10. Big Sur
Big Sur is probably the most well known place along the world famous Highway 1. And rightly so. Even if both Point Lobos
State Reserve and Garrapata State Park certainly can match Big Sur in terms of beauty, Point Lobos and Garrapata are "done"
in a few hours of a day each, whereas you easily can explore Big Surs many attractions and trails for weeks. Big Sur is a
place where timing makes all the difference though, i.e. what time of the day you view the landscape. Don´t make the
mistake of the average tourist of passing through Big Sur, with a few 5 minutes stops, in the middle of the day when the
light is flat and the air is hazy. Big Sur is still beautiful under these circumstances, but it´s som much better to
explore Big Sur during early morning and late afternoon/sunset. Admittedly, thats a valid recommendations for any place,
but it´s particularly true for Big Sur.
10.1 McWay Falls
So what are the highlights? The most obvious, and accessible, one is McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Just
turn into the park from Highway 1 and park, and walk 1/3 mile to the 80 foot waterfall. The fall is most likely, together
with the Lone Cypress
, the most photographed view at the coast (to my knowledge, the fall is still not copyrighted!)
Best time to see the fall is late afternoon when the sun spreads it´s last light on the fall. And spring is best since the
fall has most water at that season.
10.2 Pfeiffer Beach
Another obvious jewel in Big Sur is Pfeffer Beach. It´s quite hard to find for the average tourist since there are no signs
to the beach. Make a turn into the paved but pretty much single laned Sycamore Canyon Road, about one mile south of Pfeiffer
State Park. Drive carefully and you´ll eventually reach the beach. And be caucious even at the beach: The waves there can be
flat out dangerous. I almost lost my photo backpacker last time I was there shooting the sunset (see below), and there´s a
memorial sign at the parking lot due to a tragic accident in 1997 (if I recall it right), when a 11 year old girl was walking
in the water and was suddenly cought by a wave and sucked into the ocean. Her mother and aunt rushed to rescue her, but where
also caught by the waves and drowned. Still, given these warnings, Pheiffer Beach is a beauty. Any time of the day, altough
afternoons and sunsets are probably best.
10.3 Bixby Bridge
Another popular attraction is Bixby Bridge, one og the most photographed bridges in the world. Make sure to see it late in the
afternoon, when the light is warm. And don´t mix it up with the similar Big Creek Bridge or Rocky Creek Bridge.
10.4 Hurricane Point
South of Bixby Bridge is an overlook named Hurricane Point, with a large gravel parking. It´s one of those places where you
automacically stop. But bring a sturdy tripod if you want to take pictures, because it´s usually very windy there.
10.5 Point Sur
Point Sur has a beautiful setting, and even a lighthouse. You can take a tour there on weekends, and even moonlight
tours sometimes! A nice view ot the peninsula is from the north late afternoons.
10.6 Andrew Molera State Park
Visiting Big Sur and barely go outside the car while seeing the attractions at 10.1 - 10.5 is not a fulfilling way to
experience Big Sur though. A couple of decent hikes are necessary. One great alternative is the large Andrew Molera
State Park. If you want you can choose to horsback ride from the nearby stable. If thats not your cup of tea you can
hike. An advice is to wear hiking boots, or have an old school husband to carry you, because there is a creek to cross.
An early start in the morning is best if you want to see some wildlife or some nice fog. And at the beach, you usually
have the whole of it for yourself.
Big Sur morning fog
If you want to see Redwood trees, and don´t have time to go all the way to Redwood National Park och Muir Woods, you
can take the short 1,4 mile roundtrip trail from Big Sur State Park to Pfeiffer Fall. Just park at the huge parking
lot and walk upwards the road.
Or you can hike the strenuous 4.5 mile roundtrip Ewoldsen Trail from the very same
parking lot where you park the car and watch McWay Falls (Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It´s very nice although
some wise guys grafitti halfway up on a sign ("Killer loop") is painfully accurate.
Or you can hike down the short steep trail to Partington Cove. The trail starts at an iron gate where the Highway 1
make a turn 1.8 miles north of Juila Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The cove is absloutely gorgeous altough there isn´t
a lot of space to explore down at the beach.
11. Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is a wonderful city. I had the privilage of spending a few weeks there during my Masters Thesis in Political
Science, and I´ve came back numerous times since then. The city has a distinct Spanish/Mexican. It´s a very postmodern city
where quality of life is emphasized. That´s expressed in numerous environmental and esthetic restrictions regarding traffic
buildings. Perhaps the main attraction in the city is Santa Barbara Mission, which is considered to be the jewel of the missions
in California. Another landmark in the city is the Presidio, which almost rivals the Mission in terms of beauty. In addition,
the beach, the Main Steet and the Courthouse are clearly worth exploring.
Santa Barbara Mission
From top of Santa Barbara Courthouse
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