Bixby Bridge (or Bixby Creek Bridge) is one of the most popular stops along the famous Big Sur coast in Central California. And deservedly so!
The handsome bridge is an engineering marvel. But it is also a dramatic sight as it straddles the canyon carved by Bixby Creek, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Santa Lucia Mountains on the other.
Featured in classic movies like Play Misty for Me and in the title shot for Big Little Lies, Bixby Creek Bridge is a much-coveted photo spot, whether you are a pro photographer looking for that dream capture, or a visitor in search of the unforgettable Big Sur selfie.
Planning a visit to this Big Sur icon? Read on to discover what to expect, plus things to know before you go!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
What can you expect at Bixby Creek Bridge?
Best Bixby Creek Bridge Photo Spots
Essential Facts about Bixby Bridge
Getting to Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, California
Tips for Visiting Bixby Creek Bridge
What can you expect at Bixby Bridge?
Spectacular views, history, and…crowds!
If you search online for photos of Big Sur, you’re more likely than not to come up with photos of Bixby Creek Bridge. It’s that significant a feature of this spectacular stretch of California coastline.
In terms of famous California bridges, Bixby Creek Bridge is second only to the Golden Gate Bridge.
While the views of the bridge itself are breathtaking, the setting is just as mesmerizing.
Built in concrete in shades of tan so it would blend well with its surroundings, Bixby Creek Bridge looks stunning any time of the year.
But we think the spot looks its absolute best in the early spring, when the mountains are bright green, and wildflowers provide color around the viewing points.
Scenic Highway Plaque
When the stretch of road between Carmel Highlands and the Monterey County south border was declared California’s first scenic highway in 1965, it was at Bixby Creek Bridge that the dedication was done.
Lady Bird Johnson, the First Lady of the US at the time, dedicated the scenic road to the public at a ceremony on September 21, 1966.
Look for the plaque, embedded in a large rock in the parking area on the ocean side at the north end of the bridge.
Expect crowds at popular times
Bixby Creek Bridge is one of the most crowded areas along the Big Sur drive, especially if you visit on weekends or during the day on nice weather days in the summer.
A parking spot can be difficult (or impossible) to find, and the road itself is congested at this spot at popular times.
Best Spots to Photograph Bixby Creek Bridge
One of the most photographed landmarks in California, Bixby Creek Bridge looks spectacular regardless of the weather.
We’ve admired it on bright sunny days and on fog-filled days.
We’ve seen it showcased against the bright fresh green of the hills in the spring and against the tawny gold of the hills in the summer and fall.
We’ve snapped it early in the morning, with wispy tendrils of fog floating above it, and in the mellow golden light of sunset.
And it has looked beautiful every single time.
Here are the best spots for getting beautiful photos of Bixby Creek Bridge:
Castle Rock Viewpoint on Highway 1
The viewing area by the parking lot on the west side of Highway 1 at the north end of Bixby Creek Bridge is the most popular spot for snapping photos of the bridge.
From here, you see the bridge relatively up close, with the Santa Lucia Mountains forming a majestic backdrop, and the waves of the Pacific Ocean spending themselves on the pristine cove at the foot of the bridge.
Here’s where you can snap a photo of the bridge sign, as well as the plaque that was placed to commemorate Lady Bird Johnson’s dedication of the scenic highway in 1966.
The cliffs of Big Sur are fragile, so we recommend staying within the designated viewing area, well away from the cliff edges.
Old Coast Road Parking Area across from Highway 1
You can get a different perspective of the bridge from across California Highway 1, just where Old Coast Road begins.
Again, the cliffs are fragile, so stay away from the edges when you snap photos or selfies.
Bixby Bridge Viewpoint on Old Coast Road
You can also walk, or drive (if you have the appropriate vehicle) to the Bixby Bridge Vista Point on Coast Road (see map) and even beyond, where you will be parallel with the bridge.
Hurricane Point Vista Point on Highway 1
Drive over the bridge and along Highway 1 south for about a mile, where the road climbs up to the Hurricane Point vista point at the top. There is a pullout here where you can park.
From this viewpoint, you get a distant view of Bixby Creek Bridge within its magnificent setting.
It’s a picture postcard photo if you happen to be here on a clear day, with the scalloped bays and the thin ribbon of road snaking through the landscape.
Good to know: The bridge itself is narrow with two-lane traffic, and it does not have sidewalks for pedestrians.
Essential facts about the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur
Located on California Highway 1, just under 15 miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Bixby Creek Bridge is also known as Bixby Bridge or Bixby Canyon Bridge.
The bridge was completed in 1932, at a cost just under $200,000.
The single-arch bridge is made of reinforced concrete, and, at 260 feet from the bottom of the canyon, it is one of the highest single-span bridges in the world.
The dramatic parabolic arch and the graceful columns make for a design that make you go “Wow!” when you first see it.
