Map of Big Sur
Big Sur coast about 12 miles south of
Monterey. Rocky Creek Bridge is visible in
the middle distance.
Big Sur is a sparsely populated region of the
central California coast where the Santa Lu-
cia Mountains rise abruptly from the Pacific
Ocean. The name "Big Sur" is derived from
grande", meaning "the big south", or from "el
país grande del sur", "the big country of the
south". The terrain offers stunning views,
making Big Sur a popular tourist destination.
Big Sur’s Cone Peak is the highest coastal
mountain in the contiguous 48 states, as-
cending nearly a mile (5,155 feet/1.6 km)
above sea level, only three miles (4.8 km)
from the ocean.
Although Big Sur has no specific boundar-
ies, many definitions of the area include the
90 miles (145 km) of coastline between the
Carmel River and San Carpoforo Creek, and
extend about 20 miles (32 km) inland to the
eastern foothills of the Santa Lucias. Other
sources limit the eastern border to the
coastal flanks of these mountains, only three
to 12 miles (4.8-19 km) inland.
The northern end of Big Sur is about 120
miles (193 km) south of San Francisco, and
the southern end is approximately 245 miles
(394 km) northwest of Los Angeles.
tribes of Native Americans—the
Ohlone, Esselen, and Salinan—were appar-
ently the first people to inhabit the area now
known as Big Sur. Archaeological evidence
shows that they lived in Big Sur for thou-
sands of years, leading a nomadic, hunter-
Few traces of their material culture have
survived. Their arrow heads were made of
obsidian and flint, which indicates trading
links with tribes hundreds of miles away,
since the nearest sources of these rocks are
in the Sierra Nevada mountains and the
northern California Coast Ranges.
They followed local food sources season-
ally, living near the coast in winter to harvest
rich stocks of mussels, abalone and other sea
life, and moving inland at other times to har-
vest oak acorns. Bedroc