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San Diego to Big Sur, CA - Worth the road trip

Elephant Seals lounging along the coastline in San Simeon, CA.
Elephant Seals lounging along the coastline in San Simeon, CA.
Carli Leavitt

Big Sur, CA is one of the most beautiful places in the world with sky high Redwood trees, rolling green hills, hidden streams and waterfalls and stunning dramatic coastline. Los Padres National Forest combines with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park making this picturesque location accessible to campers, travelers, road trippers and guests looking to get lost in an expanse of natural beauty. But many San Diegans don't think of Big Sur, CA as a feasible weekend getaway, especially when looking for a road trip.

From San Diego, the drive up to Big Sur takes anywhere from 8-10 hours depending on the kind of road tripper one may be. That may seem like a huge amount of driving time and way too much for a three day weekend, but what makes it completely worth the trip is the fact that the drive is an experience in and of itself. From Ventura all the way up north on Highway 101 to the infamous Highway 1, the drive is absolutely gorgeous with countless places to stop and soak in the beauty.

For travelers driving to Big Sur from San Diego, a few recommended road trip stops are:

  1. Morro Bay - This quaint coastal town is located right on the water with incredible views of the water and Morro Rock.
  2. Hearst Castle - Nestled in the foothills of San Simeon, Hearst Castle is a historical landmark created in 1919 in the Mediterranean Revival architecture style. The full property is 127 acres complete with lush gardens, multiple pools and remarkable views.
  3. Elephant Seal Rookery: Also located in San Simeon is an elephant seal rookery and lookout. Here travelers can simply pull off the road into a dirt parking lot and watch hundreds of elephant seals congregate on the beaches below.
  4. Salmon Creek Falls - At the start of the drive along Highway 1 on the Big Sur coastline, there is a little turn out on the east side of the road for Salmon Creek Falls. There is a short hike through lush landscape to the beautiful falls. The falls are about 20ft tall and land in an emerald green pool.
  5. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park - This state park is home to the infamous Big Sur picture of a small waterfall dropping onto the beach below. Although the beach is not accessible, there is a trail along the coastline providing clear views and photo opportunities of this whimsical location.