Road Trip Tips,  Destination Guides

The Complete Pacific Coast Highway Guide:
3 Itineraries & 27 Stops to Make

My blog posts likely contain affiliate links, including for the Amazon Associates program.
If you click, book, or buy from one of these links, I may earn a commission. Read more in my Privacy Policy.

I think we can all agree: the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most famous drives in the entire world. Stretching from Washington to California, the Pacific Coast is picturesque, with cliffs, sea stacks, gorgeous urban spaces, and the raging ocean. Making a Pacific Coast Highway road trip is a popular bucket list experience – for good reason!

If you’re considering a drive down (or up) the western coast of the U.S., look no further. After making the trip myself in 2014 and exploring the PCH extensively while living in both Washington and California, I’ve put together this comprehensive guide to the best stops, breathtaking sights, and sense of unbelievable freedom you can find if you drive the Pacific Coast Highway.

Pacific Coast Highway Hero

Whether you’re planning to drive from San Diego to San Francisco, Seattle to San Francisco, Seattle to San Diego, or any start/endpoints in between (Los Angeles! Portland! Crescent City!), this post will give you all you need to know. After reading, you’ll be ready to plan your own Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary.

Note (November 2023): As of the latest update to this post, California Highway 1 (the PCH) is closed between Limekiln State Park and Lucia in the Big Sur area of the route; you’ll need to bypass this closure inland on US-101. Be sure to check the California DOT website (Enter “1” in the field) for the latest updates.

In this post, I promote travel across lands that are the traditional lands of many Indigenous groups. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

This post was originally published in August 2014, and was updated most recently in November 2023.

Pacific Coast Highway Basics: Map & More

One of the requests I get asked for is a Pacific Coast Highway map with all of the stops I suggest, so I used Roadtrippers to put together this one. I used to use Google Maps to do this, but I find that the numbered stops and waypoints are much easier to understand, and this Roadtrippers map also has other points of interest (“Extraordinary Places”) you might want to stop at too.

(I used Roadtrippers Plus to create this map; you can get $5 off Plus by clicking this link and using code BTR5QTP.)

Where is the Pacific Coast Highway? How Long is it?

How long is the Pacific Coast Highway? Before launching into a bunch of details for where to stop along the Pacific Coast Highway, I need to define a few things:

  1. The Pacific Coast Highway is located in the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, and California.
  2. The Pacific Coast Highway runs along two highways: US 101 in Washington, Oregon, and parts of California and California Highway 1 in the majority of California.
  3. From end to end, the Pacific Coast Highway is 1,675 miles long from Olympia, WA to San Diego, CA.

Now that you know the details, let’s dig into the logistics of planning your own Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary!

Which Direction to Drive the Pacific Coast Highway?

PCH Southbound Sign

The most important thing you need to decide first when driving the Pacific Coast Highway is which direction you prefer to travel the Pacific Coast Highway (northbound or southbound). If I can make a recommendation? You should drive the Pacific Coast Highway southbound!

The reason I recommend doing your Pacific Coast Highway road trip north to south is that you’ll be on the coastal side of the road. Driving south on the right-hand side of the road, you’ll have a great view of the ocean and coastline. When I drove the PCH in 2014, I drove a northbound San Diego to Seattle road trip, and lament that I wasn’t on the “outer” side of the road.

Pacific Coast Highway Start & End Points

Your second choice is where to start your road trip. The traditional definition of the Pacific Coast Highway is to drive California Highway 1 from San Diego, CA, to Leggett, CA (or vice versa); you can extend by adding on U.S. Highway 101 through Northern California to drive up the Oregon and Washington coasts. (Or in reverse if you’re headed southbound as I recommend).

Depending on whether you drive the PCH as a Washington to California road trip or just drive portions in California, you can start/end your road trip at the various cities in this guide.

Here are some different common starting/ending points for a PCH road trip:

  • Seattle to San Diego (or vice versa) – the whole Pacific Coast Highway
  • Crescent City to San Diego (or vice versa) – just the California portion of the Pacific Coast Highway
  • San Francisco to San Diego – a great California coast road trip, but only the Central California and Southern California portions

As you can see, you have options! Now let me break down a few itineraries to choose from, based on how much time you have to do your Pacific Coast Highway road trip.

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary Options

Pacific Coast Highway Hotels Hero

The Pacific Coast Highway is an ambitious road trip, but totally possible in as few as five days. To help you plan your road trip, here are two possible road trip itineraries you could take. As I mentioned above, both are southbound itineraries.

Over time, I’ve learned that people generally have three lengths of time to make their PCH road trip: just five days (a long weekend), 7 days (a full week), and 10-days (a week and the weekends) or longer. Usually this length of time is determined by things like lifestyle, work, PTO, and your budget – so you may already know exactly how long you have and that duration isn’t flexible. Don’t worry though: no matter how long you have (as long as it’s at least 5 days), you can still drive the Pacific Coast Highway!

  • If you only have five days to drive the PCH: if you are short on time, as I was, a Pacific Coast highway itinerary for 5 days is ideal. You won’t have as much time to spend in each city, or to take a few of the “long drives,” but you’ll see it all in a short span of time.
  • If you have a week for your PCH road trip: if you’re lucky to have a few more days for your PCH road trip, a week is a pretty fantastic amount of time to see all that the Pacific Coast Highway has to offer, though you will have a few longer days of driving and no opportunities for longer or multi-day stops.
  • If you have 10+ days to drive the PCH: 10 days is, in my opinion, the optimal length of time to drive the PCH – you can see it all without rushing or having too long of driving days. You can even stretch it out by spending a few extra days exploring some of the cities along the route if you want to.

Here’s what I recommend for your 5-day, 7-day, and 10-day Pacific Coast Highway road trip:

Day5-Day Itinerary7-Day Itinerary10-Day Itinerary
Day 1Seattle to PortlandSeattle to NewportSeattle to Port Angeles
Day 2Portland to Crescent CityNewport to Crescent CityPort Angeles to Long Beach
Day 3Crescent City to San FranciscoCrescent City to Fort Bragg/MendocinoLong Beach to Newport, Oregon
Day 4San Francisco to Santa BarbaraFort Bragg/Mendocino to San FranciscoNewport to Crescent City
Day 5Santa Barbara to San DiegoSan Francisco to San Luis ObispoCrescent City to Fort Bragg/ Mendocino
Day 6San Luis Obispo to Los AngelesFort Bragg/Mendocino to San Francisco
Day 7Los Angeles to San DiegoSan Francisco to Monterey/ Carmel
Day 8Monterey/Carmel to Santa Barbara
Day 9Santa Barbara to Los Angeles
Day 10Los Angeles to San Diego

I also have dedicated posts to each of these itineraries:

Obviously, this little table is lacking in details. Below, you’ll find more tips on driving the PCH plus some of my favorite stops along the PCH which you can choose for each day of your drive.

Step-by-Step Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Directions

Now that you have all the basics you need to plan a PCH road trip, you need to know which destinations are worth a stop along the Pacific Coast Highway. Now I’m going to lay out step-by-step directions for a Pacific Coast Highway road trip based on all my tips so far. These stops are numbered to match my Roadtrippers map and trip already shown above (click here to open the map in a separate window).

Start: Seattle

Seattle is one of my favorite destinations in the world. After all, I liked it so much when I first visited in 2012 that I moved there in 2013! Therefore, it’s an amazing place to start your Pacific Coast Highway trip! Technically, Seattle is not on the Pacific Coast Highway, but you can fly into Seattle and drive one hour south to Olympia to start your PCH road trip.

Seattle is perfect for anywhere between one day and three days if you have the time. If not, spend your day exploring the Seattle waterfront to see all of the city from above.

Briefly, here are some of the other must-see attractions in Seattle:

  • The recently renovated Space Needle with its all-new glass floor and paneling
  • The Fremont neighborhood and its resident Fremont Troll
  • Gas Works Park or Kerry Park, both with stunning views of the Seattle skyline
  • The Ballard neighborhood and the Chittenden Locks and Fish Ladder

If you want to spend a few days in Seattle, consider purchasing the Seattle CityPass. You’ll get access to five major attractions at a discounted price including the Space Needle and Seattle Aquarium, so you can experience more of what Seattle has to offer for less.

Accommodation Suggestions: Seattle’s most famous hotel, The Edgewater, is right along the waterfront, and a perfect way to relax before a long multi-day drive. Rooms from $159/night (depending on the season), book on Booking.com or Hotels.com. Browse other hotels or vacation rentals in Seattle.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: From Seattle, head south along US Highway 101/I-5 to Olympia. It’s a 1-hour drive from Seattle to Olympia.

Stop 1: Olympia

PCH Road Trip - Washington - Olympia State Capital

It’s not a long drive from Seattle to Olympia, so I recommend just making a ‘waypoint’ stop here to stretch your legs before the rest of your driving today – whether that’s to Port Angeles or Portland. There’s a nice public parking area near a lake that overlooks the Washington State Capital building. You can stretch your legs with a short walk before getting back on the road.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions:
If you are doing a quick Pacific Coast Highway road trip, head south from Olympia along I-5 to Portland, a 1-hour, 50-minute drive.
If your PCH road trip includes the Olympic Peninsula, follow U.S. 101 west and then north along the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula toward Port Angeles, a 2-hour, 30-minute drive.

Stop 2: Port Angeles

PCH Guide - Port Angeles - Marina

If you’re planning a full 10-day PCH road trip, make sure you follow my guide and do at least one overnight on the Olympic Peninsula. Port Angeles is the place for that one-night stop.

There are loads of cool things to explore in/around this small PNW town, including Olympic National Park! Other cool attractions include Hurricane Ridge (a popular hiking spot), Elwha River Valley, and Olympic Hot Springs.

Accommodation Suggestions: If you decide to spend a night in Port Angeles, my #1 recommendation is Colette’s Bed & Breakfast. Rooms from $315/night, book directly on their website. Browse other Port Angeles hotels and vacation rentals.

Meal Suggestions: For dinner, book a table at Alder Wood Bistro in nearby Sequim. I had an amazing four-course meal there on my last trip to the peninsula.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Head west along U.S. 101 until it turns south along the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula. You’ll see signs for Hoh Rainforest, a left turn that takes you inland to the forest. It’s a 2-hour drive from Port Angeles to the Hoh Rainforest.

Stop 3: Hoh Rainforest

Can you believe there’s a rainforest in Washington? Okay, maybe that’s not a surprise given Seattle’s reputation for rain…

Located on the Pacific side of the Olympic Peninsula, Hoh Rainforest qualifies as a rainforest due to the amount of precipitation that occurs each year. In this incredibly verdant forest, you’ll find amazing old-growth trees, some over 500 years old!. It’s a great spot for a short hike to stretch your legs.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Return west to U.S. 101 and turn south. The turn-out for Ruby Beach occurs right as the highway reaches the Pacific coast. It’s a 1-hour drive from the rainforest to Ruby Beach.

