I would never complain that the Pacific Coast Highway is boring, but it is nice that about halfway through the Big Sur Mountains, there’s a side trip that provides a change of pace. Nacimiento Road heads inland on a curvy path, carved out of the edges of surrounding cliffs. It’s not for the faint-of-heart.
You could use Nacimiento Road to completely abandon the PCH, and head inland to US 101, for a quicker drive north or south. But chances are, you don’t want to do that. Instead, I suggest taking Nacimiento Road inland for just about 4 miles. That will be far enough to give you a heart-pounding ascent, leading to a fantastic view of the coast.
Nacimiento Road doesn’t have guardrails, and in some places, it doesn’t have a center line. It is paved, more or less — at least for the first few miles that I covered, before turning around.
The drive uphill leads you to views of a beautiful valley. This marks the spot where I turned around.
Heading downhill is much more fun. I stopped at one location after another to take pictures. Even though there aren’t many turnouts, you can stop in the middle of the road with relative safety, since there is so little traffic on Nacimiento Road.
Another stop, looking north…
… and another viewpoint.
[tmt_info =””]If you’re looking for a thrifty place to stay along the Big Sur coast, there isn’t one. But you do have an option, just a short distance from the coast on Nacimiento Road. The Hacienda was William Randolph Hearst’s hunting lodge. In 1940, the war department purchased it, and the surrounding property, and ever since, the Hacienda has been part of Fort Hunter Liggett. In the 1990’s, the old lodge opened to the public, and now, civilians can stay here for about $65 a night (private bathroom) or $45 a night (shared bath). This is the closest thing I can find to a website for the Hacienda. Keep in mind, the Hacienda is about 25 miles from the coast, and Nacimiento Road is slow and curvy, so while the rooms are cheap, the Hacienda is not exactly convenient.[/tmt_info]
[tmt_info =””]Also accessible by taking Nacimiento Road: Mission San Antonio de Padua. The “mission that time forgot” is the third mission built along el Camino Real. It’s also survived, mostly untouched since the first buildings were constructed in 1773. Just like the Hacienda, the mission is about 25 miles from the coast, on Fort Hunter Liggett military base. [/tmt_info]
[tmt_info =””]Okay, here’s one more tip. You can use Nacimiento Road, along with forest road 20S05 (Cone Peak Road), to access the Cone Peak Trail. It’s a five mile (round trip) trail that leads to a spectacular 360-degree view. Check out this website for the details.
Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, through the Nacimiento Road area: