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Thread: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

  1. #11

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    HWY 1 winds along the coast and joins 101 at various locations. If and when you need to make up time hop on 101, for scenery take 1. If it's the old missions your after, most are on 101 but there are a few on 1 (Carmel, Bonaventura, San Luis Obispo, La Purisma .) It's the same deal with the wineries. With limited time, I'd stick with 1 unless you find yourself needing to book it to LA to catch your flight.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  2. #12

    Join Date
    May 2002

    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    Another must see for a photographer is Garrapata Beach!

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Seattle, WA

    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    One of the problems you'll face is that Hwy 1 is addicting (in a good way). Some of the beaches are accessible, while others will be around 500' below you....and the views will not quit. Whether you'll encounter a fog, clouds or clear sky...every turn opens up new vistas. The portion from Monterey to SLO (San Luis Obispo) is roughly 130 miles, but it's packed visually and it takes longer because of slow curves, but also because you'd want to stop and inhale some nice ocean breeze, ponder, + taking photos (repeat X times). I'd add that Cambria offers one of a kind glass gallery (only few of this type in the country), the Moonstone Bch is great for tidepooling....and the food at Robin's or Linn's has always been superb. You could also spend some time in Cayucos/Morro Bay or Montana de Oro (v. relaxing park w/ocean views). In the old days SLO was 4hrs drive from LAX (LA airport), but with influx of folks this may have increased. I'm mentioning this only as a guage. You can choose to stay in Lompoc or even closer to LA....tho prices of lodging tend to be higher on the coast, whether in season or not. Oh, one more thing, since you'll be hitting some of these places over a could easily encounter tourist traffic....particularly around Monterey and Carmel.


  4. #14
    Drew Wiley
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    SF Bay area, CA

    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    Gosh, they don't have a month! Maybe barely enough time to hit up a spot of two around Monterey, that is, if they drive like a bat out of hell past a jillion sights
    in the desert and past the Sierras just to get to the coast to begin with. Hwy 1 isn't exactly fast.

  5. #15

    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    I just noticed your posting. I have done this trip about a half dozen times. I am going to assume that you are interested in the scenery as opposed to say shopping. I am also going to make an assumption that you have not made any decision on where to stay or what kind of vehicle to rent. I am also making an assumption that you would rather stay in a hotel as opposed to camping. If I am wrong on any of my assumptions, then it will effect everything else.

    (Ensure it is not snowing in Yosemite) Grab a convertible car from SFO. Reserve ahead of time.

    IF you arrive to SFO in the morning, head down to the Ghiradelli Square area (Capurro’s has a good clam chowder, grab a table on the street to people watch), the Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge, and Golden Gate Park (Stow Lake, Japanese garden, Botanical garden), then head out of town before 1pm.

    IF you arrive to SFO any time after noon-ish, just get out of town. Get on the freeway, and get out of town. Every time I am on the roads near the Bay Area after 3pm, there is always a traffic jam, slow down, or something that causes a problem. You are going to need the time to drive anyway.

    Option three is to grab a hotel in San Francisco, spend a day taking in the various interesting sites, and head to Yosemite the next day.

    You have a four hour drive to Yosemite. I personally like to come into the park on 140 from Mariposa, however, this will add thirty minutes to an hour onto your drive. No matter which way you enter the park, keep the stupid receipt when you pay to enter. The park service has become Nazis and will ask for the receipt on your way out of the park… if you don’t have it, they will try to extort another entrance fee. I’d suggest you stay at the Ahwahnee Hotel in the park. It is the most expensive location to stay in the park, but is also a very beautiful property. If you are more $$$ sensitive, then the Lodge at the Falls is a nice property that I have stayed in a number of times. There is also more rustic lodging at Curry Campground where you can stay in a nice tent (suggest one with a heater for October). No matter where you decide to stay, I would make reservations sooner than later. I am only suggesting locations in the valley because you are not paying significantly more to stay inside the park, but you are gaining drive time to the valley, and to be blunt, time is probably more precious to you than what you would save $wise by staying outside the park.

    Food. The first night, I would suggest dinner at the Ahwahnee dining room, whether you are staying at the property or not. Attire is more upscale (suggest button down shirt and slacks / nice dress), they will not let you in if you are wearing shorts or a T-shirt. I would suggest making reservations now, and ask for the table that looks at the falls if you will be there during daylight… same for the morning, yes reservations for breakfast (blue jeans and a polo are ok for breakfast)… seriously. If you decide to stay two nights in the valley, the dining room at the Lodge at the Falls is very nice, more casual, more relaxed, and a completely different menu. I have never needed a reservation for the dining room at the Lodge at the Falls (though I could see it in the summer).