Stop 4: Ruby Beach

PCH Road Trip - Washington - Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach is only a short drive from Hoh Rainforest but it’s the most picturesque beach on Washington’s Pacific Coast. You can look out over beautiful sea stacks that dot the northern part of the Pacific Coast and stroll along the sand covered with huge driftwood formations and seafoam.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Head south from Ruby Beach along U.S. 101. It’s a 1-hour, 40-minute drive to Aberdeen.

Stop 5: Aberdeen

Aberdeen has one main claim to fame: it was the hometown of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain. If you’re a fan, make sure to stop in Aberdeen to see the house where he grew up. You can find the Cobain house at 1210 E 1st St, and right next door you can see a memorial to Cobain in Kurt Cobain Memorial Park (the house is now a private residence, so don’t disturb the owners!).

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: From Aberdeen, continue south along U.S. Highway 101. It’s a 90-minute drive from Aberdeen to Long Beach (Washington).

Stop 6: Long Beach

Long Beach is – and always will be – one of my favorite destinations in Washington. The little set of communities on the Long Beach peninsula is at the lower-left corner of the state and is home to cozy accommodations and surprisingly delicious restaurants. There are plenty of things to do in Long Beach for more than an overnight stop!

Accommodation Suggestions: For accommodation, you can splurge on a stay at the historic but recently renovated Shelburne Hotel (from $78/night) – or choose an alternative option by booking a trailer at the Sou’wester (from $128/night). Browse other hotels and vacation rentals in Long Beach.

Meal Suggestions: The Depot is great for delicious home-cooked dishes in the old railroad depot, followed (or preceded) by a stop at North Jetty Brewing Company which sometimes has a taco food truck next door.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: It’s a short 30-minute drive south and a little east along U.S. 101 from Long Beach to cross the Columbia River into Oregon and visit Astoria.

Stop 7: Astoria

PCH Road Trip - Oregon - Astoria

Astoria, like Aberdeen in Washington, is a great destination for lovers of pop culture. If you’ve ever seen The Goonies, you know exactly what I mean. After driving across the famous Columbia River bridge, stop and give yourself a self-guided tour of popular Goonies spots in Oregon’s northwest-most town.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions:
If you are on a quick PCH road trip, turn inland along the Columbia River and then south on I-5 to Portland, which is a two-hour drive.
If your Pacific Coast Highway road trip includes the Oregon Coast, skip “Portland” below and drive south along U.S. 101 to Seaside & Cannon Beach, a 30-40 minute drive.

Stop 8: Portland

Portland is the only city on this list that isn’t on the coast, and it’s definitely a trip extender if you want to visit Portland while driving the Pacific Coast Highway. The city has changed a lot since I first moved to the Pacific Northwest over a decade ago, but there’s still nowhere like Portland.

Once in Portland, it’s easy to spend a few days exploring; here’s my Portland city guide to help you if you have the time. I have been to Portland repeatedly and there are so many experiences that can more than fill a stop on your road trip.

If you don’t have the time, plan an overnight stop and make a late start after brunch at one of Portland’s many amazing restaurants.

Accommodation Suggestions: Portland has loads of great hotels, but my favorite is the Hotel DeLuxe near downtown. Their themed lobby and movie nights make my inner movie nerd happy, and the “lobby bar” is so good that locals frequent it. From $115/night, book on Hotels.com. Browse other Portland hotels and vacation rentals.

Meal Suggestions: Portland is a foodie’s heaven. Most of my favorite spots have closed recently, so I don’t have specific suggestions – but don’t miss Portland’s famous food trucks too, for lunch or dinner.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions:
If you are on a shorter Pacific Coast Highway road trip, continue south along I-5 to Grant’s Pass, then turn southwest to head back out to the coast at Crescent City, a 6-hour drive.
If you are taking a longer PCH drive and drove inland to Portland, turn west out of Portland along Oregon Highways 99W and 18 to connect with U.S. 101 near Lincoln City. You will miss Seaside & Cannon Beach on this route, so your next stop will be Newport, which is a 2.5-hour drive.

Stop 9: Seaside & Cannon Beach

Seaside is a picturesque coastal town, a western interpretation of the East Coast summer destinations along the Atlantic. The huge sweeping beach is admittedly not warm enough for a swim – but it’s great for a stroll in the surf. Downtown is a series of taffy-colored storefronts filled with beach gear, kitschy coastal crafts, and the Funland Seaside Arcade, which harkens back to the heydays of coastal vacations.

South of Seaside, be sure to stop in Cannon Beach to admire Haystack Rock. One of the most famous sea stacks on the U.S. Pacific Coast, Haystack Rock is picture perfect while you stretch your legs.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Continue south on U.S. Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast to Lincoln City, which is a 2.5-hour drive. If you’re feeling hungry along the way, stop at the Tillamook Creamery for an incredible meal or treat.

Stop 10: Lincoln City

On my most recent trip down the Oregon Coast as part of the PCH, I stopped in Lincoln City for a quick stop. Specifically, I had heard that this small community had a really fun activity: glassblowing! I decided to take a class and learn more about how this art form has flourished in this part of Oregon, and the cool programs they offer for both arts and education – as well as the “Finders Keepers” program.

I made a beautiful votive holder at Lincoln City Glass Center, and best of all, they shipped it home to me so I didn’t have to worry about waiting for it to cool/cure or picking it up – not something you can stick around to do as part of your Pacific Coast Highway road trip when you’re making a short stop!

I’d love to return and make an overnight stop in Lincoln City at some point, as I feel like I barely scratched the surface of what this community has to offer.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Continue south on U.S. Highway 101 along the Oregon Coast to Devils Punchbowl, a 25-minute drive.

Stop 11: Devils Punchbowl

Sort of the “opposite” of sea stacks like Haystack Rock, Devils Punchbowl is another beautiful natural rock formation along the Oregon Coast. It was also formed by wave erosion, and now the huge hole and arch offer a beautiful view of the relentless power of the Pacific.

Similar to Haystack Rock, your experience stopping at Devils Punchbowl will depend on the tides. While you can no longer hike down to the Punchbowl (to protect the area and bird species that nest on this part of the cliffs), you can have a picnic up top and try to spot whales further out from the coast.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Continue south along U.S. 101 to Newport, which is a short 15-minute drive.

Stop 12: Newport

Newport is a great destination to stretch your legs for a few hours – or longer, depending on your itinerary. I most recently visited Newport in late 2023, and I recommend this as an overnight stop for both my 7- and 10-day PCH itineraries, so it was about darn time I spent a night here myself!

The community of Newport sits on either side of Yaquina Bay, with the bay’s iconic and namesake bridge spanning the two. As such, Newport strikes a balance of working marine-industrial town and tourist destination: there’s lots to do for visitors, but you might just find yourself admiring the boats in the harbor and spotting sea lions resting on the docks.

In terms of things to do in Newport, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is a great option for families or curious travelers of all ages as it focuses specifically on the marine ecosystems of this part of the Pacific Coast. You can also head to the Newport Historic Bayfront which is lined with shops, restaurants, docks/boats, and fish processing plants. Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is also a must-see.

Accommodation Suggestions: There are lots of delightful places to stay in Newport, but I spent my one night aboard the Newport Belle. This is an adults-only accommodation, but if that fits your travel group, you’re in for a real treat aboard this restored and converted sternwheeler in the harbor. Rooms start from $189 per night; book on Hotels.com. Browse other hotels in Newport and vacation rentals, too.

Meal Suggestions: For dinner, there are lots of choices in the Historic Bayfront; I went with dinner at Clearwater Restaurant as they have great views of the harbor and sea lions love to loaf up on the docks outside their windows. (As such, the patio might be tempting but can often be quite stinky, so I recommend sitting inside even if the weather is great!)

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Continue south along U.S. 101. It’s a one-hour drive to Sea Lion Caves, though you might also stop at Thor’s Well or Heceta Head Lighthouse if you want even more coastal sights along the way.

Stop 13: Sea Lion Caves

I’ll be honest: I almost drove right by Sea Lion Caves, but I’m so glad I didn’t! This is an iconic stop on the Oregon Coast, and one that even Mr. V visited as a kid when his family drove down the Pacific Coast Highway for a vacation. (As I am a kid raised in Alaska, my family never made this drive!)

Even if you’re visiting during the “off” season (when the sea lions aren’t in the caves), I highly recommend taking an hour or more to stop here, explore the coastal views, and descend down to the largest sea cave on the North American continent. The views inside and out are beautiful, and you can get a fantastic – iconic! – shot of Heceta Head Lighthouse (which is the most-photographed lighthouse in the world, probably because of this view!).

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Continue south along U.S. 101, as usual. It’s a 4-hour drive to Crescent City from Sea Lion Caves; you will probably want to stop for gas at some point along this route before crossing into California – to save money, and because this stretch is a bit more inland and less stimulating!

Stop 14: Crescent City

When you hit the California coast, it’s like driving in a postcard. The jagged coastline, infinite blue water, sunny days, gorgeous sunsets… these are just a few of the reasons California Highway 1 became a popular route in the first place!

Crescent City is the first city you’ll enter when driving southbound into California along the Pacific Coast Highway (or last if you’re headed northbound); it is my favorite town in ALL of California, I’ve visited four times and Mr. V and I almost moved there! If Crescent City doesn’t look like much, that’s because the town was almost entirely rebuilt in 1964 following a tsunami – almost all of the historic homes and buildings were destroyed. I still love it though!

Located on a beautiful crescent-shaped bay, Crescent City (get the name now?) is along part of the PCH where California Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 101 overlap – hence this guide refers to both Highway 1 and Highway 101 as the “PCH” in the different states. The coast near Crescent City is dotted with the gigantic rock formations out at sea that characterize most of the northern and central California coastline.

Crescent City is a great spot for an overnight stop (or longer) depending on your itinerary. If you have the time, be sure to stop in Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park (part of Redwoods National Park), and explore the town. If you can, walk out to Battery Point Lighthouse (at low tide only) and Ocean World is a good stop for families.

Accommodation Suggestions: On one trip, Mr. V and I stayed at this gorgeous 3-bedroom oceanfront property on Pebble Beach Drive. It was huge and fully stocked, perfect for a family or for a couple who just want space to escape. From $295/night; book on VRBO. Browse other vacation rentals and hotels in Crescent City.

Meal Suggestions: My must-stop on every trip is Seaquake Brewing; I love their kombucha and their food menu is fantastic. Other places we’ve eaten on past trips include the Chart Room (great water views) and Port O’ Pints for some local color.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: At this point in Northern California, the PCH is U.S. 101/CA-1. Follow the highway south as it winds inland and along the coast; it’s a 2-hour, 15-minute drive to the Humboldt Redwoods.

