Pacific Coast Highway: A Side Trip Up Nacimiento Road


Between Cambria and Monterey, there’s only one road that cuts across the Big Sur mountains, over to US 101: Nacimiento Road.  Even if you’re not looking to escape the coastal route, a five-mile detour up Nacimiento Road will provide a nice view.

view from halfway up the nacimiento road

Nacimiento Road cuts across the Fort Hunter Liggett Military Reserve.  The military uses this area to train for mountain warfare, so don’t be surprised if your trip is delayed by a unit of armed warriors.  You also may be required to show your driver’s license and registration, in order to pass.

big sur mountains along pacific coast highway, and nacimiento road

No doubt, the Pacific is the main attraction, and Nacimiento Road provides a great view, well above sea level.  But don’t forget to turn around and check out the very mountains you’re crossing.

hazy pacific coast near sunset, from nacimiento road

The sun is falling dangerously low, towards the horizon.  And as you can see, fog is starting to roll in.

on the way down nacimiento road

After turning around, you’ll have to head back down the twisty road you just climbed.  It’s quite an adventure, in itself.

Notice the parking area along the water’s edge.  There’s a camping area here, that appeared to be quite popular.

Back down along the Pacific Coast Highway…

pacific ocean before sunset

A couple more views of the sunset.

pacific coast highway, rocky coastline

A short drive further up the Pacific Coast Highway…

view south, in the big sur mountains, pacific coast highway

The setting sun really brings the hillside alive with color, looking south.

concrete arch bridge, pacific coast highway

This is Big Creek Bridge, the first of several concrete arch bridges you’ll cross along the Pacific Coast Highway.  Unfortunately, it was already dark when I crossed the rest of them (including the historic Bixby Creek Bridge a few miles to the north, which was at one time the longest concrete arch bridge in the world).

sea cave at turnout, on the pacific coast highway

For one of my final photos of the day, I found this sea cave.  This wasn’t viewable from the Pacific Coast Highway, though.  To see it, I had to climb up to the top of a small rise, at the end of a small parking area.

sunset behind a hill in the big sur mountains, pacific coast highway

Day 3’s final picture.  This is the closest I came to capturing a sunset along the California Coast. I planned to take more photos of the setting sun, but I didn’t realize that Hwy. 1 curves inland around the town of Big Sur.  By the time I made it back to the coast, the sun was already gone.

There are so many things I missed between here and Monterey, including some of the state’s best parks (Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was at the top of my list).  I may go back someday and re-drive this section of road, just to see it all.  If you’re planning your trip, make sure you don’t under-estimate the time it takes to travel this road, or the time you’ll want to spend at stops along the way.

I spent Night 3 in Monterey, then started out early towards Santa Cruz.  There’s plenty more coastal scenery along the Monterey Peninsula, but I needed a break from the slow-going travel along the coast.

Note: This trip was first published in 2004.

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