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Explore Highway 1 from Carmel to Big Sur

Del Monte Forest, California

based on 18 reviews


Added by Blake Maitoza

Explore the scenic highlights from Highway 1 as you head down the coast from Carmel to Big Sur.

Being from the Central Coast, every time I visit the area I like to do the same trip - Simply because it is amazing. The trip starts along 17 mile drive located in Carmel. From the road, you see the Central Coast icon, the Lone Cypress. Being one of the most photographed trees in North America, it is truly an incredible site to see. This Monterey Cypress has been standing on the granite cliff for over 250 years. Also along this 17 mile stretch, you come across one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, Pebble Beach.

After the 17 mile drive, continue on the beautiful Highway 1, southbound to Big Sur, and be sure to stop at an amazing unmarked beach. You will continue for about 20 miles until you come to the Garrapata Creek Bridge where you will see parking as well as a few trails. These trails lead you to a secluded beach where you can get away from the crowds. If you come to this spot early spring, Calla Lilies bloom all around the trail; this is a photographers dream.

After plenty of time spent at this secluded beach, the next stop is the Big Sur River Inn . On the way to the Rivers Inn you will cross the historic Bixby Bridge. Built in 1932, Bixby Bridge is a truly jaw dropping site to see, and you won't be able to help yourself from spending countless minutes starring at it. Once you finally decide to get moving again, you will find the restaurant, Big Sur River Inn Restaurant, which is perfect for the family. What makes this spot unique is they have furniture located directly in the river! Enjoying a meal or a drink in the middle of the river is a truly relaxing experience.

After having a nice meal on the river, you should stretch your legs and do a little hiking. The next stop, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, showcases the most beautiful cove on the West Coast. When you arrive at the park you will see signs to McWay Falls, this is the way you need to go! After a short hike you will come to a viewing platform of the incredible 80-foot waterfall that flows year round directly into the Pacific Ocean. The best way to view this spot is during sunset, so try to plan this adventure so you end up here at the end of the day.

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Explore Highway 1 from Carmel to Big Sur Reviews

It's a beautiful drive, not to be missed! Beware- it is a little scary though. I'm not a great passenger and I was a bit nervous with all the winding and cliff edges, but the stunning views of the ocean and rocky cliffs above you make up for all of the moments of fear. We stopped and took pics of the VW in all the fun iconic spots along the road (we should really make a VW calendar at this point, haha)! Even white knuckled at points, I would do the drive again in a second- prefer if I was the driver but that's just me...! Beautifuuuul!

Beautiful drive with plenty great spots for some pictures, and to walk around a bit. I got some great pictures at Hurricane Point, but if you go here be careful, because if you are daring, you may be tempted to head all the way down to a cool looking spot with some shoreline but you can't see that the earth is super loose toward the bottom. My friend went down and broke his leg, and rescue crews were needed to reach him. So just be careful in certain areas.

We knew that we wouldn't have cell phone reception during the drive, so we took screenshots of this post and used it as a guide. It definitely highlighted some great spots to hit in Big Sur.

I love this drive and we stopped at about 15 places along the way. My favorite part is from Carmel on south and we opt out of the famous 17-mile drive to save time and stay in the more natural areas. I would definitely do the 17-mile drive if you want to photograph the Lone Cypress, otherwise, maybe skip it and head down to Big Sur. The coast is beautiful. Very windy roads on high cliffs, so make sure you are comfortable with that. Also, don't miss the redwood forest groves (There is a hike right at the Big Sur Lodge that takes you through them) and if you are continuing south, you have to stop at the Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon. Beautiful part of CA.

Great and scenic drive, but important to note just how curvy and twisty this road is to any passenger prone to motion-sickness. We had a passenger in the car get sick during our drive due to it :(

Avoid the traffic, and find a good summer weekday to make the drive!

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


17-Mile Drive to Carmel Road Ride

Catch a Sunset at Carmel Beach

Relax at Spanish Bay

Surf Carmel River State Beach

Hike along the Carmel River Beach Trail

Whalers Cove Loop