I love to examine the motivation behind any of our artistic endeavors, especially photography. During my day-to-day activities at See Monterey I get to see visitors’ photos, both professional and amateur, finding out what drives there inspirations while their stay in Monterey County. I have found that the rock arch at Pfeiffer Beach is one of the most photographed landmarks in Big Sur, besides Bixby Bridge of course. Having seen so many epic pictures of this unusual stone with a donut hole through the middle I just had to check it out for myself.
Being an obsessive planner I made sure to get thorough directions to this hidden gem and boy am I glad I did! Pfeiffer Beach is very hard to find for the uninitiated. There is no signage except for a yellow “Narrow Road” warning on the side of the road, definitely not the welcome I was expecting. The Beach is located at the end of unmarked Sycamore Canyon Road, which is the only paved, un-gated road on the west side of Highway One between the Big Sur Post Office and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
After spotting the yellow warning sign I did a quick sharp turn down the narrow road. I continued to travel downhill and pulled to the shoulder of the road a few times letting those go by in the opposite direction. After a short majestic ride in the shaded redwood forest I reached the entrance gate to the beach.
I paid my $5 entrance fee to the friendly booth attendant and easily found a parking space near the handy restrooms. I had come prepared with hiking shoes and attire in hand but soon realized I wouldn’t need any of it. You can see the flat sandy beach from the manicured path starting at the parking lot which is great for those not wanting to embark on a traitorous hike through the Big Sur wilderness.
Once the full beach came into view I could easily see why photographers flock to this paradise. There was a scene waiting to be captured in every corner. To my left were crashing waves along the rugged coastline, to my right was the famous rock arch and up above were jagged rock formations that looked like they just came out of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland.
The rock arch did not disappoint- the massive curved boulder seemed to sit perfectly on the beach’s shore. I was mesmerized by the constant flood of ocean water sweeping in and out of its “door.”
Did I mention this beach has purple sand? Patches of amethyst hued pebbles were scattered throughout the beach. It almost looked like fairy dust, although I am sure there is some fancy scientific explanation out there. After taking a ton of photos I unwillingly started back to my car. I will certainly be back to this beach for sunset. I can only imagine how this unspoiled “Heaven on Earth” would look under the lit up sky. Pfeiffer Beach is for day use only and costs $5 to park, which is totally worth it! The gates are open seven days a week from 9am-sunset.