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How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

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Richmond, Virginia
posts: 54
How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

Hi! My boyfriend and I are driving down the coast from San Francisco to San Diego in August. We leave San Francisco on a Tuesday morning at 9am to drive to Big Sur with a one night stay at the Glen Oaks motel before continuing south on Weds to our next overnight.

If we leave SF at 9am on Tues, we should arrive at Point Lobos at 11:30, right? Assuming we can leave Point Lobos at 1pm, we would need to find lunch somewhere and the hit the road to Big Sur at 2pm. That should put us in Big Sur at 3ish? We will certainly be gawking at scenery and stopping for photos along the drive, so is an hour reasonable?

It's already getting late, but we'd like to go for a hike to see some nature before we shower and change for dinner.

On Wednesday we should have time for some morning and early afternoon hikes before making our way further south down the coast to our next overnight.

Given this window of time between Tuesday late afternoon ans Weds noon, how many hikes can we reasonably expect to do? I think we'd like to see pfieffer beach, and I'd love a hike that takes you down to a secluded/stunning beach as part of the hike. With time to walk/relax on that beach for a bit. Is there such a hike? Jade Cove? Sand Dollar Beach? Garrapata?

Which comination of hikes/beaches would be the best use of our time? Should we skip or shorten point lobos in favor of more time in Big Sur? We don't want one all-day hike, but instead a handful of smaller to medium sized hikes/walks. Ideally not ones that are jammed with other people.

I don't think we can leave SF earlier on Tuesday or we will hit rush hour traffic, no?

Thanks so much for helping me figure this out.

San Diego...
posts: 7,913
reviews: 29
1. Re: How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

I wouldn't skip Point Lobos. It's the best place on the coast that I have seen. You have only 90 minutes scheduled for Point Lobos and in my opinion that's not enough, but if that is all the time you can afford there it's better than nothing. The trails are short and easy.

Point Lobos SNR, Pfeiffer-Big Sur SP, Andrew Molera SP and Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP have an agreement that your day use parking fee at one is good for the others on the same day. So in theory you could visit all 4 in one day and only pay the $10 parking fee once. So save your receipt from Point Lobos SNR.

Pfeiffer Beach is managed by the Los Padres National Forest and has a $5 parking fee separate from the state parks.

It's only 22.5 miles from Point Lobos to Glen Oaks, but I would budget at least an hour for that drive because you will want to make many stops at turnouts. Plus if you stop for lunch that will take additional time. Nepenthe is a popular stop for lunch, but there are other choices.

For general guides to the Big Sur area, see http://bigsurcalifornia.org and http://jrabold.net/bigsur/

Another member of this forum posted a travelogue of the area with over 200 photos at https:/…5621071823861282305

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,362
reviews: 3
2. Re: How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

SF to Monterey via Highway 1 is a 3 hour drive via Highway 1 and Point Lobos is about a 20 minute drive from Monterey. So closer to a 3 1/2 hour drive from SF. So, with a 9 am departure from SF, that has you arriving at Point Lobos at noon. I suggest stopping in Carmel to pick up sandwiches, etc. to enjoy at one of the picnic sights inside Point Lobos, as you'll really want to spend as much time inside that beautiful park as possible.

Point Lobos to Glen Oaks is approx. a 35-45 minute drive depending on traffic and without stops. So, if you leave SF at 9:00 am and drive straight down to Carmel, pick up picnic food, etc., you would likely arrive at Point Lobos by 1:00 pm. 1 1/2-2 hours at Point Lobos would put you back on the road by 3:00 pm at the latest, with another 45 minute drive to Glen Oaks, which would have arriving there around 3:45-4:00 pm.

After you check in, you could either head down to Pfeiffer Beach or backtrack a bit to Andrew Molera State Park to hit some of the trails there. You could also opt to do some hiking inside Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. You can park along the highway and walk into Pfeiffer Big Sur SP to access the trails.

Save Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP for the next day's drive. You can also do the Salmon Creek Trail closer to the south end of the Big Sur coast. That hike is tucked into one of Big Sur's tight hairpin turns and it comes up shortly after passing a ranger station or hut, if you will.

