California Bixby bridge in Big Sur Monterey County
Credit: Getty Images

A crucial stretch of California's Highway 1 running from Cambria to Carmel is finally ready to welcome drivers once again after closing for a full 18 months.

Recreational vehicle on Highway 1, California
Credit: Getty Images

The famed section, which is just a piece of the massive highway that runs along nearly the entirety of the U.S. Pacific Coast, was buried under a massive mudslide in May 2017. At the time, a Caltrans spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times mud covered a third of a mile of Highway 1 in rock and dirt nearly 40 feet deep. The spokesperson added that the damage was “unprecedented.”

However, Wednesday’s reopening meant that the state agency was able to open the section of highway to drivers a full two months earlier than expected and a full two days before an official ribbon cutting.

According to Chamber President Mel McColloch, who spoke to the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, members should “be prepared for an influx of tourists in the coming weeks.” He added, “the Chamber is proud of our members for the way they managed during the difficult 18-month closure.”

One of those members is the Hearst Castle, which is adding a number of tours for visitors upon the reopening.

“We’ve already got our playbook pretty well laid out,” Dan Falat, a superintendent of the State Parks district that includes the castle, told The Tribune. He added that his team did extensive planning earlier this year based on “the long-term perception that Highway 1 would reopen sometime soon, and it’s much easier for us to plan for full capacity than to switch midstream and add capacity later.”

This, however, may not be the last time we see Mother Nature shift the road along Highway 1.

Highway 1 turn with ocean
Credit: Nicolo Sertorio/Getty Images

“This has sort of been the history of this coast from the beginning,” John Duffy, an engineering geologist in Pismo Beach, who also consulted on rebuild, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s an emerging coastline geologically speaking, and it’s in a constant state of trying to come to some stability. All of the factors that have made it such a beautiful place also make it a challenging place to maintain a road.”

Still, for now, the $54-million rebuild will allow visitors to traverse Big Sur once again. So maybe plan a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway soon before the rainy season begins again.