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Now that you can drive the length of Big Sur again.

The crown jewel of California's road system--State Highway 1--is finally clear of the massive landslide that blocked travel along the Big Sur coast. For the first time in 15 months, you can now drive the entire 87 miles of coastline between Carmel and San Simeon.

Though you can drive this stretch in about 3 hours, there are compelling reasons to dally for a day or weekend. Picnic spots, elegant restaurants, and rustic inns dot the vertigo-inducing road as it snakes along the cliffs. From the highway, you can take leg-stretching hikes down to the shore or up moist, redwood-shaded canyons, or browse at art galleries.

At our press time, State l's official reopening date was scheduled for April 11. For 24-hour recorded information on this and other California highways, call (408) 289-1161.

The road offers a new spectacle: the Julia Pfeiffer Burns slide, some 10 miles south of Big Sur village. For a good view of this 1,300-foot-high ugly gash, you can pull into the vista parking lot along the highway. In April 1983, an estimated 9 billion pounds of rain-saturated soil and rock slid down the mountain, creating the largest landslide in California highway history and closing Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (now reopened).

This slide, combined with the smaller Sycamore Draw slide (March 1983) 3 miles north, capped a terrible 1982--83 rainy season for Highway 1. Sycamore Draw was cleared last August.

Between the vista parking lot and the park entrance, you'll actually drive about 800 feet on top of the J.P. Burns slide. Look up to see the broad terraces bulldozed and blasted into the mountainside to create better drainage and stability; look down to where the slide spills into the ocean 350 feet below. Reopening this section cost more than $7 million.

As you drive the twisting, two-lane highway, it's best to confine your ocean viewing to the many turnouts. If skirting the edge of the cliffs is too dizzying a prospect, drive north to hug the inland side of the highway (well away from the edge); you can use U.S. 101 3r Interstate 5 on return or approach.

On good-weather weekends (especially Memorial Day weekend), you can expect crowded driving. Summer brings occasional chilly fog, so it's a good idea to bring warm clothes. Gasoline in Big Sur is available but expensive.

Picnicking, dining. Big Sur names the coastal area between Carmel and the southern border of Monterey County. It also names a river and a village of houses and inns strung along a valley.

Stores in Gorda, Pacific Valley, and the village of Big Sur have wine, cheese, sandwiches, and other picnic makings. There are enticing picnic sites at all the state parks and reserves shown on our map, as well as at U.S. Forest Service picnic areas and campgrounds.

Scattered along the highway, more than a dozen restaurants offer everything from hamburgers and fries to roast duckling. Most places have outside seating with sweeping views. You'll find restaurants at all motels and inns we list on page 64.

Hiking, riding. After a meal or a long drive, a short hike is a refreshing way to explore some of Big Sur's shore and mountain areas. Best bets for easy hikes are the state parks. In Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, a short trail takes you from park headquarters through a tunnel to the edge of a sheer precipice overlooking the ocean. As you hike, watch for poison oak--Big Sur's most prolific shrub.

For information on nearly 400 miles of sometimes-rugged back-country trails in Los Padres National Forest and Ventana Wilderness in the Santa Lucia Range, call or visit the Forest Service stations along the highway at Big Sur (408/667-2423) or Pacific Valley (805/927-4211). A few of these trails are short and level enough for family hiking. A comprehensive, up-to-date aid is the Trail Guide to Los Padres National Forest (Monterey Division), fourth edition, published by the Sierra Club's Ventana Chapter (Box 5667, Carmel 93921), 1983; $6.75.

There's guided horseback riding through Andrew Molera State Park; a 2-hour ride costs $25. For reservations, write or call Big Sur Trail Rides, Box 111, Big Sur 93920; (408) 667-2666.

