Must-Sees on the Pacific Coast Highway

Road trips are a great way to see the country. There’s nothing like heading out on the open road not knowing who you might meet or where you might end up. One of the most scenic road trips in the world is The Pacific Coast Highway. But what are the very best stops? Here are some of the places you can’t miss.

The Redwoods

The Pacific Coast Highway stretches for hundreds of miles. But Northern California has a host of beautiful places to stop before making it into warmer territory. Just out of Crescent City, you’ll be treated with your first taste of the redwoods in the Del Norte Coast State park. Del Norte has 50 percent old growth redwoods, and eight miles of wild coastline. Wilson Beach or False Klamath Cove are great beaches for exploring tide pools during low tide, however, the rough seas make it a poor place to swim and there are signs that warn against this. For miles afterward you will be treated to the redwood highway. There are lots of places to stop and explore on trails that reach deep into the redwood forest. Along this section of highway 101, you’ll find plenty of places to camp.

It’s worth pulling over and reading the signs at trailheads in order to get the most out of your redwood experience.

Spectacles like the Corkscrew Tree are worth the time. The oddity that is the Corkscrew Tree has four trunks intertwining with itself that a person can fit between and walk through. Then there is the Giant Tree, which stands 354 feet tall, though it was 363 before a storm broke off its top. This might not be the tallest redwood, but it is certainly the most showy of the bunch. It’s a designated champion redwood which takes height, diameter and crown spread into consideration. Sites like this shouldn’t be missed.

Out of the Woods

Once you get to San Francisco there is far more to see than endless miles of beach and towering trees. The Golden Gate Bridge welcomes you to the city. It’s often socked in by clouds but when it’s clear it reveals the towering suspension bridge. While you’re there, visit Alcatraz, the notorious prison. Golden Gate Park and the Palace of Fine Arts are all worth your time. If you are a book person, check out City Lights, the famous bookstore where Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan use to hang out. After that, head up the hill to Chinatown where you can find an assortment of exotic foods and items for sale.

At night, if you are up for some dancing, check out Ruby Skye where some of the world’s most notorious DJs have spun. If you’re looking for something more gritty, visit Hemlock Tavern, which is known for its jean-jacketed hipsters.

On your way out of San Francisco make sure to stop in at the Moss Beach Distillery. Set right along the coast, it has a happy hour from 5 to 7 pm, Monday through Friday and it’s the perfect place to catch a Pacific Coast Sunset. Right down the road is J V Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. If you go during low tide you will find everything from starfish, anemones, octopus, and much more in the tide pools.

No trip down the Pacific Coast Highway is complete without a stop in Santa Cruz. Check out the boardwalk, try your hand at surfing or just lounge on the beach before heading south to Big Sur where you can see California condors, otters and where the wild flowers always seem to be blossoming.

Be Prepared

No matter where you are going it’s good to be prepared. If you’re camping, make sure you use a camping checklist so you have everything you’ll need. It’s also important to know the rules of the road in the states you are visiting. Don’t let yourself get bogged down with traffic tickets just because you didn’t take the time to peruse the differences in traffic safety. It’s also a good idea to get a car tuned up and unload any extra baggage so you won’t be cramped while putting all those miles behind you.