Guide for Pelican Network Guests at Big Sur Lodge

Big Sur Lodge is in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Driving to the Lodge from the north, it’s 26 miles south of Rio Road in Carmel. Rio Road is the last traffic light on Highway One going south. To the right is the road to the Carmel Mission and to the left are Carmel Crossroads, Carmel Rancho and The Barnyard.

Driving from the south, the Lodge is 64 miles north of San Simeon, near the Hearst Castle entrance.

Or, driving to the Lodge from the east, it’s 65 miles from King City via Jolon and the winding Nacimiento-Ferguson Road to Coast Highway One, then north to Big Sur.

Mileage Road Log

the north,

0 .

or, from
the south.

Rio Road (Carmel)
The last traffic light going south.

Set your odometer here. Big Sur Lodge is 26 miles south of Rio Road.

Stock up tip
In the Crossroads Shopping Center are a major drug store, two chain grocery stores, a natural foods store and many speciality retail stores. (The Lodge has an excellent general store with picnic and backpacking equipment).

03 ……….




Point Lobos State Reserve. California’s state park system was conceived here.

Point Lobos State Reserve opens at 9:00 a.m. daily. The Reserve is open until 1/2 hour after sunset. Sunset time will be posted daily at the Entrance Station.

$8 fee per car, $4 per car for seniors, $3 per car for disabled, and entrance is free with pass for Lodge guests.

China Cove



Carmel Highlands

Going south, this is the last gas station and convenience store, Carmel General Store, before Big Sur River Valley – 20 miles further.

Always nice people and good coffee. Two dogs, generally one at a time. One, Causie, is very friendly. The other, Casey, is a bit aloof.

06 – 10


Garrapata State Park

No signs. Several trails at road turnouts.

Bridges for Garrapata and Granite Creeks.
It’s not easy to see the trailheads and their occasional signs, but the beach and mountain experiences are exceptional.



Rocky Point

Famous cliffside restaurant with expansive views of exquisite coast.



Rocky Creek Bridge



Bixby Creek Bridge

Driving south, an alternative route is the Old Coast Road, if this road is not wet. It goes inland 10 miles and back to the coast at Molera Beach State Park entrance. Before the Bixby Bridge in 1932, this was the road to the rest of Big Sur.



Hurricane Point

Scariest section of Highway One along this part of the California Coast.
The road is safe in good weather, but always be especially careful. Many tourists are so busy looking at the scenery, they’re not sufficiently conscious of other cars. They may also pull in and out of vista turnouts carelessly.

The name “hurricane” comes from the constant winds, often very strong.



Little Sur River Bridge



Point Sur Lightstation
Used from 1889 to 1974
A dark volcanic cone, marks the most significant break along the whole Big Sur coast. It signifies the northern border of the Big Sur coastal scrub zone. Also, it is home to an historic lighthouse.




Andrew Molera Beach State Park

Magnificent park with awesome vistas. Trails for hikers, mountain bikes and horseback riding. Limited trail use for leashed dogs.

26 ……..


Big Sur Lodge
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Redwoods, River and Mountains

26.25 ….


Big Sur Station

Visitor Center and Multi Agency Facility.
Offices for State Parks, California Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service

Trailhead for Pine Ridge Trail into Ventana Wilderness

28 ……..


Sycamore Canyon Road – 2.1 miles to Pfeiffer Beach




Loma Vista
Site of Big Sur Bakery, Spirit Garden and a gas station.



Nepenthe Inn
A timeless wonder. This place sedately evokes all the epocs of Big Sur cultural history. And it is a perch onto the Pacific and Santa Lucia Mountains. It’s a restaurant of rare architectural perfection and ambiance of unprecedented taste. Downstairs is a gift, book, clothes, chime and jewelry shop of quintessential Big Sur flavor.

Hawthorne Gallery
A family of fine and innovative artists in a unique building that is must-see Big Sur experience.

Across the road from the southern entrance to Nepenthe.



