At certain times of the year, Big Sur can become overwhelmingly crowded. These times include many major U.S. holidays - New Year's Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Valentine's Day, President's Day, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day , and Christmas Day - and weekend days adjacent to the holidays, as well as most weekend days during the summer. Consider avoiding Big Sur during these times if you wish to experience less-crowded conditions.
Certain destinations in Big Sur become even more so overwhelmingly crowded. Thanks in part to the popularity of social media, many first-time visitors believe these are must-do's. If the destinations below are overcrowded, consider bypassing them, and visiting the many other beautiful - and not so crowded - places in Big Sur. Just drive - you'll find them.
MM = mile marker, roadside markers along Highway 1 in Monterey County that indicate the number of miles north of the border between Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties.
MM 60 | Bixby Bridge | Highway 1 / Turnout
Bixby Bridge cannot be avoided if driving from the north, but you can avoid stopping to take photos with the crowds. Parking is limited to a few spaces on the turnout at the north end of the bridge, and on adjacent Old Coast Rd. If you park on the turnout, ensure that you are completely off the highway, and outside of the fog line. If you park on Old Coast Rd, DO NOT BLOCK THE ROAD. Several families live on Old Coast Rd, and visitors frequently block access to their homes by parking inappropriately. As pedestrians, take extreme care when crossing the highway or walking on the bridge - there are no sidewalks. This site is known for frequent vehicle accidents, and vehicle - pedestrian accidents.
MM 46 | Pfeiffer Beach | Highway 1 / Sycamore Canyon Rd + 2 miles | 805.434.1996
Pfeiffer Beach is accessed via Sycamore Canyon Rd, a two-mile, one lane road. Parking is limited at the beach, and there is NO PARKING along Sycamore Canyon Rd. To prevent gridlock during busy times, park staff are stationed at the east end of Sycamore Canyon Rd, just off of Highway 1, to restrict vehicle access to the beach. You may park at a large turnout on the east side of Highway 1, across from the intersection with Sycamore Canyon Rd, then walk two miles to the beach. The walk back up to Highway 1 climbs several hundred feet in elevation. Several families live along Sycamore Canyon Rd, and their vehicles will be on the road even when visitor vehicles are restricted.
MM 46 | Pine Ridge Trail / Sykes Campground | Highway 1 / Trailhead | 831.667.2315
Pine Ridge Trail is accessed via Big Sur Station, location of the Big Sur Station Visitor Center. Parking for access to Pine Ridge Trail is along Highway 1. When parking, ensure that your vehicle is parked completely outside of the fog line. Sykes Campground, a destination that usually requires an overnight stay, has become overwhelmingly crowded, as has as the Pine Ridge Trail used to reach the campground. The trail and campground is rapidly deteriorating due to overuse, and trash, including human biological waste, is common. Consider hiking one of Big Sur's many other beautiful - and less crowded - trails.
MM 36 | Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park / McWay Falls | 52801 Highway 1 | Big Sur, CA 93920 | 831.667.2315
Parking at Julie Pfeiffer Burns State Park parking lot is limited to only a few vehicles, so most visitors park along Highway 1. When parking, ensure that your vehicle is parked completely outside of the fog line. This area is heavily congested, and the highway curves where visitors park, limiting visibility. Drive slowly through the curve. ACCESS TO THE BEACH IS PROHIBITED. DO NOT CLIMB DOWN TO THE BEACH. If you manage to climb down to the beach, and back up, without injury, you'll likely be cited. MANY VISITORS WHO ATTEMPT TO ACCESS THE BEACH ARE SEVERELY INJURED, SOME FATALLY.