Lonely Planet Writer

Road trips resume on California's Highway 1 as bridge reopens

The people of Big Sur celebrated on Friday, 13 October when the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was once again reopened to the public. This was one very large step toward fully restoring Highway 1 along the coast of California. Visitors are now free to travel by car from the Monterey Peninsula south to Gorda, bringing an additional 35 miles of access on Highway 1.

Directional Signs to San Luis Obispo and Monterey along Highway 1 in Big Sur, California, USA. Image by © Allard Schager/Getty Images

For the past seven months, residents south of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge were getting to and from their homes and work by hiking a one-mile bypass trail into and out of the area. The closure created a renewed sense of community, the residents said. Instead of waving to each other while passing in cars, neighbors stopped on the trail to take a breath and share the news of the day.

Blooming at Bixby Bridge on the California coast. Image by ©Phitha Tanpairoj/Shutterstock

The people of Big Sur are both viscerally and legally against all chains in the area. Living through a season with limited resources and limited visitors was a struggle, but not something the people here are unused to. It is a wild place, deeply connected to and dependent on the environment, and people accept what happens as a matter of course and make the most of it. They also know how to come together and build what is needed to survive another year.

Mcway Falls in Big Sur, CA. Image by JTBaskinphoto/Getty Images

So while some took the opportunity to create new entrepreneurial endeavors, others took advantage of the time to remodel and reimagine businesses. Big Sur Tacos opened a pop-up shop near the Henry Miller Library to serve street-style fare to passing cyclists. Joaquin Sullivan rented electric bikes to visitors and locals alike to give them an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Post Ranch Inn began a helicopter service for guests, so people could fly into and out of the resort to enjoy the stillness offered by the rare isolation. With the opening of the bridge, the restaurants and resorts are back to full service, including Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn with a new menu and Ventana Big Sur celebrated its grand reopening and reimagining this month. Highway 1 is not yet passable from Big Sur to San Simeon due to the Mud Creek Slide. Caltrans expects to have that portion of the highway open late-summer 2018. That project will fully reconnect Big Sur and the Highway 1 road trip experience.