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I only have a few hours in Big Sur, please help

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los angeles
posts: 99
reviews: 1
I only have a few hours in Big Sur, please help

Hi All-

I'm doing a road trip up up north from SoCal in late October as a surprise for my girlfriend's Birthday.

I plan on leaving the LA Area, having breakfast in Solvang, driving to Hearst Castle and then doing a one hour tour there.

From there we'll drive to Big Sur. We'll have a few hours in Big Sur before checking into our hotel in Monterey.

I've never been to Big Sur and she hasn't either. If the pictures are anything like I see on the 'Net, then I have to see it.

How can I maximize my time in Big Sur for the few hours we're there? i hear there's a half mile hike that ends at the ocean that is to die for.

I imagine we'll be there around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Please let me know.


San Diego...
posts: 7,936
reviews: 29
1. Re: I only have a few hours in Big Sur, please help

Choosing Oct. 30 as an arbitrary date, the sun rises in LA at 7:11 am, and sets in Monterey at 6:13 p.m. So you will have 11 hours of daylight. It would vary by only a few minutes either way depending on your actual date.

Assuming you left LA at 7 am, arrived at Solvang 9:30, left Solvang at 10:15, arrived San Simeon at 12:15, bought your ticket, took the 30-minute bus ride up to Hearst Castle, the 1-hour tour, the 30-minute ride back down, you would be leaving Hearst Castle at 2:15 at the earliest. You should also stop to get gas somewhere. So make that 2:30 the earliest you could start the Big Sur drive.

And the sun will set approximately 6:13. So you have about 3 hours 45 minutes if you want to complete all this without driving in the dark. It's 95 miles from San Simeon to Monterey, about 2 hours of driving plus time spent at stops. So that gives you about 1 hour and 45 minutes of time for stops between San Simeon and Monterey.

I would recommend stopping briefly at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, to take the short trail to the platform where you can view the cove with the waterfall that lands on the beach. That stop will take only 15 to 20 minutes. You may want to make a short stop at Hurricane Point for the view, and you will undoubtedly be making unplanned stops at some other turnouts. Figure 30 minutes for all those quick turnout stops.

That leaves you about 1 hour left and I think you should spend that at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, which is near the end of the drive just before Carmel. It closes 30 minutes after sunset so you can stay there until the sun goes down, then you will have a short drive to Monterey in the dark, but an easy drive. Walk the Cypress Grove Trail at Point Lobos, see China Cove at the south end, go to the open, rocky, Sea Lion Point for the sunset. Your day use parking fee ($10) from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is also good for Point Lobos on the same day. So just show your receipt at the gate.

Guides to the Big Sur area are at http://jrabold.net/bigsur/ and http://bigsurcalifornia.org

Another member of this forum took a trip through that region and posted an extensive gallery of photos with descriptive captions at https://picasaweb.google.com/Mjneenan/Califo…

los angeles
posts: 99
reviews: 1
2. Re: I only have a few hours in Big Sur, please help

You are a Godsend! That was a beautiful and thorough answer.

Thank you so much.

I think I'll just do exactly what you said.


Santa Barbara...
posts: 1,715
reviews: 1
3. Re: I only have a few hours in Big Sur, please help

Nicely done, bw. ...very precise.

Leave earlier... Point Lobos deserves more than an hour. and you might be able to squeeze in a visit to one of the many great stops along the way, like Santa Barbara; and along Big Sur - Cambria, Moonstone Beach, elephant seals, Salmon Creek Falls, Ragged Point, Limekiln, Sand Dollar Beach, Nepenthe, Post Ranch Inn, Deetjens, Big Sur River, Pfeiffer Beach, Molera Beach, Pt Sur Lighthouse, or Garrapata Beach. If it fits the schedule, see Point Lobos on the morning after Monterey.

Edited: 3:18 pm, October 06, 2012
Avila Beach...
posts: 926
reviews: 6
4. Re: I only have a few hours in Big Sur, please help

Sorry you don't have more time, but for the record, the hike you mentioned in your original post is the Beach/Headlands trail at Andrew Molera State Park, and it is one of my favorite hikes - very short (longer than 1/2 mile however) - better than following the trail to the beach, the headlands trail veers off to the right, up some steps and then over on to the headlands which spike out into the ocean so you can walk along the cliffs looking back across the ocean to the beach. Spectacular.

los angeles
posts: 99
reviews: 1
5. Re: I only have a few hours in Big Sur, please help

Thanks to all for the replies.

I don't want to miss all the wonderful places everyone has mentioned!!

I think I'll save Big Sur for the way back so that'll give us ample time to see it all and close the trip out right.

Is there anything else between Solvang and Monterey besides Big Sur that is a must see?

If I save it for Sunday we have an appx four hr ride from Hearst Castle to Monterey.

Would love a nice stop two hours in...

@ Gnahcd. Do the places you mentioned all have to do with nature/outdoors?


Santa Barbara...
posts: 1,715
reviews: 1
6. Re: I only have a few hours in Big Sur, please help

I didn't mean to distract you. I thought you might be able to add one more stop to your trip up. But now that you might be revising your schedule... I do think Big Sur and the Central Coast make for a great long weekend for Angelenos. My list is a summary short list of my favorites between SB and Monterey. Big Sur is one glorious outdoors destination.

Besides Big Sur, between Solvang and Cambria, you might consider a kayak trip at Dinosaur Caves in Shell Beach or Morro Bay; a dune buggy ride at Pismo. Or hot tub rentals at Sycamore Hot Springs; or fish n chips in Avila.

Big Sur is the whole coastal region between Monterey and Cambria. At the southern end you have San Simeon Beach and Point (=nice hike); the elephant seals (=big lumbering sea creatures) and Hearst Castle. The seals weren't numerous when I was there last July, but there were a few. Not sure if the falls are flowing but, Salmon Creek Falls is a short but rugged hike to a powerful and tall waterfall.

Mid-Sur you have Limekiln (=historic artifacts and scenic), Sand Dollar, Jade Cove, and Pacific Valley (=outdoors scenery).

And at the north end, there is Big Sur Village where Post Ranch, Nepenthe, Deetjens (=dining), Big Sur River, Pfeiffer and Molera Beach (=outdoors) are found. I think the section between here and Carmel is prettiest. Pt Sur, besides being a scenic point, has a lighthouse w scheduled tours. Point Lobos and McWay Fall are definitely outdoors musts. Pacific Grove, Carmel and Monterey are beautifully scenic towns. Go see the Carmel Mission. Go dine (despite the owner's politics) at the Mission Ranch.



If you're asking what is there to do on Hwy 101 between Solvang and Monterey, well... I'd say the best thing to do is to get to Monterey. However, I have enjoyed Pinnacle Nat'l Monument (=big rocks), and Mission San Antonio (=Calif history). Paso Robles wine country is an idea.

los angeles
posts: 99
reviews: 1
7. Re: I only have a few hours in Big Sur, please help


Thanks for the info. You've been a great help and so very thorough in your reply.

I appreciate it.


posts: 48
reviews: 69
8. Re: I only have a few hours in Big Sur, please help

Thanks for the above response, bw92116 and gnahcd...I will be there for a weekend in March but the websites and info are helpful in planning our trip as well!

9. Re: I only have a few hours in Big Sur, please help

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