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Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

Marietta, Georgia
posts: 57
reviews: 24
Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

We (me, my husband and a 9 year old daughter) are planning to have drive through the Highway 1 from SF toward LA. we want to drive one day, slow pace, stopping to enjoy views/ interesting points, watch sunset, stay in a scenic and nice place overnight and back next day same way.

Recommnedation please about how far to go and what are the points to stop and plan someting. Where should we spend our night. where should we plan to watch sunset, dinner etc..

Thanks in advance.

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 47,942
reviews: 42
1. Re: Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

Hi

Read top questions on the right hand side of this page. I would drive between San Francisco and Cambria and same way back and see what you've missed the day before.

Los Angeles
Destination Expert
for Los Angeles
posts: 13,277
reviews: 56
2. Re: Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

Head down to Cambria, which from San Francisco is on the far side of Big Sur. Spend the night in Cambria. The Big Sur section of Highway 1 is the most scenic part. Check the FAQ's in this forum about the drive between LA and SF. But I would suggest touring Hearst Castle in San Simeon (near Cambria), visiting Cannery Row in Monterey, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and driving around the Monterey area (the 17-mile drive is one alternative, or ask in the Monterey forum for alternate drives). In Big Sur, there's lots of stopping points - near Bixby Bridge, Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park and McWay Falls, among others.

Edited: 10:56 am, March 30, 2013
Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,017
reviews: 3
3. Re: Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

Just so you're aware.... SF to Cambria would be my recommendation, as well. But.... this is a 6 hour drive WITHOUT stops!! Your stops en route will need to be timed according to what time you leave SF and time of year. You do NOT want to end up driving through Big Sur after dark. The road sits hundreds of feet above the ocean with sheer drop offs in several places and lots of tight hairpin turns.... especially the further south you get. It's not a fun drive in the dark. And kind of pointless, since you'll be making it for the views.

So.... for the drive down I suggest the following:

Leave SF by 8am. Take Highway 1 down to Monterey/Carmel and stop at Point Lobos State Reserve for an hour or two. It's about a 3 hour drive from SF. Several easy to walk trails along scenic stretches of coastline, wildlife viewing (Otters, seals, deer, birds) and a surreal orange moss dripping from the trees.

Continue south toward Big Sur

Bixby Bridge (Famous arch bridge spanning a deep gorge. Good for a 10-15 minute photo op)

Pfeiffer Beach (Purple sand, rock arches standing in the ocean)

Nepenthe/Phoenix Shop (Lunch with a great view of the Big Sur coast/souvenir shopping)

McWay Falls @ Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (Famous ribbon waterfall that drops on to an inaccessible beach)

Ragged Point (Commercial property with the last great views of Big Sur coastline from the back of the property before the highway descends)

Elephant seal rookery just south of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

Overnight stay in Cambria: Best Western Fireside Inn, Fog Catcher Inn, Pelican Inn, Castle Inn, Sand Pebbles Inn.

IF you reach Cambria before sunset.... Leffingwell Landing on Moonstone Beach Drive is a great place to watch the sunset.

Dinner: Robin's, Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill, Main Street Grill, Las Cambritas

Edited: 5:20 pm, March 30, 2013
Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,017
reviews: 3
4. Re: Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

On the drive back, stop in Monterey/Carmel and Santa Cruz.

Carmel Beach is one of California's prettiest beaches with wind swept cypress trees growing out of the sand. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is world class and offers lots of great exhibits and fun things for kids.

Santa Cruz has the beach boardwalk and Steamer's Lane where you can watch the surfers.

Marietta, Georgia
posts: 57
reviews: 24
5. Re: Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

Thank you all so much for your detail answer. I can plan much better now, surely will come back with questions. :)

Marietta, Georgia
posts: 57
reviews: 24
6. Re: Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

Ok, seems like we can't leave SF before 12 Noon. But we have the whole next day to drive back .

Now, how far can i go? we may want to touch 2 points briefly. We will drive more day one, so we can stop more while driving back.

We want to reach the hotel by 6, so we can get settled and get ready for sunset.

What would be our best place to stay over night..i mean which area. 12 to 6, may be about 4 hour of driving and 2 hour for stopping here and there.

Thanks again in advance.

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 47,942
reviews: 42
7. Re: Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

You can drive the inland route via Salinas and Paso Robles (101 and 46) to Cambria. Enjoy Cambria and take all day for the drive back to SF. Paso Robles has lots of wineries.

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,017
reviews: 3
8. Re: Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

The furthest you can get IF you stick with Highway 1 is the "village" area of Big Sur. Otherwise you run the risk of driving it after dark.

Perhaps it would be best if you just went as far as Monterey, taking in Santa Cruz on the drive down, then the next day, drive as far south as McWay Falls @ Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park along the Big Sur coast, turn around and head back to SF.

IF you can't get out of the city well before noon, this is your best option. Otherwise, take Tet's advice and take the quicker route to Cambria via Highway 101 and then have the whole next day for the drive back to SF. IF you choose to do this, I suggest leaving SF via I-280 south to Highway 85 south (Gilroy) to Highway 101 south to Highway 46 West south of Paso Robles toward Cambria. This is an even faster drive than taking 101 all the way and offers much better scenery than 101.

Thousand Oaks...
Destination Expert
for Israel
posts: 8,722
reviews: 13
9. Re: Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

What time of year is this whirlwind drive scheduled for?

Marietta, Georgia
posts: 57
reviews: 24
10. Re: Scenic drive from Sanfrancisco towars LA

Thanks a lot. We are doing it next week.