Big Sur bike explorations this Saturday

Update: We’ll meet 8:30 A.M. at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park parking lot, and bike roughly 20 miles to Paul’s Slide before turning around. Big Sur Taphouse near Pfeiffer Bridge is open for business and is a good place to stop for food and drink after the ride. Pace will likely be closer to 12 MPH rather than 15 MPH.

Highway 1 across a large chunk of the California Central Coast will remain closed over the summer after extensive damage from last winter’s storms, closing off the incredibly scenic Big Sur coastal route. Several people have already taken advantage of a walking path across Pfeiffer Gorge that opened to the public on July 1, allowing them to bike 20 miles down the coast on a mostly car-free coast highway. I plan to take this trip on Saturday, August 12, and you’re welcome to join me. Caltrans says Pfeiffer Bridge will open to traffic in September, so this is pretty close to your last opportunity to ride this without sharing the road with heavy tourist traffic.

Highway 1 closed Big Sur

The Plan

Who What When Where How: Saturday, August 12, 2017. We’ll meet at the Molera State Park parking lot at 8:15 A.M. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park parking lot at 8:30 A.M., unload bikes and ride the five miles to Pfeiffer Bridge. We’ll carry bikes a quarter mile on a packed dirt trail to get to the other side of the gorge and get into the isolated part of Highway 1, where we can enjoy a Highway 1 along the coast with local traffic only. It’s about 20 miles to the next slide, so plan on 50 miles of round trip riding, with sight-seeing and other explorations along the way. Bring cash to support the struggling local vendors who normally depend on motorized tourist traffic.

Catch a ride with me! I have space for three bikes on my car; I’m pretty sure two of those spaces are taken, but feel free to ping me if you’d like a ride with me from Scotts Valley. You can even crash on my couch Friday night after Santa Cruz Bike Party, although no overnight parking is available. I will leave my home in Scotts Valley at 6:30 A.M. Leave a comment and I’ll email you with details.

RSVP: If you plan to meet me either at Molera or at my home, please let me know by Friday afternoon so I know to look for you, and pretty please send me a note if you flake. Leave a comment here, and I’ll send you an email with my mobile number so we can text updates. You can also contact me via DM on Twitter. Important: Cell phone reception can by iffy south of about Carmel, so be sure to send any status updates before you get out of Monterey, and be sure you send them before I’m south of there too.

What’s our pace? This is no rider left behind, and ideally I’m aiming for an endurance pace AKA 70% HR exertion level AKA a casual conversational ride but with noticeable exertion, which for me translates to about a 15 MPH pace for most of the 50 miles we’re riding. We’ll likely do frequent stops for photo opportunities and anything interesting we might see.

What to bring? Bring water and snacks and cash. Bring your bike. Don’t forget your bike shoes. Please ensure your bike is in good operating order before arriving at the parking lot at Molera Park. As for apparel, the temperature should be in the mid-60s along the coast in Big Sur, rising to the mid-70s towards noon depending on how foggy it is.

Why so early? Highway 1 north of Monterey gets very busy on the weekends. I’d like to avoid that. Prevailing north wind also picks up significantly after noon along the coast, so I’d like to avoid that too with an early start.

The Background

The drought-busting winter storms earlier this year damaged significant portions of the state highway system in California, washing out several sections of Highway 1 along the Central Coast and taking out Pfeiffer Bridge in Monterey County, isolating the residents and businesses there. They’re receiving basic living needs by helicopter, or by hauling supplies in on the backs of porters using hastily constructed walking trails. We’re using one of these trails to access this “island”, as described by Alpha Roaming on his recent trip to this same area.

Here is Caltrans District 5 current highway closure information for this part of Highway 1. We’ll ride from Pfeiffer to Paul’s Slide.

Caltrans District 5 Highway 1 Big Sur road closures / work

More background – historical

When Pfeiffer Bridge was first knocked out, I jotted these below notes while researching alternate routes for people who might need to bypass Highway 1 completely, e.g. large groups, and those touring the coast.

Brian Coyneā€¸ (Bay Area Biking Blog guy) suggests State Route 25 from Hollister, see also this route at Brian said he would also try this route through the Central Valley.

Lodging for inland routes:
– Hearst Hacienda at Fort Hunter Ligget (open to public, call to reserve room). Camping around Lake Nacimiento.
– San Lorenzo Park Campground King City
– Queen Motel King City
– Memorial Park Campground Greenfield
– Camping at Pinnacles National Monument
– Campgrounds on east side of Big Sur State Park near Arroyo Seco Road (near-ish Greenfield)
– Williams Hill Recreation Area San Ardo – ATV area w/ FREE camping, 5 mile steep dirt road to access. No water, no trash.
– Cabins and camping around Lake Nacimiento & Lake San Antonio
– Lodging and camping near Paso Robles

ACA Route Addendum for 2017

ACA member discussion on re-route around Big Sur

New Pfeiffer Bridge approved . Caltrans says this bridge will open to traffic (likely single-lane) in September.


  1. It’s better to park at Pfeiffer Big Sur, rather than Andrew Molera, to avoid biking that first 5 miles (we did this ride last weekend). The distance isn’t that bad, but there’s a considerable amount of traffic and a narrow roadway even up to Pfeiffer Big Sur. The trail starts at campground 31 at Pfeiffer Big Sur.

  2. Hi everyone, great blog! I’ll be visiting more often!
    A few friends and I plan on doing the above outlined route this weekend. Can you tell me where I can get more information? Can you confirm this is still open/accessible?
    I’ve heard this will be completely closed (even to cyclists) mid-october. Can anyone confirm?

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