    You don’t have a lot of time in the park, would suggest hitting the NPS website and figuring out what is most important to you to see. Google earth with the location tagged photos is another source of information.

    I like to stay a night at Wawona on my way out of the park… it’s a neat old place, but I have overheard some people who think its age is not a benefit, and complain about small rooms, thin walls, shared bathrooms (though there are in room bathrooms if you select that option), etc…. During the summer months, I actually look forward to getting out of the valley, away from the masses of people, and to this much more relaxed location. It also sets you up for an easy exit from the park the next morning.

    On the exit from the park, I would suggest driving past the turn off for the exit, and continuing to the redwood grove (Mariposa Grove) in the park and taking a walk with these giant trees. It’s worth the few minutes extra drive and whatever time you decide to spend there.

    It is a three and a half hour drive to Monterey from the exit gate closest to the Mariposa Grove. There are a variety of things to do in Monterey, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is fantastic. Again, Google is your friend on trying to figure out what specifically to do.

    If money is not a concern, I would suggest the Hyatt Highlands Inn in Carmel. Go get the reservations for this place now… and if they don’t have them online, call the property and see if you can get a room. If you are unable to get a room at Highland Inn, I would suggest the Portola Hotel as a backup (though it is a nice property in its own right). The Portola also has the benefit of being walking distance from a number of interesting sites.

    The dining room at Highlands Inn is very nice. If you happen to be staying there, it’s a no brainer. If you are at the Portola, you will have to make a decision… either drive to the Highlands Inn dining room, OR, there are a number of nice restaurants within walking distance on the wharf.

    On your drive South, don’t hesitate to pull off and take a look around... numerous times, it's all beautiful. Do stop at the Pfeiffer Beach. The beach has a purple color sand, I am told because of a deposit of manganese garnet that is eroded and washed out to sea by a nearby stream. It is very interesting in the right light.

    Unfortunately, this is the farthest south I have been on HW1. I have usually run out of time at this point, and am driving like a crazy person trying to get back to an airport somewhere. I hope some of this was helpful.

  6. #16

    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    Canyons, Yosemite, SF, Hwy 1, you are going to burn A LOT OF films :-) You can't see it all and as others have mentioned, there will be traffic problems here and there. So may be plan on seeing less rather than more. If I start in SF, please be sure to take 280 S. You can take route 1 but the prettier part is further south and 280 is quite beautiful in its own right. Do not take Rt 101, as it's... ugly.

    To swing to HWY 1, you can do it at either 92, 84, 17, or 152, in that order coming down. So it depends on how much time you want to spend. 92 gets you to Half Moon Bay, and my guess is that it will take ~an extra hour or two compared to if you wait to cross at 152 to Monterey.

    IMHO, the stretch south of Carmel to Big Sur is the most spectacular section, although you really cannot go wrong on any stretch of Hwy 1. There is a section that rises, I don't know, may be a thousand feet (~300 meters), combined that with the narrow two lanes road and twisty curvy while you are just a few feet off the cliff... lets just say keep your eyes on the road and not the spectacular rocks just down the cliff. If you are unlucky, you may get behind some RV or trucks. In that case, just pull off to a nice vista view, eat a sandwich and listen to the ocean. You can get lost for hours just by doing that.

  7. #17
    2 Bit Hack
    Join Date
    Feb 2014

    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    I have been down the coast only once so I will not offer suggestions. As for Yosemite, I worked there for a summer. I would strongly suggest reservations, even in October. Start now. Two days is not much time in YNP. But if it were me I would do the tourist rounds in and around the valley on day one. You will have to choose between the Vernal/Nevada Falls/Half Dome hike, Glacier point (about a half day driving excursion), or maybe the Yosemite Falls Trail or Tenaya Creek trail leading out of the valley. There is a trail from Glacier Point to the Valley. They used to run a bus service from the valley to both Tuolumne Meadows and Glacier point. You can catch a ride then hike back down to the valley. Yosemite Falls Trail and Glacier Point trails are great options. I am not sure about the length of the Tenaya Creek trail but is looks like a wonderful hike. Perhaps others can comment on that. North Dome is quite nice.

    Day two I would hit 120 to Tuolumne Meadows and the domes/meadows/creeks/lakes it has to offer. That is a short sentence for such a tremendous amount of photo ops. Ellery and Tioga lakes are good subjects but they are out of the park. Don't loose your entrance fee receipt. You might want to take a little bit more of a drive and drop down into Mono Lake or perhaps take the June Lake loop. As mentioned, snow is not out of the question at this time of the year.

    Enjoy your trip.


  8. #18

    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Tyler, Texas

    Re: Yosemite big sur and coastal drive

    There is a thread with a bunch of Big Sur, Point Lobos, et photos down in the Lounge.

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