Henry Miller Memorial Library



Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn
An ensemble of Norweigian barns and cabins, Deetjen’s straddles Castro Canyon in a storybook setting. The restaurant is legendary for its delightful breakfasts. And, now with its chef Domingo Santamaria, it is becoming a dinner house legend amidst a quaint candlelit and wood fire glow. Filled with Big Sur memorabilia and pioneer spirit, Deetjen’s is always a memory in the making.



Coast Gallery
historic art gallery now for sale



Partington trailheads
In an easterly bend in the highway are trailheads for Tan Bark Trail and Partington Cove –



Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park



Esalen Institute
World famous for self improvement retreats and mineral baths.



Big Creek
Large, double-arched bridge.
University of California ecological reserve, Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve covers off shore kelp beds and extends up two canyons, Big Creek and Devils. This is a research site that is open to the public only one weekend in May each year.



Restaurant, store and lodging. Views of granite cliff lined chalky cove and endless Pacific Ocean
Entrance to New Camoldoli Monastery is nearby on the south.



Entrance to Limekiln State Park

State Park with intriguing trails in a lovely redwood forest. Beautiful trails into redwood forests – and a magnificent waterfall.

Sea stacks at point south of Limekiln Creek



Kirk Creek Campground
and Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, the way to the coast from Highway 101.

Mission San Antonio de Padua is near Nacimiento Road as an inholding enclave on Fort Hunter-Liggett. Driving in the Army base requires vehicle registration and insurance.



Mill Creek – Forest Service picnic area



Pacific Valley
John Steinbeck’s mother taught at the school here.



Sand Dollar Beach – U.S. Forest Service Picnic Area

Plaskett Creek Campground

Jade Cove



Willow Creek



Quaint store and lodging complex. Very expensive gas station.



Ragged Point Inn
Accommodations in a lovely, woodsy, cliffside setting. Restaurant and store



Piedras Blancas Viewing Area
Look for the great white rock blocks in the sea close to shore. The white comes from eons of guano.

Walk out on the bluffs to see the amazing Elephant Seals




San Simeon
Entrance to Hearst Castle. Good State Park historical center. Bed and Breakfast Inn and historic Hearst pier in State Park on West side of highway.

The real thrill is on the beach with 12,000 + elephant seals mating and birthing. Best in winter months.

Interactive Map for Big Sur Coast


Arriving at Big Sur, Big Sur Lodge, and checking in

In Big Sur and to the Lodge – and checking in

(The following description is oriented for an arrival from the North.)

Along Highway One you will see three signs for the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on your right. The middle one has the Big Sur Lodge sign.

That is the entrance to the Park. Drive in and bear right passing the sign “For Lodge Guests,” so you don’t check in with the rangers at the entrance kiosk.

Park at the Lodge (the building where you will find the lobby, store, gift shop, and restaurant), and go to the front desk.

There you will get directions to your cottage.

Check-in time is 4 p.m., but you can arrive early. The desk staff will get you set up for whatever time you and they agree to get you into your cottage.

When you first arrive at the front desk, the staff will give you a pass to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (where the Lodge is) which also allows admission and parking at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Point Lobos State Reserve and Limekiln State Park.

Places to go – Things to do

If you are early, you may want to begin to enjoy some real genuine Big Sur experiences.

Very near the Lodge is a very good Interpretative Center of local natural history.

Trails at Big Sur State Park

At the Pfeiffer Big SurState Park, there are several great trails. The one to the Pfeiffer Falls is enchanting, and moderate and very gratifying, through some very old redwoods. The Restaurant at the Lodge is very pleasant.

The PelicanNetwork Trail Guide

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park trail maps are available in the shop at the Lodge.

Pfeiffer Falls at the State Park

Seven other options

















Seven other options

1) Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Take a 15 minute drive 11 miles south to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. You may see condors on the way to the park.

• Make a pleasant one-quarter mile walk to the McWay Falls overlook. A rare and spectacular sight. Some visitors have even seen gray whales in the cove.

