Towering high above the Pacific on a promontory with 400 foot sheer cliffs,
Ragged Point offers one of the finest ocean vistas in the world, often called
the "Million Dollar View". It is also
one of the few places on this coast where there is a trail down the face of a cliff. The trail
ends at a breathtaking, black-sanded pocket beach.
The Santa Lucia Mountains parallel the central California coast. For a stretch
of about 100 miles, starting at Ragged Point in the south, and ending at Big Sur
in the north, the mountains drop straight into the ocean forming an almost unbroken
line of cliffs the entire distance. In a fabulous engineering feat, the
Pacific Coast Highway (California Highway 1) has
been built onto the cliffs generally about 400 feet above the water. Note the
highlighted area in the photo, right.
This section of the Pacific Coast Highway (California Highway 1) is considered by many to be the finest
scenic drive in the world. The section of coast, often called the "Big Sur", is considered
by many to be the most beautiful in the world.
Ragged Point is actually a privately owned resort property. The Ramey family
has owned the site for nearly forty years turning a gas station and snack shop
into a beautiful and tasteful resort featuring a motor inn, an excellent restaurant
(terrific soups), gardens, vista points, and of course the trail to the beach.
There are few services between here and Big Sur so it has been a popular place
to stop for generations of travelers. (We are grateful to the Ragged Point Inn
for allowing us to take photographs for publication on their property. For more
info on the resort, call 805-927-4502.)
The trail to the beach at the base of the cliffs is short (1/2 mile) but steep
with about a 400 foot change in elevation. Views of the beach below are
spectacular (left) as are the ever changing views of the cliffs to the north.
This cliff face is well-watered and hence very lush
in vegetation. On this July day, there are wildflowers everywhere.
The dampness makes the trail somewhat slippery. We need to negotiate
one rock obstacle to get on the beach itself.
The beach is rather exotic with the black sand. It is a rather common
phenomenon on this section of the coast. The view of the cliffs is all the
more imposing looking from the bottom up. Few tourists are willing to brave the trail
so it's also very private.
Ragged Point also features the largest waterfall on the Big Sur coast. The photo, left,
shows a view of the cliffs from the beach. The Ragged Point promontory is at the
right with the trail off the picture further right. While it was a poor time of day
to shoot the waterfall, it is still visible in the closeup, right, or in the
enlargement of the photo, left.
While most folks focus on the amazing views of the cliffs to the north, there
are also great views to the south. As the mountains move inland the cliffs diminish,
and the level coastline offers low lying cliffs sheltering pretty pocket beaches.
Further south, the coast offers numerous large sandy beaches such as Hearst, Moonstone,
Cayucos, Morro, and Pismo.
Above left, the vista from Ragged Point facing south.
Right, a coastal scene several miles south with the Piedras Blancas
Lighthouse in the distance.