Sierra Nevada Adventures Multi Day Rides

Big Sur and Beyond 2-Days


Big Sur & Beyond ADVENTURE ride EXPLORES an astounding OFF-ROAD route including one of America’s most celebrated landscapes along the beautiful Central Pacific Coast in California.

Your adventure begins in Santa Cruz and travels on the world-renowned Pacific Coast Highway (aka “the PCH” or Highway 1) scenic byway. Before long your adventure veers inland to explore an amazing route on twisty curvy roads into the Santa Cruz Mountains and through the majestic Big Basin Redwoods State Park where grizzly bears once roamed free. 

Grizzly bears were once plentiful in the Santa Cruz Mountains and throughout California before the Gold Rush. In fact, grizzly bears roamed free from the beaches of the Pacific Ocean, Coastal Mountains, Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley, and the Sierra Nevada range. Pioneers flocked to California by land and by sea from other parts of America and from around the world. The result was new wealth for the pioneers but the new boom towns dramatically impacted the grizzly bear population. The wild grizzly bears threatened the pioneer's way of life and began killing off their livestock with abandon, and were hunted down relentlessly by the ranchers and mountain men who also derived a profit from hunting and selling the bear hides and meat to the pioneers. Charles Henry "Mountain Charlie" McKiernan was one of these legendary mountain men who hunted grizzly bears in the Santa Cruz Mountains and throughout the Big Basin Redwoods. In fact, he was one of the best-known grizzly bear hunters in California. The ferocious grizzly bears of the Santa Cruz Mountains were powerful creatures weighing from 800 to 1400 pounds, the only bear found in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The giant grizzly was always treated with respect, out of fear and the best shot was a downhill shot with a fast horse for a quick get-away if necessary.

On May 8, 1851, Mountain Charlie and his friend named Taylor from Santa Cruz started out for a gulch about a mile southwest of Mountain Charlie’s home, where Taylor was planning to take up some land. After shooting a couple of deer near the top of the gulch, Mountain Charlie and Taylor spotted a she-grizzly bear and two cubs near the bottom of the gulch. As both were dead shots, the two decided to get the bear and set out for the head of the gulch to approach the bear from above on the far side of the canyon for the customary downhill shot. However, when they arrived at their designated spot, they found the bear out of sight and followed down a deer trail in pursuit. Mountain Charlie in the lead, swung around a bend to find the mother grizzly standing on her hind legs within six feet of him, her forepaws outstretched for a raking hug. Mountain Charlie fired instantly, with the muzzle of his gun against the bear’s chest, while Taylor fired over Mountain Charlie’s shoulder into the bear's face. Mountain Charlie clubbed the grizzly with the stock of his gun, but the powerful grizzly beat down the weapon and seized him in her forearms, crushed the front of his skull in her paws, then bit through the frontal bone and the top of his skull over his left eye, then tossed him aside and started for Taylor. Meanwhile, Taylor's small dog had attacked the cubs, whose squalling attracted the mother and she turned to the dog, while Taylor escaped to the top of the ridge, thinking Mountain Charlie had been killed instantly. The bear chased the dog away, returned to Mountain Charlie, dragged him to the end of a clearing under an oak tree, and after pawing over him in curiosity, left him. Taylor, his rifle reloaded, returned to the gulch to find Mountain Charlie sitting up and conscious, but paralyzed from the waist down from shock. While the fight had been only a matter of seconds, Mountain Charlie said he remained conscious throughout, and remembered every act of his life to date while it was passing. The grizzly bear was not seen again. Taylor bound up Mountain Charlie’s head with his shirt, and leaving him his loaded rifle for protection, went to bring a horse to carry the wounded man home. Mountain Charlie’s massive head injury was eventually treated by Dr. Bell of San Jose who manufactured a silver plate out of two Mexican half dollars to fit in the broken portion of Mountain Charlie’s skull, where the bear had bitten through the frontal bone and the top of his skull over his left eye. 

Within three weeks the plate had corroded and had to be taken out, to be replaced later with another plate. Without the use of anesthetics, Mountain Charlie suffered without complaint through the ordeal. His wound healed, but he became subject to severe headaches, which continued for two years until he went to a Dr. Spencer in Redwood City, who after consultation with specialists, reopened his skull and took out a lock of hair. This operation was performed with an anesthetic, the use of which had just been discovered.

