An amazing day trip that all should consider, you’ll be drawn by its remote and rugged beauty, as were artists, musicians, and writers such as Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, and Hunter S. Thompson who all spent time at Big Sur, a stretch of California Coast widely considered one of the most scenic driving routes in the country, if not the world. Where ancient redwood forests meet sculptured bluffs that drop dramatically to the sparkling sea below, these views are one reason Big Sur ranks among the top U.S. destinations in travel guides everywhere.
Roughly defined as the 90 coastal miles between San Carpoforo Creek and Ragged Point at the south end, to the Carmel River and Carmel by the Sea at the north end, and going inland (East) only a few miles to the flanks of the Santa Lucia Mountains, Big Sur was the pre-historic home of three Native Americans tribes-who lived a hunting and gathering existence there for thousands of years. The first European settlers were the Spanish explorers, Portola and Father Serra, who named the vast and untamed region to the south “El Sur Grande” which was later shortened to the mix of English and Spanish to become Big Sur.
Mexican land grants and later the American Homestead Act drew a few hardy settlers to the area during the early 1800s, and Big Sur enjoyed a brief period of industrial prosperity that included limestone processing, lumber, and the gold mining; but that was short lived. It wasn’t until Highway One was finished in 1937 that Big Sur became more accessible; and it would be the 1950s before an electrical grid brought power to the region. Soon it would become a sought-after destination and a haven for lovers, bohemians, hippies, and those seeking a more contemplative life.
Thanks to the vigilance and dedication of the sparse but fierce local population, Big Sur remains relatively unscathed by modern development. And one of the country’s most stringent land use plans was adopted, prohibiting any new construction within sight of the highway.
Eateries run the gamut, each one locally owned and run with its own unique fare and flavor (nary a chain in sight). There are so many hikes and trails that whole books have been written about them. Horseback riding, spas, and art galleries are other popular things to do and see in Big Sur – all of them inspired by and dedicated to showcasing the astounding natural beauty of this coastal paradise.
One of the few places on earth where mighty redwoods share space with tropical cacti, Big Sur typically enjoys a mild climate year-round, with sunny dry summers and falls; and cooler wetter winters. Coastal temperatures vary little during the year, ranging from the 50s at night and the 70s during the day June through October; and in the 40s to 60s from November to May. While January is reported to be the coolest month, and August the warmest, it’s not unusual to find very mild temps and great hiking weather even in January. It doesn’t rain much in Big Sur, with most of the area’s moisture coming from coastal fog that comes and goes in the mornings and evenings. Average annual rainfall is about 42 inches, with most of it falling December to March.