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California Highway 1 - San Fran to LA

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Apr 16th, 2013, 08:52 PM
  #1
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California Highway 1 - San Fran to LA

Hello everyone,

Taking a trip to California in June and planning to drive down the coast from San Fran to LA over two days (stopping in Cambria after the first part of the drive). My question is: I'll be leaving from Palo Alto to head to Cambria and wondering what you think the best route is to highway 1 from Palo Alto. Should I make the trek north on 101 to Pacifica to go over to highway 1? Or should I go south and meet up with highway 1 in Santa Cruz? Basically, I'm just wondering how much of the scenic highway I'm going to miss by not taking it all the way from San Fran. I've read that the most scenic parts are around Cambria so I won't miss those parts either way. Thoughts?
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Apr 16th, 2013, 09:05 PM
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Go to Santa Cruz .
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Apr 16th, 2013, 09:16 PM
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If you're adventurous, you could follow Page Mill Rd (west) out of Palo Alto through beautiful hills to Pescadero Creek Rd to Hwy 84 (La Honda Rd) to Hwy 1 (Cabrillo Hwy). That would be a scenic drive. Easier, but still scenic, would be to take either Fwy 280 or 101 a short distance north to Woodside Rd (Hwy 84) and head west to the coast. If you're going to be in San Francisco before heading south, then definitely pick up 1 in Pacifica, I think it's a very scenic stretch down to Santa Cruz. Heading south from Palo Alto via San Jose to Santa Cruz is okay if time is an issue, you'll still cross the Santa Cruz Mtns, and it is the quickest route, but it would be my last choice if you're not pressed for time.
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Apr 16th, 2013, 09:27 PM
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Ditto Michelle

The section of Hwy 1 from Pt Lobos south is an A+. Don't consume any time elsewhere.

>> most scenic parts are around Cambria<<

Nope - quite a bit north of Cambria, IMO.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 16th, 2013, 09:47 PM
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Driving to Pescadero will take a lot longer than the map might indicate. Lots of tristy, slow turns.

I agree on Santa Cruz.
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Apr 16th, 2013, 10:18 PM
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Should have added: Page Mill Rd will turn into Alpine Rd after Skyline (Hwy 35) and once you reach Pescadero Cr Rd you could turn left to go through old growth redwoods and connect at 1 near Pescadero (town) [here's a rough map of that route: http://www.sundaymorningrides.com/road/3485023/ ], or turn right and connect with Hwy 84 (go left) in La Honda (big old redwoods too). Another alternative is to take 101 or 280 north a few miles to Hwy 92 and cross over to Half Moon Bay to head south on 1. Yes, these roads are not the most direct and are twisty/turny but they are all provide gorgeous scenery out of the car window. The other posters all suggest Hwy 17 but I think it's the most tedious and boring route. You said you were looking for most scenic.
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Apr 17th, 2013, 12:26 AM
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Check out google maps.

84 is the most twisty, about 25-30 of it, also the more isolated and more scenic.

92 , Going north to catch 92 which is twisty bit but is a much short route to join with Highway 1.

17 Taking the two-lane freeway all the way to Santa Cruz, this is also twisting and windy and people like to drive as fast as they can.

101 the route with the least hassle would be this way. Not as scenic as the others 101-156-1.
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Apr 17th, 2013, 08:54 AM
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I'd either go Woodside Road to King's Mountain Road to the coast - beautiful drive) or down to Santa Cruz. You'll still see the best part of the coast. I certainly wouldn't go too far north (ex. Pacifica or Half Moon Bay) in order to head south.

If you do find yourself in Pescadero, be sure to stop for a piece of ollalieberry pie at Duarte's Cafe.
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Apr 17th, 2013, 10:16 AM
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Go via CA 17 to Santa Cruz. You will lose too much time by taking Page Mill Rd. or any other road to cross the coastal range between CA 92 and CA 17.
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Apr 17th, 2013, 02:26 PM
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The scenic route that everyone talks about is the Big Sur Coast Highway, shown here.

http://byways.org/explore/byways/2301/travel.html

It runs from Carmel down to San Simeon, at which point it becomes the San Luis Obispo North Coast Byway, ending at SLO.
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Apr 18th, 2013, 11:59 AM
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Highway 1 between Pacifica and Santa Cruz is quite lovely; not spectacular, especially since you can't drive the section through Devil's Slide anymore; I find Santa Cruz to Monterey uninteresting, mostly farmland and freeway, unless you get off the freeway in places like Capitola; I agree with Stu Carmel to Cambria is spectacular. Since you do not intend to overnight until Cambria, I would take the quickest route to Monterey/Carmel so that you can enjoy seeing the places between Carmel and Cambria. That route would be 101, 156, to 1.
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Apr 18th, 2013, 12:35 PM
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I agree with the others, but since you're starting out from Palo Alto, go 280 first, then switch to 101 in San Jose, then 156, to 1. Highway 280 is a lot more beautiful than 101.
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Apr 18th, 2013, 01:55 PM
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So yeah, there are a lot of different ways to go And while I do love Hwy 84 and take it between my house and the coast on a regular basis, given that you are driving Palo Alto to LA over only 2 days, you don't have much time to spare. The coast north of Santa Cruz is beautiful, but you must prioritize.

I would get to Monterey as fast as possible so that you have maximum time to enjoy the Big Sur coast - roughly between Carmel and Cambria. This is THE spectacular coastline that everybody talks about.

I would leave Palo Alto before 7am (280/85/101/156/1 is the route I would go) - the early start time is partly to beat some of the morning traffic, but also to make the most out of this day, which is pretty packed. Stop in the Monterey area for breakfast and some sightseeing. Pick up something for a picnic lunch, and then head south through Big Sur. Plan to spend the rest of the day on this drive, stoping often, picnic someplace along the way and arrive in Cambria late afternoon, early evening. It will be June so you have lots of daylight.
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Apr 18th, 2013, 10:20 PM
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Thank you for all the insightful replies everyone! They are most helpful. Google maps tells me that if I go via Hwy 17 or 101 to Santa Cruz and then 1 all the way to Cambria, it would take about four hours (without stops). Is that realistic or is it going to take longer?
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Apr 18th, 2013, 10:32 PM
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It depends on how much experience you have driving curvy roads.
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Apr 19th, 2013, 07:20 AM
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Like I stated earlier - the drive from Carmel to San Simeon is an A+. One of the most scenic coastal drives in the world. San Simeon to Cambria is a B drive. Stop at Nepenthe at the south end of Big Sur for lunch.

I would not go via Santa Cruz - no reason to do that. The drive from Santa Cruz to Carmel is a B-/C+, IMO. Go 280 or 101 to 156 to 1. Bypass Santa Cruz. The drive through Santa Cruz is a D.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 19th, 2013, 08:45 AM
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I'd say Cambria to Carmel is about a 3-hour drive without stops.
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Apr 19th, 2013, 08:46 AM
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But I'm not suggesting that you not stop! At least stop at Nepenthe for the view.
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Apr 19th, 2013, 09:01 AM
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This may be a silly question, but, is the drive equally as beautiful heading north rather than south? I will be taking this drive from L.A. in a few days, showing an out of towner the sights. We have very limited time and will spend our first night in Carmel before we head on to San Francisco for 2 nights. I'm trying to decide if I should take Hwy. 1 from Malibu or, to save time, join Hwy 1 further north.

Any thoughts will be most appreciated.
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Apr 19th, 2013, 09:06 AM
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For some reason I find it more scenic going north, but I suspect that is makes little difference; just a prejudice on my part.
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