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Coastal California Motorcycle Roads
Pashnit, California

Highway 1
Big Sur Pacific Coastline

Big Sur Quick Links
CA Moto Roads
Good Eats
Big Sur Bridges
Street Map
Nearby Roads
Related Links
Interactive Map
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Hwy 1 North
Guided Tours

Julia Pfeiffer SP
Nacimiento Rd
Old Coast Rd
Ragged Point
Piedras Blancas
Elephant Seals
Hearst Castle
Nit Witt Ridge
Turri Rd
Prefumo Canyon

It will be in every article, news report, web blog you'll come across. California Big Sur. One of the most beautiful stretches of ocean coastline in the world. A bit lofty, so let's just keep it simple and say the Big Sur Coastline has the beauty part covered in spades. Motorcycle or 4-wheeled conveyance, it's absolute wonderment.

This stretch of Hwy 1 offers up a cadre of variety. There are miles of ocean coastline with minimal development, where 1/6th of the coast is state parkland or national forest. Numerous parks, hiking trails, waterfalls, campgrounds and pristine views everywhere you look. Lighthouses and elephant seals, just one of the things you have to cross of your list. And the road? Long straights, sweeping corners, tight corners, blind corners, smooth corners. Little bit of everything.

The California Big Sur Coastline is also the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. A narrow range with peaks up to 5000 feet that drop suddenly into the ocean. Microclimates abound, from grassy hillsides, to moist redwood forests to arid and dry in the rain shadowed eastern slope.

It's said that 3 million tourists will visit the Big Sur Coastline each year although I'll admit, it's never felt that crowded. Weekdays, early mornings before 8, and other odd times- you will have the road entirely to yourself. Stuck at the back of a caravan of cars? Just pull over and enjoy the view for awhile.

You may find yourself going in and out of fog banks.  Even in the middle of the day.  During early mornings, fog and damp roads are almost a surety. Fog is especially common in the height of summer and fall when inland temps are 30 degrees higher just a few miles away. We have ridden this with Pashnit Tour groups in August and not seen anything other than a tunnel of fog. That was Friday. When ridden the other way on Sunday, it was beautiful clear skies, not a cloud in sight. Statistically, expect 300 days of sunshine.

Point Sur Lighthouse just south of Carmel
Point Sur Lighthouse - Note the house

It's 125 miles from Monterey to Morro Bay.  One guide book reports this as a 6 hour trip. It can be. The Big Sur portion itself will take about 3 hours with stops for picture taking and lunch. You could easily spend all day along this famous stretch of highway and you should!!. If riding southbound make sure to gas up in Carmel with the last major oasis at Rio Rd which has three gas stations and a strip mall. Northbound, gas up in San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay or Cambria.

There are endless lists of sandy beaches. One in particular worth mentioning is the public beach in Carmel. Exit onto Ocean Avenue and ride into downtown Carmel, and continue a few blocks to the ocean. There's a small parking lot here (the adjacent home was for sale at $6.5 Million on last visit) and you can walk directly out onto the beach. Protected from the surf and heavy coastal winds, my wife and I even exclaimed at the quality of the sand. It was so smooth and fine, we wondered if they trucked it in special just because. After all, this is Carmel.

Road Testing the Kawasaki Ninja 250 on Hwy 1

Leaving the Carmel Highlands behind and headed southward past Point Lobos State Reserve, Hwy 1 is a smooth ride, if not a bit slow through this congested area. Million dollar homes cling to the edge of the sea encircled by high gates that offer a mere glimpse of the affluent life. Occasionally a hilltop overlooking Hwy 1 holds a home perched high above with a 360 degree view.

The road is actually somewhat straight here, smooth curves a mile long, and vast sightlines. The ride has only just begun. But once out of Carmel, local traffic fades away and it's just you and the tourists.

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View from one of two dining areas at The Nepenthe Restaurant

About 12 miles south of Carmel is the Rocky Point Restaurant, a favorite stopping point for a meal. The food is exorbitantly expensive ($16 for a sandwich), but you're paying for the view so be forewarned. The view from the open deck area is fantastic and wide open views to the south are well worth it.