Stop 15: Humboldt Redwoods State Park

After Crescent City, the Pacific Coast Highway starts to navigate in and away from the coast at times, which includes chances to experience one of California’s natural wonders: the Redwoods. It’s easy to make a stop in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, so take the opportunity – especially if you didn’t stop at Jed Smith Redwoods near Crescent City

Old Highway 101 is now called the Avenue of the Giants, and I highly recommend slowing down to enjoy this 31-mile stretch through some of California’s oldest living – and tallest! – trees.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: South of Humboldt Redwoods, there’s a junction where California Highway 1 (CA-1) begins. At this point, you should take that exit to CA-1, the Pacific Coast Highway, leaving US-101 behind. It’s a two-hour drive to Fort Bragg.

Stop 16. Fort Bragg (Glass Beach)

Over the course of living in California for four years, Mr. V and I had a chance to explore more deeply many of the coastal communities I breezed through on my first PCH road trip – Fort Bragg was one of those spots. During our trip in 2021, I discovered a lot more that made it one of my recommended overnight stops for those following my 7-day or 10-day itinerary suggestions.

The primary attraction in Fort Bragg is actually trash… specifically, broken glass. Fort Bragg Glass Beach is part of MacKerricher State Park and you can’t take it home – but you can still spend time out of the car searching for different colors and shapes of beautiful sea glass that wash up from the Pacific Ocean.

There’s also so much more to do in Fort Bragg if you decide to stop here for an overnight*, including riding railbikes or the historic Skunk Train up into the coastal mountains, visiting the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, and hiking along the many headlands in the area.

*I’m only torn in my recommendations about whether to stay overnight in Fort Bragg because I also love Mendocino (next stop) for an overnight stay. You really can’t go wrong with either one!

Accommodation Suggestions: There are definitely options in Fort Bragg, but I really enjoyed our stay at the Noyo Harbor Inn, down near the marina. You’ll definitely get Newport vibes if you stay here! Rooms start from $266 per night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com. Browse all hotels and vacation rentals in Fort Bragg.

Meal Suggestions: If you only have time for one meal in Fort Bragg, it’s gotta be at Princess Seafood which is also in Noyo Harbor; this woman-owned fishing company and restaurant has some of the best chowder and fresh fish/shellfish you can find on the entire coast!

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Follow California Highway 1 south. It’s a short 15-minute drive between Fort Bragg and Mendocino, which is why they’re both good overnight options at this point on the PCH.

Stop 17: Mendocino

I’ll be honest: I didn’t stop at Mendocino on my first Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Instead, I made a trip up from the Bay Area and fell in love with this small town. With colorful historic seaside homes and great hiking trails and other outdoor activities, Mendocino is good for at least an overnight stop – don’t be surprised if you want to spend even longer here once you arrive!

If you do decide to spend an overnight in the area, I recommend stopping in historic downtown Mendocino first and walking around the Mendocino Headlands to stretch your legs before heading to my recommended overnight accommodations (which is also where you can eat).

Accommodation Suggestions: A few minutes south of the main part of Mendocino, the Little River Inn is one of my favorite hotels along the PCH. It’s self-contained with a spa, golf course, and everything else you need – don’t be surprised if you want to stay more than one night. Rooms start from $240 per night; book directly on their website. Browse other Mendocino hotels and vacation rentals.

Meal Suggestions: Even if you’re not staying at the Little River Inn, Ole’s Whale Watch Bar is hands-down my favorite place to eat in the area. You can sit in the pub area, eat incredible food, and keep an eye out for whales making their way up/down the coast – what more do you need?!

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Continue south along California Highway 1. It’s a 2-hour, 45-minute drive to Marshall, and another 45 minutes out onto Point Reyes.

Stop 18: Marshall & Point Reyes

Point Reyes is arguably my favorite part of the Pacific Coast Highway – and that is saying something as it’s really hard to choose favorites from over 650 miles of California coastline!

While driving southbound, you’ll approach Marshall first. From the perspective of California Highway 1, it might seem like just a few buildings alongside the road. Next, you’ll pass through Point Reyes, which again seems underwhelming. Both have way more to explore once you stop or pull off the road.

In particular, plan a long foray out to Point Reyes State Park and Lighthouse. This 20-mile (one-way) detour will take you out on Point Reyes, and has a stark and beautiful landscape because it’s so far out “at sea.” Additionally, you’ll get a sense of the magnitude of the San Andreas fault line, which comes inland along the northern part of Point Reyes.

Be sure to plan your trip on a day the lighthouse is open for tours, so you can climb the steps down to the lighthouse and look out beneath the clouds across the sea. The Point Reyes Lighthouse is open daily, but be sure to check the NPS site for specifics.

Meal Suggestions: If you’re hungry, stop for lunch at Nick’s Cove (pictured above). If you really love oysters, swing by Hog Island Oyster Company and purchase some to shuck and eat right then.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Follow CA-1 south – it’s a meandering route, but if you follow it all the way until Muir Beach you can make an optional stop at Muir Woods if you want. In total, it’s a 1-hour, 45-minute drive between Point Reyes and San Francisco if you stay on CA-1 the whole way.

Stop 19: San Francisco

It’s impossible to reduce all of the amazing things to do in San Francisco down to a small paragraph or overnight stop on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Now that I’ve moved to this part of California, I know this is true.

If you’re planning a PCH trip and want to pass through San Francisco, you can either skim over along the side of the city as you drive down the coast, take a detour inland to visit Yosemite National Park or dive in for one night knowing it will only make you want to come back for more… Like other major cities on this route, making a one-night stop is not nearly enough!

No matter which you choose, you’ll enter SF by driving across the Golden Gate Bridge; you can either stay along the coast and drive down Ocean Beach or head east into the city. In the city, the San Francisco CityPass is a good pro-tip to help you enjoy the city in a short time; as of 2024, you can choose three or four attractions including the Exploratorium, California Academy of Sciences, SFMOMA, and take a cruise on the San Francisco Bay.

Accommodation Suggestions: Blow your budget and stay the night at the Fairmont San Francisco, one of the nicest hotels in town. This gorgeous building mostly survived the 1906 earthquake and captures Victorian glory with modern amenities. Rooms start from $179/night, book on Booking.com or Hotels.com. Browse other San Francisco hotels and vacation rentals.

Meal Suggestions: Gosh, where do I begin?! There are some great options in the San Francisco Ferry Building (Cowgirl Creamery is my favorite), Boudin Bakery near Fisherman’s Wharf is an essential stop for great bread and chowder, and I love Li Po Lounge for drinks in Chinatown.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: When you’re ready to continue on your PCH road trip, make your way back to California Highway 1 and head south. It’s about an hour’s drive from San Francisco to Pigeon Point, depending on where you start in the city.

Stop 20: Pigeon Point

Pigeon Point can be a fun rest stop along the Pacific Coast Highway or a quirky one-night stop depending on your itinerary.

As the tallest lighthouse on the U.S. Pacific Coast, Pigeon Point Lighthouse is picturesque, and you can view it from several different angles along the nearby coastline. Unfortunately, you can’t climb the lighthouse steps as it has been closed for restoration since 2001.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Carry on south on CA-1, the PCH. It’s an 80-minute drive from Pigeon Point to Monterey

Stop 21: Monterey

While I only recommend an overnight stop in the Monterey/Carmel area if you’re on my suggested 10-day PCH itinerary, you can absolutely stop in either or both of these communities if you have the time during a shorter route.

Starting with Monterey, you probably recognize the name of this community for its iconic Monterey Bay Aquarium which is named for the Bay on which you can take a whale-watching cruise. It’s also worth taking a stroll on Cannery Row, even though it’s really touristy, because it gives you a sense of this community’s maritime history.

Accommodation Suggestions: The Spindrift Inn is located right on Cannery Row and has a classic design with waterfront views. From $199/night; book on Booking.com or Hotels.com. Browse other Monterey hotels and vacation rental options.

Meal Suggestions: Technically, Beach House Restaurant + Bar at Lovers Point is located in Pacific Grove (which is a cute town between Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea, but it’s a nice spot for a good meal with a great view.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: If you’re planning to also stop in Carmel-by-the-Sea, take a detour to cruise 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. It’s a 50-minute drive but iconic, and worth stopping at the Lone Cypress; if you take CA-1 instead, it’s a short 15-minute drive to Carmel.

Stop 22: Carmel-by-the-Sea

While they might be neighboring communities, Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea are really quite different. Monterey has deep roots in the maritime industry, while Carmel is more artsy and has deep roots in the California missions movement. As such, I love visiting both and think they’re both worth a stop… as for which one you stay overnight in (if you’re on my 10-day itinerary), it’s really up to you!

If you do stop in Carmel, be sure to visit the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo to learn about missionary history in California. You can also stroll on Carmel Beach, which is picturesque and explains why so many artists are inspired by this part of the California coast. Another popular activity is wine tasting and window shopping in Carmel’s historic and quirky “downtown.”

Accommodation Suggestions: Every time I’ve visited Carmel, I stay at the Hofsas House Hotel; it’s a little further from town, but has historic charm and the rooms are delightfully cozy. Rooms start from $135 per night, book on Booking.com or Hotels.com. Browse other Carmel hotels and vacation rentals.

Meal Suggestions: Two of my favorite spots in Carmel are Cultura Comida y Bebida and Brophy’s Tavern. We’ve had great meals at both of those places during our visits.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Keep following California Highway 1 southbound. Big Sur is more of a region than a specific destination, but it’s a 45-60 minute drive depending on where you stop once you get out of town. You might also decide to skip Big Sur since it ads a few extra hours to your PCH drive due to the closure between Limekiln State Park and Lucia.

Stop 23: Big Sur

Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary Featured Image

When you picture the Pacific Coast Highway, it’s Big Sur that comes to mind. The most easily accessible and breathtakingly stark part of the PCH is a short drive (about 3 hours) sound of San Francisco, so many people in the Bay Area do it as an overnight or weekend trip.

Big Sur is defined as the stretch of coastline and adjacent state park between Carmel and San Simeon. Here, California Highway 1 carves a sinuous path along steep cliffs; the road is beautiful at a price, since mudslides aren’t uncommon along this stretch of highway, and can close the highway for months.

If you want to spend part of one day during your Pacific Coast Highway road trip beachcombing or hiking, Big Sur is the place to do it.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Unfortunately, due to the closure of the PCH between Limekiln State Park and Lucia, you’ll need to backtrack north, turn inland to US-101, and then return to the coast by way of San Luis Obispo. This is a 3-hour, 10-minute drive.

Stop 24: Pismo Beach

Calfornia Coast Road Trip - Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach is another great stop during a day of driving from San Francisco between Santa Barbara (or reverse). On my Pacific Coast Highway road trip, I stopped here to eat a to-go lunch I had purchased earlier in the drive, with my toes in the sand.

Pismo is a popular camping destination, so the most common amenities you’ll find if you decide to stay longer than a few hours are camping-oriented. There are a few restaurants in town and 17 miles of beautiful beach to explore. If you happen to do your PCH road trip in the winter, Pismo State Beach is also home to the largest colony of migrating monarch butterflies during the winter months.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Continue south along CA-1. The PCH heads inland near Lompoc but is the main road you can take to Santa Barbara. It’s a 90-minute drive from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara.

