Highway 1 Drive to Big Sur

Coastline Drive to Big Sur

During our holiday break, Kate and I decided to take the drive up Hwy 1 toward Big Sur. We’d been intending to do some hiking and site-seeing over vacation, and we were ready to be outdoors even if it meant doing some hiking in the rain. We left San Luis Obispo early in the morning to begin the 2 1/2 drive to Big Sur.

Harmony Headlands State Park

Our first stop was Harmony Headlands State Park just before of the town of Harmony. The small parking lot is just off the highway and is easily accessible. The walking path is wide and flat and pleasant for easy walking through the grasslands. The trail is only about a 1 ½ mile walk before you reach the coast with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. Once we reached the water, we continued hiking along the path following the ocean, admiring the sun sparkling on the water and waves crashing over the rocks. We continued hiking the trail to the end, before turning around to head back the same way. On the trek back, a beautiful coyote was playing in the grassland and ran a path parallel to ours so we could see his beautiful red coat before he disappeared. This hike was the perfect start to our adventure.

Harmony, CA

We stopped at the town of Harmony just up the road that boasts a population of only 18. There is a unique glass-blowing shop where you can buy gifts and even watch the glass-blower while he works. I picked up a brochure to take a glass-blowing class the next time I’m there.

Elephant Seal Beach

We continued north toward Big Sur, intent on making it to our main hiking trail. The drive is gorgeous and we even had a chance to stop briefly at Elephant Seal Beach to see those amazing animals laying all over the beach.

Partington Canyon, Big Sur

Our destination was Partington Canyon in Big Sur, an unmarked hiking spot, but easy to find and with plenty of room to park off of the highway. The highway sign is marked with “1 mon 38” and there is a curve in the road where the hiking trail begins. The hike on the ocean side goes down a path, through an old tunnel, and out to the ocean. The hike on the other side of the highway goes up a steep canyon and provides beautiful vistas of the Pacific Ocean. The hike up Partington Canyon is secluded and perfect for those who enjoy an uphill challenge. About an hour into our hike, the rain really starting coming down, so we headed back to our car and drove a little further north to the Big Sur Bakery.

The Bakery is one of our favorite stops for delicious tea, coffee and freshly baked goods. We needed a hot drink after getting wet on the trail.

McWay Falls, Big Sur

It was time to start driving south again, but we had to stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see McWay Falls. You will see tons of cars parked along the road, but you cannot pass up the chance to see a waterfall pouring over a cliff into the ocean. It is a majestic spot. You can easily hike to viewing spot by walking into the State Park and taking the tunnel under the highway to the footpath to see the waterfall.

The coastline along Highway 1 in California is one of the most beautiful on earth. Plan to drive it at least once in your lifetime.