If you miss this one, just to the south is the Nepenthe Restaurant. Also ridiculously expensive, you're now helping pay someone's mortgage. And still paying for the view. The Ventana Restaurant rounds out the three main places to eat in this northern portion of the ride. Don't let the prices deter you though, fork over the dough and be happy about it. Stomachs full, it's after Rocky Point, the ride gets hoppin'.

The Point Sur Lighthouse is perched atop an impressive 361 foot high monolith, a lonesome rock out in the ocean. It was built in 1889 and provided safe passage around the waters surrounding Point Sur. A first-order Fresnel lens 9 feet tall and weighing 4330 pounds was used to provide light to passing ships. Several buildings were completed including a cistern that held 53,000 gallons of water. Supplies for the lightkeepers were brought in by boat at the time, or the trip by road from Monterey took a full day until the completion of Hwy 1 in the 1930's.

Point Sur is the only complete turn-of-the-century lightstation open to the public in California and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The lightstation is part of Point Sur State Historic Park. There are three-hour walking tours guided by volunteers available year round. If you miss this one, there's one more along the ride- Piedras Blancas Lighthouse on the southern end of the ride near San Simeon.


Rocky Creek Bridge, Circa 1932

As you make your way along Big Sur, there are numerous bridges that span many creeks that flow off the steep mountain sides into the Pacific Ocean. Highway 1 spans five major canyons, two of them are easily assessable and are worth stopping at.

The Rocky Creek Bridge is the first one pictured at left. Its twin is the nearby Bixby Creek Arch Bridge, made TV famous by its inclusion in the title sequence of 'Then came Bronson', a short-lived 1960s TV series about a vagabond biker on a Harley. The Bixby Bridge is said to be one of the most photographed bridges in the world. A quick bit of trivia is the Donner Summit Bridge (Old Hwy 40 above Donner Lake) looks a bit similar because the bridge engineer, Norman Raab, designed both bridges.

Those of you that are dual-sport aficionados need to know about the Old Coast Road. The northern terminus is found at the Bixby Bridge as a dirt fire road that climbs high above the Pacific and parallels Hwy 1 for some distance.

Old Coast Road (satellite photo) is an 11 mile stretch around Bixby Canyon that offers some great views of the Big Sur Coastline. There are some steep uphills if you ride from the south, but if this is your thing and you are dirt capable, always worth the detour. Into the Little Sur Valley and through several groves of redwoods. At times along the Little Sur River, Old Coast Road emerges at Andrew Molera State Park, 25 miles south of Carmel and near Hurricane Point. Be on the lookout for bicyclists as this is a favored loop for them combined with Hwy 1. Note that Nacimiento Road when it reaches the crest of the range offers a similar dirt fire road to explore along the spine of the Santa Lucia Range high above the ocean.

The Big Sur River Valley lies about 30 miles south of Monterey and is the first major oasis of sorts a short distance inland and protected by redwood groves from the heavy winds along the coast. Moreso a general store and an expensive place to buy gas. Several lodging facilities and restaurants are clustered here, where Highway 1 pulls away from the coast and maybe even surprisingly, leaves the rugged coastline behind and delves into a redwood forest. Typically a bit warmer here while protected from cold ocean breezes, there are numerous campgrounds and hiking trails cut into the redwoods and along the Pacific Coastline.

Bixby Bridge
The view of Big Creek Bridge along Big Sur Coastline

Aside from the Big Sur River Valley, there are numerous State Parks located along the ride. Some have actual campgrounds, others primitive tenting areas, and for the diehards- some are hike in primitive campgrounds. It's also worth mentioning that as you ride on by, look up and consider that high atop the range above Hwy 1 are many primitive campgrounds with lofty panoramic views. Consult a site specific to the region's campgrounds, and point that VStrom to Coast Ridge Road.

