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Fr Yosemite: Big Sur or further south to head UP the coast

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Fr Yosemite: Big Sur or further south to head UP the coast

Hi friends,

One part of our October 2012 road-trip has us confused. Would like a leisurely and enjoyable 1.5 day trip up PCH with as many worthy stops as we can fit in. We are coming from Yosemite, so the main question is how far south should we go to make the trip up the coast worth it but still enjoyable (enjoy views/attractions but not too rushed)...

Is it worth going further south that Big Sur? I've heard the most scenic part of the drive is from Cambria to Big Sur? Option 2 below seems like it may be too much and not enough time to enjoy the locals?

We are thinking of getting up very early on Friday morning to make the 5 hour drive toward SOME southern point on the coast, stoping for a rest on the beach and lunch and then trekking up the coast a bit for a night stay, followed by one whole day to explore coast. We need to be in San Francisco that evening for a flight out on Sunday.

Advice welcome on timeframe and realistic itinerary. Mainly how far south can/should we go and still keep this relaxing?

Option 1:


Depart Yosemite early Fri morning

Arrive Big Sur lunch at Nepanthe / explore views or hike for a few hours


Drive north to Monterey/Carmel enjoy dinner and sleep here


Up early, explore Monterey/Carmel area

Drive North toward Santa Cruz


Explore Santa Cruz

Drive North to San Francisco (RETURN CAR, SLEEP, DEPART FOR HOME)

Option 2:


Depart Yosemite early Friday morning

Drive to Cambria - STOP FOR LUNCH, Beach walk

Drive Cambria to Big Sur - Point Lobos / Dinner



Drive/Sights from Big Sur to Monterey/Carmel

Explore Monterey/Carmel (aquarium?)

Drive/sights from Montery to Santa Cruz

Drive from Santa Cruz to San Francisco (RETURN CAR, SLEEP, DEPART FOR HOME)

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1. Re: Fr Yosemite: Big Sur or further south to head UP the coast

Oops, now I see Point Lobos is actually closer to Carmel.

Grover Beach...
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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2. Re: Fr Yosemite: Big Sur or further south to head UP the coast

Option 2 would mean a LOT of driving. You would have to access Cambria via Fresno/Highway 41 to Highway 46 to Highway 1. That, alone, is about a 4 hour drive. Cambria to Big Sur is another 3 hours, give or take, without stops. I suppose it's doable, but it wouldn't be a relaxed trip. Then there's the daylight issue. It starts to get dark earlier in October, which limits how much time you'll have for exploring parts of the Big Sur coast before it gets dark on you.

With Option 1, you would have to access Big Sur from the north. In other words, you would have to take a westerly route from Yosemite over to Monterey and drive south another hour or so into Big Sur. Without stops, it would be about a 5 hour drive. You could go as far south as Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (8 miles south of Nepenthe) to see McWay Falls before returning to Monterey/Carmel for the night.

While driving Highway 1 from a more southerly route would allow for more coastal views, I think Option 1 is the better option, given the time of year. The better views are really along the northern end of the Big Sur coast from around JPBSP up to Carmel anyway, so my suggestion is option 1.

Edited: 30 July 2012, 00:30
Fresno, California
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3. Re: Fr Yosemite: Big Sur or further south to head UP the coast

I'll second everything Kibblesmom said. I live in central California and visit Big Sur several times a year, using Monterey or Carmel as a base. I never go further south than McWay falls, since I prefer the stretch of coast from there to Monterey.

One things I'd be very careful about Saturday and your flight home. If you're going to go from Santa Cruz, that means either going further up 1 (all the way to Daly City, or cutting across on 92 at Half Moon Bay), which will probably be slow and painful. Horribly so if you're trying to go through Half Moon Bay during their pumpkin festival, or you'll go up highway 17. 17 is mostly (all?) 2 lanes through hills, and the main way most of the Bay Area uses to visit Santa Cruz. I used to live up there and when we'd leave in late afternoon/evening on a Saturday or Sunday, there'd be lots of traffic. 17 can be stop & go traffic if there's an accident, so maybe try to keep an eye the traffic with your phone or something. At least in October, it shouldn't be as congested as now (the summer).

From 17, I'd recommend 85 and then 280, NOT 101. 101 usually has at least one accident, and if not, it's still the major way most people take on that side of the Bay so it'll probably be congested. In my 10 or so years in the south bay, I never once had to slow down on 280 once I got a bit outside Cupertino. In fact, it's probably one of the least-congested freeways in the bay area, and almost everyone seems to go 5-10 miles over the speed limit. The view's definitely better too, hills and trees, instead of buildings and traffic ;)

4. Re: Fr Yosemite: Big Sur or further south to head UP the coast

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