Stop 25: Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara was the biggest surprise I had on my PCH road trip in 2014. I was, for the most part, ambivalent (or didn’t know much) about the cities along the Pacific Coast. I was far more interested in the hundreds of miles of coastal roadways; my overnight stop in Santa Barbara changed my mind.

In particular, I loved the harbor and wharf, was surprised by the food scene, and lightly dabbled in the historical significance of Santa Barbara enough for me to want to return; Mission Santa Bárbara is a must-visit. I haven’t made a return trip yet to update my recommendations, but when I do, I look forward to writing a dedicated article with more tips.

Accommodation Suggestions: Plan an overnight in Santa Barbara so you can soak in the charm. For accommodation, try a small hotel like the Eagle Inn. Rooms start from $115/night, book on Booking.com or Hotels.com. Browse hotels and vacation rentals in Santa Barbara.

Meal Suggestions: Try to make it to Happy Hour at Enterprise Fish Company. Oysters, calamari, and other fresh seafood small plates are on sale!

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: As you might have guessed – continue following California Highway 1 south! It’s a 90-minute to 2-hour drive to Los Angeles, depending on where you go in the City of Angels.

Stop 26: Los Angeles/Venice Beach

Los Angeles is the last major city on my list of Pacific Coast Highway stops, and though I have a guide to spending one day in L.A., you can and should spend as much time as you like. Whether you just want to see the top highlights and sightseeing hotspots or want to dive into L.A.’s booming food scene, you can find it all in Los Angeles – that link will help.

Depending on the timing of your itinerary, you may want to do an overnight here. If you’ve just stayed overnight in Santa Barbara or started your road trip in San Diego, that may not make as much sense.

Accommodation Suggestions: If you decide to stay in L.A., check out if the budget-friendly Wave Manhattan Beach Hotel is available. Rooms from $113/night, book on Hotels.com. Browse the many, many Los Angeles hotels and vacation rentals you can choose instead.

Meal Suggestions: Venice Ale House is a good spot with waterfront views and plenty of people watching opportunities, if you’re in that part of the city. You can then walk on Venice Beach to stretch your legs after so many long driving days.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Follow CA-1 south out of L.A. to avoid the city’s notorious traffic as you make your way along the coast. Roughly speaking, it’s a 2.5-hour drive from Los Angeles to Huntington Beach, if you follow the coast the whole way.

Stop 27: Huntington Beach

If you need to stretch your legs on your day of driving between Los Angeles and San Diego, Huntington Beach is a great spot to stop.

I had the chance to spend a weekend in Huntington Beach a few years ago and loved the vibe in this surf town. On your stop here, be sure to walk out along the Huntington Beach Pier and keep an eye out for surfers working the breaks along the beach. You can also hit up the the International Surfing Museum and the Surfing Walk of Fame if you enjoy the sport.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: Continue along CA-1 to San Diego, your final stop on this PCH road trip if you’re headed southbound. It’s a two-hour drive from Huntington Beach to San Diego.

End: San Diego

San Diego was the starting point of my Pacific Coast Highway road trip; for you, it may be the end if you follow my suggestions for driving southbound.

San Diego is high on my must-visit-longer list, so I’m again a bit short on recommendations here. San Diego is known for its Zoo and was made Instagram famous for Potato Chip Rock. Whether you stop to take a few Instagram-worthy spots or ogle the animals, there’s plenty of experiences to choose from in San Diego.

Pacific Coast Highway Directions: None! Congrats on finishing your Pacific Coast Highway road trip.

When to Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway View

While I’ve left it to the end, one of the most popular questions I get about driving the Pacific Coast Highway is about when to drive the PCH. Here are my suggestions:

  • In Washington and Oregon, the best weather of the year happens between June and September.
  • In Northern California, the best weather of the year happens between September and October.
  • Southern California has great weather year-round.

Therefore, the best month to drive the Pacific Coast Highway is September, when you’re most likely to have great weather along the entire length of the road trip.

How to Choose a Car for the Pacific Coast Highway

Last but not least: before you hit the road, you’ve gotta figure out your car situation! Maybe you are planning to drive your own vehicle to the start of your Pacific Coast Highway road trip and home afterward – or maybe you don’t want to put that mileage on your vehicle. In that case, you’ll need to rent a car.

When I drove the PCH, I rented a car and drove it as a ‘one-way rental’ (meaning I dropped it off in a different city than I picked it up). This was more expensive than a round-trip rental, but I didn’t want to drive the Pacific Coast Highway both ways!

I’ve put together some tips on how to choose the right car for the PCH, but in short, I recommend an automatic car with a low center of gravity – but skip the convertible or SUV. Both of these vehicle types will either slow you down or you won’t get the use out of it for the extra cost.

That’s it! PCH bucket list road trip… done! Have other questions about driving the Pacific Coast Highway? Let me know in the comments!


Plan Your PCH Adventure!

The Complete Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide gives you all the info you need to plan an epic road trip from Seattle to San Diego, in one convenient place.

Get this ebook for just $12.99 $9.99!


Help others discover this post too!

I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

267 Comments

      • Jodi

        Hi – planning my PCH trip. I’m wondering if this will work. I want to fly into san francisco early and drive to Napa. We would spend the day there, stay overnight and leave at some point the next day and head toward Ft. Bragg. We would then begin our trip down the coast from there. Is the detour to Napa a bad idea?

  • Lauren Falardeau Pariseau

    This is such a great resource. I love Portland and San Diego. I would love to do a Pacific Coast Highway drive at some point in my life. I love all the details and recommendations!

  • Larissa Joassaint

    What a great and comprehensive post! One day, I would LOVE to make this road trip. I can’t even imagine how incredible it must have been to experience all this in person. I’m saving this post to reference when I think about doing this trip, because that has to happen! Also, I love your pictures!

  • Cait

    You’ve put together one awesome road trip! Although I live in San Francisco, I’ve yet to visit several of these places on this list. Next time I have a few days off, I’ll have to change that!

    • Jennifer

      Thank you for the comprehensive narrative! Just starting to think about a 1st time road trip from Az to Washington and back among the PCH!!?? Do you think we could do it in 7 days?? There and back that is?

      • Valerie

        Thanks for reading, Jennifer. Sorry, but there’s no way to do the drive to Seattle and back along the PCH in just 7 days. It’s hard to do the drive one way in just 5 days from San Diego to Seattle – adding on the time driving from Arizona and the return trip, I think you need at least 10-12 days.

    • Hattie Weinroth

      I would really love to use the Roadtrippers map but it doesn’t appear to work. It doesn’t show up when I click it. Is it still available?

  • Kathi Kamleitner

    Such a thorough guide! I drove part of this back in 2009 – from LA to San Francisco (northbound…..) and would also recommend stops in Morro Bay and Monterey – I enjoyed both very much! Especially watching the sun set over Morro Rock in the distance! Would love to do the northern parts of PCH though – I loved Portland and Seattle, but would like to see more of the coastal regions!

  • Vicky Entsminger Saunders

    This sounds like a great adventure. I have a few questions. If I wanted to follow your trip but stop off a day at Yosemite what might the drive look like? Also, about how many miles a day are you traveling on your 10 day itinerary? I’m thinking I might end my trip at Santa Barbara.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Vicky! I don’t think you can do Yosemite in a day — it’s a four hour drive from the coast to Yosemite (one-way) and you’ll probably want a full day in the park at minimum. The total distance is about 1,500 miles! from Seattle to San Diego along this route 🙂

  • Angel De La Cruz

    Loved your trip adventure and recommendations !! We are doing the PCH this July and August coming from Yellowstone, Glacier and Teddy Roosevelt NP —it has been on our Bucket list for quite some time after this trip we only have Alaska to visit and we will have visited all the States !! I am saving this to research more of the places you mentioned !! Very nicely done thanks ever so much !!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Angel! I’m glad it was helpful. I haven’t been to some of those national parks, but they sound amazing! Feel free to comment back here if you have questions while planning your trip 🙂

  • IFTEKAR AHMED

    Extremely informative. I am planning for this roadtrip this December- starting from Dec 25th. I will be driving from Dallas to Seattle. Planning for 5-6 days of Seattle to San Diego. My car is a convertible (BMW 3 series) so I am not sure if it can take on the road during Dec end – Seattle and portland area mainly ?

    • Valerie

      Glad this was helpful! You should have no problem making it down the road in December. You may encounter some rain up north near Portland and Seattle, but you shouldn’t experience any snow!

      • Catherine Ouahada

        We are planning to do Northbound…from Ventura to Wine country but only have 5 days returning on the 5th day.
        From Ventura.
        How can we apply this info in the reverse

      • Sonia Soto

        Hello, my name is Sonia and I am from Puerto Rico. I am planning a road-trip with my husband along the Pacific coast. I’m trying to connect with the guide I found on pinterest. I also downloaded the Roadtrippers app but I can’t find it. I would like to follow the route on the map. How do I do it? Thanks. My English is very very basic but if you write to me I can understand it. Thanks again.

  • Cherie Carmona

    Hello good morning my name is Cherie Carmona,

    Wealth to California a little over a year ago I love it I live in Dana Point California, my husband will be moving here in a few weeks and I’m so excited my daughter lives in Seattle so we were considering a road trip to Seattle realistically how long do you think it would take thank you so much God-bless

    • Valerie

      Cherie, thanks for your comment. You could do this road-trip in as little as five days, but I recommend taking at least seven — or maybe 10 if you have the time! The longer you spend, the more you’ll get to see and enjoy.

        • Valerie

          Thanks for your comment, David! I’m pretty confident they’ll be wowed by these sights. Best of all, there’s no cell service so they’ll have to look around to see them 🙂

    • Donald

      Is seaside orgon a good food option is pigs in a blanket rustic american diner. We and my friends would go there to eat when we came down for sports from abrdeen

  • Adrian Jacobs

    Hi, and thanks for this terrific resource. We’re using it to plan our itinerary for June/July this year, 3 weeks, Seattle to LA. 1 question: we’ve booked hotels at both end (Seattle and LA) and would prefer not to book hotels until we’re on route and know how far we’re along and how long we want to stop in each place. is booking hotels on the day or maybe the day before likely to be OK, or should we book well in advance? We’d like to be flexible so, if we like somewhere we could stay an extra night, or if we need to push on, we could pull the itinerary forward. Whats your thought on late availability rooms at that time of year?

    • Valerie

      Adrian, great to hear from you! I’m glad you booked LA and Seattle, because those are the two you most need to have arranged! Are you planning to stay in bigger cities (Portland, SF, Santa Barbara), or smaller ones? For bigger cities, there are probably enough options that you can wait until you arrive to book, even during that time of year. The worst that happens is you might end up in a slightly less nice place than you had planned. In smaller towns though, I’d recommend committing to those earlier – you may find you have nowhere to stay and have to drive on another 100+ miles at some parts! I hope this helps!

