Piedras Blancas, bucolic grazing land can make you want to spend your next life as a bovine. Further north, the road wrinkles like a slept-in shirt. The pavement plunges into the forest south of the town of Big Sur.
Winter rains can precipitate mud slides that close Hwy 1 near Big Sur. Use this guide to find out how to check conditions and find detours.
Points of Interest and Side Trips
- Ragged Point ★★☆☆: The hotel and restaurant may tempt you to spend the night and enjoy the cliffside scenery, but it's also good for a short break.
- Elephant Seal Vista ★★★★ : December through February, Northern Elephant Seals use the coastline for pupping and mating. One of only two places where you can see the spectacle on mainland, it's 4 miles north of Hearst Castle. See them now in our photo gallery
- Piedras Blancas Lighthouse ★☆☆☆: The original lens is in Cambria, but a modern light keeps the old beacon going.
- Jade Beach ★★☆☆: In winter, jade washes up on the sand between Gorda and Plaskett Creek
- Willow Creek ★★☆☆: One of the best vista points, with cliffside and water level stops - and restrooms.
- Little-known and seldom-traveled, Nacimiento-Ferguson Road heads east over the mountains toward a historic Spanish mission and William Randolph Hearst's Hacienda. This side trip takes over an hour to navigate 17 scenic miles.
- Pfeiffer Beach ★★☆☆: Exit Hwy 1 at the road to this pretty beach where purple-colored sand washes down from the hillside and a dramatic hole in the rock is just offshore.
- McWay Falls ★★★☆, a dramatic waterfall dropping onto the beach: Enter Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, park at the McWay Falls lot and take a short walk to the overlook.
- Condor Watch: California condors soar between Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and the town of Big Sur. With 9-foot wing spans and steady flight, they're so black they look like they're drawn with felt-tip marker.
- Henry Miller Library ★☆☆☆: The writer's fans enjoy visiting his Big Sur home.
- Nepenthe ★★★★: Restaurant and gift shop with spectacular views.
You'll find gasoline and food at Ragged Point and in Gorda near Monterey County mile marker 10. The Lucia store also offers a few food items (mile 23).
You'll also find restrooms at the Washburn Day Use Area between San Simeon State Park and Cambria.