A Guide to California's Big Sur

Big Sur Road Conditions and Driving Tips

Road Conditions

Highway 1 hugs very fragile hillsides in the Big Sur region. Mud and rock slides are common, especially in the winter and spring, and these can close Highway 1 for extended periods. The area between Lucia and Gorda is especially prone to damaging slides. Do not enter the Big Sur region without checking current road conditions.

You can easily obtain current conditions on California Highway 1 ("SR1") from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans):

Here are a few notes to help you understand the Caltrans information:

Caltrans reports road conditions by highway number. Because Highway 1 ("SR1") is very long, Caltrans groups conditions by geographic region in its report for this highway. Many reported conditions on Highway 1 may be outside the Big Sur region. Caltrans groups the Big Sur region's highway conditions under a "Central California" heading. For the purposes of travel within the Big Sur region, then, you can ignore conditions on Highway 1 outside the "Central California" heading. In the following example, the road closure under the "Central California" heading is indeed in the Big Sur region, but the closure under the "Northern California Area" heading is not:

Sample Highway 1 Conditions Report

SR 1

[IN THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AREA]
NO TRAFFIC RESTRICTIONS ARE REPORTED FOR THIS AREA.

[IN THE CENTRAL CALIFORNIA AREA]
IS CLOSED 2 MI SOUTH OF GORDA (MONTEREY CO) - DUE TO A SLIDE - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE

[IN THE NORTHERN CALIFORNIA AREA]
IS CLOSED FROM MONTARA TO PACIFICA (SAN MATEO CO) - DUE TO A SLIDE - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE

The Caltrans reports sometimes refer to counties as well, so it may help you to know that the Big Sur region lies almost entirely within California's Monterey County, and a small portion of its southern end, from just north of the Ragged Point Inn vicinity southward, is in San Luis Obispo County. If the Caltrans report refers to conditions at certain distances north or south of "Big Sur", you can assume it means Big Sur Station in the Big Sur River valley.

Driving Tips

California Highway 1 in the Big Sur region is one of the state's most dangerous highways, even in good weather. It is narrow (almost entirely one lane in each direction), and travelers who are driving slowly or have stopped entirely, directly on the highway, to admire the view can pose hazards to other drivers. Please keep these laws and tips in mind:

No diesel fuel is available within the Big Sur region. Fill up in the Monterey/Carmel area on the north end or in Cambria on the south end.

You can view and print a table of marker and ends values for all the Big Sur locations described in this Web site. (See Along the Highway: About Locations on California Highway 1 for an explanation.) The table will be useful to have in hand as you drive through the Big Sur region.

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December 2012
Highway 1 at Abalone Cove Vista Point Highway 1 at Rocky Creek Bridge Big Creek Bridge from North Gamboa Vista Point

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