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Unlike Yosemite, which is managed by a single federal entity, about one-quarter of the land in Big Sur is privately owned and the remainder is managed by a conglomeration of federal, state, local, and private agencies.

Yosemite offers 5,400 parking spots and a free shuttle service, but there are few parking spots and no shuttle service in Big Sur.

While the Portolá expedition was exploring Alta California, they arrived at San Carpóforo Canyon near present-day San Simeon on September 13, 1769.

They traveled through the San Antonio and Salinas Valleys before arriving at Monterey Bay, where they founded Monterey and named it their capital.

Along with the ocean views, the winding, narrow road, often cut into the face of seaside cliffs, dominates the visitor's experience of Big Sur.

The highway has been closed more than 55 times by slides, and in May 2017, a 2 million cubic foot landslide blocked the highway at Mud Creek, north of Salmon Creek near the San Luis Obispo border, to just south of Gorda. The region is protected by the Big Sur Local Coastal Plan which preserves the region as "open space, a small residential community, and agricultural ranching." The program protects viewsheds from the highway and many vantage points, and severely restricts the density of development.

Some locations have limited parking, and visitors park on the shoulder of Highway 1, sometimes leaving inadequate space for passing vehicles.

About 60% of the coastal region is owned by a government or private agency that does not allow any development.

The majority of the interior region is part of the Los Padres National Forest, the Ventana Wilderness, Silver Peak Wilderness, or Fort Hunter Liggett.

The first American use of the name "Sur" was by the U. Coast Survey in 1851, which renamed a point of land that looked like an island and was shaped like a trumpet, formerly known as "Morro de la Trompa" and "Punta que Parece Isla" during Spanish times, to Point Sur.

The English-speaking homesteaders petitioned the United States Post Office in Washington D. to change the name of their post office from Arbolado to Big Sur, and the rubber stamp using that name was returned on March 6, 1915, cementing the name in place.

The interior region is uninhabited, while the coast remains relatively isolated and sparsely populated with about 1,000 year-round residents and relatively few visitor accommodations scattered among four small settlements.

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