California's Highway One runs from Capistrano Beach in Orange County to Leggett in northern Mendocino.
Mile by Mile
- In Orange County and most of Los Angeles County, it's a city street, usually named Pacific Coast Highway. See the Pacific Coast Highway guide.
- One of the most scenic sections goes from Santa Monica through Malibu to Oxnard.
- From Oxnard to San Luis Obispo, Hwy 1 and US 101 merge. The road detours from 101 for about 50 miles just north of the Gaviota Tunnel and rejoins it in Pismo Beach. This section is sometimes called Cabrillo Highway.
- The stretch from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco includes Hearst Castle, the Big Sur coast, Carmel, Monterey and Santa Cruz and is the best-known section.
- The road continues through the city of San Francisco as 19th Avenue, leading to the Golden Gate Bridge.
- From the Golden Gate Bridge through Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, the official name is Shoreline Highway.
These tips and ideas will help make your drive most pleasant:
- Check your gas gauge. There's no gasoline available for up to 40 miles in some stretches, especially in Big Sur and north of San Francisco.
- "Go" when you have a chance. Restrooms are also scarce in those same areas.
- Allow plenty of time. Assume you will average about 30 miles per hour (45 kph). This means a round trip between Hearst Castle and Big Sur can take most of a day and San Francisco to Mendocino can be an all-day drive.
- If anyone in your party suffers from motion sickness, be prepared. If that party is an adult, let them drive.
- If you are driving only one way, try to drive from south to north. You will be driving on the insides of the curves and views are clearer toward the north.
- If you are driving both ways (making a round trip to Hearst Castle from Big Sur, for example), avoid crossing traffic to see things on the opposite side of the road. Save them for the return trip instead.
- CA Hwy 1 is prone to landslides, especially during rainy winters. Check its condition online or call 800-427-7623 before you go.
It's always good practice to follow these safety tips, but they become even more important along busy CA Hwy 1:
- Drive defensively
- Buckle up! California law requires it for the driver and all passengers
- Pull over if too many cars are following you (but only when you can do so safely)
- Don't pass where there are double yellow lines