Big Sur Highway News

Highway One down the Big Sur coast is one of the most spectacular roads to cycle in the country. However, due to it's rugged terrain and isolated location, there are often issues with the road that cyclists and other travelers need to be aware of. One issue is significant construction projects. The other is potential closures due to possible landslides caused by heavy rain. Also, wildfires can be a problem. Please click on links below for specific topics:

Fires

 

Construction

 

Rain and Landslides

 

Policy - Hike Tours

 

Policy - Self Guided Bike Tours

 

Policy - Vehicle Supported Bike Tours

 

Fires

Updated 11/27/20

Although both Limekiln State Park and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park now have certain sections open to the public, most of the trails we hike are still closed. Therefore,  the Hiking: Big Sur Ecotour is still suspended indefinitely.

 

Updated 11/9/20

We just drove Hwy 1 all along the Big Sur coast and are happy to report that although effects of the Dolan Fire are certainly visible from the highway, it is still a wonderful bicycle ride with great views. There is also brand new pavement for approximately 30-35 miles from Carmel south to almost Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Virtually all accommodations and businesses are open with a few exceptions noted below.

The effects of the Dolan Fire are periodically visible from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park south to Gorda (about 25 miles). In this stretch you can see areas where the fire burned all the way to the highway and also some areas where the fire burned back into the hills. On other portions of this stretch there is little to no evidence of the fire.

The following areas are currently closed: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, all hiking trails between Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park main entrance and Gorda. Lime Kiln State Park is actually open, but only for day use visits to the beach - campground and redwood/creek hikes are closed. Kirk Creek Campground is closed. Sand Dollar Beach is closed. Plaskett Creek Campground looks like it's open but is still full with fire fighting crews. Lucia Lodge is open as is Gorda Springs Resort and Treebones. As time passes many of these areas will most likely re-open, we just don't know the projected dates.

Because Lime Kiln State Park hiking and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park are still closed with no projected re-opening date, the Hiking: Big Sur Ecotour is still suspended indefinitely. Cycle trips down the Big Sur coast, however, are quite feasible.

 

Updated 10/21/20

The Dolan Fire is almost 100% contained and Hwy 1 is open. Both Lime Kiln State Park and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park were within the burn zone and are closed indefinitely. It is unlikely they will re-open any time soon. Therefore our Hiking: Big Sur Ecotour has been suspended indefinitely. The fire burned down to Hwy 1 in many sections between Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Gorda (about 25 highway miles) and fire scars will be visible for some time. However, since the highway is passable and most lodging, stores and restaurants are open, we are still doing both self guided and vehicle supported bike tours down that stretch of coast.

Updated 9/24/20

The Dolan Fire is still burning, but Hwy 1 has re-opened. According to the fire maps we have seen, however, both Lime Kiln State Park and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park have had significant areas burn. Both parks are still closed until further notice. Therefore, our Hiking: Big Sur Ecotour is still suspended until further notice. It's OK for bike tours to come down the coast now.

Updated 9/10/20

The Dolan Fire continues to burn on the Big Sur coast and has proven hard to contain. Estimated containment is now late September. Hwy 1 is closed for portions on the coast due to rocks and burning debris rolling onto the road. Both Lime Kiln State Park and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park have fire damage and are currently closed. We do not know when Hwy 1 or either of the state parks will open. WE HAVE SUSPENDED OUR HIKING:BIG SUR ECOTOUR UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. For biking tours coming down the coast there is no feasible detour around the closure. No biking tours will be able to come down this stretch of the coast until Hwy 1 re-opens.

Updated 8/27/20

The Dolan Fire has been burning on the Big Sur coast for over a week now and Hwy 1 is closed between Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Lime Kiln State Park. Both of these state parks are closed as well as the fire is threatening them. Estimated full containment of the fire is mid September. We have temporarily suspended our Hiking: Big Sur Ecotour until at least mid September. For biking tours coming down the coast there is no feasible detour around the closure. No biking tours will be able to come down this stretch of the coast until Hwy 1 re-opens. Unfortunately we don't know when Hwy 1 will re-open, but are hoping for mid September or earlier.

