Written by: Anna Sibal and Julian Fenn
If you're going on a road trip for the very first time, you won't do wrong in choosing the Big Sur Coast portion of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) for your maiden voyage. In fact, this portion of Highway 1 also known as California State Route 1 stretching from Monterey in the north to San Luis Obispo in the south, is the perfect destination for people going on their very first U.S. road trip. Along this coastal road, there are many stops where you can immerse yourself in the rich and diverse history of California, commune in the wilderness, and be awestruck by the breathtaking views of the coastline but without leaving civilization so far behind. These are also the exact reasons why Route 1 is one of the most traveled highways in the entire country.
Whether you are a camping road trip virgin or a well-seasoned traveler, you must include the Big Sur Coast portion of the Pacific Coast Highway in your bucket list of road trip destinations. It is a road trip you will never forget and one you will always want to do again.
When to Go
The best time to hit the road on your journey along PCH's Big Sur Coast is late spring to late fall. This highway is still open from early winter to early spring; however, mudslides are prone to occur during that time of the year, making a road trip on that season riskier. It can be quite hot in this part of California during the summer months, though. So if you're traveling in midsummer, make sure to bring enough water and sun protection to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion.
How to Get There
There are two ways to approach a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway on Big Sur Coast: from Monterey and from San Luis Obispo. If you're starting from Monterey, you can also take the US Highway 101, but this time from San Francisco. If you're going to take the Amtrak or the Greyhound, you'll have to stop at Salinas and drive to Monterey from there. You can also fly to Monterey; the Monterey Regional Airport serves direct flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Phoenix and Las Vegas.
If you're starting from San Luis Obispo, you can get there by car via US Highway 101 from Los Angeles. The San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport also receives direct flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Phoenix. San Luis Obispo is also served by Amtrak and Greyhound.
How Long Should the Trip Be?
An ideal road trip along PCH Big Sur Coast would take a week if time was no object. However for most of us three or four days is all we can spare. We have set out a leisurely four day itinerary below, however if you only have three or even two days then just pick and choose. Our itinerary follows PCH north to south, from Monterey to San Luis Obispo our preferred direction as you'll be driving the coastal side of the road that offers better views and most of the pull-outs are on that side of the road too. However, if you want to travel from south to north, no biggie, just follow this itinerary in reverse.
What to See and Do
Beyond driving down a scenic stretch of road, there is something for everyone traveling along PCH on Big Sur Coast. Lovers of the great outdoors will have plenty of opportunities to go hiking, horseback riding, swimming and beach-combing here. Art aficionados will find plenty of art galleries to explore. There are also a few stops for history buffs, as well as a number of shopping and dining destinations.
Four Day Visit - Monterey to San Luis Obispo - About 200 miles
Day One - Monterey to Big Sur - 50 miles
Day Two - Big Sur - 10 miles
Day Three - Big Sur to Lucia - 25 miles
Day Four - Lucia to San Luis Obispo - 115 miles
Tips for Driving the Big Sur Coast of the Pacific Coast Highway
Here are a few tips that will make your Big Sur Coast camping road trip more enjoyable:
A road trip along the Big Sur Coast of the Pacific Coast Highway is an experience that cannot be missed. You will never be able to forget the beauty you'll see along this byway. So plan your next camping road trip on this majestic stretch of coastal highway today. Remember to take pictures of your road trip!
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