Are you in need of an epic road trip? California’s Pacific Coast Highway has all of the makings of an unforgettable adventure, boasting 123 miles of scenic landscapes from national parks to virtually untouched beaches, among a seemingly endless slew of other natural wonders. Whether you’re peering from your driver’s side window or making your way down this all-American route on your motorcycle, there are no shortage of pit-stops to make this voyage the experience of a lifetime.

Most start their journey in the rocky hills of Monterey, where Route 1 begins. By descending through Big Sur and into the quiet coastal village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, road trippers only begin to scratch the surface of the beauty to be found on this legendary roadway. By following the coastline, drivers can view spectacular landforms, regional wildlife and other treasures before ending their trip in Morro Bay, a spot named for it’s signature attraction, Morro Rock. This extinct volcano has towered at its 576-foot height for more than 23 million years, but even this prehistoric gem is just a side note among the outstanding attractions to be found along the winding, coastal highway.

Pacific Coast Highway CA

Intrigued yet? The following are just a few of the must-see stops to behold along the one-of-a-kind Pacific Coast Highway.

1.) Redwood National and State Parks – Sightsee into the past with a pit stop at Redwood National and State Parks, home to the world’s tallest living trees. These Redwood giants soar at heights exceeding 375 feet, but their astounding statures are just one very big reason to visit California’s favorite national park. Inside visitors can also expect to find winding rivers, open prairies and a 40-mile stretch of rocky coastlines where guests are invited to pitch tents at four established campgrounds, all of which are accessible to a variety of the country’s most beautiful and challenging hiking trails.

Redwood National State Parks

2.) The Lost Coast – Taking its name from a time when the Northern Coast of Humboldt and Mendocino Counties became desolate during the 1930s, The Lost Coast lives on as a destination for lovers of solitude in the great outdoors. Avid explorers will find nearly 80 miles of undeveloped coastline set against a stunning King Range Mountain backdrop. The comparably quiet Lost Coast Trail stretches for 24 miles and is ideal for advanced hikers, mountain climbers and those who simply love tranquil scenery that enthralls until it concludes at Black Sands Beach.

The Lost Coast Photo by Daniel
The Lost Coast Photo by Daniel

3.) Humboldt Redwoods State Park’s Shrine Drive-Thru Tree – Located just off US Highway 101, along the famous “Avenue of the Giants”, drivers have the rare chance to cruise right through a living Redwood Tree. The natural opening at the base of the Shrine Drive-Thru Tree is big enough to accommodate an SUV, and provides the perfect photo-op for your Pacific Coast Highway scrapbook. Families with children will enjoy the nearby tree houses carved from real trunks of fallen Redwoods.

Redwoods State Park Photo by Carmen Edelson (Carmen's LuxuryTravel)

4.) Glass Beach at Fort Bragg – Trash becomes treasure at Glass Beach, a state park in Fort Bragg featuring sea glass that has been tossed and tumbled to a smooth finish. Man may have caused damage by dumping garbage into the coastline during the 1940s, but the power of the waves eventually created this colorful 38-acre stretch, which is now a popular destination for tourists who come from near and far to collect pieces of the eye-catching, rounded glass.

Glass Beach at Fort Bragg

5.) Mendocino – The cliffside community of Mendocino sits 154-feet above sea level. This small coastal town, known for its stunning scenery, is located atop a rugged headland overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Its attractive qualities, plus attractions like the Mendocino Art Center, have made it a favorite vacation spot for those with artistic souls and eccentric spirits.

Mendocino CA

6.) Bodega Bay – Positioned off a rocky inlet in beautiful Sonoma Country, Bodega Bay is a quiet village known for its shallow waters and excellent fishing opportunities. While many commercial fishers, sporting fishers and shellfish harvesters frequent this spot to profit from its dense marine life, others visit Bodega Bay for its sheer natural beauty, which is made even more inviting by the Estero de San Antonio and Estero Americano streams that flow freely into the main body of water. Visitors can sunbathe on the Bay’s well-kept beaches, including the popular Doran Regional Park and Pinnacle Gulch.

