Highway 1, is a state highway that runs along much of the Pacific coast of California. It is famous for running along some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, leading to its designation as an All-American Road. Highway 1 does not run over the entire Pacific coastline of California. It starts at Interstate 5 (I-5) near Dana Point in Orange County and runs north to U.S. Highway 101 (US 101) near Leggett in Mendocino County. Highway 1 also at times runs concurrently with US 101, most notably through a 54-mile (87 km) stretch in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, and across the Golden Gate Bridge. It also serves as a scenic alternative in several locations; and a major thoroughfare in the Greater Los Angeles Area, the San Francisco Bay Area, and other coastal urban areas along its route. Highway 1 has several portions designated as either Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), the Cabrillo Highway, the Shoreline Highway, or the Coast Highway.
State construction of what is now Highway 1 started after the state's third highway bond issue passed in 1919. The first two approved sections of what is now Highway 1 were Legislative Route 56 from San Simeon to Carmel (connecting with existing county highways at each end) and Legislative Route 60 from Oxnard via the coast to San Juan Capistrano, intended as links in a continuous coastal roadway from Oregon to Mexico.
Although I've driven on Hwy 1 or PCH as its known in SoCal many times we decided to try to take it all the was to San Francisco. We decided to drive it on the way there because we would have enough time to stop and take pictures, rather than rush back (although on the trip back you're on the edge side of the road.) We did not check ahead and map out our route so got got lost a few times as the road does merge onto US 101 occasionally and it's not clearly labeled. Below is a guide that will help map out your drive if you happen to do the drive:
- In Orange County and most of Los Angeles County, it's a city street, usually named Pacific Coast Highway. See the Pacific Coast Highway guide.
- One of the most scenic sections goes from Santa Monica through Malibu to Oxnard.
- From Oxnard to San Luis Obispo, Hwy 1 and US 101 merge. The road detours from 101 for about 50 miles just north of the Gaviota Tunnel and rejoins it in Pismo Beach. This section is sometimes called Cabrillo Highway.
- The stretch from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco includes Hearst Castle, the Big Sur coast, Carmel, Monterey and Santa Cruz and is the best-known section.
- The road continues through the city of San Francisco as 19th Street, leading to the Golden Gate Bridge.
- From the Golden Gate Bridge through Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, the official name is Shoreline Highway.