      • Adrian

        Thanks Valerie. Yes, we intend to stay a couple of nights in Portland and 2 or 3 in San Francisco but we’ll probably look for hotels on the outskirts and travel in to the cities by car or public transport each day. The rest of time will hopefully be in small towns all along the coast. We’re making a shortlist of 3 or 4 likely hotels for each expected stopover. Thanks again for this excellent resource.

  • Sonja L. Marshall

    Hello,

    my best friends and I have talked about driving down from San Francisco to some of the Orange County, CA cities. Though I have visited a few cities in California over the years, I (we) are looking forward to that California coastal drive. I already have the vista points where we will stop for photos and eating. Thanks for your points.

    • Valerie

      Mike, great to hear from you and thanks for reading! I did a quick search and here’s how it breaks down:

      Newport > Crescent City (what I originally suggest) = about 5 hours of driving
      Newport > Crater Lake > Crescent City = about 8 hours of driving (and none of it is on the coast)

      If you chose to go from Portland > Crater Lake > Crescent City instead = 7.5 hours of driving

      So it adds about 3 hours of driving time, but it also means you’ll miss out on basically all of the Oregon Coast. That includes missing the Devil’s Punchbowl and Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in the southern part of the state; you would however get to drive through Oregon’s Redwoods on your way from Crater Lake to Crescent City.

      Happy driving!

    • Samantha Greenwell

      We just did this trip in October 2019, We started in Portland to Cannons beach then headed south on HWY 101. We detoured at Reedsport to go to Crater lake, which turned out awesome, there was a ELK reserve on the way, it took about 3 hrs to get to Roseburg, where we stayed the night, the next day the drive to Crater lake was about 3 hrs, the drive was absolutely beautiful. The views of the colors changing in the trees were surreal. After Crater lake we headed back to 238 towards HWY 101, we took an off road to hit the coast right at Brookings. So we used really about a day off the coast but well worth it. Crater lake was amazing!! I don’t feel we missed a lot of Oregon coast the views we seen before & after Crater lake were absolutely stunning. We then headed to San Fran, our ending point. This was a 6 day trip. Best trip ever! I had saved this resource to help me plan. It was a great help! Thank you!

  • Donna

    Hello! Awesome suggestions and itinerary! I am planning to take this trip with my family of 5 as you have lined out for the 10 days this coming June. Only question I have is how much money would you recommend someone having for a trip like this and staying in a 3 star hotel each night? I’ve never been to CA and I know the prices are high. I would love to take this vacation but not fall short on money. I do not plan to do any shopping at stores, so our money would be spent on a rental vehicle, hotels, gas, and food. I would rather guess on the high side than the low side so I’m prepared. We might consider staying a total of 12-15 days. Thanks so much for any tips you can suggest on having adequate funds! 🙂

    • Valerie

      Donna, thanks for your comment! I’d recommend booking – or at least searching – every hotel you want to stay at, and the nights you want to stay, so you can get a sense of exactly how much it’s going to cost. It’s a little tough to guess without knowing the exact dates and which towns/cities you plan to stay in on any given night, but I hope this helps!

  • ARETTA TERRY

    We are so overwhelmed. We can only do a quick trip. We will be coming from Anaheim and want to drive the Pacific Coast Highway to Half Moon Bay. We are planning to stay overnight at the Madonna Inn. Is this possible?? I know we won’t see everything, but it’s the only time frame we have. Do you have any tips? Can you share with me how long this should take us?? Is Pacific Coast Highway the same as Highway 1 or Highway 101?

    • Valerie

      Aretta, thanks for your comment! What you suggested (Anaheim > SLO/Madonna Inn > Half Moon Bay) is a great two-day itinerary. You can definitely do that! I didn’t spend a ton of time on the Central Coast, but be sure to stop at Pismo Beach and drive through Carmel. Stop and admire the views in Big Sur, too! The PCH is Highway 1 in California, though sometimes Highway 1 and 101 overlap which is what causes the confusion! When in doubt, stay on the coast. Have a great trip!

  • Adam

    You did a fantastic job with this giude, everything is straight to the point but provided in a fun and educational way. I can really tell that you love traveling, Valerie 🙂

  • Wilbert

    Hi, I love Portland and San Francisco. I love to do a Pacific Coast Highway drive at some point in my life. I love all the details that you are recommended here. Thank you so much for sharing this informative article with all of us.

  • Angie Redmon

    My husband and I plan to do this trip in June. As we will be married 40 years! WOW! Anyway, we are looking to do the very same drive. Start in Seattle and end in San Diego. Any other advise you could give us. I didn’t want to make all my reservations, but just go with it for one time in my life. You thinks that’s safe or should I make some. Thanks! Getting excited.

    We would be flying from GA, so I guess I go fling to Seattle, and the book one home for San Diego?

    I’m nervous go excited. We were 70’s teenagers all around!

    • Valerie

      Angie, thanks so much for your comment! Yes, I’d recommend flying one-way to Seattle, and flying one-way home from San Diego. Also, you can probably get away with booking hotels/vacation rentals in the smaller towns only a few days in advance – but if you want to stay in any of the big cities, I would book those 2-3 weeks in advance at the latest! Have a great trip!

  • Ann

    Thank you for this wonderful review. I am planning a trip for next year, saving and researching. I live in Florida and have never been to the pacific coast. I want to fly out to the NW and drive to Crescent city, then go inland to see the redwoods, Bend, and Mt. Hood. Sort of a round trip Oregon adventure. What’s the best time of year to do this? I hate cold! Also, I will have 3 weeks to do this, I like small towns, Vegan food, and too out of shape for extended hikes.

    • Valerie

      Ann, thanks so much for your comment. This sounds like a great trip – the PCH + inland Oregon! The best time of year to do this will be in the summer (June/July/August), probably sooner in the year rather than later. I hope you have a great trip!

  • Nate Webb

    Wonderful trip sharing you made. Thanks so much. Am planning to do a 10 day PCH drive in August. This will be a great tool in planning. Prior to retiring I have done the San Francisco to LA 3 times but always by myself. This time I plan to take a friend and start in Portland. Again, thanks for great info and advice.

  • Laurie Baxter

    Thanks for the great ideas! We are planning a west coast trip and are considering renting an RV one way from Portland or Seattle to San Francisco. Does that sound reasonable or doable?

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Laurie! With an RV, I’d just give yourself a lot more time each day (probably 25% more driving time) since you’ll need to go a bit slower. Hope that helps you plan!

  • rudy zimmer

    Valerie,
    valuable tips ! Nice ride. I’m looking forward to have the same experience with my wife and my son.
    The ideia is to have a “West Coast Beer Route” drive. Thanks for sharing.
    Rudy

  • Midwest Retired Guy at 56

    Great read! My wife and I are planning an 18 day trip in the coming months to fly into San Diego and then make the drive up to Seattle. But, we need to go the opposite way; starting in San Diego and heading north. Is this going to be a big disappointment? Also, we were thinking with the additional days to do a detour over to Yosemite. To ensure accommodations, I was thinking to book all of the hotels in advance. I’me hoping the trip will run about $10k. staying at decent places 3-4 star properties. Any additional thoughts?

  • Scott Bush

    Hi, My wife and I are planning a 7-day drive from San Fran to Portland in late June of this year. Can you recommend where to spend time and in which cities to plan to spend the night? We’ve spent time in SF already so don’t need to stay there. The redwoods are a definite. Seeing some nice beaches is also of interest. My wife doesn’t particularly like high bridges or steep drops (one reason we are driving north), so any advice on where we might avoid such things is appreciated. Is there any river rafting or boating along the way?

    Thank you, Scott

  • Eileen

    This is exactly what I was looking for. My husband and I are both 62 in pretty good shape and planning to do this trip from Portland to San Diego in late September 2019 over 2 weeks. Are we likely to hit snow in the northern stops? I am not fond of the cold and a bit fearful of icy driving in the mountains. We will be stopping to see the sights along the way but not for strenuous hikes.
    Thank you for any other tips.

    • Valerie

      Eileen, thanks for your comment, and for reading! You probably won’t have any snow – it’s usually just rain in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon & Washington). Have a great trip!

  • Rex

    Thinking of Seattle to San Diego on US 1 in late September or early October, is the weather still good for a 10 day driving trip?

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Rex! Should be pretty good – it might be a bit rainy up in the Pacific Northwest, but the weather once you reach California should be great!

  • Victoria

    Hello Valerie,

    Looking to travel with your recommendations southbound! Looking to fly into Crescent City – I’ve tried to locate flight from Oakland to Crescent City but haven’t been able to, do you have any info on this flight?

    Also being from Colorado, we would love to camp oceanside, do you have any recommendations on campsites?

    Thank you for sharing your travels and still helping others along their journey!

  • Kathy

    I am planning a trip in late July. I am flying into Portland to meet my niece and we will rent a car and drive down the coast to LA to meet another nephew. We fly out of LA. I am thinking 5 days from Portland to LA. Would it be worth it to continue to San Diego then back to LA? We will probably book Airbnb if cost effective. I appreciate this guide. I want the most scenic route but RT 1 on the cliffs seem risky ? Suggestions? Also, niece is vegan and I am meat eater.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Kathy! To answer your questions:
      1. Don’t drive down to SD and back up to LA. Just give yourself more time and end n LA.
      2. Route 1 is fine – it’s twisty turny but it’s the best route by far.
      3. You should have no problem finding vegan options! Oregon & California are both pretty vegan friendly states so I’d expect lots of restaurants have at least an option that’s animal-free.

      Have a great drive!

  • CJ

    Doing this trip starting this weekend! We’re taking the 5 to Seattle with a few stops on the way then PCH from Port Angeles to SD. We’ll be camping out at most stops except for SF. Super excited. Great article!

  • Karen Wells

    I have been reading your blog posts about the PCH and think I read where you mentioned a couple of crossover vehicles that would be good rental cars. It may have been in a reply to someone else’s comment, but I can’t seem to find it now. Any ideas?

    • Valerie

      Karen, great question! I don’t remember providing that advice… but off the top of my head, I wouldn’t go bigger than a Tesla Model X (swoon!), a Jeep Liberty, or most Subarus. If you go as big as a Suburban or Tahoe, you’ll be way to big and clunky to enjoy the road! I hope this helps.

  • Shelly

    Hi – We have just 1-day and will be starting in Fortuna and heading to San Francisco. We want to make the best out of drive there. I see we can head to Mendocino and then over to a larger highway to San Francisco or…….drive all the way down the PCH to Point Reyes Station & then head over San Francisco but that would be a lot of driving. We are only going to be there once though and want to make the most of it. Do you highly recommend the LONG route OR is thru Mendocino only enough? Thanks for your help in advance!!!!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Shelly! To be honest, I’d opt for the long route – you only have one day, and Point Reyes is one of my favorite parts of California. Be sure to stop at Nick’s Cove in Marshall, CA for a meal or Hog Island Oyster if you love oysters!