 

construction projects

Although there are almost always some construction projects on Hwy 1 along the Big Sur coast, some have more impact on cyclists than others.

Pavement and Guardrail Work - Carmel to Torre Canyon Bridge - PAVEMENT FINISHED!

 

Updated 11/9/20

Great news! The pavement on Hwy 1 from Carmel south about 30-35 miles south to Torre Canyon Bridge is brand new and in great shape. It looks like they still may be working on some of the guardrails, but overall this section looks great right now.

 

 

closures due to rain and landslides

Updated 2/26/21

IMPORTANT: Highway One remains closed at Rat Creek due to the road being destroyed there by winter storms. Caltrans has announced the plan for reconstruction of the highway there and hopes to have it re-opened by early summer 2021. The highway will be open both north and south of the Rat Creek closure, but about 5 miles of the highway around the construction site will be closed and it is not possible to cycle or drive all the way through. Coming from the north, the highway will be closed just north of Rat Creek at Lime Creek, very near Esalen Institute. This is about 40 miles south of Carmel. Coming from the south, the highway will be closed at the Big Creek Scenic Vista, about 30 miles north of Ragged Point. Cyclists wanting to ride as far south as possible to Lime Creek and then get a shuttle around and resume riding at Big Creek Scenic Vista will need to be shuttled for approximately 5.5 hours (back to Carmel, out to US 101, south to Hwy 46, back to the coast at Cambria and then north on Hwy 1 to Big Creek Scenic Vista). Note that Nacimiento-Fergusson Road has also been closed indefitinely due to debris on the road from recent fires and winter storms.

Updated 1/31/21

IMPORTANT: Highway One is currently closed along the Big Sur coast from Fuller's Point just south of the town of Big Sur to Ragged Point. There was a major road slip at Rat Creek just south of Esalen due to recent heavy storms and the highway has been completely severed at that point. Right now Caltrans has not issued a statement as to when it will reopen, but based on the extent of the damage, it seems like it will be at least several months before the highway re-opens. There is no viable detour around the road slip, except to cut inland at Carmel and come back to the coast south of Cambria at Hwy 46, missing the entire Big Sur coast.

https://bigsurkate.blog/2021/01/29/cal-trans-update-on-the-rat-creek-slip-out-1-29-21/

Updated 12/2/20

Caltrans has announced for that for the 2020-21 rainy season there will be no pre-emptive closures of Hwy 1 along the Big Sur coast simply due to heavy rain predictions. Highway closures will only go into effect if actual landlsides occur or other road blockages occur.

Updated 10/21/20

Although Caltrans has not yet announced a specific policy on Hwy 1 closures for the 2020-21 rainy season, there is increased risk of landslides in the burned sections along Hwy 1 (from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to Gorda) due to lack of vegetation to hold back the rain on steep slopes. See updates below for policies from past years.

Updated 2/3/2020

For the current rainy season in 2019-20, Caltrans has announced a policy where they may preemptively close Hwy 1 in advance of large storms at certain points along the Big Sur coast where landslides have occurred in the recent past. The rainy season is usually considered to be from November through April, with most rain falling from December through March. However, long periods of dry weather can occur during the 'rainy season' and there is also a small chance rain can also occur during October and May.

The potential closures are at Paul's Slide (between Lucia and Lime Kiln State Park) and at Mud Creek (between Gorda and Ragged Point). 48 hours prior to a storm's arrival a closure warning will be announced. At 24 hours prior confirmation of the closure will be announced. Closures will be for an indefinite period of time and the actual duration of the closure will largely depend on whether or not any landslides occur during or immediately after the storm. Although there is no way to predict how often closures will happen and how long individual closures might last, during the 2018/19 rainy season the highway was closed a handful of times, usually for 1-3 days. It is also possible that landslides at other points along the highway may occur during or after periods of heavy rain, forcing other closure(s). As of early February 2020, the 2019/2020 rain season has had lower than average rain totals with few large storms and the highway was only closed once in early December.

