Our plan for the next day was to drive down the pacific coast highway from Monterey to Big Sur and stop at the main attractions along the way. Some of that plan worked out and some if it did not.
We started in Monterey and did the 17 Mile Drive that everyone is always talking about. There are a few different points where you can enter the drive and it costs 10 dollars to do so. It goes through a very wealthy neighborhood right on the coast that has lots of mansions and golf courses. When you pay your fee they give you a map and a list of all 21 stops with a short description of each one. There are also lines painted on the road for you to follow so you don’t get lost.
The views of the ocean are very nice. A lot of people are out driving on this road though and it gets a little congested, especially in the parking areas. Many of the stops are located right next to each other and provide basically the same view, so we skipped over a couple of the more crowded ones.
China Rock is one of the first stops on the drive and it was quite possible my favorites. You can get out and explore a fairly good sized section of the rocks. In doing so in encountered a bunch of these guys! I love them!
Another stop I really enjoyed was Seal Rock and Bird Rock. I guess they are technically two stops, but they are right next to each other and share a picnic area and restrooms. There are two large rocks that stick up out of the ocean, one of which is covered in birds and the other one is covered in seals.
Bird Rock looks white, but it’s just because it is totally covered in bird poop. Under all the poo it’s just a normal colored rock.
If you were just looking at Seal Rock you probably wouldn’t even realize it was covered in seals. The only thing that gives it away is that you can hear them loud and clear. They blend in really well, but the binoculars allowed us to get a good look at them. Here’s a really zoomed in photo, so the quality isn’t great, but you can tell there are seals.
Another popular stop is at the Lone Cypress. This stop consists of one lonely cypress tree chilling all by itself on the cliff. I guess it’s kind of neat looking.
There is another tree themed stop along the way called The Ghost Tree. We parked at this stop and got out and kind of looked around, then looked at each other kind of confused. There were quite a few trees at this stop and none of them really looked particularly ghostlike.
I narrowed it down to these two trees. I think. I honestly have no idea. Does anyone know which tree is the legit Ghost Tree?
The main attraction of 17 Mile Drive is Pebble Beach. This is where the majority of the shops and restaurants are. The Pebble Beach lookout itself really didn’t impress me. There’s no beach! None. There’s a golf course and a thin strip of rocks. But no beach.
Overall, if you want my honest opinion, I wasn’t that impressed with 17 Mile Drive. I’ve never been interested in fancy houses and golf courses, so that side of the road really just did nothing for me. The ocean side was nice, but as I mentioned before it was very crowded. I’m also the kind of person who would rather walk a trail and see things that way, not just do a drive by in a car. But if seeing the ocean from the safety of your car is what you want to do, then this might be for you.
Our next stop was right up my alley because it involves quite a few nice hikes along the coast. We stopped in Carmel at Point Lobos State Reserve to check out some of the trails and beaches they have to offer. It was great.
There are so many trails in the park and all of them provide great views and most of them are really easy. We started with the Cypress Grove trail which I loved. One side of the trail provides views of the ocean and rocks, while the other side is a thick grove of cypress trees. The foliage was beautiful and the weather was lovely. It’s a great hike.
From the same parking lot you can access the Sea Lion Point trail and Sand Hill Trail. We combined them both into one big loop trail. We decided to do this trail because it leads out to a rock where sea lions like to hang out. Unfortunately, they weren’t there hanging out when were there, but it was ok because the trail was crawling with lizards. The trail goes through these short dense shrubs that apparently lizards really like to hang out in. Lizards everywhere! It made my day. The view was also great.
Next we drove down to Weston Beach to check out the tide pools. This was a really cool stop. The rocks here are really flat and you can walk out on them and check out the sea creatures in the tide pools. we spent a good amount of time here just checking it out and relaxing on the rocks.
Our last trail was the Bird Island Trail. This is a very popular trail because it is how you get to China Cove, the main attraction of the park. It has incredibly beautiful teal water which makes it a popular photo destination for tourists. Unfortunately, the day we were there the beach was closed off so we weren’t able to go down onto it and check it out, I got a few pictures from up above, but they don’t really do it’s color justice.
If you keep going down the trail a little ways you come to Gibson Beach. This one was opened, so we made the treacherous journey down the stairs to check it out. For real, the stairs down to the beach are steep and uneven and scary. The beach is worth it though, so just go slow and steady.
There were seals playing in the water which was adorable. The sand is really cleans and soft and there are large rock sticking out of the beach that reminded me of the beaches in Washington and Oregon. I loved it.
After Gibson Beach the trail takes you out to Pelican Point. These are mossy covered rocks where pelicans like to hang out looking for fish.
The last stop on the trail is Bird Island, which is basically the same as Bird Rock on 17 Mile Drive. It’s a cluster of rocks that seagulls like to hang out on, so they look white because they are covered in bird poop.
Point Lobos was awesome. I could have spent all day there, but we had plans to drive down to Big Sur and go to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the famous beach waterfall. This is where our plan kind of fell apart though.
We started out drive down the Pacific Coast Highway and made some stops at some of the view point to snap some photos.
We knew at some point we would be crossing the Bixby Bridge, which made me nervous because bridges are not my favorite things in the world and this one is a big one. We finally got to it and parked in the pull off area to get out and take some pictures. But it was the wrong bridge! A few miles before the Bixby Bridge is the Rocky Creek Bridge. This is Rocky Creek.
And this is Bixby. Bixby is a bit larger, but they are both quite impressive.
After surviving the bridges we continued our Journey down to Big Sur. We made a few more stops at scenic over looks like these.
And then things started to change. We noticed the sky was very foggy looking and the further south we got the thinker the fog was. We started seeing lots of fire trucks and police cars and realized that it wasn’t fog, it was smoke from a fire.
We arrived at our first stop, Andrew Molera State park, but it was closed due to the fire. We continued south, thinking that the next park would be open, but Pfeiffer Big Sure State Park was also closed due to the fire.
At this point were pretty discouraged because our main destination was only a few miles down the road and we didn’t know if it was going to be open or not. We continued our drive Down to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in hopes of being able to see the water fall we had been dying to see, but sadly this park was closed due to the fire as well.
Turns out everything in Big Sure was closed because basically everything was on fire. This was our view for the entire time we were in Big Sur.
We didn’t know it at the time because the fire had just started when we were there, but this fire would go on to burn for three months, destroying 132,000 acres of forest. It was started by someone making a campfire in an area that specifically states no fires allowed. People need to follow these rules. Forest fires are a real problem and I don’t think people understand it. This fire and the fire that happened in the Smoky Mountains this past fall are proof of that.
So we were quite disappointed that we were not able to check out Big Sur. I suppose I will just have to make sure I go back some day. Overall though, driving the west coast was awesome. The views are gorgeous and it makes you feel like you’re in a movie scene. I highly recommend that everyone spend some time on the west coast at some point in their life.