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Need input heading North from Carmel/Big Sur Area

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Fort Lauderdale...
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Need input heading North from Carmel/Big Sur Area

This September we will be traveling to Mendocino from Carmel area, how hairy is the PCH heading this way from Carmel, my husband is concerned about getting sick and/or really being stressed about the curves/cliffs. Am I better off using Hwy.101? Our plan is Mendocino 2 days enjoying the village, Botanical Gardens, a few State Parks. The third day on to Fort Bragg to do the Skunk Train half day, glass beach etc. We are thinking about staying at the Beachcomber, suppose to have great views, any thoughts about this motel? Day 4, we will stay at Howard Creek Ranch Inn in West Port, just relax & explore the area. Day 5, up the coast to Ave of Giants, dont know if we should stay the night there or just head back for Fort Bragg area? We also want to spend a day explore the Anderson Valley area, Navaro River, winerys & enjoy this area. I just dont know if we should do this when we are in Mendocino & add a day there or after leaving Avenue of Giants and spend the night in the area (any ideas for reasonable lodging?)and then we head to SF for a few days before flying out. What would be the best route to go to SF from the Anderson Valley area? When your traveling North on PCH is the norhern lane on the ocean side? Is there any must do's I've missed? We're in our 50's not to active, just enjoy seeing the beauiful scenery & enjoy the quaint towns etc.

Santa Cruz...
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1. Re: Need input heading North from Carmel/Big Sur Area

First of all, you will confuse every Northern Californian by using the term "PCH". We do not have a "Pacific Coast Highway" up here, it ends somewhere south of Oxnard in Southern California.

That said, are you considering doing the whole trip on "Highway 1", which is how we know it?

If you are considering the whole route on Highway 1, here is the skinny.

From Carmel north, through Santa Cruz, Davenport, Half Moon Bay, it is very straightforward. From Half Moon Bay to Pacifica you will go over "Devil's Slide", which is high on a cliff, but not one which has a drop-off. Just great views. From there, you need to turn back to San Francisco after Pacifica and take Hwy 280, 19th Avenue, etc. through the city to get to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Then, if you want to stay on the coast highway (1) you need to follow the signs to Hwy 1. I am not sure where they are.

From here Highway 1 goes over some high cliff roads, not very much, until Point Reyes and from there it is clear sailing to Bodega Bay and Jenner. (Stop at Tomales Bay and eat a fresh oyster from their beds.)

After Jenner there is about 8 miles of winding high cliff driving where you can imagine a helicopter photographing you from above for an automobile commercial.

Don't be scared and don't be sick....just drive slowly and enjoy the ride. You will not regret it.

From there just enjoy the coast road all the way to Mendocino.

Stop at Gualala....actually, before that look at Sea Ranch, a ten mile stretch of coast which has been developed into a non-intrusive place for permanent and vacation houses. It makes little foot print on the land.

Then cruise on into Mendocino. Relax, take it slow and it will be a trip of your life.

Allow time to stop along the way and explore.

Fremont, California
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2. Re: Need input heading North from Carmel/Big Sur Area

I would suggest the following:

From Carmel to San Francisco taking Highway 1 is fine.

It is easier driving and coastal views can be nice. Stop by Monterey Aquarium; Santa Cruz and see the sea lions; Half Moon Bay, San Francisco.

From San Francisco to Mendocino I would suggest Highway 101 and then take the cut off to Mendocino. The road from San Francisco to Mendocino can be quite curvy and slow and given the amount of time you have, I think ou will have more fun by staying on Highway 101.

I would stay in Alexander Valley area. There is an inexpensive but clean Best Western in Cloverdale which we have stayed at a couple of times. Normal Best Western with clean rooms; continental breakfast, and swimming pool. Or if you want to stay closer to Healdsburg, check the Best Western there also.

Ojai, California
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3. Re: Need input heading North from Carmel/Big Sur Area

I have some issues with curves and cliffs, so I can relate to your husband's dilemma. That being said I experienced that route up Hwy 1 both as a passenger and a driver a number of times. The "scariest" part is from Jenner up through Fort Ross. The drop-offs are on both sides at times but mostly on the west side (driver's side if traveling north) of the road.

The Cut off to Mendocino from Hwy 101 is just North of the town of Cloverdale and is called Hwy 128. This is also a windy and twisty road at times without the sheer drop offs that you will experience on 1. I with my "issues" felt safer always on 128. However, the drive up 1 is beautiful. Actually they are both beautiful (the 1 and 128). On 128 you will experience redwoods on 1 you will be on the coast.

Do you plan on doing the drive from Carmel to mendoino in one day? If so, taking 1 the whole way will feel exhausting (in my opinion).

Actually, anyway you go, that will be a long day. Do not base your drive times on google or mapquest. It will take you about 6 - 7 hours of driving to go from Carmel to Mendocino. And that is not straight highway driving (this is the part that is tiring). It takes more energy to drive windy, twisty roads than it does driving the highway.

Have a great trip.

northern california
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4. Re: Need input heading North from Carmel/Big Sur Area

I would take 1 to San Francisco and pick up 101 across the Golden Gate to Hwy 128 at Cloverdale. I've driven that piece from Jenner to Ft. Ross - it was foggy and it was a nightmare.

Are you planning to stay in Ft. Bragg at the Beachcomber all three nights? The two towns are only about 10 miles apart, I wouldn't take the time to pack up and check in and out. The Botanical Gardens are in Ft. Bragg.

Anderson Valley is along Hwy 128 so you'll drive right thru there. From Ft. Bragg/Mendoci Hwy 128 to Cloverdale to 101 to SF.

September is one of the best months for weather on the north coast. Enjoy your visit.

5. Re: Need input heading North from Carmel/Big Sur Area

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