Family of migrating California Gray Whales seeks refuge in McWay Cove from predatory Orcas.

Photo by Margie Whitnah

Places to go – Things to do

• For some exquisite coastal views, hike over to the South Gardens environmental campsites, south of the Falls trail.

• To see a truly magical redwood forest, canyon and creek scene, go into the park’s picnic ground. There is a short hike into the canyon to another waterfall.

These three little treks are brief in distance, but monumental in beauty.

There is a longer hike, the Ewoldsen Trail, about 2 1/2 miles up to the ridge that overlooks the Pacific. It crosses streams, goes through meadows and is moderately steep in places. (A page in PelicanNetwork about Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in underway – for a preview, go to: )

McWay Falls in McWay Cove, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

2) Partington Canyon

This phenomenal hiking place to both a lovely cove and redwood is a little less than 2 miles north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park entrance by the McWay Falls (36 miles south of Rio Road and a little more than 9 miles south of The Lodge). You can read a full description at:

and ( )

Partington Sunset

3) Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn

Deetjen’s is 30 miles south of Carmel and just 4 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur and your Lodge. Deetjen’s is a very quaint pioneer scene in a picturesque redwood creek canyon with exceptional meals, so it’s a must to make reservations – call (831) 667-2378.


4) Phoenix Gift Shop at Nepenthe

The Phoenix has a good book selection, many interesting stoneware and other products . A patio at Nepenthe above the shop has an invigorating view that is powerfully “Big Sur” and hosts a good place for refreshments. This is just three miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and your lodge.

5) Henry Miller Library

This Big Sur destination is tucked behind a wooden fence at Anderson Creek Canyon in a redwood grove on the east side of road at about 30 miles south of Carmel. It is a little less than 4 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Big Sur Lodge. It is an idyllic setting for a library, but it is more of a bookstore and community center.

Henry Miller Library champions the works of the great American author, artist and Big Sur resident. This non-profit organization features an art gallery with a treasure of fine books, art and history of the area. Many items, including rare books, are for sale. Open Thursday – Sunday 11 am – 6pm. In summertime, open every day except Tuesdays. Available for special events. (831) 667-2574.

6) Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach is always extraordinary, but sometimes windy. Driving 1.1 miles south of the Lodge, make a sharp right turn (only the second one from the Lodge and State Park) at the sign for “Narrow Road” “No Motor Homes or RVs.” That is the unmarked Sycamore Canyon Road. Please heed this, the road is narrow and windy. Drive 2.1 miles to the Beach. Parking fee is $5.

7) Andrew Molera State Park

North of the Park and the Village, is Molera Beach State Park. It is 21.5 miles south of Carmel and four miles north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and your Lodge. You will find a nature interpretive center operated by the Ventana Wilderness Society (who manage the condor releases), a riding stable for renting horseback rides, the park’s historical museum at the old ranch house, and many miles of great hiking trails. One trail is down to the beach and lagoon of the mouth of the Big Sur River, another is up the bluff along the south side of the park with some of the most incredible views ever to be seen.

California condors are successfully re-introduced to the wild
on the Big Sur Coast
Photo by Margie Whitnah

What to read


What to read

A great enhancement for your trip could be a couple of books. We recommend The Natural History of Big Sur by Henson and Usner, University of California Press, and A Wild Coast, and Lonely by Rosalind Sharpe Wall, Wide World Publishing.


Coast Gallery, built with redwood water tanks and home to a prominent candlemaker, is host to important artists and is sponsor of a summer artists-in-action-program. Henry Miller was not only a great writer, but a prolific and good artist, as the standing exhibit here will show. Nice gift shop and cafe. 7 miles south of the Lodge.

Nepenthe’s Phoenix Shop has many art objects for sale.

The Hawthorne Gallery is on the inland side of the southern entrance to Nepenthe.

Ventana Spa Inn shows good local interest art, including paintings by Kip Stuart, the architect and designer of furniture for Smith & Hawken.

