Updated: May 24
Mellow terrain and big views will provide beginner to expert offroaders with an unforgettable experience along California's world famous Big Sur coastline and Ventana mountains.
Adventure Rating: Epic
Trip Length: 2 - 3 days, 136 mi
Season: Year round, avoid after heavy rains.
Avg Trail Rating: 1
Peak Trail Rating: 3
Typical Terrain: A mixture of highway, paved road, and wide dirt roads.
Recommended Vehicle: Subaru with all terrain tires.
Sprinter Vans: Sprinter 4x4s should be able to manage the entire route.
Alternate Routes: Yes! Scroll down to the bottom of route description.
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One of our favorite things about Big Sur and its iconic coastline is that you can visit just about anytime of year. While Big Sur may not have a plethora of dirt roads and technical terrain, but any shortcomings are quickly forgotten as visitors will be overwhelmed with stunning vistas around nearly every corner. The route begins along the Monterey Peninsula's famed 17 mile drive (Pebble Beach charges a fee to access it) before heading south along Highway 1. As you make your way south you'll be greeted with jagged cliffs, majestic mountains, pockets of redwood forest, and turquoise blue waters below. If you're lucky, you may even spot one of Big Sur's elusive California Condors. Just before you cross Bixby Bridge, you'll head inland on your first patch of dirt. 10 miles in length, Old Coast Road is a well groomed dirt road that meanders along the lower elevations of the Santa Lucia mountains. The travels through coastal grasslands and pockets of redwood forest, and features views of the surrounding Santa Lucias and the Pacific ocean to the west. The southern portion of Old Coast Road exits back onto pavement at Garrapata State Park and lighthouse. You'll continue south along highway 1 until you reach Nacimiento-Fergusson Road (Nacimiento for short). Nacimiento slowly zigzags its up the near vertical slopes of Cone Peak. At the top, you'll swing a right onto South Coast Road. If you're feeling adventurous, consider turning left and heading over to the Cone Peak trail head. Cone Peak summit trail is an easy 3.5 mile out and back hike, with awesome 360 degree views of the entire Big Sur region. South Coast Road is like the bigger brother to Old Coast Road. It's longer in length, more remote, and much higher in elevation. In fact, you'll often find yourself looking over the clouds on days where the coastline is socked in with fog. Prewitt Ridge is by far the most popular camping area along South Coast Road, and for good reason-- the views are second-to-none. While you may not get your preferred camping spot on a busy weekend, there are numerous spots along the ridge and surrounding area, so you should be able to land something. As you leave Prewitt Ridge behind and head south along South Coast Road, the crowds will quickly disappear. You may even the sounds of heavy artillery coming from Fort Hunter Liggett to the east. While lesser known then Prewitt Ridge, San Martin Top is another great place to set up camp and/or take pictures. Not far from San Martin top is the old Los Burros Mining district. If you make your way down to Alder Creek Camp, you can spot some of the old mining equipment adjacent to the road (much of this is on private property, so please be mindful). Eventually, South Coast Road reaches the southern boundary of the Los Padres National Forest (you made it!). If you were on foot, you'd actually be able to hike down to Hearst Castle from here (perhaps it's time of the National Forest to put in some bids on private land here!) At Lottie's Potrero, you'll retrace your tracks back to Los Burros Road, and head down to Highway 1, where the route ends. Recommended Points of Interest
Treebones Luxury Yurt Resort (a great place to end your adventure!)
Esalen Institute (requires advanced booking)
Prewitt Ridge and surrounding area
San Martin Top
Kirk Creek Campground (developed)
Plaskett Creek Campground (developed)
Alder Creek Camp (accessible by high clearance 4x4)
Road 4, 5, 6, or 7 dispersed camping (alternative route in the Indians area)
Season: November - April (consider avoiding during summer due to heat, flies, and wasps).
Route #2 begins on the eastern side of Big Sur in the less visited Indians Area. You'll need to pass through Fort Hunter Liggett, so be sure to have your registration, insurance, and ID all in order. The Indians is a unique geographic zone within Big Sur featuring numerous pinnacles, outcroppings, and sandstone cliffs. The area features numerous historical sites, and caves, some of which feature ancient petroglyphs. Wagon Wheel trail, before Road 4, is a great place to explore. Adults and children alike will find joy in climbing and exploring the rock outcropping and its numerous crevices, overhangs, and hidden caves.
Maps + Navigation
>> Always check with local land managers for road closures and conditions.
Gaia GPS (Base map layer & USFS 2016 map layer)
Los Padres NF North official paper map (Nat'l Map Store)
Download GPX Files
CA State Parks (Point Lobos State Park, Garrapata State Park, Point Sur State Historic Park, Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park)