The view of Highway 1 from the bottom of Nacimiento Road shows the character of the South coast area of Big Sur, with its rugged cliffs and winding ways. The vegetation near sea level is reliably small, and shows the twisting effects of wind and the hot temperatures of summer, alternating with the rains of winter.
As one proceeds up Nacimiento Road, the forest areas in the inside corners of the road grow more frequent and the trees larger. Some small habitats that go up very steep terrain hold the dens of wild animals, and deer are very frequently seen jumping to and from the road along their well-established trails. A nest of condors is located in the canyon, and one may also see populations of eagles, hawks, vultures and many other birds.
Redwood trees grow right next to the road, and they are larger higher up the hill. Further back in the canyon, the forest environment is thick and the trees still show the effects of the 2006 fire that passed through. The north side of the canyon has much more vegetation than the south side, and the trees are much larger. This is because the summer heat on the south slope evaporates so much of the moisture.
Nacimiento Road was built in the late 1800s, using labor from China. In the early days it was best by bandits who would hide above the road to swoop down upon the unwary. Miners who wanted to take their gold to the valley would use alternate and secret trails to get there. The road was a narrow way of unpaved clay, slippery and dangerous in the winter months. When I first lived in the mountains, getting to town was a pretty big deal! Nacimiento Road was a dusty mess in the summer, too … It was paved in the mid-1970s.
It is the only road over the mountains, between Highway 1 and Route 101, that is located south of Carmel Valley Road, far to the north, and Highway 46, south of Cambria.
It holds scenic vistas of amazing splendor and is a popular perspective for artists.
Nacimiento Road is kept open as the highway of choice by Monterey County for transport of heavy equipment used to maintain and repair road circuits in the area.
In the event of land slides on Highway 1, it is the main access route for the entire region, passing through Fort Hunter Liggett to the east before intersecting Jolon Road which goes to Highway 101.