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Pacific Coast Highway & Highway 101
Road Trip Guide

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most iconic drives in the United States. California Highway 1 (the PCH) runs 655.8 miles from its southern terminus at Dana Point, CA to its northern terminus at Leggett, CA. Some of the most breath-taking scenery is found along the way, including the oceanside mountains of Big Sur, the redwood groves of Mendocino County, and two major American metropolises.

You could easily spend months exploring just the Pacific Coast Highway, but it is just a portion of the USA’s pacific coast. Highway 101 takes an inland route through most of California, but heads out to take the PCH’s place after Leggett. 101 is a natural extension and continues on for an additional 777 stunning miles to Port Angeles, Washington. Needless to say, there is a LOT of beautiful country to explore, and that’s even before mentioning the 70 mile southern extension to San Diego.

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide pano

The Pacific Coast Highway and Highway 101 Road Trip Guide highlights many of the best eateries, sights, stops, hikes, and places to stay along the entirety of the United State’s pacific coast, from San Diego to Port Angeles. The guide is broken down into five sections:


North to South or South to North?

It doesn’t really matter which direction you drive. My personal preference is from north to south because then the water is on my right and there is easier access to many oceanside stops. That being said, do whatever works best logistically.

How Long do I Need?

This should be a causal road trip. If you want to cover distance fast, then the better option is to enjoy only segments of the PCH and dip out to Interstate 5 when you want to move quickly. If you were to drive the entire length this guide details, you’ll be spending over 35 hours just driving. I would recommend giving yourself 3 days as a minimum for each section, or 15 days total for the entire route. Could you do it more quickly? Sure, but the trade-off is more time in the car and less time seeing the sights.

Where should I Stay?

Check each section for recommendations on the best lodging and camping options available for every area.

Where do I get a Car?

If you are planning on driving the entire length, you’ll either need to rent a car or complete the loop back (a trip in itself). Even if you are just doing a section, the choice need to be made whether to rent or loop. Luckily, there are multiple places with large airports and rental car fleets. Good beginning/ending spots include: Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; Los Angeles, California; and San Diego, California.

When is the Best Time to Go?

It depends on which section you are visiting. Oregon and Washington are prime from July through mid-September. California is best from mid-September to late October, with less crowds and still great weather. You can go anytime, though!

Packing List
Some things to consider bringing

  • Reliable Vehicle
  • This guide
  • State Road Maps (Washington, Oregon, California)
  • Smartphone
  • Charger
  • Daypack
  • Water Bottles
  • Food / Road Snacks
  • Sunglasses
  • Rain Jacket
  • Warm Clothing
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Money
  • Reservation Confirmations
  • Sunscreen
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Stove
  • Fuel
  • Cookware
  • Personal Utinsels
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