Catch a Sunset at Pfeiffer Beach

San Francisco Pfeiffer Beach

Added by Blake Maitoza

Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur is a photographer's paradise! See the sunset through an amazing rock formation and glisten on the purple sand. 

Pfeiffer Beach located in Big Sur may truly be one of the most awesome beaches in California...if you can find it. I lived within 40 miles of this beach for over 20 years and just discovered it recently. This beach is located on an unmarked road called Sycamore Canyon Road. On Highway 1, this road is about a mile south of the Big Sur Station on the right. Once you are on this road, you wind back and forth for 2 miles until you come to a ranger station, where you pay $10 to park and use the beach. The beach is well maintained and kept very clean, mostly because many people have trouble finding it.

As you approach the beach, you will notice incredible rock formations. Photographers come from all around the world to photograph this location in Winter. This time of year the sun sets directly behind the hole in the formation leaving an incredible beam of light shining through. If you are here in winter to shoot this incredible site, make sure to get here early as crowds of photographers will all be trying to get the same shot. This location is primarily a perfect sunset spot to photograph.

If the jaw dropping rock formations weren't enough, then you will notice the purple sand all over the beach. There will be many patches of purple sand from manganese garnet in the surrounding hills being eroded onto the beach. The best time to view this is after a winter storm when much eroding has occurred.

Pack List

  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Snacks/Water
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Chillin, Photography

Skill Level:



Year Round




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How to Get There

about 1 month ago

WAY too crowded to be enjoyable

Just like most of Big Sur, Pfeiffer Beach used to be a nice place to get away from civilization. Unfortunately, it's now so crowded (thanks social media!) that merely driving Sycamore Canyon Road to get there can be life-threatening. If you must go, definitely do so mid-week (there won't be any parking on weekends anyway) & bring a trash bag to clean up after all the careless visitors who preceded you. Also, please don't stack rocks- cairns are an unsightly reminder of the civilization we all go to wild beaches to escape.

about 1 month ago

3 months ago

Beautiful and busy

A really beautiful beach with an iconic shot. It was really busy with other photographers when I was there in December.

3 months ago

about 1 year ago

This is a beautiful beach, and the rock formations make it a unique find along the Northern California coast. If timing doesn't work and you can't make it for sunset, you can go in the morning but recommend getting there before 11am on a weekend, especially if it's beautiful weather out. Otherwise, the parking lot fills up fast and they will turn cars around who will have to find parking elsewhere and hike the 2 miles down to the beach (which is also a scenic walk through the woods but people will have to walk on the same road as the cars as there's not really a separate trail).

about 1 year ago

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