 Limekiln State Park

What fascinating and rewarding experiences this state park readily offers in the heart of Big Sur. Limekiln State Park is located 36 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, centered two miles south of Lucia and two miles north of the eastbound Nacimiento-Ferguson Road turnoff.

PelicanNetwork Home Page


Print and Read Yucca Whipplei in verse in Big Sur


 “Here sea and land consorted, the seeping moisture in each fold of the mountain range emerged and slipped musically into the shifting continents of kelp. The conflict and change was a natural interplay in the balance of life. Then came the road.”
Margaret Wentworth Owings


Coast Highway One – The Big Sur Highway

A pioneer medical doctor dreamed of a road down the coast from his Monterey home so he could get to his patients faster. Then he thought it could be a great attraction for the state. So, he lobbied and labored, became a county supervisor, then a state legislator, and after many years of great effort, it became American’s most stunning roadway.

A road was built just to see this sight. Convicts and celebrated native sons like John Steinbeck built it.

It strikes awe in each visitor. And, even though the road is environmentally damaging, it has roused a deep passion in the people who live around Big Sur and the Ventana Wilderness to protect it. Hwy One has come to define Big Sur.

As the remarkable beauty of Big Sur was revealed to the many by the road, so came the need to preserve it.

Rosalind Sharpe Wall, as a young girl, lived in the Stone House in Rainbow Canyon, now known as Bixby, when the road was under construction. Her father dreamed of making millions from the tourists the road would bring. But Rosalnd hated it.

And when spring came, the canyon turned pink with blossoming wild currant and the mountains blue-violet with wild lilac. I sensed that the world I knew and loved would vanish from the coming of the highway.

I was 10 years old in 1929 when work on the highway started, and even though it was fun …I was unhappy to see the changes. I liked things the way they were. When Labor Day came and the tourists departed, I was relieved and joyous. We would go around and pick up the beer cans, soda bottles, candy papers and other litter that the traveling public left behind and once again things would return to normal. The singing birds — wild canaries, beautiful orange-winged orioles, purple finches — the barking of foxes, the howling of coyotes, even the scream of a bobcat. The people were gone and nature triumphed again.


When the highway was completed I refused to attend the ceremony of July 3, 1937, when Dr. John L. D. Roberts –whose dream the new scenic highway had been — cut the ribbon in front of our of our Stone House to allow the tourists to use the bridge for the first time. I didn’t even want to read newspaper accounts of the ceremony… “I would have nothing to do with the highway or the bridge that everyone was praising so highly. They said it was a miracle in concrete and steel suspension bridges in the world (also the highest) except for one in the south of France. I was blind to its beauty.”

In spite of herself, Rosalind came to love the new Big Sur. In her mind’s eye she could heal the wounds made by the bulldozers. She realized that the new road kept people from using the old road, and that kept humans out of the back country. She wrote that the new road kept the Coast from intrusion, rather than the opposite. It was as though the remarkable beauty of Big Sur was exposed by the road, and with it was a human need to preserve its beauty.

Today, visitors usually don’t realize it, but much of the scenic wonder of the Coast is accorded respect with a reverential lack of commercial signs. Wall wrote that her mother lobbied the board of supervisors and the county planning commission to keep out billboards, “hot dog stands, ..(and) flashy buildings along this undeniable spectacular highway.”

She remembers the whole family traveling to Monterey to appear before the planning commission on preservation issues, “And my mother’s eloquent speeches on behalf of preserving the natural beauty of the highway won the day.”

On his way to Henry Miller’s for dinner, Jack Kerouac passed out in a meadow in this canyon. His plan was to stay at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin in Bixby Canyon. He wanted to get away from booze. On the way he stopped in North Beach, imbibed to his usual excess, and hired a taxi to deposit him in Big Sur. Left along the old Coast Road, he ambled on his own into the canyon in the dark. He couldn’t find the cabin, and finally reposed in a meadow. Discovered in the morning, he stayed in Ferlinghetti’s for almost a week. Then, overcome by alcohol induced hallucinations, Kerouac declared the surf told him incessantly to leave and go write. Thus he wrote a book about Big Sur.