 Mountain Charlie’s pain was relieved, and except for a terrible and permanent disfigurement, Mountain Charlie was ready for an additional 39 years of active life.

After exploring Santa Cruz Mountain where the grizzly bears once roamed free, you will continue south on the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway to view some of the best coastal scenery imaginable. Your off-road adventure begins south of Carmel as your journey veers off the tarmac to explore an amazing route through old-growth Redwoods including big sky panoramic views of the beautiful Pacific Ocean on your way to Big Sur for a tasty lunch. After lunch, your adventure continues south along the Pacific Coast Highway and beyond to visit Morro Bay, home to the world-famous Morro Rock. It is impossible to mistake Morro Bay for any other California seaside town, due to the massive ancient volcanic plug known as Morro Rock. You will have the opportunity to explore off-road on the scenic Old Coast Road through lush redwood forest to remote ridges overlooking the beautiful Pacific Coast. This off-road route was the only access to Big Sur from the north prior to 1919 due to the rugged coastline being impassable. Once you’ve traveled and explored the Old Coast Road, you’ll know why so many miles of wilderness along this section of the California Coast is so pristine and undeveloped. This rugged coastline was extremely difficult to access prior to the construction of the Pacific Coast Highway and its landmark bridges that span the steep canyon creeks that plunge into the sea. Big Sur & Beyond adventure ride showcases the natural beauty of this rugged coastline known as “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world.”

The name "Big Sur" is derived from the original Spanish-language "El Sur Grande", which translates as "the big south", or from "El País Grande Del Sur", "the big country of the south" which was impassible to early settlers from the Monterey area. The rugged coastal area to their south was a mysterious land of unexplored wilderness, and its coastline was especially treacherous to ships due to its steep rocky cliffs in the history of Big Sur the development of a tan-bark industry in the mid-1870s led to the construction of several landings along the Coast. These landings were used for loading the bark (used in the manufacture of tannic acid), as well as for shipping redwood lumber. Among them was Godfrey Notley’s Landing, near the mouth of the Palo Colorado Canyon, around which a thriving village sprang up. Another landing sprang up at the mouth of the Big Sur River and perhaps the most spectacular was Partington Landing. The Rockland Cement Company chose Limekiln Canyon as its headquarters in the 1880s in order to exploit a rich deposit of calcareous rock discovered in the vicinity of the canyon. Schooners began to regularly frequent Rockland Landing to load limestone bricks and deliver supplies. With the demise of the liming operation, the days of industrial enterprise along the Big Sur coast came to an abrupt halt. The next boom along this rugged coastline was the discovery of gold near the head of Alder Creek which led to the Big Sur Gold Rush of the 1880s. The Los Burros Mining District sprang into action with three stamp mills and a boomtown named Manchester mushroomed on Alder Creek. In its heyday, Manchester boasted four stores, a restaurant, five saloons, a dance hall, and a hotel. By 1895 the boom had begun to fade, and the timber, gold, tan-bark, and lime industries had come and gone, with only a few remnants left behind for the curious to wonder at.

Beyond Big Sur, you will travel south on an epic ride on one of America’s most scenic byways along precarious cliff sides and tight turns hug the rugged coastline while mile after mile of stunning vistas inspires awe around every corner. The majestic Pacific Coast Highway between Carmel, through Big Sur, and beyond to San Simeon is one of the most beautiful paved roads in the US and needs to be on a bucket list for every motorcycle rider who seeks adventure.

On most maps, Big Sur is shown as a small town along Highway 1 close to the Pacific Ocean in the foothills of the rugged Santa Lucia Mountains, though the name Big Sur Coast is more widely applied to a 75-mile section of the central California coast, from Carmel in the north to San Simeon to the south. This section of the Big Sur Coast is a dramatic landscape with steep rugged hillsides that slope down to the ocean forming a seemingly endless line of sheer cliffs, rocky coves, sandy beaches, and historic points of interest. A few miles past one of these historic points of interest is the only route across the Santa Lucia Mountains between Camel and San Simeon. You will have the opportunity to ride this route, which was once a dirt trail, used by late 19th-century settlers to transport cattle from the coast to the Central Valley. This historic cattle trail was eventually improved into a narrow twisty road back in the 1930s and is now regarded by the locals as one of the best motorcycle roads in central California due to its twisty curves, precipitous drops, and its spectacular ocean views around every corner. Be sure to keep one eye on the road, while taking in the scenery to avoid one of these drops that would most likely result in sudden death. If you survive this narrow twisty road, you will be rewarded with the opportunity to explore off-road through the remote forest with occasional clearings that provide panoramic views along the beautiful Pacific Coast.  

