Big Sur Day Trip

Big Sur Day Trip Claimed

1 Day | Jan 2020 | Family and dog

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Trip Overview

Family (and dog) day trip to Big Sur to see the area

Full Itinerary

We took a day trip to Big Sur with our 3 adult kids (19, 21, 23) and our dog to visit the area after realizing that our kids had never been to this slice of heaven that is only a few hours from our home!  Our hiking options were very limited because our dog was with us – should you go you should definitely check out the hikes at Molera, Pfeiffer Big Sur Park and Julia Pfeiffer State Park, amongst other options along the drive. You should also check road closures as the area can be shut with landslides.  Lots to explore, trails to climb and stop offs to see on a day to Big Sur. There are lots of camping options, as well as a limited range of hotels. There are some general stores as well as a handful of restaurants, but not many gas stations or many ‘stores’. It’s not a ‘city’ but more of a scattering of places alongside highway 1. 

Bixby Bridge: We drove down from the North on Highway 1 which is SUCH a spectacular drive. We left a bit late and chose not to stop at Monterey or Carmel (which you pass right by) en route, arriving at Bixby Bridge (which is south of Garrapata State Park) at about 11:15am. The parking area on Hwy 1 and the little dirt road next to the Bridge were coned off so there was no parking/photo ops allowed (last time I was there these were open). 

15 minutes past the bridge is Andrew Molera State Park (no dogs on trails so we didn’t stop) which has great hiking as well as camping options.

Lunch: We were deciding between a few places for lunch –  the Big Sur River Inn (15 mins past Molera), Big Sur Roadhouse (a few mins down the road further) or Nepenthe (which is 7 mins further and has an ocean view but is more crowded and more $$). We chose the Big Sur Roadhouse which is small, has outside dining options (where the dog could join us), has counter service for salads, tacos, wraps etc. The food was good and we were happy to be outside around a fire pit. After lunch we walked down a trail from the parking lot to an area by the river that has a ‘pop up’ the first Sat of each month where a few vendors were selling things and a taco truck was set up amongst the redwoods. 

About 1pm we continued driving South. It’s not far to Pfeiffer Big Sur Park (which we came back to later), followed by the turn off to Julie Pfeiffer Beach (which we came back to later). 

We drove on to the Henry Miller memorial library (on the left as you drive South). This is a non profit library housed in a home that belonged to Henry Miller’s best friend (Miller lived 5 miles south). It’s a rustic bookstore with free coffee outside as well as a stage for summer concerts, some various art installations amongst the redwoods and a big old converted school bus parked next to it that transforms into a pirate ship for Burning Man (welcome to Big Sur 🙂 ). A fun, quick visit and worth a stop. 

Just past the library is Deetjen’s big sur inn on left side – another restaurant option, followed by Nepenthe on the right overlooking the water. 

Drove next to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and McWay Falls, about another 15 minutes of beautiful scenic driving South. You pay $10 to park in the lot and your voucher is good to park at the other parks the rest of the day. On the mountain side of the highway there are trails that are good for a quick hike or a long one. To get to the falls you take the tunnel under the highway and see a waterfall flowing into the crescent beach below (no beach access). Usually you can walk around the point and get a full panorama view of the coast as well as read some historical information – but the ‘point’ was closed off during our visit. Dog had to stay in the car for this location.

This is as far south as we chose to go. We headed back North, stopping to see the amazing Ventana Inn (across the street from the equally amazing Post Ranch Inn). 

Next stop was a short hike at Pfeiffer Big Sur Park where there is path on which dogs ar allowed (not a real ‘trail walk’ though). If you don’t have a dog with you there is tons to explore here. We backtracked north the half mile or so to attempt to get to Pheffer Beach. The turn off can be easy to miss as there is no sign for it. Heading North on 1 look for the yellow ‘Narrow Road’ sign onto Sycamore Canyon Road which is just pas the Big Sur Station and make the sharp right turn. The beach, which is known for it’s keyhole rock ( the sunset that shines through the keyhole rock brings out tons of sunset photographers)  and purple sand. It is about 3 miles down a road and there is limited beach parking so when it’s full there is someone at the start of the road controlling car entry. As we were there late afternoon it unfortunately was full and we couldn’t get in which was disappointing (I’ve been there before for the famed sunset and it’s worth the trip – I’ve included a photo of it from last visit). 

Grabbed some coffees and snacks at the River Inn (in summer they have chairs in the River where you can rest with your feet in the water while you have a drink), and then headed on home. 

The drive north during late afternoon/sunset time is just amazing. There are lots of places to pull of and look at the views, climb down to the beach or along trails to overlooks. The scenery of the entire day, whether it was the coastal rocky views, the big sweeping hillsides or the redwood forests, is breathtaking. 



Time of year


Type of Trip



quick getaway/weekend

Who Went

Family with adult kids


less than $200


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