Cruising on Coast Road

I like to take my Subaru off-road, and I made a pact with myself that I’d try and get my car dirty at least once a month. However, as schoolwork and other demands imposed on me started to catch up, I hadn’t seen a dirt road since July of this year (ironically, in Big Sur). 90 percent of my decision to come here for school was the proximity to places to go off-road, and yesterday was the first day I’ve had the chance.

Coast Road is extremely easy to find from California State University, Monterey Bay. Along Highway 1 going south, it’s only 20.14 miles. When the Bixby Creek Bridge is in sight, the trail entrance is directly to the left of the bridge. If you go over the bridge, you’ve missed it. There’s an intimidating sign that says, “Impassable when wet,” and that only serves as a warning to drivers, not necessarily a restriction.

The majority of the trail is very narrow, with only a few places to pull over for oncoming traffic, making it more difficult to maneuver during the rainy season. Even with 4×4 or AWD, it’s harder to pull over safely to allow the passing of other cars when it’s muddy. There were also parts of the trail that had evidence of regular flooding after heavy rain. With the threat of slick mud and water, there becomes a heightened risk of danger. Cell phone restriction is slim to none along Highway 1, so emergencies take longer to respond to.

While the trail itself is public, there are private homes that are passed towards the very center of the trail. About three quarters of the way through, there’s a beautiful bridge that passes over a creek covered in fallen leaves. This was my favorite part of the trail, aside from the tall redwood trees.

An old bridge covered in autumn leaves passing over a creek. Photo by Kristen Finley.

The scenery was diverse, with there being beautiful patches of mini redwood forests, to open parts of the trail trekking through fields with the ocean to the right and rolling hills to the left. The terrain changed from soft, silty dirt to very rocky depending on whether or not you were driving through the patches of redwoods or the open stretches.

Coast road has a couple different places to reconnect with Highway 1, but if you stick to the entire trail, it’s a little over 6 miles long. With the distance being fairly close to campus, it doesn’t demand a lot of preparation – although it’s never a bad idea to bring things that prepare you for the worst case scenario no matter what trail you trek.

This entire expedition took me a little over two hours, just because I drove slow and stopped consistently to take pictures or admire the beauty around me. So, if you’ve got a few hours to spare and need a taste of dirt road and redwoods, this will most certainly scratch the itch.

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