ig Sur is located along Scenic High-
way One approximately 150 miles south of San
Francisco and 300 miles north of Los Angeles.
Historically, the name Big Sur was derived from
that unexplored and unmapped wilderness area
which lays along the coast south of Monterey. It
was simply called el país grande del sur, the Big
South Country. Today, Big Sur refers to that 90-
mile stretch of rugged and awesomely beautiful
coastline between Carmel to the north and San
Simeon (Hearst Castle) to the south. Highway
One winds along its length and is flanked on one
side by the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains and
on the other by the rocky Pacific Coast.
Although there were two Mexican land grants
awarded in the 1830’s, which included most of the
area north of the Big Sur Valley, neither grantee
settled on the land. It was little more than a cen-
tury ago when the first permanent settlers arrived
in Big Sur. In the following decades other hardy
persons followed and staked out their homesteads.
The landmarks bear the names of many of those
early settlers — Mt. Manuel, Pfeiffer Ridge, Post
Summit, Cooper Point, Dani Ridge, Partington
Cove and others. Some of their descendants still
live in Big Sur.
At the turn of the century Big Sur sustained
a larger population than it does today. A vigorous
redwood lumbering industry provided livelihoods
for many. The Old Coast Trail, which had been
the only link between homesteads, was still little
more than a wagon trail. Steamers transported
heavy goods and supplies and harbored at Notley’s
Landing, Partington Cove, and the mouth of the
Little Sur River.
Navigation was treacherous, and in 1889, the
Point Sur Lighthouse began sending its power-
ful beam to protect ships from the hazards of the
In 1937, the present highway was completed
after eighteen years of construction at a consider-
able expense even with the aid of convict labor.
The highway has since been declared California’s
first Scenic Highway, and it provides a driving