An Island No More: Big Sur’s Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge Reopens

bridge reopens big sur

An enclave of popular event venues in California’s Big Sur region are now accessible again—and in the case of Ventana Big Sur, greatly improved—after the fast-tracking of Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge. The critical link on California’s scenic Highway 1 was severely damaged in early February during a series of landslides, and has been rebuilt over the last seven months by the California Department of Transportation at a cost of $24 million.

A project of this magnitude can often take seven to eight years, but because 35 miles of the highway to the south was inaccessible to vehicles and visitors, a new bridge designed to be less vulnerable to landslides was expedited. The closure left a tourism-dependent town out of business for the entire peak season. Locals began calling the places separated by the bridge closure “Big Sur Island,” because the town was very isolated.

Back to Business as Usual

This section of Monterey attracts many of the 4.6 million people who visit the county each year to hike the Redwoods and take in sweeping views of the Pacific. Businesses south of the bridge that are now open for business again include Esalen Institute, Hawthorne Gallery, Nepenthe, Big Sur Deli, Big Sur Taphouse and The Phoenix Shop.

Ventana Big Sur took advantage of the lull in tourism while roads were being repaired to invest in a reimagining of all 59 rooms and 12,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including an ocean meadow for glamping in the redwoods. It will reopen as part of Alila Hotels & Resort. Event planners can once again provide a peaceful retreat for attendees, complete with coastal views, serene beaches and jaw-dropping sunsets.

The bridge’s reopening has helped much of Big Sur get back on its feet, while hotel and restaurant owners look forward to a return to normalcy after an unintended off-season. Tourists look forward to return to picturesque beaches, sweeping views and tranquility the great outdoors offers.

While the bridge provides much better access to Big Sur, there is still work to be done. Highway 1 in Big Sur remains closed at Salmon Creek near the San Luis Obispo County border due to the massive Mud Creek slide, and won’t open to traffic until late summer. The new roadway—which  will traverse over the slide area, using a series of embankments, berms, rocks, netting, culverts and other stabilizing material—will  cost an estimated $40 million.