Hearst Castle tours. The reopened highway also provides southbound motorists with more direct access to Hearst Castle at San Simeon. Tours of the publishing mogul's estate are packed in summer, so make reservations well in advance. Order tour tickets up to eight weeks ahead at Ticketron offices or by mail; write Ticketron, Box 26430, San Francisco 94126; if you reserve by mail, allow at least three weeks for ticket delivery. For tour details, call (805) 927-4621.

Abalone hatchery. About 9 miles south of Carmel, at the California State Department of Fish and Game Marine Culture Laboratory (look for the sign and chain-link fence on the ocean side of the highway), you can tour the abalone hatchery and mussel experiments on Saturday, May 5, from 9 to 4.

Bus tours, from May 26 through September 30, Monterey-Salinas Transit buses make two trips daily from Monterey to Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur, with several stops en route; call (408) 899-2555 for schedules. From about June 1 to Labor Day, Coastlines Bus Service will make two daily trips between Monterey and San Luis Obispo, with a stop at Hearst Castle; call (408) 649-4700 for schedules.

Camping, lodging. Here are lodging choices along State 1 from north of San Simeon to south of Carmel. Availability is limited, so reserve well in advance. Some places require deposits; some do not accept credit cards. Unless noted, telephone numbers are area code 408. Public campgrounds

Andrew Molera State Park, 667-2315: walk-in tent-camping area in meadow; first-come basis; 50 cents per person.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, 667-2315: 217 sites; $6 per site, plus $2.25 reservation fee for first night. Reserve up to eight weeks in advance at Ticketron offices or by mail; write Ticketron, Box 26430, San Francisco 94126; if you reserve by mail, allow at least three weeks for ticket delivery.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, 667-2315: two walk-in environmental campsites (about 1/2 mile from parking lot) scheduled to reopen in May; call park for reservation information; $6 per site.

Kirk Creek Campground (Forest Service), (805) 927-4211: 33 sites on first-come basis; $7 per site.

Plaskett Creek Campground (Forest Service), (805) 927-4211: 43 sites on first-come basis; $7 per site. Private camping, rustic lodging

Campgrounds average $10 per car. Rustic cabins run $30 to $60.

Big Sur Campgrounds and Cabins, 667-2322: campsites, tent cabins, spacious A-frames, and trailer homes.

Riverside Campgrounds and Cabins, 667-2414: camping and simple cabins.

Ferwood Resort, 667-2422: campsites and motel rooms.

Big Sur Lodge, 667-2171: large, quiet rooms in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Ventana Campground, 667-2331: neatly kep campsites.

Deetjen's Big Sur Inn, 667-2377: cabins and rustic rooms, some dormitory-style with shared baths. No reservations.

Lucia Lodge, 667-2391: cabins on a 500-foot cliff with spectacular view.

Limekiln Beach Redwoods Campground, 667-2403: neatly kept sites squeezed into a tiny valley; trout or surf fishing. Motels

Rooms range from $31 to $59 nightly.

River Inn, 667-2237: 4 balconied suites along Big Sur River, 11 rooms along highway.

Glen Oaks Motel, 667-2105: large, squeaky-clean rooms along State 1.

Ragged Point Inn, (805) 927-4502: each room has a balcony or patio with ocean view; 1/2-mile trail leads to beach.

Piedras Blancas Motel, (805) 927-4202: 1 mile north of the lighthouse. Well-known and expensive lodging

Ventana Big Sur Inn, 667-2331: small, stylish resort (1,000 feet above the ocean and about 1/2 mile from State 1); luxurious rooms, $120 to $225 weekends and holidays, $90 to $205 Sundays through Thursdays (midweek rate expires June 14). Minimum two-noght stay on weekends.

Esalen Institute, 667-2335: this institute for the study of human potential offers rustic shared rooms on a space-available basis; $60 per person, $110 per couple, including three meals. Even if you don't stay here, you can soak in the hot springs baths (suits optional) from 1 to 5:30 A.M.; $5 per persons. Bath may be closed weekends.
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Title Annotation:California's State Highway 1 coast
Date:May 1, 1984
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