Beyond the Santa Lucia Mountains, your off-road adventure eventually reconnects to the scenic Pacific Coast Highway where you will have the opportunity to travel past the world-renowned Hearst Castle, also called La Casa Grande (“The Big House”). In 1865 American gold-mine owner George Hearst purchased some 40,000 acres (16,200 hectares) of land in the area around San Simeon Bay. He continued to acquire property in the vicinity, eventually amassing some 250,000 acres. In 1919 his son, William Randolph inherited the land, which was then known as Camp Hill and offered little in the way of amenities. That year he commissioned Morgan “to build a little something.” The project evolved into a series of luxurious buildings and gardens on a 127-acre estate that Hearst named La Cuesta Encantada (“The Enchanted Hill”). Working in collaboration with Hearst, Morgan sought to capture the grandeur of European architecture, and many features were inspired by foreign buildings and artworks. Construction continued into late 1940. The centerpiece of the estate is the main residence, which became known as Hearst Castle. It was designed in the Mediterranean Revival style, and its facade suggests a Spanish cathedral with its bell towers and ornate decorations. The main entrance is flanked by bas-reliefs of knights, and a sculpture of Mary holding the infant Jesus is perched in a niche over the massive door. The splendor of the exterior continues inside the mansion. Covering 68,500 square feet, Hearst Castle contains 115 rooms, including 38 bedrooms, more than 40 bathrooms, a theatre, and a beauty salon. Typifying the mansion’s opulence is the Doge’s Suite, which was inspired by the Doges’ Palace in Venice and was reportedly reserved for Hearst’s most important guests. The sitting room features walls adorned with velvet fabric, and the 18th-century painted ceiling was originally in an Italian palazzo. The suite’s marble balcony includes an elaborate loggia. In addition, Hearst’s extensive collection of antiques and artworks is prominently displayed in the suite as well as throughout the rest of the mansion. Hearst died in 1951, and three years later La Cuesta Encantada became a California state park. In 1958 the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument was established, and that year the estate was opened to public tours. It became one of the state’s more popular attractions, and some one million people visit it annually.

Beyond the Hearst Castle, your adventure travels on the Pacific Coast Highway to Morro Bay where you stay the night and enjoy dinner and drinks in one of the local pubs. After your stay at Morro Bay, you will have the opportunity to travel north along the world-renowned Pacific Coast Highway back to Santa Cruz California. 

Event Details:

Multi-Day Tour: (15 to 20 riders with 20 riders max)
This adventure ride is designed for (650cc+) to (1250cc+) dual-sport adventure bikes.
Off-road terrain is rated easy to mild some moderate and lots of adventure.
Ride distance approx. 400 miles round trip (30 miles dirt roads)
Gas stops (135-mile range required)

MEETING TIME: 8:30 a.m. (ride starts at 9:00 a.m.)
MEETING LOCATION: Shell Gas Station Santa Cruz CA.
805 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz CA. 95060
Arrive in the morning with a full tank of gas.
Ride returns to Santa Cruz CA. (approx. 5:00 p.m.)

MEALS (Meals not included)
Breakfast lunch and dinner at restaurants.
Bring water and snacks.

HOTEL RECOMMENDATIONS: (Hotel not included)
Riders are responsible for booking their hotel reservations.
-Sea Air Inn & Suites, 845 Morro Ave. Morro Bay CA. 93442 (805) 772-4495
-Bay View Inn 225 Harbor Street Morro Bay CA. 93442 (805) 772-2771 
-Harbor House Inn 1095 Main Street, Morro Bay CA. 93442 (805) 772-2711
Additional hotels are available in Morro Bay, CA.

OPTIONAL HOTEL Prior to Event: (Hotel not included)
Riders are responsible for booking their hotel reservations.
–Best Western Plus All Suites Inn at 500 Ocean Street Santa Cruz, CA 95060 (831) 458-9898
Additional hotels are available in Santa Cruz CA.
Truck/trailering your bike? Please make accommodations with your hotel.

OPTIONAL CAMPING: (Camping not included)
Recommended to make camping reservations in advance.

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