Top Ten Scenic Drives in the United States

West: Wild Wild West: California 1, California
  |  Gorp.com

Begin in Monterey, the capital of Alta California under Spanish and Mexican rule and the home of some of the oldest buildings in the state. Drive south on Highway 1 toward Morro Bay through the California wilds, flanked by parks, reserves, and a sea otter refuge that extends from Carmel to Cambria. Skip the overpriced artists' colony, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and watch for gray whales migrating past Point Lobos State Reserve (December through April). For man-made beauty, photograph the Bixby Creek Bridge—a marvel of engineering that spans a huge gorge with a single concrete arch—and tour Hearst Castle, the 115-room mansion of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.

In addition to seeing California's wild beauty, Highway 1 drivers experience the wild adventure of two-lane, cliffside driving through Big Sur country, where jagged mountains plunge down into pounding surf. If you're afraid of heights, concentrate on the road, drive south to north on the inside lane, or leave the driving to someone who isn't.

Just the Facts

Route: Central California coast—Monterey to Morro Bay

Length: 123 miles (six hours)

Season: All year

Features and activities: Historical sightseeing in Monterey, beachcombing at Carmel River State Beach, wildlife viewing and birding in Point Lobos State Reserve, and hiking in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

More on driving California 1


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