  • John Finders

    Hi Valerie,
    Great job!
    I am planning to start my road trip in Vancouver BC and ending in San Francisco. I am planning 14 days to take in the sights. Would you have any other suggestions since I am using 4 more days and not going south to Sa Diego and strarting in Vancouver?
    Thanks

  • Kim Taylor

    Valerie,
    My husband and I are wanting to fly from Denver to California on December 27th. We want to spend 5 days for PCH and not sure where to fly in or out of. Is this time of year realistic for an enjoyable adventure, or should we maybe plan to go somewhere else? Where would you start and end if it is reasonable to go in December, and what might we expect weather wise?
    Thank you, and your blog is fantastic!
    Kim

    • Valerie

      Kim, December should be a pretty good time, but plan for classic marine layer weather (chilly and cloudy – this is what’s normal on the Pacific coast!). If I were youI would do a leisurely drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles/San Diego. Let me know how it goes!

  • Anthony

    We’re renting an RV in Seattle (after few days in hotel) and have 30 days before we drop it off in San Fran (and hotel for a few days). Should we go down the coast only (plus say Portland & Crater Lk), or head inland given how much time we have? Is Yellowstone worth the long detour?

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Anthony! You’ve got so much time, that’s awesome! I would definitely do some research on inland options – I’m not as familiar with what’s inland though. I can think off the top of my head that you could do the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, Crater Lake, the Redwoods in much greater depth than I advise above… you could also spend some time at Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, or elsewhere in the Sierra Nevadas!

      I haven’t been to Yellowstone so I can’t say if it’s worth it, unfortunately. #addittothelist

  • HEATHER LABAUVE

    Thank you so much for this information! We are planning a trip next year from New Orleans while my husband has a conference in Portland…we were thinking of driving Hwy 1 down to Disneyland…and catching some of the beautiful beaches and state parks. Our kids will be 15 & 10…I’m just afraid it will be a boring ride for them in the car. We were planning on 10 days total for driving, site seeing and ending it with 2 days in Disneyland. Any recommendations will be appreciated! Thanks!

    • Valerie

      Heather, you saw the rest of the post, right? Those are my top recommendations! I’d find an interesting podcast for everyone in the car and have the kids keep an eye out for whales and wildlife. Have a great drive!

  • Raynard Richards

    Hi Valerie,

    I am traveling with my husband, brother and our 4 year old. What type of car would you rent for 4 of us? We will only have 7 days. We planned to start in Seattle and drive to San Diego. Is this doable in 7 days, with stops during the day and to spend the night?

    Thanks!

    Raynard

  • Alexandra Faux

    Hi there, I am desperate to do the road trip next year – however, I am not keen on driving over bridges (I am fine on coastal roads/cliff edges), so are there any places that i definitely need to avoid or that you cant get through/past without crossing a bridge? Many thanks, alex

    • Valerie

      Alex, unfortunately, this might not be the trip for you. There are no reasonable alternatives for some of the routes like the one across Bixby Canyon Bridge (shown above). You’d need to drive about 7-10 hours out of the way depending on the bridge, and miss major stretches of the road 🙁

  • Jorge Alcala

    Great content here, thank you! We are thinking of taking this drive during the week of Christmas. Any thoughts on this as it pertains to weather? Is it worth waiting to do this trip in summer?

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Jorge! The weather should be okay – but be prepared for coastal fog and chill (as you would experience pretty much all year long!). Have a great drive!

  • Angela

    Planning a mother/son trip after my son graduates HS next year. This blog has been incredibly helpful. I love road trips & he tolerates them so I am looking forward to all these sights to see!

  • Sharon

    Thank you for great info – This is exactly what I was looking for. Booking this trip for late Oct. I’d like to fly in ( from East Coast) somewhere north of San Fran. What would be a good hopping on point?

  • Pam

    Hello,
    Thanks for sharing your trips and valuable tips. If I am going to follow your 10 day itinerary from Washington State to San Diego, how many overnight stays can I have?

  • Erin Huelsman

    Valerie – I just came across this post. Love it. My husband, myself and our four kids always take adventurous vacations every summer. We are from Ohio. If we have 10 days to do this and could skip San Francisco, because we just did that 2 years ago, could we drive from Seattle to either Los Angeles or San Diego in an RV? We always wanted to do an RV trip, but maybe the PCH is not the one to do that on?? Thoughts? You also mentioned Suburbans are not great because they are so big, but I don’t think we have much choice with the large family.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Erin! I wouldn’t advise doing this one in an RV, to be honest. It’s a very winding cliff-side road and doing it in an RV is going to be laboriously slow and probably make you a bit nervous at times. Also, it’s not exactly the most stimulating view – it’s a bit better for older kids than younger ones.

      If I were going to recommend a route, I’d do something like the National Parks in California or the Utah/Arizona/SoCal loop. That gives you a lot more to do each day to wear the kids out and much more suitable for an RV.

  • Catherine Jackson

    Planning a trip on PCH last week of July 2020. Starting at San Francisco ending San Diego. Making the drive in 2 days. What are must see spots.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Catherine. I make all of my ‘must see’ recommendations in this post, so I recommend checking out the section on California to find the ones that sound interesting to you. If you would like a customized itinerary, I offer that for a fee to help cover the time it takes me to put those tips together. There’s a link to that at the end of the post.

  • DAN

    Hi Valerie,

    Thank so much for putting together a wonderful and comprehensive itinerary of the PC scenic drive. This will be a great resource for the trip that we are planning. My wife and I were planning to fly to San Diego to start the trip, but your point about southbound visibility makes total sense. What do you think about making this drive in November? We are planning to spend Thanksgiving in San Diego.

    Thanks again and best wishes,

    Dan

    • Valerie

      Glad to help, Dan! November should be a good time, but you may experience some days where the Marine Layer rolls in – be sure to pack layers in case it’s cooler/less sunny than expected!

  • Amy Delacluyse1

    Hello Valerie; my family and i are thinking about a trip from northern CA to San Diego along the coast. Want to stop over a few nights, and hit some of the destinations you listed. I was wondering if you would recommend any wine tasting spots along the way? I’ve been to Napa, Sonoma and Russian River Valley – but curious if there are any great places you are aware of.

    Thank you!
    Amy

    • Valerie

      Amy, take a look at the Santa Maria Valley – I stopped in Lompoc on a trip recently and they have some fun and interesting wineries there. Sounds like a great trip either way – drive safe!

  • Teena Maher

    Hi. I’m thinking of doing this trip from Seattle to San Diego. I was hoping to see autumn colours in the northern area. Is this possible? What time of year would be best to do this. Travelling from Australia and would like to spend 3 weeks driving around . Thanks Teena

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Teena! I’d look at September as an ideal time to catch autumn colors in the Pacific Northwest – but admittedly it’s hard to predict since this part of the country isn’t known for the same leaf colors as New England. I hope this helps!

  • Chinquel Wiley

    Hi Valerie. This information is great!!! Thank you for sharing. My husband and I are planning a Spring Break trip with our girls March 2020. We will start in Portland, Or and drive to Las Angeles, CA. Will we be able to enjoy the drive in March? Thank you again for all of your information.

    • Valerie

      Chinquel, nice to hear from you! March is a fine time to drive the PCH – the weather on the Pacific Coast is pretty similar all year long! (Be prepared for fog from the marine layer!)

  • Tim

    Valerie,
    My wife and I are planning this very trip you outlined. Thank you so very much.
    You absolutely nailed it.
    AAA has no candle to this.
    Tim and Janice

  • Bethany

    Reading through this – your article is going to be a huge help as our family plans our two-week trip. We’re driving south-to-north. Thank you.

  • Hunter Roquemore

    I’m sure someone else has asked this but…..When is the best time to travel PCH (traveling Southbound through California to San Diego in hopes of warm days and cool(ish) nights)?

  • Rita Chalan-Montano

    Thank you for the pointers! I am heading to LA in March and have a day to drive around and wanted to drive from LAX up HW 1 to around Malibu, maybe further!

    I also agree that Point Reyes (and the lighthouse) is spectacular and my top place to go when in North Ca.

  • Terri

    Valerie-thanks for the great overview. The PCH is on my bucket list since my daughter did it with Teens Westward Bound over 10 years ago. I’d like to make a 10 day trip with a couple days in San Francisco and San Diego. I’ve done Yosemite and Sequoia, so no need for inland stops.
    I especially appreciate your links to stays and dine.
    A frequent Cali traveler warned me of smog in the late summer and recommended late Sept. early Oct. What are your thoughts?
    What day of the week would you recommend starting from WA?
    Thanks again!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Terri! September and October are definitely best for visiting NorCal, so I recommend that time of year too! Not sure it matters when you set out from Seattle; it’ll be great no matter when you go!

  • Silvia

    Thanks so much for this comprehensive look at the PCH. I’ve just started planning our trip for this autumn. We were thinking October, but after reading all the comments, I think we will make it September. Want to avoid the summer crowds, but still enjoy nice weather. And thanks for confirming what I thought (hoped) that southbound is the best way to go. I travelled alone from San Francisco to LA while on a work trip years ago and haven’t stopped thinking about getting my husband out there. AND, I did it in November in a PT Cruiser with the top down….all bundled up with the heat on full…..but man, what a view! We will go from Seattle to San Diego using your itinerary as our planning guide. Thanks so much from a couple of Canucks!

        • Valerie

          Silvia, not to minimize risks but I think the issue is not being represented realistically by the media. I don’t plan to change any of my travel plans based on the Coronavirus unless there are required quarantines.

  • manny strassburger

    hi planing to do the PCH however we will be in Las Vegas and driving to San Francisco will be there for 2 or 3 days and don’t know witch is better to do San Francisco to L A back to Vegas or go north San Francisco to Seattle and then drive to Vegas i will have a extra 3 to 4 days what is your thoughts, we are nature and wildlife lovers not to big into visiting towns. Manny from Massachusetts.

  • Ashley

    Thanks for sharing this! I am currently living in crescent city and plan to make the drive in a couple of weeks. I appreciate all the information!

  • Archimedes

    Hello Valerie & Valise,
    I love this trip information on, it is so amazingly helpful. I do have OCD though, and I’m having a really hard time getting past your use of the word lament in the paragraph suggesting to drive on southbound. I have looked up the different uses of the word and grammatically correct samples, and I believe you needed to use it in past-tense. Sorry, I could not get past it, and I may not even be correct, but I truly loved this page. Please keep doing what you’re doing.
    Thank you,
    Archimedes

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your comment, Archimedes. However I actively lament that I was on the ‘wrong’ side of the road in the present tense (as in, if you ask me today, I still lament it); I didn’t really realize I was on the wrong side until after my trip was over – and it’s not like you can change your route once you start! So the verb ‘lament’ is correct in the present tense, and the tense of ‘recommend’ earlier in the paragraph. I appreciate your asking for clarification!

