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Driving California's Scenic Highway One

A practical guide to driving one of America's most scenic highways



California Highway 1 is the Pacific Coast Highway

Robert Ashworth at Flickr under Attribution 2.0 Generic License

California's Highway One runs from Capistrano Beach in Orange County to Leggett in northern Mendocino.

Mile by Mile

Tips and Advice

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

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