Big Sur is my favorite spot on the planet. It has beautiful coastline, stunning views and is far from a world gone mad. Before Covid, my wife and I drove to Big Sur every few years. We hiked through old-growth forests of giant redwood and live oak. We traversed fallen logs over flowing creeks and sat atop sheer cliffs watching the late afternoon sun disappear into the ocean.
From Los Angeles, the drive to Big Sur takes 6–7 hours. After driving through San Luis Obispo, you merge onto Highway 1 along the Pacific Ocean. The coastal views are breathtaking with fog cascading over white-capped waves. Big Sur formally begins in San Simeon where Hearst Castle sits atop the Santa Lucia Mountains. Keep driving north and you come upon a beach packed with blubbery elephant seals. The creatures move awkwardly on land but in the sea they become nautical ballerinas. You can get within a hundred feet of them. If you get too close they warn you off with a trumpet-like bark.
Back on the road, you drive past the Piedras Blancas lighthouse and come upon large fields of blue lupine, Indian paintbrush and bright yellow monkey flower. Soon you arrive at Ragged Point, a rustic inn once part of the Hearst Ranch. The ocean-view rooms are poised 400-feet above sea level. At night, Highway 1 is blanketed in fog causing car headlights to resemble low-flying planes cutting through the clouds. You can hike a steep trail to a private beach where seals and otters surf the breakers.
Continuing north, the road becomes steep and circuitous. This is where the spirit of Big Sur enters your veins. The curvy mountain road forces you to slow down and focus. It’s common to come upon a trailer driving 10 mph. With few passing lanes you’re compelled to embrace the moment and enjoy the majestic views. We love to put Miles Davis or Coltrane on the stereo, open the windows and let the salty ocean breeze blow through our hair. Before long, the first coulter pine trees come into view. The pine cones are massive and spiky and lay all over the roadside…