Some California vacationers may have to cross Big Sur off their to-do lists after record-setting winter storms damaged the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge on Highway 1 beyond repair, forcing many of the area's businesses to temporarily close. Construction crews will need at least six months to demolish and rebuild the bridge, according to Caltrans.
You can still make it to the upper reaches of Big Sur if you're willing to take a long detour — but for those who've decided to skip that trip this year, KPCC staff and listeners have eight alternate destinations to consider:
1. See San Simeon’s elephant seals
“Elephant seals as far as you can see,” says "Off-Ramp" intern Rosalie Atkinson.
Just south of Big Sur, the town of San Simeon offers one of the best chances to see wild elephant seals, Atkinson said. In March, baby elephant seals — called “wieners” — roam the town’s beaches. Adult seals teach them how to swim, and conservationists offer cheap tours.
2. Walk through the Hearst Castle
The Hearst Castle, also in San Simeon, is located about 17 miles south of Big Sur. Built by the famed Hearst family, the now unoccupied castle is open seven days a week. Tours start at 9 a.m. every day, but make sure to plan in advance, because reservations are recommended.
3. Hike at Pinnacles National Park
In lieu of her trip to Big Sur, KPCC listener Rachel Van Amburgh said she's planning to visit Pinnacles National Park in Soledad. An ancient volcano erupted 23 million years ago and formed the canyons, caves and rock spires that make up the park. It's open year-round to hikers and campers, according to its website.
4. Sleep at the Ragged Point Inn
Bypassing the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge led KPCC listener Byron Whitt to the Ragged Point Inn. He recommends heading there and grabbing a meal. You'll also get a view of what you're missing — the inn overlooks Big Sur.
5. Explore Bodega Bay
When a wildfire canceled her camping trip last summer, KPCC listener Cindy Mac Sass booked a trip to Bodega Bay, she said. There, visitors can hit the beach, take horseback riding tours and visit old coastal bell towers and churches, she added.
6. Wander through Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Sass had to make another alternate plan this year due to the Big Sur bridge closure. This time she booked a trip to the Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Arnold. It's one of the oldest tourist attractions in California, according to the State Parks website, offering campgrounds and hikes.
7. Visit Mammoth Lakes
When last summer's fire canceled her Big Sur trip, KPCC listener Elsbeth Schey Weissman took her family to Mammoth Lakes. The town in the Eastern Sierra region has dozens of lodging and adventure options, she said. The area can be reached by car — or by air — year-round.
8. Fish at June Lake
A small town of about 600, June Lake is great for fishing, says KPCC’s arts education reporter Priska Neely. The town has a dozen inns, hikes and campgrounds open year-round.
“It’s close enough to Yosemite to pop in and experience more beautiful nature,” Neely said.