Be on the lookout for California Condors which have been released into the wild along Big Sur. With wingspans of 9 feet, they can be clearly visible circling around and are similar to a turkey vulture. The population of the birds neared extinction in the 1980s when just 27 were left. Biologists captured every last one and began breeding them in zoos. They were finally re-introduced to the region in 1992. While the population has grown to around 275 condors in existence, a mere 38 condors are known to live in the Big Sur region. One particular ride through here, we pulled up next to a ranger with a set of binoculars studying one of the condors along the rugged mountainside. The Ventana Wildlife Society also plans to station docents along Hwy 1 Big Sur, so you may run into them like we did.

Another stop worth mentioning is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park found 37 miles south of Carmel. This easy to miss park has McWay Falls that flows 80 feet directly onto the beach. Or ocean, depending on the tide. Best time to visit is in winter or spring when rains enable an impressive & picturesque sight.

You'll need to watch for the signs, and there's no indication the waterfall exists unless you know about it. The park is well-marked with signs, exit on the east side of the road into a small parking area. A short walking path provides a bird's eye view high above the ocean of the waterfall pictured at right. McWay Falls is fed by underground springs on McWay Creek, and so flow is rather consistent throughout the year, even in the dry season.

Granted it's a bit anti-climatic, after all it's just a waterfall, but for the photographers in the bunch (always a handful already there), it's one of those spots you have to cross of your list. See if you can go there at sunset to add to the effect, or bring your significant other for extra points.

Aside from the falls, the park covers some 1860 acres and 10 miles of Pacific Coastline. There is an additional trail to the south side of the falls where it overlooks a rock cove surrounded in a forest of pine (no, it doesn't overlook the falls).  The hiking trails headed inland provide a intense panoramic of the Big Sur coastline as the trodden paths climb bluffs up to 3000 feet through old growth redwood forests.  South of Lime Creek State Park and about 40 miles from Monterey is the double arched span of Big Creek Bridge pictured above.


Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - McWay Falls


"...the greatest meeting of land and water in the world." -Francis McComas

So forget about all that artsy-fartsy tourist stuff, what about the ride? One of the most beautiful rides in the world is quite the claim to fame. And likely this is one place where the photos should do the talking. While Hwy 1 has an ample supply of relaxed straights and meandering corners, it also dishes up several up-and-overs, where the road rises from sea level to hundreds of feet above the ocean.

Curves at times are banked, and tight. Endless blind tours abound although I often tell our tour groups that decreasing radius corners are not a much of a problem as the portion of Hwy 1 north of San Francisco.

Hwy 1, both the north and south sections, are known for the road constantly cutting back into the canyons and hillsides everytime a creek appears. While Hwy 1 Big Sur does this on occasion, the path around is a smooth and fast sweeper. Road builders of the 1930's also built more bridges such as the 3 bridges pictured here to span these gorges and small canyons vs. the northern counterpart above San Francisco.

The photos don't lie, and if you look into these pics of these sweeping s-curves, imagine an endless supply of them that lasts for hours. Sounds a bit far-fetched. Not really. Hwy 1 curves you might say come in several chapters. Picture several miles to traverse over and around a jagged mountainside pushed out into the Pacific, then you'll get a breather with an ensuing set of smooth straights. After a few of these chapters, you realize it's just the right balance.

While questions might arise about the amount of traffic one could expect, after all 3 million visitors to a 100 mile stretch of coastline? It's true that traffic can build up, in fact, it can feel as though traffic on busy weekends is really in a series of caravans of cars, with clear open road in-between.

One aspect of riding Hwy 1 that surprises out-of-state riders to the Pashnit Tour Groups is how often automobiles will pull over to let the motorcyclists pass on by. I'll often explain with the high concentration of bikers here, it's quite common and motorists can be especially thoughtful at times. However, the reverse can be true. If there are two or three automobiles in front of you, no one pulls over. Pass when it's safe and motor on.


 

The halfway point of Hwy 1 Big Sur is a tiny outcropping of buildings anchored by the Lucia Lodge. There's a small restaurant here and some cabins overlooking the ocean 300 ft below with the usual wide open expanse of coastline right outside the door. A few hundred yards to the south of Lucia is a portion of Hwy 1 that fell into the sea not too long along. In 2006, it was just gravel filled into the hole, than finally it was repaved the following year in 2007, but poorly and little more than a patch.

