The Big Sur coast is one of those truly special locations that never fails to impress. The rocky shoreline and misty mountains are instantly recognizable the world over, yet her mood is constantly changing throughout the seasons providing a fresh perspective with each new visit.
From the early morning fog to the golden sunsets, this meeting of land and sea is in a constant state of flux. And as you make your way along that magical ribbon known as Highway 1, each turn reveals a slightly different scene that somehow seems more dramatic than the last.
For photographers, this perpetual change is ideal and the challenge of making fresh images (often faced in many other landmarks) is all but removed. The Big Sur coast is also part of the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary and its rich sea life, including Elephant Seals, otters. and migrating gray whales, provides yet another opportunity for great imagery.
It’s unfortunate that this week our government here in the US has closed its doors, especially for those who had travel plans to visit our wonderful national parks. But all is not lost as there are many beautiful locations in state parks, wilderness, and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) areas around the country that are open and often free of charge.
In California, a few of the standouts include Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (the largest in California and second largest in the country). Northeast of San Diego, this sprawling wilderness park offers endless hiking and photographic potential in a remote setting of cactus covered hillsides and palm oasis. With Borrego Springs as your base, you can enjoy day hikes from numerous lodging options in town, or wilderness camp for free under a star-filled sky and not see a soul for days.
Point Lobos State Reserve near Monterey, Garrapata and Limekiln State Parks (all on the Big Sur Coast), provide some of the best views on the California coast. Limekiln includes coastal access and camping and trails through a primeval forest of old growth redwoods and crystal clear streams. Garrapata is a rugged, undeveloped park adjacent to Highway 1 offering quiet coves, sea arches, and stunning views of the Pacific.
Further north, Point Lobos State Reserve, which was a local haunt of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. It’s wind-swept shores of rare Monterey cypress are a diver’s paradise and a great place to watch migrating whales and sea otters – and the sunsets can be truly spectacular. Other excellent spots in the area include Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and Sand Dollar Beach in the Los Padres National Forest. On the east side of the state along Highway 395 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Alabama Hills under Mount Whitney are a vast moon-scape of giant boulders and arches made famous in early Hollywood movies and a wonderful photographic destination.
So while the politicians in Washington try to see eye to eye, those who had planned to visit America’s best idea don’t have to feel short-changed. There’s still plenty of natural beauty waiting to be explored outside the confines of the National Park System.