Day Trip to Big Sur | California
Written by Julie Boyd | Photography by Julie Boyd
Earlier this month Brian and I had a free weekend, so we decided to take a day trip to Big Sur since it is so close to our home in San Jose. Even though we have been to Big Sur several times in the past, we still felt like there were a few nooks and crannies left to explore. Plus there are definitely no shortage of beautiful locations that we wouldn’t mind seeing again. On an overcast Saturday morning, we headed out with a plan to drive down to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and then work our way back up the coast.
Stop #1: Bixby Bridge
Even though we initially intended to head straight to the furthest point, the clouds broke as we were passing by Bixby Bridge, and I couldn’t resist taking advantage of the weather to snap a few photos of this iconic location. If you are traveling from the north, this stop almost feels like the unofficial gateway to Big Sur.
Stop #2: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Brian and I had intended on hiking the Ewoldsen Trail and maybe taking a few photos of McWay Falls, however, both were closed for repairs. Lesson learned: always check online for trail closures before your trip! We decided to make the most of this, and drive a little further south to explore. While we were tempted to head to Hearst Castle, we both agreed that it was a bit too far, and the famous mansion would probably be too crowded to enjoy on a weekend. With an idea for a future day trip in mind, we turned around and headed back up the coast to a short hike down to the water that I had on my list of places to visit.
Stop #3 Partlington Cove
I had read about hiking down to Partlington cove on many blogs in the past, so I was excited to have the opportunity to finally make the trek. The trail is just north of the turn off to McWay Falls, and can easily be missed if you don’t know what to look for. After a sharp bend in the road, there is a gate on the ocean side of Highway 1. Since it was a busy weekend, we easily spotted it, and parked our car in one of the turnouts just past the trail.
The path down makes a few switchbacks along an exposed hillside of coastal chaparral. At the bottom, the landscape changes dramatically as redwood trees sprout up from a creek that runs down a small gully into the ocean. The trail splits here: to the right, you can walk through some dense shrubbery to a small beach, and to the left lies the official trail to Partlington Cove. We headed left, and after crossing a small footbridge, we encountered what is probably the main attraction of the hike – the tunnel.
For some reason I thought the tunnel was at the top of the hill, but it is actually at the very end of the hike. After crossing through, the mouth opens up to Partlington Cove proper, complete with a small bench, and honestly not much of a view. I was really a bit disappointed by this hike. Maybe I had built it up in my mind to be more interesting that it was, but I did not think the view was worth the effort to park and hike down. After scrambling on the rocks for a bit to see if there was anything else worth seeing down there (there was not), we headed back to the car.
By this point in the day, the sun was shining brightly, so the trek back up was an extra challenge as the sun beat down on us as we went up the exposed switchbacks. Before long though we were back in the car, air conditioner blasting, and ready for our next adventure.
Stop #4 Bixby Bridge Part Deux
I wanted to experiment with shooting Bixby Bridge from alternate angles, so we found a location just north where we could shoot across the water to capture the structure. This was probably my favorite part of the day. The clouds were being swept back to the shore by cool gusts of wind, and the landscape was covered with blankets of wildflowers.
We spent some time exploring the area, admiring the views, and cherishing the cold air.
Stop # 5 Garrapata State Park
The Calla Lilly Valley in Garrapata State Park was another stop I had read about and wanted to explore, but I anticipated that the flowers would no longer be blooming so late in spring. As we drove by, I was surprised to see that many were still flourishing, so we made a quick stop. Since the valley is easily spotted from the road, this is a location that takes some patience to photograph.
It was getting late in the day, and our tummies were ready for dinner, so we quickly explored the beach here before hopping back in the car and making our way to Monterey.
Stop #6 Monterey State Beach
By the time Brian and I arrived in Monterey, the overcast skies made any hope of taking sunset photos dismal. So, we had a quick dinner, clam chowder bowls, and then headed back toward San Jose. As our car made its was through Sand City, we noticed the clouds were breaking, so we quickly pulled over to take a few photos at Monterey State Beach. The location was not very scenic, but it was still fun to be challenged to create an image of the scene with only a sandy beach to work with.
Thanks for following along on our day trip to Big Sur!