In the photo at right, that Hwy 1 appears to be little more than a gravel farm road than a main state highway. Also notice the blind corner up ahead for opposing riders. Scrub speed, and coast across for no problems.

These sorts of conditions come and go through the years. This section at right has since been repaired. They are typically well marked along the Big Sur portion of Hwy 1, yet the story goes a group of 4 bikers where having a grand old time riding this section of road. Rounding a bend, they saw there was no road in front of them, only a gravel patch.

The first biker hit the road edge so hard, he bent the front rim on his nifty BMW and was unable to continue. The 2nd biker also suffered damage to his bike while the third and fourth riders had enough time to reduce speed and ride safely into the gravel patch. Spring of course during heavy seasons of rain, just part of the package when we talk about Hwy 1.

Gravel patch along Hwy 1

Aside from gravel patches, Hwy 1 is known for short one lane sections where they are constantly repairing the road. A stoplight appears out of nowhere, and traffic at large takes turns running through the short one lane section. My advice to you as the solo rider is do not pass go, just ride directly to the front of the line. No one will mind and again, motorists are quite used to motorcyclists in their midst.

Lime Kiln State Park lies a few miles to the south of Lucia at the southern end of the Los Padres National Forest. And yes, there really were kilns here that 'cooked' the limestone out of the rocks for use in building materials in the late 19th century. Besides providing access to Cone Peak, Limekiln Falls is one of more spectacular Big Sur Waterfalls, pouring 100 feet down a wall of limestone fanning out very wide at the base.


Looking southward from Nacimiento Road

The arrival of Lime Kiln SP marks the location of the only paved road that heads up and over the Santa Lucia Mountain Range for the duration of the Big Sur ride. This is Nacimiento Road (satellite photo) and it shouldn't be missed. You'll need to watch for it as it resembles little more than a narrow ranch road when it connects to Hwy 1, cattle grate and all, but it is marked with a small road sign.

One of my all time favorite vistas in the state, and easily missed if you didn't know about Nacimiento Road. It's worth it to at least get off the main highway and just climb up the range until you hit an elevation with a great view. Which is quite a few places. You can ride all the way up to the top of the crest of the range several miles away.

Nacimiento Road is paved, but goaty, narrow and the usual drop-offs into the valley below. It also dips in and out of forest alcoves that blanket the hillsides at times, and then bursts out into steep grassy hillsides. The view alone is worth it, just to ride on up to the viewpoint of your choice, and then ride back down.

Can't take a bad picture up here. And that ocean, what an expanse of endless blue water, an addictive sense of space. Continuing over the range will take you into Fort Hunter Liggett which is a tank training grounds for the Army. You'll need to show your license, registration and insurance to get into the military base and ride on over to Highway G14. If you are Monterey based, it's easy to ride this loop to King City, then connect back northward via Carmel Valley Road.


Northerly view of Hwy 1 from Nacimiento Road

 

At the top of the range on Nacimiento Road are two fire roads heading both north and south from the summit. North is the Central Coast Ridge Road (aka Cone Peak Rd or Forest Road 22S05) and southward the aptly named South Coast Ridge Road. The northern route heads up about 6 miles before it dead ends at the Cone Peak Trail. Cone Peak is the highest point along the Big Sur Coastline and also the highest coastal mountain in the Lower 48 at 5155 feet.

South Coast Ridge Road (satellite photo) is a yearly graded fire road that will connect back with Hwy 1 some 23 miles later. Easily tackled on your garden-variety dual-sport or larger adventure bike, South Coast Ridge Road (FR 23S05) runs for 15 miles to Los Burros Road (FR 23S01) with an additional 8 mile sequence carved into the spine of the range. Satellite maps also show Plaskett Ridge Road connects back to Hwy 1, but county level maps also reveal at least three gates on it too. The southerly entrance to this ride of Los Burros Road (aka Willow Creek Rd) is found at Cape San Martin 2 miles south of Plaskett Creek Campground and 1 mile north of Gorda. If you venture onto roads such as this, take detailed maps such as USFS maps or GPS as numerous unmarked spur roads split off from this 23 mile route atop the range. Also note that this route borders the vast Fort Hunter Liggett Military Reservation to the east.

