Highway 1 through Big Sur ranks as one of the top scenic drives in the United States.  Designed and built in the 1930’s for a comparatively low volume of vehicles, Highway 1 today is being stressed beyond its capacity.  The growing popularity of Big Sur as a vacation destination is attracting unprecedented numbers of domestic and international visitors.  One way to help accommodate this growing number of visitors is to ensure that Highway 1 is utilized as safely and efficiently as possible.  The following is intended to help you, as a visitor, to drive safely and efficiently on Highway 1.

The infrastructure of Highway 1 consists of a narrow two-lane asphalt road, numerous narrow bridges and viaducts, paved and unpaved turnouts for viewing and to let following traffic pass, sharp and blind turns, ascents and descents, limited access to rest rooms, fuel, electricity, cell and internet services, and an absence of streetlights.  Natural hazards include frequent mudslides, downed trees and power lines during the rainy season, rough pavement due to ground movement, deer, fog, and occasional storms.  Human hazards include slow drivers, drivers who are distracted, inattentive, or frustrated, slow and oversized recreation vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.  By being aware of the infrastructure, the natural hazards, and human hazards, you’re improving the odds that YOU don’t become a hazard to yourself and others on Highway 1.

Browsing topics on this site pertaining to mile markers, turnouts, passing zonesbridges, cellular service, rest rooms, fuel, food, lodging, camping, what to do in case of emergencies, and additional topics may make you a better prepared driver.  

The posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour applies to most of Highway 1 through Big Sur, though the posted speed limit is 45 miles per hour in the area called Big Sur Valley, between mile markers 50 and 45.  When it is safe to do so, travel at the posted speed limit.  Slow down when it is not safe to travel at the posted speed limit, such as when encountering a sharp turn, when traffic is slowing in front of you, poor visibility, congested turnouts, or any emergency.  Even if you’re traveling at the posted speed limit, if traffic is backed up behind you, consider pulling into a turnout - when it is safe to do so - and letting traffic pass.  When five or more vehicles are delayed behind you, California law requires you to pull over and let them pass (unless you are being delayed by traffic in front of you).

Passing zones are located at mile markers 65, 61, 59 (northbound only), 56, 54, 53, 52, 50, 34, 33, 28 (northbound only), 27, 26, 25, 16, 15, 14, 13, 10, 8, 3 (southbound only).  Passing zones are scarce on Highway 1, but turnouts are numerous.  A turnout road sign means that the turnout is paved.  Not all paved turnouts have a road sign.  Most turnouts are unpaved, with dirt and or gravel.   Unpaved turnouts do not have turnout road signs, but they are still acceptable to use as turnouts.  Consider using a turnout - when it is safe to do so - whenever traffic backs up behind you.  

It can be tempting to gaze at the landscape while driving.  Don’t.  When you see something interesting, look for a suitable turnout, signal your intention, and safely exit Highway 1 onto the turnout, park your vehicle, and enjoy the scenery.  If you encounter a turnout that you wish to take, but you’re driving too fast to make a safe exit, continue on to the next turnout.  Abrupt exits on to turnouts - when traffic is close behind - frequently causes vehicle accidents on Highway 1.  

When parking along Highway 1, make sure that your vehicle is parked outside of the fog line.  A fog line is the solid line that marks the edge of the roadway.  If your vehicle is parked inside the fog line - between the fog line and center stripe - or on the fog line, you are endangering other vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians, and yourself.  You may also be served with a parking violation from law enforcement.  Camping, camp fires, and sleeping in vehicles are not allowed along Highway 1.

When entering Highway 1 from a turnout, accelerate rapidly and safely until your speed matches the traffic speed.  Merging with traffic on Highway 1 at a slow speed - when traffic is moving at a fast speed - frequently causes vehicle accidents on Highway 1.  

Highway 1 hosts a large number of bicyclists.  The narrow roadway, particularly on bridges, often forces bicyclists to ride inside the fog line, which may require drivers to briefly move across the center line into the oncoming lane to safely pass the bicyclist.  If oncoming traffic prevents you from crossing over the center line, slow and wait behind the bicyclist until it is safe to pass.  Bicyclists have the right-of-way on Highway 1.

Children and pets may suddenly exit from vehicles parked along Highway 1.  Be wary and slow down when passing congested turnouts, then return to the posted speed limit - if it’s safe to do so - after passing the congested area.

People who live and work in Big Sur drive on Highway 1 every day.  To be delayed by someone who is driving slowly, when conditions are safe to drive at the posted speed limit, is frustrating.  Also, many people who live in Big Sur are First Responders, and travel Highway 1 - sometimes in their personal vehicles - to respond to emergency incidents.  Slow drivers hinder the ability of First Responders to respond to emergency incidents.  If approached by an emergency vehicle - fire engine, police car, ambulance - with lights or sirens on, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so, and let them pass.


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.