Big Sur Valley approached from the north.

In this photo at left, Hwy One (lower right) speeds

past Molera and into the redwood lined river valley. This is the only significant veer for Hwy One away from the coast.

Old Coast Road (left foreground), the original road used before the highway was constructed, is now a ten mile rustic detour. Manuel Peak (also called Mount Manuel) looms over Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, beyond Buzzard’s Roost.

Point Sur, a dark volcanic cone, marks the most significant break along the whole Big Sur coast. It signifies the northern border of the Big Sur coastal scrub zone. Also, it is home to an historic lighthouse.

Molera Point accentuates the only coastal flatlands along the northern coast. This is where the Big Sur River runs wild and free into the Pacific.

To see a large aerial view of Point Sur,click.

Along the whole coast route, there are only five spots where travelers find services in a little bunch. The first is near the River Inn, and in a little adjacent alcove.

Then, a little south there is another mild commercial area at the Glen Oaks and Fernwood. The next one is at Loma Vista, where the post office is, south of the entrance to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Much farther down the road in Gorda there is gas. And, at Ragged Point near the southern extremity of Big Sur there is gas station and general store.

Huge pieces of granite, marble and sandstone are part of the complex geology of Big Sur.

The granite cleanses the sea as it becomes crystal sand. Massive chunks of Big Sur came from at least three disparate parts of Earth, and a vastly different times.

Bold examples are seen clearly from Hwy One — as with McWay Creek where it falls onto the beach in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

A special breed settled Big Sur. Living in this beautiful place they developed a conservation mentality. Homesteaders in the southern reaches were confronted by William Randolph Hearst who wanted to add some of Big Sur to his Xanadu. He owned much of what is now Fort Hunter Liggett, including Mission San Antonio de Padua, and wanted to expand his holdings. The tycoon himself approached some landowners who weren’t willing to sell, and was met with the same resistance. Later, a group of prominent citizens, artists, including Ansel Adams, and politicians had designs on making Big Sur a National Park. But, that local conservation mentality raised up and convinced the well-meaning politicians that they could preserve the area better than park bureaucrats.

Big Sur Highway History and Issues

The Carmel-San Simeon Highway, as Highway One and the Pacific Coast Highway was originally known, was funded by a state bond in 1919, and completed in 1937. Throughout the construction, the highway was the source of disgruntlement, as much devastation was caused by the dynamiting and bulldozing. Great scars still persist from the massive project, and subsequent repairs.

In the 80 years since the project began, great damage has occurred from landslides directly related to the road building or repair. Winter storms cause a lot of damage, too, especially recent El Niño years, when more than 200 inches of rain from tropical storms precipitated erosion. The Highway has been closed several times for extended periods. In the winter of 1998-99, the road was closed virtually the whole winter. Historically, the state department of transportation has used ecologically unsound repair methods that exacerbate the problem. This has allowed the invasion of nonnative plants, like the Pampas grass, jubata grass, that choke out native flora and weaken the soil.

Cattle grazing, or, “ranching,” as some folks romanticize it, takes a severe toll on Big Sur watersheds.

Paul Henson and Donald J. Usner write in The Natural History of Big Sur : “Grazing cattle have worn distinct terraces and deep gullies into many hillsides. These terraces remain long after grazing is stopped and are familiar patterns on many hillsides above Highway 1 and in the backcountry. Grazing compacts the soil in some areas and accelerates erosion. When an area is overgrazed, the runoff from heavy rains forms small channels on the semi-denuded slopes. Subsequent rains deepen and widen the channels to form gullies and eventually larger arroyos. Small landslides and slips are also common on overgrazed slopes.

“Ranching has also been responsible for the introduction and proliferation of many nonnative species of grasses and weeds … several hardy and troublesome exotic weeds such as the milk thistle favor grazed areas. This weed is especially apparent in the heavily grazed area near Point Sur and Andrew Molera State Park.” (Above photo is of that area.)

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