Any part of a Pacific Coast Highway road trip will offer beautiful views, but we think the most spectacular section is Big Sur, between Monterey and San Luis Obispo. Big Sur is one of the few undeveloped stretches of coastal land in California and offers gorgeous views from the top of a winding seaside cliff for about 90 miles of road. This particular section of the PCH is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia mountains, giving drivers the opportunity for some cliffside driving that rivals the famous cliff highways of the Italian coast. We highly recommend taking your time here if you can.
On the southern end of the Pacific Coast Highway, the stretch of road between Los Angeles and the highway’s terminus in Dana Point is also especially beautiful. Keep an eye out for Crescent Bay, home to some of southern California’s best and prettiest beaches. If you’re not as interested in the SoCal views, the coastline north of San Francisco and Santa Rosa has a more rugged, natural beauty that can also be fairly spectacular. The Pacific Coast Highway finally leaves the ocean and ends just south of Humboldt County, which means you’ll get to drive through some of the area’s famous redwood forests before meeting up with Rt. 101. Here’s a little local knowledge: once you reach the end of Rt. 1, take 101 north for about 10 minutes. There you’ll find Confusion Hill, the kind of old-school roadside attraction you hardly ever see anymore. Disney fans might recognize Confusion Hill as the real-world inspiration for the Mystery Shack in Gravity Falls, created by northern California local Alex Hirsch.