South of Nacimiento Road, it's a straight shot to Ragged Point with the small alcove of Gorda (gas yes, but expensive!) in-between. (Gorda is located just 9 miles south of the turnoff for Nacimiento Rd.) Curves leading up to Ragged Point are hurried adrenaline-laden affairs of motorcycle smiles.

Curves build in a crescendo of cascading bends pushed up against each other. Some can be very high speed sweepers, and others are 180 degrees tight and blind. Variety abounds and all the while that Pacific Coast will be egging you on to pull over and enjoy the view.

Pullouts for the duration are plentiful; in fact there are hundreds of them. It would seem as though every few hundred yards, wherever possible, there's another viewpoint and pullout. In the end, it doesn't matter which one you choose, they're all great and you can't take a bad photo along this coastline.

Note that as Hwy 1 curls around some of the outermost mountainsides (called capes) that push out into the ocean, that's your best bet if you want the best photos and most impressive views. None to point out in particular, although one clue is the best of the best are paved and marked as Vista Points with signage

Parking areas to the south of Big Creek Bridge, just south of Nacimiento Rd, and Ragged Point are especially popular photo ops providing 180 degree panoramas both north and south. The view at Ragged Point is easily missed as you can't see it from the road.


Descending to Highway 1 on Nacimiento Road


High above the Pacific Ocean on Nacimiento Road

About 7-1/2 miles south of Gorda (3-1/2 miles north of Ragged Point) at the first large hairpin is another waterfall worth checking out. Salmon Creek Falls drops 120 feet and could be an enjoyable place for lunch. The Salmon Creek Trailhead is marked, but you'll need to be looking for it. You can see the waterfall from the road, but it's a short walk to reach the falls, about a mile round trip. The trailhead is on the south side of the bridge, climbs to a cleared area (visible on the satellite map), then spurs into several trails down to the creek. There are two main cascades and a large boulder at the top splits the creek into two flows. I quickly found it on the Google Interactive Map below by focusing in on Gorda (click to hybrid view) and scrolling down to the first large sweeping hairpin. You can even see the walking trail in the satellite photo.

Ragged Point is found 12 miles south of Gorda and 350 feet above the ocean on a promontory in the Pacific. It marks the southern terminus of the super-twisty and rugged portions of Highway 1. Hotel, gift shop, even weddings on a grassy area overlooking the ocean below. There is gas here, and even a small espresso bar might be just what the doctor ordered if it's a blustery ocean day. Ragged Point started up in the 1950's and operated by the same family that has owned the grounds since 1961. There is a trail down to the beach below (400 ft elevation change), and also lays claim to the largest waterfall on the Big Sur Coastline. The views are quite simply stunning. Wouldn't expect anything less.

Leaving Ragged Point gassed up, wired up on coffee, and reminiscing over ones wedding (past or future), Hwy 1 descends from its average 400 ft elevation down to ocean level. It's a relaxed ride to Morro Bay and then inland. If you look in your mirrors, you may see the photo below. If you are headed north, you'll be staring at that impressive Santa Lucia Mountain Range.

Big Sur doesn't seem to lose any of its allure and the view is still grand, just different. This final lazy stretch of Highway 1 from Ragged Point to Morro Bay offers up several stopping points and you'll have to decide what interests you most. Not just good views here, but several touristy type options. If the relaxed ride is putting you to sleep, the 4 Goat Road of Santa Rosa Creek is just moments away in Cambria.


Southern portion of Hwy 1 Big Sur near San Simeon

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

There's always a lighthouse buff in the bunch and Big Sur offers one more. Built in 1874, the Piedras Blancas lighthouse served duty until 1948 when an earthquake produced a large crack in the tower. Deemed unable to support the 6 ton weight of the lens and related mechanisms, the first-order Fresnel lens and ornate trim were removed and the top of the lighthouse was capped. This 'capped' lighthouse is what we see today still in operation. The lens was transferred to nearby Cambria and is located on Main Street.

