- The Pacific Coast Highway is considered to begin as Route 1 in San Juan Capistrano and ends where California Route 1 merges with Highway 101, south of Eureka. Technically, only portions of the route are designated as the Pacific Coast Highway.
- A traveler could start just north of the Mexican border and drive on maintained highway, much of it right on the coast, north to the Canadian Border. The route can be traveled by car, motorcycle or even by bike -- though when traveling by bike, it is strongly suggested to travel south so as not to ride into the wrath of the prevailing winds.
- There are few drives better than the PCH, especially with the top down. We chose the Audi TT Roadster 2.0T for its obvious driving benefits. The car's fuel-efficiency (31mpg highway) also came in handy, as fuel on the PCH is more expensive than the rest of the country and filling stations are infrequent.
- Though the larger California Highway 1 spans 2,500 miles, the much-traveled portion of the PCH itself is approximately 655 miles.
- The Pacific Coast Highway is famous for its scenic views, but is also susceptible to blindingly thick fog caused by warm air colliding with California's cold coast.
- The leg between San Francisco and Los Angeles can be leisurely driven in two days or one briskly paced day, as we did. The longer 2,500 mile route is better tackled in 5-7 days.
- Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco, is where Hitchcock filmed The Birds.
- Construction of California Highway 1 originally began in 1919. The estimated cost at the time: $1.5 million. $19,684,976 in today's dollars, adjusted for inflation.
- Somewhere south of Big Sur.
- Drivers can pass and visit the 90,000-square-foot Hearst Castle tucked into the Santa Lucia Mountains overlooking the ocean. Designed by architect Julia Morgan and originally built in 1919 -- the same as Highway 1 -- it was home to William Randolph Hearst, the media magnate, and cost nearly as much as the highway to build.
- Highway 1 features a wide range of road types, from two-lane roads to large freeways.
- A scenic turnout south of Big Sur, towards Piedras Blancas Light Station, is home to many Elephant Seals from December to March. Female Elephant Seals can weigh up to 1,600 pounds, but males tip the scales at nearly 5,000 pounds. Pups start life at 60-80 pounds but quadruple their weight during the first month.
- The route along the Big Sur Coast, Route 56, was the most difficult to construct; it necessitated 32 bridges, including the famous Bixby Creek Bridge. Originally designed to connect Big Sur to the rest of California, the route took 18 years to build, helped by prison labor and financial aid from New Deal funding. Route 56 was incorporated into Highway 1 in 1939.
- Inmate labor for the highway came from San Quentin prison -- set up in three camps. Inmates were paid 35 cents per day and granted a shorter sentence for their hard labor.
- The famous Bixby Bridge was opened in 1932 and completed under budget for $199,861. It can handle up to 6 times its intended load, is one of the world's tallest single-span concrete bridges and remains an American design icon.
- Locals -- including John Steinbeck -- also worked on the original road.
- The highway is considered a bucket-list drive by many driving enthusiasts -- many make pilgrimages to the West Coast for this sole reason.
- The route is designated an "All-American Road" by the U.S. Government.
- South of the Devil's Slide coastal promontory.
- The segment of Highway 1 between Oxnard and Santa Monica hosted part of the road cycling events for the 1932 Summer Olympics.
- The stoplights controlling traffic before the "Devil's Slide" portion, which is now closed to road traffic. Vehicles now pass through the newly opened Tom Lantos Tunnels -- the second longest in the state. The old Devil's Slide highway is now being converted to a hiking and cycling trail.
Moments from a day on the PCH
Pacific Coast Cruising: Driving California’s Iconic Highway
Twisting against cliffs carved by tempestuous ocean waves, the Pacific Coast Highway is a dazzling drive. Carved by nature and intrepid men armed with dynamite, the PCH meanders through California’s natural vistas: endless forests of firs and redwoods, towns steeped in history, pounding surfs, vineyards.
On the heels of yesterday’s dive into the art of the road trip, we thought it fitting to share our photo essay from a recent journey of California’s iconic highway. Our drive: the popular 700-ish mile drive along Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco (we’ve saved the longer 2,500 mile drive of the West Coast-spanning California Highway 1 for another day), encompassing highlights like a drive through Malibu, past Point Mugu State Park, through the endless twists and turns of Big Sur, on to Carmel and past Santa Cruz.
Along the way, we learned a few things — not to underestimate fog, for one — about the fabled Pacific Coast Highway, which you can read in our foggy Photo Essay above. Grab the keys, pack your gear, and let’s head out for a drive.