California’s Big Sur Highway Reconstruction Is 2 Months Ahead of Plan

big sur california
Jeremiah Davis

Route 66, Virginia’s Skyline Drive, Montana’s Going to the Sun Road — all icons of American roadtripping. California’s Highway 1 ranks up there with the best of them. But, a massive landslide last year threatened to keep a significant portion of the route closed indefinitely. Now, an official announcement heralds the unexpected reopening two months ahead of schedule.

Since late 2016, Highway 1 has fallen victim to numerous landslides. In May 2017, however, an epic slide near Big Sur dumped millions of tons of rocks, soil, and debris along a 12-mile stretch of road. Some sections were buried under 40 feet of earth. It spread so far into the ocean that more than 15 acres of new coastline were created in its wake. It was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime (you might say “biblical”) slide that no one expected.

At the time, the California Department of Transportation believed the section between San Francisco and Los Angeles likely wouldn’t reopen until September of this year. Last November, critical parts of the highway, including the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, reopened, allowing limited access for visitors and locals. The latter had previously been forced to hike more than a mile out and back just to get to their homes.

However, after marking the closure as a top priority, the department announced last week that it would reopen in July — a full two months earlier than expected. Given the timing at the height of the summer travel and tourist season, the news couldn’t come at a better time. It’s a boon for the hundreds of thousands of outdoor-lovers who travel to the area each year to hike and camp. Although the majority of the highway remained open since the slide, news of the closures also had a dramatic negative impact on local businesses. So, the reopening will return them to some sense of normalcy as well.

The Pacific Coast Highway — and the area around Big Sur, in particular — is among the most recognizable drives in the world. The serpentine highways winds along the Pacific Ocean through some of California’s most breathtaking natural scenery. Along with Route 66, it’s arguably the most beloved scenic route in the United States.

Planning your own epic road trip? Be sure to download the best road trip-worthy podcasts, audiobooks, and mobile apps before you go!