Tours of the lighthouse are offered on the third Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. and at 1 p.m. and originate at the Hearst Castle State Historic Monument Visitor Center. For more information on the tours, call (805) 927-6811. Currently, access to the area surrounding the lighthouse is restricted to organized tours. However, plans are in the works to rebuild the lantern room atop the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse and restore the lighthouse site to its original design. Aerial Photo of lighthouse today



Piedras Blancas Beach and the Elephant Seals

Seal Beach

At the midway point between Ragged Point and San Simeon a short distance from the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse is a beach we just call Seal Beach. It is marked with small signs, yet still can be easily missed. And yes, its actual name is the more official sounding Piedras Blancas Beach. (satellite photo)

You'll notice a lot of cars parked in a large gravel parking lot along the ocean, which may even seem a bit out of place. One of those "I wonder why all those people are parked" moments as you ride on by.

This elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas Beach began in 1990 and has rapidly expanded along the Pacific Coast to over 10,000 seals. The elephant seals are always entertaining to watch and it's definitely worth the stop. These seals were thought to be extinct by 1880, but have made a sweeping comeback as a protected species.

From near extinction, they are said to now number at least 150,000 along the Pacific Coast. Interesting to note that the males can be as much as 3000-5000 lbs and have been known to dive as far as 5000 feet down in search of food. Birthing of pups takes place during the last part of January each year in case you're out riding around in the winter. Areial Photos of Seal Beach

Hearst Castle

At San Simeon, you'll notice a huge cathedral like building on a hill top.  That's Hearst Castle.  Do stop by if you have the time although be prepared to plunk down a couple bucks to get in. While reservations are recommended on the website, the several times I've been there it was easy to get in and waiting (on a weekend) was minimal.

Visitors are bussed from the large Visitor Center up to the complex for the 1 hour tour. There are 5 tours offered and I'd advise skipping the 1st tour (advertised as the main one) and take some of the other tours that cover some of the more obscure parts of the home like the Gothic Study pictured at right (Tour #2). The entire home is interesting, and the most striking impression is that of a piecemeal home- just stuff all thrown together. In a sense, it's a massive concrete home to house all the stuff Hearst had collected from travels around the world.

If you take a morning tour, plan on staying the entire morning and yes, the movie is worth seeing in an adjacent movie theater about the life and times of William Randolph Hearst.


The Gothic Study

Cambria is just seven miles away from San Simeon and the first major town officiating the end of the Big Sur Coastline. There is normal priced gas here, so this would be your first reccomended fill up location if you're running low. The usual restaurants and small town lore. The aforementioned Piedras Blancas Lighthouse lens is located here is you'd like to check that out. On the southern end of town, intersecting Main Street, is the well-marked Santa Rosa Creek Rd. One of the best goat trails in the region, this is an extremely scenic ride in spring when the hills are a glowing green color. If you have knobby tires on your bike, you can ride up and over the range via Cypress Mountain Rd to Adelaida and into the backside of Paso Robles.

Nit Witt Ridge

For those who enjoy a slice of Roadside America, you'll find a juicy one in Cambria, that of Nit Witt Ridge. Arthur Harold Beal, aka Captain Nit Witt, bought the lot in 1928 and set about to carve out a home for himself on the 2-1/2 acre lot. Beal became the town garbage collector in the 1940s and 1950s and used much of what he collected to build his home.

He built the home entirely by hand and from waste materials, some of which he is said to have brought home from Hearst Castle where he worked for a time. Beal spent 50 years slowly expanding the home. He used concrete, old car rims, ample beer cans, abalone shells, even old stoves and assorted car parts. When he needed a water feature, he simple used a series of discarded bathtubs. A frame for a picture? A toilet seat.

Nit Witt Ridge was deemed a Registered Historical Landmark in 1986, 6 years before Beals death in 1992 at the ripe old age of 96. The house sat vacant until 1999 when it was purchased by Michael and Stacey O'Malley who have endeared to restore the home and open it up to the public. Not exactly your average tract home, the house is still full of knickknacks, curiosities and unique touches that Beal created.

