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Pacific Coast Highway: The Quintessential California Road Trip

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by Roadtrippers May 16, 2014

THE PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY, formally known as California State Route 1, is the ultimate road trip route, tracing the California coast for more than 650 miles from Mendocino County in the north to Orange County in the south. It’s designated an All-American Road for its scenic views, and it packs one heck of a path past some pretty rad attractions.

Here’s a guide to 7 must-see spots while road tripping the Pacific Coast Highway.

1. Glass Beach

The first item on the Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary is a cruise down to Fort Bragg Beach. Until a few years ago, it wasn’t even open to the public because it had been used as a dump. After a few decades of neglect, it was decided the beach should be cleaned up and reopened. The only remainder of its trashy past is the sand — it’s made of sea glass, former bottles pounded to bits and smoothed by the waves. As tempting as it may be, don’t take any souvenirs. As locals and travelers became aware of this shiny beach, they started to collect their own bits of the glass, slowly depleting the beach’s manmade beauty.

2. Point Reyes National Seashore

Just before you reach San Francisco, stretch your legs at this protected beach point. Explore over 7,000 acres of rocks, grassy hills, and ocean, visit the lighthouse, or head right to the beach to wade in the waves. Just watch out for elephant seals (visible at the bottom right of the photo above).

3. Golden Gate Bridge

A major advantage of the Pacific Coast Highway is that it takes you across this iconic American bridge. Spend some time in San Francisco and explore the city; from Fisherman’s Wharf to Alcatraz, there’s something for food lovers, history buffs, and everything in between.

4. Moss Beach Distillery

If you’re an avid Unsolved Mysteries fan (let’s be real, who isn’t?), then you may be familiar with this restaurant — it’s haunted by a ghost from the Prohibition era who has been nicknamed “the Blue Lady” and has been featured on the show. Plus, it’s located on a cliff above a gorgeous secluded beach, so, y’know, there’s something for those who don’t go for the paranormal stuff.

5. Bixby Bridge

Welcome to Big Sur! This open-spandrel arch bridge offers stunning views of the coast. It might look familiar, since it’s been used in multiple commercials and TV shows. A drive across Bixby is an easy reward for making it this far along the coast, and the view…did we say it’s stunning? ‘Cause hot damn, this is just beautiful.

6. Hearst Castle

When newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst died, his epic estate was left to no one. Rather than let it fall into disrepair (becoming one of the coolest abandoned places EVER), California State Parks have kept it looking like a private residence. While no one actually lives there, it’s a pretty sweet house/museum. Just look at the insanely awesome indoor pool!

7. Santa Monica Pier

Spend a day at this historic pier before you drive the final leg of the Pacific Coast Highway to Capistrano Beach. Take a spin on the historic carousel, sit at the soda fountain, see some fishy friends at the aquarium, or just enjoy the beach and the people-watching.

The open road. That’s what it’s all about. Driving down long stretches of asphalt, pulling over at a local diner for some grub, and discovering the most incredible roadside wonders. Roadtrippers is a simple but powerful road trip planner that helps you discover, plan, & book your adventure.

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