  • Julie Dratz

    Hoping to do this mid Sept 2020. Our plan (2 people) would be to fly into Seattle, where family is. Hope to rent a car there? We only wish to go South as far as Salinas (more family) or Santa Barbara the furthest. I do not care to get into the Los Angeles area…However, the Sequoias are a must. So heading east eventually to round out the trip. Would there be a place where the rental could be left in those regions? Then flying back to Michigan. These seem to be the hardest parts to figure out for this type of trip! Best rates and airports to use. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you. Even an email answer is fine!!

    • Valerie

      Great questions, Julie. I’m not sure there are many good airports to leave a rental car in the region you’re suggesting – you may end up driving into L.A. to do so and to fly home. It’s really up to you to decide where you want to end and figure out the closest rental car/airport option from there, but there are airports of all sizes throughout the region.

  • Elin

    Hey there! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the fantastic work!|

  • Helen

    Hi Valerie, I am doing the PCH drive southbound from Seattle and as far as we can go for 5 days. I was wondering if you could suggest a place for stargazing. It probably means deviating from PCH for a bit and we’re ok with that. Thank you!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for asking, Helen! Stargazing along the PCH depends a lot on the weather; since there aren’t a lot of roads that connect the PCH inland, you kinda have to make do with what happens out on the coast. My favorite place is Mendocino if the skies are clear!

  • Michael W. Bolin

    I was a truck driver for 29 years and could not drive that road. Now I want to take a trip there from San Diego to the Canadian border while sitting on a Honda Goldwing trike. You have the same recommendations?

    • Valerie

      Congrats on the trip, Michael! I do have the same recommendations – you’ll see A LOT of fellow bikers/trikers out on the PCH; it’s a great ride on 2-3 wheels as well as 4 wheels 🙂

  • Stephen Underwood

    My wife and I (with our dog) are driving from Pismo Beach to Cannon Beach and staying at a beach house there. Along the way we plan to stop at the Benbow Inn near Garberville, CA and in Newport. While staying in Cannon Beach we have planned day trips to Astoria and Long Beach and maybe an inland drive to McMinnvile, for some wine tasting. I appreciated your take on the drive, and now I’m sorry we will be going north rather than south, but we are planning on going back the I-5 and stopping in Ashland. Or.

    Again, thanks for the tips.

  • Jan Evans

    Hi there, I am thinking of taking a solo trip down the PCH from Long Beach, WA to LA? Have you heard any issues with the Covid and being able to rent places on the way down? I don’t have it I just want to make sure businesses are open? Just wondering about restrictions? Also how many days driving for this trip. I was planning 10-12 days? I appreciate you taking the time to answer everyone’s questions.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Jan. I have suggestions on dates earlier in the article to help you figure out how long to do the trip and where to stop. Regarding openings, I’m sorry but I can’t keep up with all of the places and changing restrictions in the various counties and states. I recommend researching/contacting each one individual to confirm they’ll be open.

  • Lois Degenhardt

    Valerie,
    First off, congratulations on your recent wedding! I am currently planning a road trip from Phoenix to Vancouver, WA to visit family and we’ve decided to come back home via the PCH. Your article was just what I needed!! I had lots of recommendations from a friend, specific to Big Sur, but your article was so encompassing and complete. Now my only problem is trying to figure out how many extra days we’re going to need!

  • Mindy

    We’re on day 2 of our 8-day PCH Tour….and it’s great to have your help! We’re staying just outside of Long Beach, in cute little Ilwaco, WA, at Salt Hotel & Pub. Thank you for your great ideas and itineraries! ❤️

  • Teresa Rayner

    Valerie, I am so glad I found your guide to the PCH! A few years ago I started saving (unbeknownst to my husband) for his 50th birthday this summer. We’ve daydreamed about a lot of different trips we would take one day, and a flight from the southeast US to Seattle and PCH drive to San Diego was one of them. I have tendency to suffer from “analysis paralysis” therefore navigating all the ins and outs what to do where to stay etc would be overwhelming to say the least. And other than his military time at Ft Lewis many years ago, we have never lived nor toured the west coast at all. So I am very, very thankful to have found THIS resource!! I am going to plan for at least a 10 day trip, it’s once in a lifetime and truly don’t want to rush it 🙂 I can’t wait to see his face when I announce at his local birthday party in July that I have saved for and planned this fantastic trip for September 2021!! Again, thank you so much!!

  • Kay B

    Hi V& VDid you make hotel reservations in advance for your overnight stops? Or, do you think one could just ‘take a chance’ and stop and book a room when in need??? Taking my granddaughter on an epic journey.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Kay. I strongly recommend making reservations in advance, and also please be aware that hotels and other accommodation are not currently allowed to accept leisure travelers during the current mandates. I recommend checking out California resources for the pandemic before you book anything.

  • Brianna

    My fiancée & I want to do this for our honeymoon next month! We are just wondering if you have an estimate on how much it would be to travel the PCH! Thank you 🥰

  • TIM MC CLARTY

    We took this trip several years ago. Flew into Seattle and drove back. We stayed in Seattle and drove south to Olympia, to pick up the beginning of the 101. I wish I could remember the name of the mountain turnoff in Washington. But you missed it and it was so incredible. You could see Canada and the river valley. It was just gorgeous with a 360 degree view. We continued on until we picked up the beginning of CA Hwy 1. We then took that to the end. It is a time consuming drive but the most worthwhile time you will ever spend traveling. I have been to Europe, for 2 years, and nothing compares to this coastal trip. I agree, go north to south. Don’t be in a hurry and be cautious so you can enjoy everything. ENJOY the sightseeing trip of a lifetime.

  • Ronald Christman

    I have 22 foot van camper are their any length height(9.5 ft) restrictions I am hoping their are amp sites along the way? We are coming from Pennsylvania

  • Charla Gilmore

    First thank you for all the work you put into this! We plan on doing the 7 day trip June/July. Thinking of maybe making this where we would b me somewhere different for 4th of July. Do you recommend any of your overnights for golf fireworks for 4th of July?

  • sireesha

    Thanks so much for an in depth post. We were planning on a 7day road trip with our 8, 6 and 20 month olds in June. Do you have any recommendations or modifications while traveling with kids. Thank you

  • Nancy

    This is such a great article. Thank you for sharing! I am beginning to plan a family trip and loved all the recommendations. We are from FL and east coast and know very little about west coast, so this is great!! It includes so many things each person in my family wants to see and do! Thanks again!

  • Ravi

    Thanks for sharing this great itinerary. I’m planning a trip for end of this year most probably the California part only. I will definitely use all the info you’ve provided. Amazing!

  • Scott

    Thanks for all of this great information! I had a question regarding travel to California present time as in next week(August 14, 2021). Are people moving about freely or are things locked down with the covid? I would hate to plan a trip only to find out that things are shut down or there are big restrictions placed on free movement. I appreciate any help you can provide.

    Thank you!

  • Rob Alter

    We plan a trip to San José, California because of its diversity, beautiful scenery, and exceptionally high outputs. San Jose is a creative and thriving high-tech culture epicenter. We booked a flight to San Jose to explore the city’s economic hub and cultural traditions. After reading your blog we are excited to visit San Jose.

  • Tony Le

    Hi Valerie,

    We are planning on a 7 days trip in Dec 2021. 3 days trip to Joshua Tree/stay at Twentynine Palms, then swing to San Diego. From there we are planning on 4 days drive/stop on high 1 (PCH) up to Santa Monica/Malibu then flight out LAX. Would be every much appriciate if you can provide tips and recomendattions where to stop, what to see/do and eat the drive on high 1 from San Diego to Santa Monica.

    Thanks much !
    Tony

  • Dave Hanson

    Great article. We are thinking of late September of 2022 doing a two week drive from north to south. Wondering about forest fires and how they affect the trip.
    Also wondering if you can tell me where I could get a printable version of your article

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Dave. You can get a printable version by signing up on the forms in this post. I have no idea what the case will be for forest fires next year, unfortunately!

  • Karthik

    Thank you so much for creating this itinerary! It was so helpful as I planned and traveled cross country this summer starting with the PCH. My only additional rec for anyone would be to add the Great Tide Pool in Monterrey to check out little worlds of marine life.

  • Alex King

    I have a question in regards to your amazing experiences and my hopes to travel the PCH with my older kids. This is my idea of an itinerary but I need to cut out one of these days or consolidate one since I really only have 8 days. I was curious about which one you suggest if you were to slim down this itinerary by 1 day (ex. skip Santa Cruz, skip San Francisco Day 2 and just hit the highway) OR if you had a suggestion on swapping out one of the spots with a different one (ex. San Luis Obispo with Paso Robles). Any thoughts are greatly appreciated:

    Day 1: San Francisco (Arrive late in the evening)
    Day 2: San Francisco
    Day 3: Santa Cruz
    Day 4: Carmel-By-The-Sea
    Day 5: Big Sur
    Day 6: San Luis Obispo
    Day 7: Santa Barbara
    Day 8: Los Angeles
    Day 9: San Diego (leave early in the morning)

  • Bill and Brenda Davis

    What is the average speed on the 101? We are planning a trip in Sept 0f 2022, starting in Portland, ending in San Diego. Thinking approximately 250 miles a day. Your help is appreciated. Your website is very helpful.

    Bill & Brenda

  • Brian

    Hi, we are flying into Seattle 7/27 and out from San Diego 8/7, we are visiting colleges in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and San Diego for my daughter. So doing our 101 bucket list too, but want a 2-3 days near Ocean Beach, CA. My wife and I have been to Cali a couple of times, our daughter once from Diego to Fran (Berkeley) and loved it, and just us once to Seattle and Portland, but flying in and out only.

    This guide is great, do you have a Google map itinerary to download with the stops?
    Would you recommend the 7 day to get 2-3 days in Diego?
    What do you think of Coos Bay/North Bend or better places for overnight, seemed a good split between Seattle and San Francisco?

    We live in Colorado, so more interested in Ocean more than hiking, so 101 is ideal.
    We figured booking hotel in Seattle for 1 or 2 days for arrival and checking the college. 1-2 days in Portland to visit college and check out Portland. Ending at a beach front hotel in Diego for 2-3 days to visit that college, unwind and settle a little bit before leaving.

    I would love any advice you can give us!

    Brian and Janet

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Brian. I’m assuiming you’ve read the whole post, as I do cover a 7-day suggested itinerary, and cover overnight stops along the Oregon coast. Also, for a map, I use the app Roadtrippers, which is linked in the post.

  • Andrew

    Valerie, can’t thank you enough for this guide! I am planning a 10 day trip the last two weeks in May down the entire PCH from Seattle to San Diego. This post was so helpful! I am going to mostly follow the path you outlined in your 10 day itinerary. My problem is going to be deciding what not to do because I’ll only have so much time (and money). But my priority for this trip is just going straight down the PCH so that should help me prioritize. Lot of driving in 10 days, but I am excited. Sounds like it will be well worth it. Thank you again. Appreciate you sharing your experience and advice.

