Coastal drive San Fran to LA

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1. Posted by JDBuilding (Budding Member 2 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi all,

Just joined and was looking for info on my trip. My wife, son and I will be traveling from San Fran to LA via the coast road. We have 2 days to spend on the trip and want have fun and see some California sites. I did this trip 35 yrs ago with my parents and was hoping to recreate with my family. I remember the winding roads with drop offs just at the edge of pull offs (and how dad seemed to get awfully close to those edges). We stopped along the way and saw some Redwoods but I can't seem to find where or how to get there. Can anyone help?


2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5793 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I didn't stop at either of these places myself, but based on some googling I'd guess it could be Big Basin Redwoods State Park, northwest of Santa Cruz, or maybe Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park near Big Sur. (Or probably any of a number of other state parks along Highway 1.) In general my recommendation for Highway 1 is to really take your time for it, and to just stop wherever looks interesting - there's some gorgeous scenery around.

3. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2007 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

The actual drop-offs are just north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1 (about 20 miles north of the town), and then farther south along the stretch of Hwy 1 past Carmel and Big Sur and north of San Simeon.

Here is a picture of the Bixby Bridge, which is on the section of Hwy 1 south of Carmel/Big Sur.

You can do this drive either by taking Hwy 1 directly out of San Francisco (when you leave SF, get on Hwy 1 by passing through Pacifica)--or, to save some time, take I-280 south all the way to Los Gatos and then cut south on Hwy 17 to Santa Cruz (this is the route to take if you also want to see Big Basin--which is worth the trip--but hard to fit into a short two day trip from SF all the way to LA).

I suggest you take the second route--but then--since you have only two days-continue through Carmel and on down Hwy 1 to spend the night in Cambria or Paso Robles or Morro Bay. Then on day 2 stop in Santa Barbara and also take the stretch of Hwy 1 between Ventura and Santa Monica (which will take you through Malibu also.


P.S. I live in the redwoods about 7 miles north of Santa Cruz (about 10 miles from Big Basin). It's a wonderful spot to visit--but to do this trip right, you'll either have to start very early in the morning (by 8 AM from SF at the latest) or else take an extra day--because the section south of Carmel has to be done during daylight hours--and you can only go about 30 miles an hour on this section--meaning that section alone (between Carmel and San Simeon) takes about 3 hours to drive.

Here's a picture from Big Basin State Park along the "Hollow Tree Trail". There are many trees here where you could fit an elephant inside--or even put a card table inside and seat all 4 people at it to have lunch.

[ Edit: . ]

4. Posted by david.B (Budding Member 32 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

San Fran to LA via the coast road is full of beautiful landscapes and you will really have a great trip. 3 years back my brother was there in San Fran for some business meeting. He did this trip with a rental car at quite nominal prices from Pointcarhire. This route has great scenic beauty all around and there are a number of eating places in between. You can also easily find petrol pumps to fuel your vehicle along the highway.

5. Posted by Rambler1 (Budding Member 51 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Reading this trail of emails brigns back good memories. I was in the US 2 years ago and spent a season working in Park City, Utah. At the end of the season 5 of us hired a car and drove West through the salt flats and onto Lake Tahoe. For the next 3 weeks we travelled onto San Fransisco and on down the coast road to San Diego.
The winding coastal road was breath-taking and we stopped over in Big Sur in a little hotel in the woods by a river with table a chairs in! We also stopped at Santa Barbara which is a fantastic town with good restaurants, great vibe and well worth a night or two if you have time.
We continued into LA which we found to be far too busy, but being from the UK we needed to get our pic by the Hollywood sign, walk down rodeo drive and hang out on Santa Monica beach!

If I make it over to the US again I will be sure to take this route again as it really is one of the most beautiful parts of the world I have ever visited.

6. Posted by JDBuilding (Budding Member 2 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Thanks all, your comments have been helpful. We are planning our trip for the End of February school Break (22nd - 3rd). I hope the weather is not a problem then but we are going. Calcruzer your post mentioned the I280 route to Santa Cruz. Do we miss anything going that route?

Thanks again,

7. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5774 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi JD,

Nice choice and trip you are going to take!
Did the stretch from Cambria north to Santa Cruz and inland to SFO back in June as the last days of my roadtrip, and even then along the coast it was just around 60F/16C, not a problem in my opinion.
One sight is not mentioned, about 5-10 miles north of Cambria there is a colony of elephant seals! Normally you won't see these animals this far south and it's one of the easiest in the world to visit. It is signposted, so you can not miss it.
You can view the photos of my trip here, the first 10 or so being of that coastal trip part. The first one is in Big Basin Redwood State Park.

I believe Hearst Castle is near Cambria as well, but couldn't be bothered with that: expensive and you have to take a tour. It is just a house basically. Also, like mentioned above, I think adding Big Basin can be done, but just for an hour or two, there is a nice 30-45 minute walk and you can have a snack and drink afterwards and continue.

Cheers and have fun!

8. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2007 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I-280 is the best route to take if you need to get to Carmel and then do the drive onwards to Cambria by nightfall. It' actualy fairly scenic itself although you won't get to see the high cliffs and many coastal inlets just south of San Francisco. I suggest this route (connecting to Hwy 156 west and then Hwy 1 south) for you to get to Monterey as opposed to taking Hwy 1 from San Francisco all the way south.

The route from Monterey south is the part you must not miss. This is the route everybody above is referring to with such glowing praise.

9. Posted by Dodger (Inactive 873 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I use to live in SF and drive down to Monterey quite often. Those mornings driving along the coast with the fog rolling in where spectacular.