I made it to the purple sand beach, but it wasn’t easy! It was about 38 miles on Scenic Hwy 1 from my lovely Air BnB on the lavender farm in Carmel Valley. You know when they name highways “scenic” they’re narrow, curvy, hilly, etc. This was no exception. The highway wound along the coast with the Pacific Ocean on one side and a mountainside on the other.
At least they believe in guardrails here. Eventually the road veered away from the ocean and cut through a forest of redwoods that completely shaded the road from both sides.
When I found the unmarked turn to the purple sand beach, it was narrow and steep. But, despite the fact that everything I had read said it was hard to find, it wasn’t that hard, because a bunch of people were already there. It was a Clark Griswold-Walley World moment. The moose out front, I mean the park ranger out front was making everyone turn back out. I asked if I was going to be able to get in today and he said, “You can try again in about 20 minutes. You can try as many times as you like, but you can’t stay on this road.”
I pulled out and continued south, not sure where I was going to go. I figured I might as well stop at some of the pullouts along the road. I spent about 20-25 minutes driving and stopping and then decided to try to go back. By this point I wanted to find a restroom. There was one at the beach, but I thought I better not count on getting in. I rounded a corner and there was a library.
In the middle of the forest. Open. I stopped thinking maybe there was a restroom. It was an interesting place, with an outdoor stage.
I walked in and there were lots of books for sale. I found the restroom out back. Amazingly there was also a redwood forest back there. It was closed off, to be viewed from the deck, but it was really cool to be that close to them.
I looked at them a little longer and returned to my car to complete my original mission. This time after turning down the nearly hidden road, I was greeted by the same ranger, who commented that he was glad I got to make it back. I guess he remembered me. They sent me down a one lane road with two-way traffic. There were pull-offs periodically and cars going out had the right-of-way. There was a gate where they collected a $12 parking fee. Finally I arrived in the parking lot, unloaded my stuff and walked up a sandy trail lined with redwoods to the beach. It was gorgeous. And, yes, there was actual purple sand.
Not a lot of purple sand. On the side of the beach, where the mountains framed its beauty, were the purple sand deposits, a product of erosion from the manganese garnet that washes down the mountains when it rains. The beach did not disappoint and was worth the trials to get here. In fact, had there been no purple sand, the beach would have been spectacular, nonetheless.
The panoramic views of the Pacific were amazing and the waves crashing into the large rock formations ascending from the sea were not only seen and heard but, felt within my very being.
The keyhole, the second most photographed feature in Big Sur, was definitely interesting. As the sun descended in the sky, more and more people gathered with their cameras, seeking for the perfect sunset shot.
Staying at the beach until dark is a must. All the stages of the sun’s evening ritual were gorgeous. The “golden hour” was magical.
More and more of the ocean found its way through the keyhole as the rays of the evening sun peeked through the opening. I read that at a certain time of year, the sun is in line with the keyhole can be viewed through the opening.
Eventually the sun kissed the water and the sky exploded into all of its variegated sunset hues.
Predictably, the colors darkened and intensified, until they faded into navy and black.
I slowly trod up the sandy trail through what now seemed to be a haunted forest in the darkness. So long sunset. So long rocks. So long purple sand.