The total length of the bridge is 714 feet, and the span is an impressive 360 feet across.
Before Bixby Creek Bridge and California Highway 1 were completed, the Old Coast Road a few miles inland was the only route available to residents of the area, and it was often impassable in winter.
Five years after the bridge was completed, the road linking Carmel to San Simeon was finally opened.
In 2000, a multi-million dollar seismic retrofit was completed, but, interestingly, the bridge is still considered “obsolete,” because it is only 24 feet wide instead of the 32 feet required of modern bridges.
California Highway 1 and Bixby Creek Bridge are open year round.
Bixby Creek Bridge is free to visit. It is a vista point, so there are no amenities here.
How to get to Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California
Getting to Bixby Creek Bridge is very straightforward, because is located along California Highway 1 in Big Sur.
Bixby Creek Bridge is a must-stop spot on a Big Sur road trip!
Parking at Bixby Bridge
There are several places you can park at Bixby Creek Bridge.
There is a decent-sized pullout on the ocean side at the north end of Bixby Creek Bridge, with several marked parking spots. This is the most popular place to park.
We’ve also seen vehicles parked in the dirt on the side of Old Coast Road, on the land side of the north end of the bridge. (Old Coast Road is shown as Coast Road on Google maps.) Only a few spots are available here.
Finally, there is a small pullout at the south end of Bixby Creek Bridge, with just a few parking spaces.
Tips for visiting Bixby Creek Bridge
Catch golden hour (and sunset) at Bixby Creek Bridge
The bridge photographs best in the afternoon, especially during golden hour, when the mellow rays of the setting sun casts a golden glow over the bridge.
If you stay for sunset (and a little beyond), you may get colorful skies in shades of pink and orange, for a dream photo of the bridge and its setting.
Know that you may run into fog
You can encounter fog along the Big Sur coast any time of the year, but especially so in late spring and the summer (May Gray and June Gloom).
The fog usually burns off by mid-day (but not always).
Visit in the afternoon outside of summer for the best chance of bright clear weather at the bridge.
Visit Bixby Bridge on a weekday
You’ll still find other visitors at Bixby Creek Bridge during the day on weekdays, but it will be nowhere near as crowded as on weekends.
We’ve only visited once on the weekend, and it was a veritable zoo. People crossing the road without looking, drivers fighting over parking spots, and worse.
It was an experience we didn’t want to repeat.
This is one of the most beautiful spots in the state, and you want to be able to enjoy it, so trust us and pick a weekday to visit!
Or visit really early in the day
A great time to visit Bixby Bridge is early in the morning: dawn or sunrise, when the light is good for photos, and you’ll encounter few or no other visitors.
This is one of our favorite times to spend time at the bridge.
The stillness of the early morning, with little to no traffic, makes for a tranquil experience, whether you just want to sit on a rock and enjoy the views, paint, take photos, or walk along Old Coast Road.
Exercise care at popular times
If your time in Big Sur is short and you cannot avoid popular visiting times, exercise great care around the bridge, both as a driver and as a pedestrian.
Watch for cars as you walk around the pullouts, and be extra careful if you choose to cross the road to view the bridge from the side opposite to where you park.
As a driver, watch for people focused on taking selfies or photos: we’ve seen people walk backwards into parking spots from the viewing area, and be prepared for traffic congestion around the bridge.
Download driving directions before your visit
If you are unfamiliar with the area, download directions to Bixby Bridge before your visit.
There aren’t any big signs to tell you the bridge is coming up, and you may not have cellphone reception in Big Sur.
Take photos safely
The cliffs of Big Sur are notoriously fragile, and may crumble and give way.
Practice caution when trying to find the perfect spot for your photo or selfie. The safest place is the parking area, well back from the edges.
Check for Highway 1 closures before you go
California Highway 1 can sometimes be partially or completely closed for various reasons, such as damage from mudslides after winter rains or wildfires along the route.
And sometimes the closure can be an extended one, while repairs are completed.
Check the Caltrans website just before your visit to make sure you have access to the bridge.
Dress in layers
It can be extremely windy and quite cool by the ocean any time of the year, so dress in layers to stay comfortable as you enjoy the views and snap photos.
Remember there are no amenities at Bixby Creek Bridge
There are no restrooms and no trash receptacles at Bixby Creek Bridge.
Please visit respectfully: let’s keep Big Sur beautiful for other visitors and future generations.
Pack trash out, and use a restroom in Carmel (if you’re driving from the north) or in Big Sur (if you’re driving from the south).
Planning a visit to Big Sur? Check out our other articles!
- How to Visit McWay Falls in Big Sur
- Visiting Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur
- The Best Things to Do in Big Sur, California
- The Best Hikes in Big Sur
- Point Lobos State Reserve: The Complete Guide
- Garrapata State Park: The Ultimate Guide
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