Tours are available by reservation and include a short 4 minute video. For information and a tour, call the O'Malleys at 805-927-2690. Some local websites say tours are free, others $10 a head. Regardless, kick a small donation their way if you go to help them continue upkeep and restoration of the home. Nit Witt Ridge is located at 881 Hillcrest Drive in Cambria, about 3 blocks behind Main Street. Take Cornwall St to Hillcrest Dr.

Nit Witt Ridge

South of Cambria, Morro Bay comes up fast after passing by Highway 46 which is the first major inland-bound highway that starts here and runs clear across the state to the Hwy 99 freeway. We typically use Hwy 46 to get to the Sierra Nevada as it's the quickest and fastest way to get across the Central Valley. Someplace you don't want to be, especially if it's the height of summer and a 100 degree ambient temperature.

The Santa Rosa Creek-Old Creek Road loop is split by Hwy 46. So if you don't want to ride the northern goaty half, you should ride the short 11 mile distance up Hwy 46, which includes some outstanding views of Morro Bay, to Old Creek Road. There's higher quality pavement than Santa Rosa Creek yet the swoops and downhill thrill are maxed to an all time high. This short loop will get you away from the bustling Hwy 1 and is well worth the detour.

Morro Rock in Morro Bay Harbor

Morro Rock

The large rock out in Morro Bay is appropriately known as Morro Rock and provides an instant sense of identity for the several small ocean communities surrounding this natural bay. At nearly 600 feet tall, it's called the Gibraltar of the Pacific and is actually an extinct volcano.

Morro Rock marks the first of several volcanic peaks that run for 12 miles inland to San Luis Obispo called the Seven Sisters or The Nine Morros. Once surrounded by water, Morro Rock was used as a quarry (thus the shape) in the 1930s before someone figured out they probably shouldn't carve away this geologic treasure in 1969. The Big Sur portion of Hwy 1 ends here, and the road turns inland for the 12 mile ride to Morro Bay. If freeway riding doesn't excite you much and the day is young, it is possibly to thread a series of backroads together to continue the ride south.

Turri Road

A very fun but short ride, it will be completely deserted when you ride it. One of those 'no reason to be out here' sort of places, yet it parallels the freeway on the flipside of the Seven Sisters Range. Exit South Bay Blvd at the immediate eastern edge of Morro Bay as if you were headed for Baywood Park. Traffic can be a bit thick on this main connector to Baywood Park, the ocean community just south of Morro Bay, but after 6 miles, you'll see Turri Road headed east. It's just 5 miles long, has decent two-lane pavement for a alternative ride, and dips and curves through the surrounding hillsides. Riders (me) have been known to ride to the end, then turn right around and ride it back the other way. Great fun!

Turri Road
Turri Road just east of Morro Bay shouldn't be missed!

Prefumo Canyon

Just southeast of Turri Road and a short 5 miles away via Los Osos Valley Rd, the ride can continue with Prefumo Canyon. This is a residential street where it intersects with Los Osos Valley Rd and you may need a county level map to find it (I did, GPS people stop laughing). Found in-between Descanso Street & Laguna Lane, not much would elude that this quiet residential street lined with suburban homes actually becomes a very fun canyon ride. First climbing up and over the low range, Prefumo Canyon offers some stunning birds eye views of San Luis Obispo below.

Buyer beware, there is a short gravel section in the middle, but it only lasts a hundred yards before pavement mysteriously resumes. Prefumo Canyon lasts an enjoyable 13 miles becoming See Canyon on the southern half. Again, this ride parallels the 101 freeway and shouldn't be missed for the backroad connoisseur. At the southern end of See Canyon Rd, Avilia Beach is a mile down the road. Northbound riders can exit at Avila Beach Drive. See Canyon Rd is just 1 mile off the 101 freeway past Avila Hot Springs Spa.

Nearby Motorcycle Rides:

Carmel Valley Road from Carmel and Hwy 25 out of Salinas parallel this section of road on the northern end.  Another parallel ride to Highway 1 in-between Paso Robles and King City is the relaxed Highway G14.  Also try Nacimiento Road headed inland from Lucia.