7.) Moss Beach – Those looking for a romantic getaway will find it at Moss Beach, an intimate spot in San Mateo County that is home to the Seal Cove Inn, a famous beachside lodge. During your stop here, be sure to visit the marine wildlife sanctuary known as Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and dine at the legendary Moss Beach Distillery, a restaurant and bar that historically operated as a speakeasy and reestablished itself as a successful restaurant following the end of the Prohibition Era in 1933.

Moss Beach

Note: This is a guest post by Candice Schaffer; the views and opinion expressed are those of the author. Candice Schaffer works at Knightsbridge Park, a leading digital marketing firm for luxury real estate brands such as Jardim , Cavalleri Malibu , and Manhattan Park.

18 Comments

  1. The Adventure Ahead

    Our kids love collecting sea glass when we are at the beach – Sea Glass Beach looks like it would be a dream come true for them. You really noted some great places for side road trips – will keep these suggestions in mind.

  2. Carmen Edelson

    I’m happy to hear it! This is such a fun road trip for kids as well.

  3. melody pittman

    I wish we had stopped by the Redwood Forest when we (my daughter and I) did this drive last year. The glass beach is fantastic. I’m not at all familiar with it.melody pittman recently posted…The Opulent Flagler Museum & Afternoon Tea

  4. Carmen Edelson

    Definitely visit with your daughter! There’s so much to see.

  5. Samantha Sparrow

    I love the idea of visiting Redwood and being amongst those extremely tall trees! It would feel like something out of a fantasy film! Glass beach is so unusual, I’ve never seen anything like it. It would be amazing to visit.

  6. Carmen Edelson

    Yes, you must visit the Glass Beach! Very neat.

  7. Ticker Eats The World

    …aaaaand SOLD!
    WOW!! I had heard and somewhat seen the beauty of the pacific coast in movies and magazines, but this is just taking it to another level. First of all the photos are beautiful and it’s so nice to see that there is so much nature and unique locations one can visit and experience it. The glass beach of course, but the parks with those monster trees – imagine how they’ve seen the world change – and the Lost Coast and Moss Beach… amazing. This is what nature is all about.Ticker Eats The World recently posted…The Association Vinicole – 100 Years of Swiss Wine Making

  8. Carmen Edelson

    You’re so right! This is what nature is all about and what a great way to explore it.

  9. Rachel Elizabeth

    I remember Bodega Bay from the Hitchcock movie “The Birds,” hahaha. I really want to see the Redwoods soon. They’ve been on my bucket list for ages now.

  10. Carmen Edelson

    It’s time to start planning!! 🙂

  11. Shannalyn West

    I love this! This is one of my favorite drives. There will always be a special place in my heart for Mendocino. I have yet to go to the glass beach yet. Need to stop there next time. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Carmen Edelson

    Definitely visit the glass beach during your next visit, Shannalyn!

  13. Chrysoula

    That looks like an amazing road trip. The scenery and the views are stunning. I would love to visit the Glass beach, never seen anything like it before

  14. Carmen Edelson

    The Glass Beach is so unique! I’d highly recommend it.

  15. Megan Jerrard

    Yes! Love this! We did the Pacific Coast highway last year and it’s so difficult to choose a favorite stop. Though the Redwoods were just incredible and it blew me away at the enormity of those trees!

  16. Carmen Edelson

    We did the road trip with our kids over a two week period and stopped along the way in many areas. It was probably one of the best trips we did.

  17. Travel Gear Depot

    I did that trip many years ago, in the mid 80’s to be a bit more exact. It was awesome! We also visited Hurst Castle and had a guided tour. Very interesting! We missed the Glass Beach though, but not the Redwoods. You feel kind of small and insignificant faced with the age and enormousness of the trees.
    Wonderful pictures, tank you!

  18. Carmen Edelson

    We stopped along the way and visited Hurst Castle as well. It was one of the best road trips we took with our kids.

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