America. / Army 101

Big Sur Pfeiffer Falls, in pictures

Depending on the language you’re learning, course length at DLI can be anywhere from 6 months to 1.5 years. Luckily for my love affair with Monterey, Jonathan is here for one of the longer courses. For Jonathan, however, class can be tiring. Imagine attending college and being in class for seven straight hours, every day, Monday through Friday. Then imagine that every day, every hour, is the same exact class. Over and over. Week in and week out. I can’t think of a single thing I’d want to do that much. Not even something I love, like watching “Honey Boo Boo” or eating cheese.

The small saving grace in Jonathan’s repetitive cycle is two week-long breaks worked into that 1.5 years: one during the winter holidays, and one that tries to split the difference. The latter week of language-free classes, for Jonathan, is happening right now and disappearing rapidly. Instead of planning a trip or trying to cram our California bucket list into 7 days, we decided to use the time to hang out around Monterey and enjoy the temperate climate.

Accordingly, we kicked off class break on Highway 1 and drove up to hike at Big Sur.

Big Sur drive Highway 1

I’ve mentioned that I find this area of Central California particularly beautiful because of its stark geographical contrasts: When you’re at the beach in Monterey, you’re only a few minutes from the mountains. In the area known as Big Sur, this is exaggeratedly true.

Big Sur drive Highway 1

Though I’d heard a lot about the area, I was somehow not prepared for the drive; the trip from Monterey to Big Sur runs almost entirely up coastal Highway 1, wrapping and winding between mountains and shoreline for a terrifying and breathtaking hour.

Big Sur drive Highway 1

The pictures do little justice to the awesomeness of this drive.

The hiking trails at Big Sur are known for their views and their difficulty. There are several state park areas, however, each with their own trails and mixed levels of hiking, from easy to strenuous. Because this was our first trip and we decided to take the dog with us, we started off easy with a trail at Big Sur Pfeiffer Falls.

Big Sur Pfeiffer Falls State Park

We realized after completing this hike that dogs are not, in fact, permitted on the trail to the falls. Oops. I promise that we picked up all his poop, and no squirrels or birds were harmed in the making of our hike.

The trail up to Pfeiffer Falls is short (only a mile or two) with a diverse range of steep uphill and steep downhill sections. Along the way is a chance to take in the grandeur of California redwood trees, and a few mountainous views.

Big Sur redwoods

If you’ve never seen a redwood in person, it’s difficult to describe just how huge these trees are. When I was quite young, my family drove up the coast from Los Angeles to Oregon, with a stop in the famous redwood forest. As a tourist attraction, you used to be able to drive your car through an opening sculpted into a redwood tree; the experience was so impressive that it became one of my earliest memories.

Big Sur Pfeiffer Falls Hike

Big Sur Pfeiffer State Park

Pfeiffer Falls viewpoint

Then, just as you’re beginning to doubt the “easy” description given to this hike, the trail winds into a steep downhill slope. This is a good time to give the dog’s leash (which you apparently shouldn’t have had in the first place) to somebody who is stronger than you, unless you have a dog-induced downhill death wish.

And as the trail levels out again, you arrive at Pfeiffer Falls.

Jonathan at Big Sur Pfeiffer Falls

Big Sur Pfeiffer Falls

The waterfall itself is quite small, but the landscaping around it forms a peaceful little grotto in the middle of the woods that is definitely worth the trip.

Big Sur Pfeiffer Falls

Then back down you go.

(As we traversed back down to the trail entrance, we were stopped by several groups who asked if the view was worth the difficulty of the hike; this has me extremely scared to hike what’s labeled as a “strenuous” trail later this week.)

Big Sur hiking redwoods

Big Sur Pfeiffer Falls viewpoint

Near the beginning of the falls trail, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park also surrounds a creek. As it turns out, your dog is allowed in the creek area (we had this backwards), and your furbaby is not the only one who will appreciate the cool water. While it was mostly cloudy and 60 degrees when we left Monterey, it was in the 80s and mostly sunny up at Big Sur.

Note for the next trip: Follow husband’s lead and wear shorts.

Big Sur Pfeiffer Falls creek

Until next time, Big Sur.

Big Sur drive Highway 1

Big Sur drive Highway 1

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