Ed note: This is part two of Jim Worsham's two-part series about traveling the California Central Coast. For part one, click here.
Continuing up California’s Highway 1 on the northern section of California’s Central Coast from Piedras Blancas to Big Sur, the terrain becomes a little more rugged than the southern section. Sightings of those ubiquitous Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro convertibles remain constant, however.
This segment actually begins in the coastal section of Los Padres National Forest before passing through the tiny community of Lucia. From Lucia north, Highway 1 follows the natural coastline so many tourists want to experience for themselves.
Cruising up the coast offers numerous breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. There are ample turnouts to make your photo-ops convenient and thankfully the speed of traffic is gentle and accommodating. It seems just about everyone who takes this slower-paced route along the coast wants to enjoy the sights and serenity.
The first stop I recommend is at McWay Cove in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. If you are inclined to stay awhile and hike this area, there is a small parking lot and restrooms just off the highway. The parking fee is $10 for the day.
If you’re only interested in the short hike to view the waterfall in the cove below, or perhaps snap a postcard-worthy photo, there is limited parking available on the roadside. Don’t even think about hiking down to the beach below. Believe the signs! The signs don’t warn you, but the fine for walking on this protected beach is reportedly $1,000.
A little farther north at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park — not to be confused with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park just mentioned — is another waterfall that you can reach after a hike of a little more than a mile. It’s a pretty challenging hike, even with the stairs they’ve added to make it a little easier. There are lots of ups and downs.
I did the hike, and when I finally reached the Pfeiffer Falls, frankly I was a little disappointed. It’s certainly pretty enough, but compared to the dramatic view of McWay Falls, it was a letdown to me.
The next point of interest is the Point Sur Lightstation. The Point Sur Lighthouse strategically sits on a huge rock formation at Point Sur, the western-most point along the Central Coast. The lighthouse itself is hardly visible from the highway, but docent-led three-hour walking tours to the station are available on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday for a reasonable fee. They do not accept reservations and departure times vary by season.
On the half-mile hike up to the site, the docents will tell you about the construction, history and status of this vintage 125-year-old structure. Once you reach the top, you can go into the lighthouse, climb up to the light and even walk around the catwalk outside. In the visitor center, there are some interesting historical displays and photographs.
Your next, and final, stop along this stretch of the Central Coast is the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge at Big Sur, also known as Bixby Bridge — no direct connection to the Bixby family in Long Beach. It was originally built in the early 1930s and underwent a major seismic retrofit in the late 1990s.
The bridge is one of the most famous, and most photographed, landmarks on the Pacific Coast. There’s room to pull off the road and take pictures of it from either side — if you can find parking amongst all of those convertibles.
I wish I had counted those Mustangs and Camaros to see which brand was best represented. Maybe next time.