By Allie Hoellwarth
Allie is a private tutor, professional writer, and editorial director by day – and a blogger by night. Her motto at Bohemian Nation is eat good food, make pretty things, and practice radical self-love, and her posts reflect those sentiments: whole food recipes, beauty DIYs, crafting projects, meditations, self-care tips, and more. She’s a Michigan-born California girl and self-proclaimed hippie, who infuses her writing with honesty and encouragement. She also loves traveling, mountains, Anthropologie, iced chais, yoga, camping, crystals, and gardening.
I am a California transplant. I grew up in Michigan and spent my winters battling blizzards and icy road conditions. Whenever I got the chance I escaped to west coast, and I ended up meeting my husband when I took a road trip alone from San Diego to Napa. (Like Yvette here at Wayfaring Kiwi, I am all about solo female travel!) I dated him long-distance for a few years, and then I quit my full-time job teaching high school to pursue my Master’s degree at an art school in the Mission District of San Francisco. When I finished, we got married and I moved to the Monterey peninsula, which, to me, is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world.
If you’re planning a trip to San Francisco, this is only a few hours south, and it’s well worth the trip. You can take the 1 down for a slower, more scenic drive. If you find yourself in San José, Sacramento, Fresno, San Luis Obispo, or any city near those, it’s also a completely reasonable weekend trip to get to Big Sur and Monterey. Regardless, this should be on everyone’s bucket list!
I’m going to share with you some “Must Sees” for Big Sur, as well as the surrounding area, just in case you’re there for longer than a weekend.
1. Hike: Sykes Trail
This is a fairly strenuous trail for experienced hikers with proper equipment. Though the trail is easy to follow, there are constant elevation changes – it’s up and down the entire hike. There are also many fallen trees and switchbacks, so it would be difficult for someone who isn’t used to hiking while carrying the weight of their pack. You will need a water filtering system, as well as overnight camping gear. The end-goal for the hike is to soak in the hot springs in Sykes camp, which is an additional half mile down Big Sur River once you arrive to the campsite. When we hiked, there was a strict “no campfire” rule, but you could use propane camping stoves with a free permit you can register for online. A few months after our hike, there was actually a devastating fire that destroyed much of Big Sur because of an illegal, unmonitored campfire – so check online to make sure this trail is open before you go!
Address: Big Sur Station, 47555 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Miles: About 22 miles, round-trip, with a 5,502 elevation change
Time: Around 26-30 hours. You can also choose to make this into a two-night trip and utilize some of the other campsites in between Big Sur Station and Sykes.
Cost: $5 for overnight parking.
2. Visit: McWay Waterfall
This is short, accessible walk to an 80-foot waterfall in Big Sur. You can pull over on Highway 1 once you arrive and park on the side of the road, then look for a little staircase that takes you down a path to see the waterfall. It’s only a ten minute walk, and there are benches and beautiful views at the end.
This is usually fairly crowded with tourists and children. This is a much more spectacular view on a sunny day! If you park in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and walk over, bring $10 for parking.
Address: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, CA 93920
Cost: Free if you park on Highway 1
3. Glamp: Treebones
Glamping, as you probably know, is luxury camping – in this case, in yurts. Treebones is a very quiet and intimate campsite. Most of the yurts have a two-person maximum, but there are a few family yurts. There’s an on-site restaurant for lunch and dinner, but you can also pack a cooler, which is what we did. You probably won’t have cell phone service, but the lodge does provide some board games you can play, and there are some nice hammocks and benches on site. It’s a little pricey, but we went as our one-year wedding anniversary celebration and we loved it!
Address: 71895 Highway #1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Cost: $280-350 a night
4. Explore: Pfeiffer Beach
Pfeiffer Beach is known for its “purple sand,” and for being notoriously hard to find. My husband and I only found it the first time after we stopped at a little general store and asked a few people for directions. You’re looking for a yellow “narrow road” sign and Sycamore Canyon Road, a sharp turn-out on the right side of Highway 1.
After turning, you’ll follow that road for a few miles, past houses and pastures with horses, and eventually you’ll end up at the parking lot. There are gorgeous rock arches, crashing waves, and beautiful waters to explore here! It’s the perfect place for a picnic.
Address: Los Padres National Forest, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Sycamore Canyon Rd, Big Sur, CA 93920
Cost: $5 for parking
Hours: 9 am – sunset
5. Brunch: Cafe Kevah
This was a stop on my Bachelorette party morning in Big Sur, and it was the PERFECT location for brunch with the girls. The atmosphere is laid back – you order at a bar, then seat yourself on the patio, which has an incredible view of the ocean. Along with breakfast items like Crab Benedict, Cafe Kevah also offers baked goods, coffees, and mimosas.
Address: 48510 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Cost: $12-20 per meal
Hours: 9 am – 4 pm
*Note for all Big Sur activities: Check for closures, as a collapsed bridge may prevent you from reaching Big Sur until May 2017.
When you’re done reading, you can head here for more photos of the areas I mentioned above.
Have you been to Big Sur? Please share your favorite locations and tips in the comments!
Thanks for letting me share my tips with you. When your travels leave you needing some self-care and encouragement, come visit me!
-Allie from Bohemian Nation