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Pacific Coast Highway

Road Trip

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AAA/Greg Weekes
California's SR 1, also called the Pacific Coast Highway, is one of the most scenic drives in the nation. Stunning ocean vistas all but define this coastal route. Don't drive SR 1 if you're in a hurry (that's what I-5 is for). Most of this nearly 656-mile-long roadway is two lanes, narrow and winding, which means you'll want to slow down and admire the many gorgeous views.
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Los Angeles to Santa Barbara
Before leaving the sprawling L.A. metro area behind you'll pass the upper-crust suburb of Pacific Palisades and famed Malibu, where there are oodles of celebrity beach homes. The Santa Monica Mountains form an impressive backdrop. At Oxnard SR 1 merges with US 101. Seaside Santa Barbara is scenically wedged between the Pacific and the Santa Ynez Mountains.
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Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo
SR 1 and US 101 run concurrently as far as Gaviota. Then SR 1 veers inland, rounding Point Conception and Point Arguello. It returns to the coast at Grover Beach and Pismo Beach, where a popular activity is digging for Pismo clams (you'll need a saltwater fishing license to do so). The highway heads inland again to San Luis Obispo, founded as a mission in 1772.
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AAA/Greg Weekes
San Luis Obispo to Monterey
This leg boasts arguably the most spectacular views of the entire trip, courtesy of the Big Sur coast from San Simeon to Carmel-by-the-Sea. SR 1 snakes along in a seemingly endless series of sinuous S-curves. Parking pull-offs are high above the Pacific, with breathtaking panoramic views of rocky headlands extending for miles against a backdrop of steel-blue ocean.
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AAA/Greg Weekes
Monterey to San Francisco
Utterly charming Carmel boasts a gorgeous beach and Monterey has a fascinating historical pedigree. Both of them are also packed with shopping and sightseeing diversions. Once past the quintessential beach town of Santa Cruz, SR 1 runs right along the coast all the way to San Francisco, with plenty of places to pull off, stretch your legs and do some beachcombing.