  • Lynda Sue Lahm

    Hi Valerie, we are planning a trip from Crescent city back home to Phoenix traveling along PCH. We are going to go the middle of September 2022 and take a flight from Phx to somewhere around Crescent city. I have one question – where is the best place to fly into? We definitely want to visit the redwood forest, which is the main reason we want to go so far north. Also, how many days should we take for the one-way trip back. We both have a lot of vacation all the time, so 10 days or more would be fine. I think once we hit Los Angeles we will just take the I10 home to Phoenix. We stay in San Diego on Pacific/Mission Beach a lot so no need to travel this far south for us. We are thinking Crescent City to Santa Barbara? Thank you so much for passing on your wisdom and experience. Can’t say enough how appreciative we are.

    • Valerie

      Are you hoping to do a one-way rental car for your PCH drive? This will be tricky as there are no rental cars in Crescent City – or anywhere near it. You’d need to fly into…. Portland? maybe to get a car, which adds about 6 hours of driving time. Basically, you can’t start/end in Crescent City if you want to rent a car.

  • Judy Long

    I am going to drive PCH 1 this summer and was going to drive from North to South but my son has driven it and suggested going South to North. I will be driving alone and he thought I would be able to enjoy the view better looking to my left than to my right while driving. Did you drive it alone and what do you think about being able to see well driving north to south?

    • Valerie

      Great question, Judy. I did drive it alone – and I still recommend heading southbound. You’ll have less distance (just the car and shoulder) instead of an entire lane of the road plus the shoulder. I hope that helps!

  • Thomas

    Thanks for putting this fantastic guide together! In a few weeks, we intend to start a 10-ish day loop from San Jose, drive up on the “inland” route to Seattle, and do a southbound coastal drive. I’m driving with our 5 kids (ages 1 -13) and my wife.

    My question is: how to best use our time? We want a mix of National/State Parks, cities, and coasts. I was considering driving from San Jose with overnight stops at Mt Shasta or Lassen NP, Crater Lake, Portland, and Seattle (maybe a few nights in the cities). I’m not sure how to prioritize the rest of our time. I’d like to include Olympic NP, Mt. Rainier, plenty of coastlines, and Redwoods. We can skip Napa and SF.

    Thoughts? What to cut? What not to miss?

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Thomas. As this post is over 6,000 words long, I typically don’t provide extra additional itinerary services for free. My best advice is to take a look at the app Roadtrippers and start plugging in where you might want to go to get a sense of travel time – then you can decide what’s must-do, what extra you have time for, and what needs to be cut.I hope that helps!

  • michelle blount

    Hi! I was reading for the road trip from Seattle to San Diego. Do you have a version that is just typed up not with pictures?

    Thanks!
    Michelle

  • Alice

    Amazingly great article. Thank you. Just one small thing, it’s not ‘the PCH’, it’s just PCH. Please drop the ‘the’. lol. It’s a small detail, but totally uncalifornian to say ‘the PCH’. haha.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for your feedback, Alice, but I lived in California for several years and never heard anyone say “I’m going to drive PCH…” I’ll be keeping the “the” if only because it’s proper English – if Californians want to abandon that elsewhere, that’s up to them 😉

      • Valerie

        P.S. I did a bit of research into this – seems like it’s a Los Angeles thing to drop the “the” – but as I lived up in Northern California, we use the “the.” Since my post is referring to a much larger area than just SoCal, I’m still going to keep the “the.” Thanks for providing me this opportunity to learn about a quirky bit of California lingo!

  • Dale Callahan

    This is great information and very helpful! I’m planning on doing the PCH from Seattle to SF next Sept. (We did SF to SD in 2019). Taking your advice, flying into Seattle (from KC), and heading south. Question, if we were to add a stop, possible one night stay at Crater Lake, where would you suggest doing this from without missing much, (or any?) of the PCH? Thank you!

  • Oleg

    Hi Valerie,

    Wifey and I did the PCH trip a while ago, shortly after we got married. Now we want to take our girls on the same trip. Thank you very much for providing a road map!
    We are planning our trip for the first half of April, SF to LA. Do you happen to know or can you suggest a source with info about the road conditoin in the light of recent terrible weather in California.
    Thank you in advance!

  • David Whitmore

    Thank you for the article. Regarding “I recommend an automatic car with a low center of gravity – but skip the convertible! I drove one and I hardly ever got to enjoy it!”….why were you hardly ever able to enjoy driving a convertible????

    • Valerie

      Thanks for asking! A couple of reasons:
      1. It was actually quite a lot colder than I expected so I usually ended up too cold with the top down.
      2. The weather also wasn’t great for most of the route; after moving up out of SoCal, you’re much more likely to experience clouds and/or the marine layer on the PCH.
      I’d be happy to save the money and just drive with the windows down when I want some fresh air.

  • Heather Robinson

    My husband are I are planning 20 days to do the PCH(starting in Seattle and ending in San Diego) We are using your “the ultimate pacific coast road trip itinerary” as a guide. In the Santa Barbara area of the article you mentioned that you had an article about Santa Barbara and what to do, I am not able to locate this article. Can you please give me a list of must sees in Santa Barbara (we could have two full days there).

    Thank you!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Heather! Unfortunately, I don’t have suggestions for Santa Barbara as I haven’t been there in nearly a decade.

  • Laura Molinaro

    Just found your article – have always wanted to do the PCH drive. What are your recommendations / suggestions for towing a travel trailer? I’m retired and can take a few months to do this drive. Would start in San Diego, do the entire trip north to Washington, then turn around and do the drive south.

    • Valerie

      Hi, Laura. I honestly wouldn’t do it while towing a travel trailer. It’s going to slow you down A LOT. I remember being stuck behind a similar setup on my drive for about an hour, going 25mph because that was the most their rig could handle with the hairpins and hills.

  • Tina

    My husband and I are recently retired and planning this trip. Thank you so much for this itinerary. We are from the Midwest so are not familiar at all with any of these locations. My question is, when is the best time of year to do this trip? We will be doing the whole trip from Seattle to San Diego

  • Mark Bowling

    Thank you for the great blog and recommended itinerary. My wife and I are doing this trip for the first time for our 30th anniversary. I see the update concerning the road closures. Does this mean if we are traveling south the only way to see Big Sur is to backtrack north after we visit it?

    • Valerie

      That’s correct. I highly recommend keeping an eye on the CADOT site as things are changing so often along that route.

  • Bryon

    Hi,

    I”m planning a trip from Palm Springs CA to Seattle WA and want to try and do most of it on the PCH in 6 days/5 nights. I’ve looked at your information on the website and it’s been very helpful. If possible, can you suggest locations/cities to stop and sleep each night to maximize my time to see things along the way given I’d like to do it in 6 days. I’m flexible on hotel accomodations. Thank you in advance.

    • Valerie

      Byron, hi. Sorry but I don’t provide personalized advice to everyone – it would take up a lot of my time. This article should help you plan it yourself 🙂

  • Susan

    My daughter and I are planning this trip in August, Seattle-San Diego. Would you recommend booking hotels before we leave or can we book as we go? We are not sure if we are following the 7 day or 10 day and hate to book and then not want to stay in that town. Thank you!

    • Valerie

      I would definitely book in advance – these are lots of smaller towns where you won’t have options if you don’t have something arranged in advance and everything is sold out.

  • Tena Mason

    Hiiii! We’re planning a trip up the pch (unfortunately it just didn’t work out to go down the pch due to the timing of hitting the national parks in montana and wyoming) and i found this amazing blog!!

    you mentioned an article you wrote about santa barbara, which will be our first stop on the pch (we’re hopping on at santa monica after driving route 66 out to cali). i’ve searched and can’t find it. can you shoot me the link?

    muchas gracias~!

    • Valerie

      Tena, hi! Unfortunately, I don’t have that Santa Barbara article anymore – it was quite outdated and I haven’t been able to find time to schedule a return visit to ensure my article is updated and high quality.

  • Tim

    Hello, I am trying to access the trip map you have embedded via the roadtrippers app, but when I click on the map and the app opens, all of the destinations you have pinned on the map embedded on your site do not appear. I am planning on doing this trip within the next few weeks and that map would be incredibly helpful

  • Matt

    Hi Valerie. Thanks so very much for all of your work on this site. I was wondering if you would have a PDF or other document to send of the Pacific Coast Highway 7 and 10 day trips? Printing from the site does does not format well. Many thanks!

  • Jodi

    Awesome infor! Thanks for that. Quick question – My husband and I plan to fly into Reno and ski a couple days. Move on to Napa for a few days and then head to San Franscisco to start our PCH drive south – Not sure how far we can go. We are doing this in mid March with 7 days for the trip. Is March going to be a good time to do the PCH part of the trip and do you think I have too much packed into 7 days?

    • Valerie

      Hi! It looks like your plans changed a bit since your first comment. March is okay, but could be iffy – the weather in late winter tends to be much wetter and that’s caused some problems in years past with landslides and flooding. Just keep an eye on the CADOT website to ensure you know the conditions during your trip.

      As for timing, doing Reno to Napa to LA/San Diego – it can certainly be done in 7 days but you’re going to have some long driving days in the second half of the week if you want to enjoy any time in Reno/Tahoe and Napa.

  • Rick Nicolls

    I have done most of this trip, albeit several decades ago, and I highly reccommend it. I would suggest adding options like start/ending the trip in Victoria (and take the ferry to Anacortes from Vancouver Island) or Vancouver BC. Also, the 101 does go inland in several places that aren’t very interesting, so maybe suggest some of the roads that actually run closer to the coast.

    • Valerie

      Thanks, Rick, but I haven’t spent much time in Victoria or Vancouver so won’t be adding those.

      Additionally, I do mention where you should stick on Highway 1 vs 101 to stay along the coast.

  • Bob

    Very pleased with your information about traveling the PCH. Great stuff.
    Am traveling from PA by Amtrak to Seattle, renting a car to drive the PCH to San Diego, then Amtrak back to PA.
    Planning for 10 days on PCH.
    Your 5 day guide is exceptional. When will your 10 day guide be out?
    Bob

  • Tom

    One question the readers should ask themselves, do you like to experience the sights or the road? The 5 day trip should be taken if you want to drive all day. If you want to see more than the ocean from your drivers window then 10 day minimum. Or split it into smaller sections.
    I have a 6 hrs loop around the tip of Washington I’ve yet to take to complete my Canada to Mexico on Hwy 101 adventure but it will take 6 hours to reach my last stopping point followed by another 6 hrs to get home. I’ll take my 4 day weekend to just do this part so I can experience the area. Have you seen the view from James Park viewpoint looking out across The Stratghts of Juan de Fuca in Port Angela’s?
    Point is, it will take months to see what the west coast can offer before heading inland. And unless your really curious, Portland can be beautiful but… caters to 2 select lifestyles. Plus it’s #1 in the nation for drug overdose deaths.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *