Pacific Coast Highway images

California Highway 1 Here I Come…

After the Highway 61 road trip in October 2013 I didn’t go anywhere in the Autumn/Fall of 2014. I’m not sure why now – maybe lack of money…! Anyway, I remember thinking in early 2015 about what a great time I’d had and started to investigate what other American road trips I could undertake. My plan was to go later that year in October again when the American football season is on. It’s also not ‘high season’ for tourists plus the weather is more pleasant in most places: warm but not too hot, and generally dry before the rainy season.

So in researching around I came across the Pacific Coast Highway and started to pull a plan together. It became apparent that almost everyone who’s posted something online about doing the trip recommends travelling south. This is so that you’re on the ‘right’ side of the road, pun intended – in other words the ocean side. In 1959 the California State Legislature officially designated a section of California State Route 1 (the highway’s official route number) near LA s the ‘Pacific Coast Highway’. This was between Interstate 5 (I-5) in Dana Point and US 101 near Oxnard.

However, official bureaucracy aside, the general consensus seems to be that PCH has its northern terminus at US Highway 101 near Leggett in Mendocino County and the southern terminus at Dana Point. I did consider starting at ‘true’ north but decided the save that for another trip. I have this idea one day of doing the whole of the Pacific Coast from Seattle down to San Diego. That would be a mega trip and I could cover from Leggett to my starting point on this trip then.

Highway 1 road sign

Road sign just south of Pigeon Point

Cabrillo Highway road sign

Highway 1 has several portions designated as either Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), Cabrillo Highway, Shoreline Highway, or Coast Highway. This sign is just north of Pigeon Point Lighthouse, looking south.

Starting in Pacifica

I chose to start at Pacifica, just south of San Francisco. In part this was because it’s just a few miles across the San Francisco Peninsula from SFO airport. This should mean it would be nice and easy on arrival day. Plus, Leggett is 160 miles north of SF. So to ‘start’ the PCH there I’d have to drive north up Hwy 101 (to avoid PCH and for speed) and then come back down Hwy 1 on the coast. This seemed a bit of waste of time and effort.

I also opted to fly back home from SFO rather than coming back from LA, to avoid a hefty one-way drop-off hire car fee. So the second part of the trip after getting to Dana Point was to quickly blast back north and spend some time in Wine Country north of SF. And then finish off with a visit to Levi’s Stadium to watch the 49ers.

So, in early October 2015, I caught a BA flight out of London Heathrow and flew into San Francisco to drive on the Pacific Coast Highway. This is the story of the road trip.

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