When it rains, the rocks pour in Big Sur. In 2011 after a rainy winter season with above average rainfall coastal Highway 1 was shut down due to landslides in some areas. This is absolutely no surprise and nothing out of the ordinary for Big Sur. However, the local businesses in the mountains count on the summer traffic for the majority of their income for the year, so this type of event makes for nail-biting among the business owners and workers who drive into the small mountain communities such as Gorda Springs for summer jobs.
Big Sur is a popular drive trip tourist destination with state parks allowing you opportunities to explore the coast, the forests to the sea, and the stunning rock formations that rise to Cone Peak, the highest coastal mountain in the mainland U.S. (excluding Alaska.) It reaches not quite one mile (its actual height is measured at 5,155 fee) above sea level and is only three miles distance from the ocean and beach.
There are not many hotels in the Big Sur area and they are usually fairly
expensive to book and stay at. Summers (May through September) are the most
expensive months to book hotel rooms in Big Sur, but when demand is high,
you won't see the prices decline significantly during the winter.
One entrance to Big Sur begins north of Piedras Blancas Light Station and the beach with seals and sea lions north of Cambria and San Simeon. That is the coastal Highway 1 entry from the south, or you can enter from the north near Carmel by the Sea. Several amazing places to stop along the journey in addition to the beaches are Gorda Springs by the Sea, and Nepenthe. Situated in the Santa Lucia mountain range, these cities have amazing restaurants that offer locations and views that look and feel insulated and quite special. Don't forget to stop to grab a bite to eat, and soak up the local flavor. It's really amazing, and we're not going to spill the beans as to what it is like.
Big Sur once was thriving industrial
region for redwood lumber. The Old Coast
Trail which had been the only link
between homesteads was still little more
than a wagon trail. Steamers transported
heavy goods and supplies and harbored at
Notley's Landing, Parrington Cove and
the mouth of Little Sur River.
Navigation was treacherous and in 1889, the Point Sur Lighthouse Station began sending its powerful beam to protect ships from the hazards of the coastline. Big Sur is located along scenic Highway One approximately 150 miles south of San Francisco and 300 miles north of Los Angeles. Historically, the name Big Sur was derived from that unexplained and unmapped wilderness area which lays along the coast south of Monterey. It was simply called El Sur Grande; The Big South. Today, Big Sur refers to that 90-mile stretch of rugged and awesomely beautiful coastline between Carmel to the north and San Simeon (Hearst Castle) to the south. Highway One winds along its length and is flanked on one side by the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains and on other by the rocky Pacific Coast.
Although there were two Mexican land grants awarded in the 1830's which included most of the area north of the Big Sur Valley, neither grantee settled on the land. It was little more than a century ago when the first permanent settlers arrived in Big Sur. In the following decades other handy persons followed and staked out their homesteads. The landmarks bare the names of those early settlers--Mr. Manuel, Pfeiffer Ridge, Post Summit, Cooper Point, Dani Ridge, Parrington Cove and others. Some of their descendants still live in Big Sur.
In 1937 the present highway was completed after 18 years of construction at a considerable expense, even with the aid of convict labor. The highway has since been declared California's first scenic. It provides a driving experience unsurpassed in natural beauty and scenic variety.
Electricity did not arrive Big Sur until the early 1950's, and it still does not extend the entire length of the coast or into the remote mountainous areas.
The proximity of the Pacific Ocean provides for a temperate climate. Winters are mild and rainy days interspersed with periods of bright sunshine. An average rainfall of over 50 inches fills the many streams that flow down the redwood-lined canyons. Coastal fog cools the summer mornings and usually lifts by early afternoon. The best weather is often during the spring and fall seasons.
It is wise to include both warm and cold clothing when packing for Big Sur. A damp, foggy morning can be followed by a warm afternoon. The interior valleys of the Wilderness Area experience greater extremes in temperatures. The fog bank seldom crosses the coast ridge so the days are likely to be hot and the nights chilly. The scenic qualities and natural grandeur of the coast which result from the imposing geography, the rich vegetative compositions, and the dramatic meetings of land and sea are the area's greatest single attraction to the public. Big Sur has attained a worldwide reputation for its spectacular beauty. Hiking, backpacking and scenic driving are major recreational activities.
Drive carefully. Highway One is one of the best-maintained roads in the world but its sharp curves and steep hills still preclude high speed driving. The breathtaking stretch of coastline has something to offer every visitor. So relax and enjoy the awesome beauty of the timeless Big Sur Coast.
Ancient Redwoods Thrive Along the Big Sur Coast Redwoods known as Coast Redwoods grow in a very narrow strip along the coast of California from the extreme southwestern corner of Oregon to 150 miles south of San Francisco in the Soda Springs drainage of Big Sur. The area is about 500 miles long and rarely summer fog, moderate year-round temperature and considerable winter rainfall. Redwood does not grow naturally beyond the belt affected by this combination.
Redwood is a rapidly growing tree with some individual trees measured at more than 360 feet in height, making it the tallest tree species on earth. In favorable situations, trees 20 years old may average 50 feet in height and 8 inches in diameter. Average mature trees are from 200 to 240 feet high with diameters of 10 to 15 feet at 4 feet 8 inches above the ground. Exceptional individuals sometimes reach a height of 350 feet, a diameter of over 20 feet and an age of approximately 2000 years.
Adjacent to the Big Sur baseball field at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of Big Sur's largest redwood trees. The size of the ancient tree, known locally as the Pioneer Tree is deceiving. Due to lightning strikes, it has been severed at the top.