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Nothing Like the PCH

Spring on California's PCH, overlooking an unspoiled stretch of coastline south of Big Sur.
Spring on California's PCH, overlooking an unspoiled stretch of coastline south of Big Sur.

Undeniably one of the most picturesque roads you’ll ever traverse, California’s Route 1 north of Santa Barbara is a largely contiguous strip of undeveloped coastline with endless, arresting views. (“Undeveloped,” as in not much there other than the road you’re driving on.)

I’ve traveled around most of the periphery of this country, and there isn’t anything quite like Route 1 in any other state. Coastal property is big business; much of the country’s new development is occurring in oceanfront communities. Yet not here. Not now. Not ever.

Each year, thousands of motorists drive at least a portion of the ultra-scenic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). With more than 1,000 miles of coastline and with more residents than any other state in the country, California’s move to preserve at least half its shores in perpetuity is beyond commendable.

Approximately 280 miles along the Pacific are preserved in state parkland, and the feds placed huge hunks of shoreline into conservation from Point Reyes National Seashore to the Redwood National and State Parks. With most of the state’s highways laid inland on the eastern side of the coastal mountain ranges that run parallel with the ocean, mile after sun-drenched coastal mile has been left to this two-lane, shoulder-less winding road. Hallelujah.

Construction of the now-655-mile California Route 1 started, not surprisingly, from San Simeon (Hearst Castle) to Carmel in the early 1920s. Although not the first or only castle to have been built along Route 1, it’s certainly the most opulent. (Not the first time money begot money and spurred action in D.C.)

As I perched precariously on the edge of an un-barricaded cliff along the rugged coastline staring out towards Japan in hopes of spying a whale’s blow spout, I felt a sense of rightness not afforded along just every stretch of highway, scenic or otherwise. Driving California’s Coastal Highway is good for the soul.

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Spring on California's PCH, overlooking an unspoiled stretch of coastline south of Big Sur.
Spring on California's PCH, overlooking an unspoiled stretch of coastline south of Big Sur.

Undeniably one of the most picturesque roads you’ll ever traverse, California’s Route 1 north of Santa Barbara is a largely contiguous strip of undeveloped coastline with endless, arresting views. (“Undeveloped,” as in not much there other than the road you’re driving on.)

I’ve traveled around most of the periphery of this country, and there isn’t anything quite like Route 1 in any other state. Coastal property is big business; much of the country’s new development is occurring in oceanfront communities. Yet not here. Not now. Not ever.

Each year, thousands of motorists drive at least a portion of the ultra-scenic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). With more than 1,000 miles of coastline and with more residents than any other state in the country, California’s move to preserve at least half its shores in perpetuity is beyond commendable.

Approximately 280 miles along the Pacific are preserved in state parkland, and the feds placed huge hunks of shoreline into conservation from Point Reyes National Seashore to the Redwood National and State Parks. With most of the state’s highways laid inland on the eastern side of the coastal mountain ranges that run parallel with the ocean, mile after sun-drenched coastal mile has been left to this two-lane, shoulder-less winding road. Hallelujah.

Construction of the now-655-mile California Route 1 started, not surprisingly, from San Simeon (Hearst Castle) to Carmel in the early 1920s. Although not the first or only castle to have been built along Route 1, it’s certainly the most opulent. (Not the first time money begot money and spurred action in D.C.)

As I perched precariously on the edge of an un-barricaded cliff along the rugged coastline staring out towards Japan in hopes of spying a whale’s blow spout, I felt a sense of rightness not afforded along just every stretch of highway, scenic or otherwise. Driving California’s Coastal Highway is good for the soul.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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