Weekend Warrior Series: 10 Hours in Big Sur (Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach)

Author’s note: Green and purple bolded words are links to be clicked on to learn more information about the landmark!

Kelly and I went on a road trip to Big Sur this weekend. It was pretty amazing.  I wanted to see three attractions on our trip: Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls, and Pfeiffer Beach.


We left San Luis Obispo around 10am. The drive was pretty foggy at first. I was afraid that the rain that was forecasted was finally going to fall. But eventually the sun peaked out from the clouds and reflected off the incredibly blue ocean like an aquamarine gemstone.

Just as a warning to future Big Sur travelers, we lost reliable cell service shortly after Cambria. This means that Google Maps is not a form of navigation that can be used for this trip. Finally after two hours, we got to our first destination: Bixby bridge.


It was a little foggy, but still beautiful. Watching the ocean crash against the rocks below the 260 foot bridge was hypnotizing.

History Fact: Bixby Bridge was constructed in 1932, five years before the road from Carmel to San Luis Obispo would even be officially opened.

We could have stayed there and watched it all day. But we moved onto our next destination about fifteen minutes up the road, McWay Falls.


We parked on the side of Cabrillo Highway and started down the “trail” which was only a few tenths of a mile long and featured prime views of the falls everywhere along the way. It took about ten minutes of walking to get to the best view of the 80 foot falls. The beach below is not accessible to tourists, and there’s a hefty fine to pay if you get caught trying to get to it. This is because the reason it’s so beautiful and serene in the area by the falls is that it has not been run down by humans.

So I’m kind of in a sorority…

We stuck around at McWay falls for a while, going further along the trail to reach another lookout with informational panels on the history of the cove.

History fact: It turns out that there was no sandy beach beneath the falls until 1985 when a massive landslide took the side of the coastal wall into the ocean. 

After checking out the vista point for a while, Kelly and I hiked up past where our car was parked down to the 2 campsites where campers can gain the experience of a lifetime waking up next to the sound of the falls. I asked one of the campers setting up his tent as we were leaving how far in advance he had to book the campsite, and he told me six months. I’m sure it was worth it…

Looking out over the cliff rocks by the campsite

After McWay falls, we headed up the road to see the purple sand at Pfeiffer Beach. The best time to see the purple sand is after the rain, and lucky for us, we made it to the beach just in time for the sun to poke out right after it had stopped being rainy.

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Fun Fact: The purple color is a result of the abundance of heavy minerals composed of quartz and garnet
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A close up of the sand via http://www.sandatlas.org/pfeiffer-beach-sand/

Pfeiffer beach was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It was unreal. It is not challenging to find, but is off the beaten path and down a couple secluded side roads to get to. Luckily we caught some 3G/LTE action just in time to make sure we were navigating to the right place.

It was 10 dollars to park, but once inside, the views are worth it. Make sure you have cash as the attendant at the booth doesn’t take cards. FullSizeRender-6.jpg

Pfeiffer is sure to be a great experience, whether you want to climb up the rocks to get a better view of the whole cove, run down the soft sanded dunes, make your footprint in the purple colored sand, or get closer to the keyhole arch during low tide.

The day trip to Big Sur was a great adventure. I will for sure be heading back up again sometime soon to do some more exploring. Until then, adventuring in SLO is okay for now, I guess… 😉

View the slideshow of the trip that I made below!

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