Highway One in Big Sur reaches gridlock

I received a number of traffic reports from readers for Sunday, July 3. It was beyond a nightmare. Suzy Cowan Tennyson reported it took her 58 minutes to travel (between 4 and 4:58) what is usually 30 mins from River Inn to Rio RD. She counted the vehicles. 1736, South Bound only! She said at River Inn all day it was almost gridlock with all the cars headed southbound.

John Galt, on the same day, took this photo. It took him two hours to reach Rocky Point from Rio Road, usually a 15 min drive. (He took this photo at 5:11) Cars were lined up from Bixby Bridge all the way back to Rocky Point. It took him another hour to travel from Rocky Point to River Inn.


So, if one was traveling north on Sunday, it took twice as long as usual to reach Rio RD. But if one was traveling south on Highway One, it took TEN TIMES normal driving times to reach Big Sur Valley.

Here  is one from Amy Hall taken Saturday night:


We have studied this before, made predictions and recommendations, but have accomplished nothing. We have to change direction.


I’ve been going through this document (thanks for sending it Laurie and Tim Green), but it is tedious and will take some time. I will add photos of various pages of interest to the Overuse Page, as I go. I also have made a FOIA request to Cal Trans for any other traffic monitoring reports made from 1979 to the present. Will see what they say. Also, I will be requesting statistics from the State Park on visitor levels.

We are way beyond capacity on Highway One, the back country, and the entire length of Big Sur. It is a problem which is not going away and which must be faced and addressed. For my part, I just bought 5 Marathon C0200003 counters from Amazon, the only ones which are 5 digit instead of the usual 4 for only $7.95 each. I hope to pass out a few (I’ll leave one with Suzy or Rick at the River Inn) and use a few at strategic places right on the highway for an hour, or so. Any of you who decide to do the same thing, send the info to me at kwnovoa@mac.com. Make sure to include the date, day of the week, and time with your stats.


15 thoughts on “Highway One in Big Sur reaches gridlock

  1. Congestion on Hwy 1 south of Rio Road has become a BIG issue for those of living in the Carmel Highlands. Some relief might be possible by expediting the flow at Rio road (of north bound traffic). But Monterey County says that’s under state control.
    So, you might want to emend your REPRESENTATIVES category.

    State Senate:
    Bill Monning

    State Assembly:
    Luis Alejo

  2. Hi Kate…I was at a party in Carmel last Sunday and there were 2 guests from New Jersey…they read the NJ Sunday edition newspaper online before attending the party..they shared that on the front of the travel section was a large article about the Monterey Peninsula with emphasis on Carmel and Big Sur…all the publicity is certainly not helping this crisis situation…thanks for all your efforts…Kristi

  3. Want to quickly clarify a point: the 1,736 I counted was ONLY southbound traffic, so only (more or less) half the traffic. The number should be taken with a healthy grain of salt, of course, as it was just done by one individual who was driving. However, even factoring in plenty of room for error, it is an astounding number.

  4. I am finding that Sunday’s of three day weekends to be the worst traffic problems. I had no issue on Monday July 4th. The same story on the President/Valentine’s weekend.

  5. you should have seen cambria yesterday… cars everywhere… they say an influx of 10,000… could not even get into parking lots…closed off day use and cars just parked all along the highway… never seen so many people here or cars!

  6. Thanks, David, I brought it up-to-date, of course it will change again in Nov. or some will. Bill Monning has always been good about attending our BSMAAC meetings, regardless of his representational position.

  7. With our free trade agreements we created fresh new middle classes in China and India. Millions more people now able to afford travel. In China, the middle class is so new that there is a very short history of driving…not the generations of drivers that we have here. Unintended consequences.

  8. I have had a Big Sur google news search active for years.. every week someone publishes a big article. Nothing new here but it is part of the problem. WORSE is YELP and other social media have become the place to find great hikes and hidden gems. Just yesterday a friend was hiking an always remote, empty trail and came upon many hikers… How did they hear about it? YELP! I think social media is becoming a source and cause for many visitors. Alas.

  9. So what’s the problem?? the restaurants and lodgings are happy to have the maximum number of visitors -the media is counting their revenue acquired by directing the business – the tourists/visitors are enjoying what the residents have been paying taxes for……so who was complaining?
    We can call this the San Francisco phenomenon -it’s a kind of prostitution -if you sell your beauty what do you have when it’s gone?

  10. What do you have when it’s gone?

    Lots more trash blowing around.
    Lesser quality of life.
    Maybe it will get better when the kids go back to school in August.

    Really, though, traffic is worse everywhere cause there are more people driving- and some of them are very rude (ignorant).

    Try to limit your time on the highway to just essentials.

  11. You can’t blame em.

    We need to educate..

    -pave the turnouts
    -put in a bike lane
    -install signage that directs people
    •sped limit
    • vista point
    These signs can go up on just before Memorial Day and come down shortly after Labor Day..

    A big sign on both ends that says
    Yes, nature Yes, hiking, Yes, beauty Yes, Leave No Trace
    No, illegal campfires No, illegal camping No, graffiti

    Please contact me if you would like to join this movement

    Pack it in Pack it out

    We are watching, and we hope you are too..

    -CHP/ BLM/ Forest Service/ State Parks / Local Community/ Ambassadors


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