One of California’s natural crown jewels, Big Sur is a beautiful stretch of mountainous coastline in Central California. Rugged, remote and altogether gorgeous, Big Sur is located 150 miles south of San Francisco, and roughly 300 miles or so north of Los Angeles County. For those California cyclists who are looking for a little coastal adventure, you can’t go wrong with a Big Sur cycling trip—it’s honestly one of the most awe-inspiring regions in the entire state. If you’re planning on visiting Big Sur for a cycling trip, here are a few thoughts and suggestions to help you start planning:
What’s Big Sur like, and why is it called Big Sur?
Big Sur, according to the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, earned its name from the first Spanish explorers that visited California. When the Spanish started mapping California, they listed the remote, wild and mostly unexplored region south of Monterrey as “El Sur Grande” (which translates to the Big South). The Santa Lucia mountain range extends right up to the Pacific in the Big Sur region. So, riding along Highway One, cyclists will often have towering mountains and cliffs inches away on one side, and on the other, there’s the Pacific and the rocky, often times daunting coast. From wave-battered cliffs and boulder-covered beaches to beautiful pine forests and astoundingly majestic mountains, Big Sur seems to have it all. The region has always been fairly remote—the main road wasn’t built until the 1930s, and electricity didn’t arrive until the 1950s. In fact, there are still plenty of campsites and other spots throughout Big Sur that don’t have electricity, and can only be accessed via dirt hiking trails.
Suggested Cycling Route:
If you’re planning on cycling through Big Sur, it might be good idea to start in the northern most part of the region and ride all the way south towards Santa Barbara. It’s a winding route along this stretch, and expect there to be a number of steep inclines too, so you’ll have to work hard—this definitely isn’t a trip for rookie cyclists. However, if you start in San Jose, you can ride south past Pebble Beach, and through sleepy but still beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea to Big Sur. Once you’re riding along the heavily forested coast, you can stop off at a number of unique destinations along the way, including the Henry Miller Memorial Library, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (there’s actually a waterfall here that empties out right into the Pacific!), the iconic Bixby Bridge, Limekiln State Park, Ragged Point and the famed Hearst Castle. Once you leave Big Sur, the elevation drops quickly, and you can ride easily down to a few different quaint beach towns like Harmony and Cayucos. Though it’s a fair distance away from Big Sur, you can also make a point of riding further south towards Solvang, an interesting town that’s particularly proud of its Dutch heritage.
No matter where you stop off in Big Sur, we guarantee that you’ll enjoy exploring the region. There really isn’t anything quite like it in California!