If you don't mind steep descents/ascents, you might enjoy the trail at Ragged Point that leads you down to a secluded beach. I say everyone should do that hike at least once in their young life.

As for Jade Cove and Sand Dollar beaches.... you have to climb over fences to access them. Not that big of a deal, but just want you to be aware that they are fenced off. We've seen cattle grazing along that area on some of our drives along that stretch.

Richmond, Virginia
posts: 54
3. Re: How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

Thank you both - very helpful!

Perhaps we can get out of SF earlier, even if just 30 minutes sooner - but I assumed we'd just get stuck in rush hour traffic if we left any sooner.

From what I've read, I think you're right that I need more time in Point Lobos. Bringing our lunch to the park is a great idea to maximize the time. We could actually pack our lunches the night before in SF, unless you think it's worth it to stop in Carmel so we can at least lay eyes on the village? If we get to Point Lobos at 12:30pm and leave at 3:00pm, we could still get to Glen Oaks by 4pm, presumably. Which gives us time to squeeze in one hike or Pfeifer Beach before dinner.

I have a feeling I'm going to wish I'd stolen a day from our SF weekend to give an extra night to Big Sur instead.

Thanks again - this forum is immensely helpful.

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 21,766
reviews: 114
4. Re: How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

Sunrisesandiego ? Are you bw? New name?

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,362
reviews: 3
5. Re: How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

So many sights, so little time. Always the traveler's dilemma.

Packing a lunch the night before is a great idea and you wouldn't lose time waiting for take out or standing in grocery store lines. And leaving SF earlier, if possible, might be helpful.

I suggest taking I-280 south to the Pacifica/Highway 1 exit. You'll need to merge over to the right lanes on the freeway so as not to miss the turn. It's kind of a confusing area since there are other on-ramps merging with I-280 near that exit. IF you miss it, don't stress. Just continue southward to Highway 92 toward Half Moon Bay and connect with Highway 1 from there. You won't really miss all that much between Pacifica and HMB.

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 21,766
reviews: 114
6. Re: How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

To the OP. which part of the world are you from. It helps is guide you better if your profile has that info.

I would suggest you rent the car as early as you can and get to the car center before it opens and hopefully you have joined a frequent renter program to skip lines

It would be a shame to leave late if you want to see so much. Use a good traffic app like waze to get out of SF towards 1. Yes there is city traffic but I don't think it is a big issue

Richmond, Virginia
posts: 54
7. Re: How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

Thanks for the tips on where to pick up the !, and the frequent renter program. I appreciate any advice. We are still looking for the right rental company -- turns out it's quite expensive (and fewer options) when you're dropping the car off in a different location!

I updated my profile to include my location (Richmond, Virginia). We are flying in to SF (3 nights), renting a car and driving down the coast (3 nights) to La Jolla and staying another 3 nights there with my BF's family.

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 21,766
reviews: 114
8. Re: How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

one way rentals are expensive so you do have to juggle things -- find coupons or airports (where you return) as there are at times deals where they do need cars at some airports. It all depends on time of year and supply/demand. Use Kayak.com as one option to see which location gets you the best deal. Another option is to return car as soon as you reach soCal and rent another one for local use so that the one way rental costs do not cover the days you are in socal.

new hampshire
posts: 222
reviews: 37
9. Re: How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

Try looking at car rentals through any Rewards programs you might have as well as getting and dropping the car off other than an airport. SF has many places for pickup/dropoffs that I found since I'm doing the same thing. Picking up in Sacramento downtown and dropping off in San Francisco 2 weeks later downtown with Hertz for about $500, which isn't bad considering I"ve paid that in other parts of the country for a week! If you don't have a Rewards program than sign up with the airline you are flying so you can take advantage of any discounts.

Richmond, Virginia
posts: 54
10. Re: How much of Big Sur and Point Lobos can I fit in a day?

Wow, that's a great deal. I'm finding prices around $600 for just 4 days. I didn't think to check with my rewards programs (we have credit card rewards and such) and I can check with the airline as well.

We can dump the car in La Jolla or San Diego since his family lives there and we'lll just ride around with them.

Thanks for the tips!

Edited: 3:13 pm, July 10, 2013