Here are a good resource for current updates about highway conditions:

  1. Big Sur Blog
  2. Caltrans Highway Closures

 

The closures may affect any of our tours that are along Hwy 1 on the Big Sur coast:

  1. Hiking Big Sur Ecotour
  2. Self Guided Bike tours
  3. Guided Bike tours

See the relevant sections below for how this might affect these tours.

 

Policy on potential highway closures for Hiking: Big Sur Ecotour – 2020-21

HIKING: BIG SUR ECOTOUR SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY DUE TO DOLAN FIRE

Any highway closures due to landslides will have an impact on whether or not we can run the Hiking: Big Sur Ecotour at all or if we may need modify the tour with a possible surcharge. The surcharge would be to account for any additional driving time to get to the hiking areas by our guides. Additional drive time (depending on where the closures are) can be up to 1.5 hours for us. Surcharges would most likely be $75 flat fee for a party of 1-3 and $100 flat fee for a party of 4-10.

 

If closures occur, we will contact you as soon as we can and let you know how it might impact your tour. Based on where you are staying and where the closures are, you may be offered one of several options:

 

  1. Cancel the tour with a full refund.

  2. Rebook the tour for another date. No transfer fee.

  3. Do a modified tour with a possible surcharge.

 

Policy on potential highway closures for Biking: Self Guided tours – Winter 2020-21

Any highway closures due to landslides will have an impact on whether or not you will be able to cycle down the Big Sur coast on Hwy 1 during a self guided bike tour. If closure(s) occur, you have the following options:

 

  1. If the closure(s) occur before the tour starts, you can cancel with a full refund.
  2. You can cycle an inland detour that adds significant miles and hills (see below).
  3. We may be able to shuttle you around for an added fee.
  4. If the tour has already started you can end in Monterey/Carmel, north of the closure(s). Usually no refund for this option.

 

Inland Detour

Inland detours around the potential closures are quite lengthy and hilly. Depending on where you are if/when closures are announced, a cycling detour may add up to 50-100 miles to the tour and you would miss all or most of the Big Sur section of the coast. It may also require cancelling some accommodations, booking new accommodations along the detour and possibly changing dates for other accommodations. We will provide you with all the necessary information to cycle possible detours. We will also reschedule a trip end meet date and time as necessary at no extra cost to you. 

 

Note that if you start the detour in the Monterey/Carmel area and go all the way around to just south of Cambria it adds about 50-55 miles. If you are willing to cycle some longer days during the detour, it is usually possible to finish the tour within the original time allotted.

 

Shuttle Around

Depending on our availability of vehicles and guides, we may be able to pick you up and shuttle you around the closure(s) for an additional fee. While it is highly unlikely we would not be available to do a shuttle on most days in the winter, there is no absolute guarantee we will be available on short notice and you may have to wait up to a day or longer for us to get to you. Furthermore, the cost of a potential shuttle is not covered in the cost of the tour and will cost an additional $300 flat rate for groups of 1-3 people.

 

End in Monterey/Carmel

If any closures are announced after you start your tour but before you get to the Big Sur coast (and you don't want to do a cycling detour or pay for a shuttle), it is also possible to end the tour in the Monterey/Carmel area. We will drive up to meet you there as soon as we can. Due to the cost and time for us to drive to the Monterey/Carmel area instead of the trip end there will be no refund of our fees (except for a small refund for tours originally scheduled to go all the way to Santa Monica/LA).

 

Policy on potential highway closures for Biking: Guided tours – Winter 2020-21

If closures occur that affect the tour, we will cycle as far south as possible, and then shuttle around the closure(s) to continue cycling on the other side. There will be no extra cost for this (and no refunds). Note that depending on where the closures are, the shuttle time may be up to 4 hours.