Day-tripping along the Central California coast - the road less traveled.
With a college student living in Santa Barbara California, not infrequently do we find ourselves traveling the 325 or so miles from the San Francisco Peninsula to Santa Barbara for an overnight visit. Keeping on Highway 101 is the most direct way, and a nice drive through suburbs, cities, small towns, farm lands, ranch lands, vineyards, rugged hills and along the Pacific Ocean, arriving about 5-6 hours later.
On a recent trip, the weather was perfect, and our time ample, so we decided to venture off the tried and true route home, and take the road less traveled, adding about 2 hours to our journey, but also adding memories we won't forget.
Leaving Highway 101 just north of the town of Paso Robles, we struck northwest on the desolate Jolon Road taking us through Fort Hunter-Liggett, then onto the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, winding up into the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Ventana Wilderness.
Before plunging down to the famous Big Sur Coast, near the top of the pass, we saw the trail head for Cone Peak, the most spectacular vista point in the Santa Lucia Mountains (that's trip for another day!) We headed north on Highway 1, past Big Sur to Carmel for a quick dinner before heading back to the San Francisco area. The road is now paved all the way; the terrain through Fort Hunter-Liggett is gentle allowing for easy travel. Twisting up to the crest in the Ventana Wilderness, and then down to the coast with hair-pin turns and hair-rising drop offs was another story. Great trip in a study car like our Subaru Outback on a clear, dry day.
While the San Francisco Bay area has many nearby adventures, going a bit farther afield is sometimes the answer. We live in such an amazing area, it's great to get out and explore, and be reminded over and over again just why we live where we do.