Scenic USA - California

Big Sur Scenic Byway

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Big Sur - Big Sur Scenic Byway, California

Photo by Tom Kelly
Tom Kelly Photography
Inset photos by Ian Parker
Evanescent Light Photography

   Recognized for its scenic beauty since the first Spanish explorers arrived in 1591, the El Sur Grande Bixby Bridge - Big Sur, California (Big Country of the South) is a dramatic section of California's coastline that spans 90 miles from Carmel to San Simeon. Since the completion of the Pacific Coast Highway, a public works project during Depression Era, photos of this glorious coastal drive have circulated around the world. Most famous for its dramatic seacoast, where the mountains quickly descend to the sea, the actual highway is nothing but curves and hills, but it highlights one scenic view after another. One of the most famous sections of the highway follows the rugged Big Sur shoreline and the western edge of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Here the highway ranges Keyhole Arch, Pfeiffer Beach - Los Padres National Forest, California from 500 to 1000 feet above the roaring Pacific, offering a thrilling drive all the way to the Monterey Peninsula.
   Making the top of the list of scenic drives in America in countless travel magazines and newspaper articles, this magnificent Pacific Coast drive offers over a dozen major points of interest on both sides of the road, ranging from historic sites to state parks and wilderness preserves to national forest lands. On the eastern side of the 80 year old highway, beautiful coastal mountains, streams and redwood forests are all protected with strict zoning laws. On the westward side much of the coastline is privately owned, but a mix of state parks, coves and beaches are open to the public.
   One of the most exciting byway activities takes in whale-watching, making McWay Falls - Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park good use of the coastal overlooks during winter and spring when migrating Gray, Humpback and Blue whales pass by just offshore. Making an impressive comeback after near extinction during the 80s, it is not unusual to see California condors soaring above the coastal ridges and canyons. With a wing span of over nine feet, North America's largest bird is not hard to spot.
   The byway, just under 90 miles, may take about two and a half hours for a leisurely drive. But once you begin making all the stops and thoroughly exploring many of the byway's points of interest it's easy to spend three or four days on this All-American Road. While you may be impressed with photos of this grand landscape, byway visitors consistently rave about this spectacular a drive and how the byway lives up to its Spanish title, El Sur Grande.

    Byway Map


Big Sur Byway Points of Interest


 

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