East: Hwy 58 heads back into the central valley (along with Highway 166 past the Song Dog Ranch)  from San Luis Obispo- or loops around to Hwy 33. A northward intention from Highway 58 provides a handful of motorcycle roads that easily are nominated to the 'Don't Miss!' road list. The Pozo Loop, Hwy 229, Shell Creek, and Bitterwater Rd easily round out an entire day of riding.

Also note on the flip side of the Santa Lucia Range is an easily missed batch of 4 exciting backroads just north of Hwy 46 and west of Paso Robles. Vineyard Drive, Peachy Canyon, Adelaida Drive and Chimney Rock to San Marcos Rd. Ride them all and you'll end up in San Miguel (gas) with a mile wide grin. Indian Valley-Peachtree could continue your ride north or Vineyard Canyon over to Parkfield is also an option.

South of San Luis Obispo, civilization encroaches and your ride melts away.  Aside from the aforementioned Turri Road and Prefumo Canyon, One alternative is to head inland on Highway 166 and ride Tepusquet Road, then Foxen Canyon Road on over to Solvang.  Then visit the Motorcycle Museum in Solvang. For the truly adventurous, ride Figeroa Mountain Road northeast of Solvang. Incredible views, definitely a 4 Goat Road at times.

You can stick to Hwy 1 as it heads through the farming community of Guadalupe down to Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Here ride Jalama Road to the Pacific, or try Santa Rosa Rd, then Alisal Rd into Solvang.  Although for the history buffs, stop by the La Purisima Mission State Park in Lompoc. 

Look up every now and again- a few miles away is Vandenberg's Missile Test Site. Link to Missile Launch Schedule.   In Solvang, you have the Antique Motorcycle Museum.

Hwy 1 becomes a four lane freeway after this headed into LA.  If you want something that runs parallel to Highway 1- try Hwy 192-Hwy 150 through Ventura (north side of Highway 1) is a nice little ride past Mission Santa Barbara. 

The next good ride in just a few miles away in the Santa Monica Mountains just south of Thousand Oaks.  South of this portion is the infamous Rock Store, Latigo, Piuma, and several other great Santa Monica Alps motorcycle rides.

Don't forget to head north of San Francisco and ride the northern section of Hwy 1 from the Golden Gate Bridge to Leggett.  


3-D Map of Highway 1 - Big Sur Pacific Coastline


Related Pages:

Point Lobos State Reserve

Wikipedia Big Sur

Camping info along Big Sur Coastline - links

Pacific Coast Highway Travelogue - c/o Rogue Biker

Guide to Big Sur

Solvang Antique Motorcycle Museum

Highway 1 - Big Sur - Lateral G

Ragged Point Inn

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

Point Sur Lighthouse

Pashnit Members Ride Reports
& Photography of Hwy 1

South Coast Ridge Road Ride Pics

Central Coast Ride Loop Pics

Last Ride of the Year on Hwy 1

BMW Ride on Highway 1

SoCal Rider on Big Sur Coastline

Beautiful. A Pashnit Tour along the Central Coast

Motorcycle Ride through the Land of Oz

Photo Essay on CA Big Sur Coastline

Pashnit Interactive Map of California Big Sur
Click Map to explore more California Motorcycle Roads! - Full Screen

3-D Satellite Mapping of Highway 1 - Big Sur Coastline

Looking Southeast at Point Sur,
Note the alternative dual-sport ride of Old Coast Road

Looking SouthEast at Point Sur

Dual Sport capable? Note the Coast Ridge Road which rides
along the spine of the Santa Lucia to the 4042 ft Anderson Peak.

Nacimiento Road south of Lucia.
North Coast Ridge Trail leads to Cone Peak 6 miles from Nacimiento Road.

Dual Sport Ride: Nacimiento Rd, South Coast Ridge Rd, Los Burros Rd = 23 Miles
Los Burros Road - South Coast Ridge Road
Back to Top

Ragged Point south of Gorda
Ragged Point

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

Sunset on the beach in Carmel
Sunet in Carmel


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