California State Route 1 is part of the California Freeway and Expressway System. It is also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, Cabrillo Highway, Shoreline Highway or the Coast Highway. It stretches along most of the coast of California for a little over 655 miles.
California State Route 1 is famous for running along some of the most beautiful coastlines in the USA. The Big Sur section from San Luis Obispo to Carmel is an official National Scenic Byway. The entire California State Route 1 is designated as a Blue Star Memorial Highway to recognize those in the United States armed forces. The California Legislature has designated the segment between Interstate 5 in Dana Point and U.S. 101 near Oxnard as the Pacific Coast Highway. Between U.S. 101 at the Las Cruces junction and U.S. 101 in Pismo Beach, and between U.S. 101 in San Luis Obispo and Interstate 280 in San Francisco the state legislature has designated State Highway 1 as the Cabrillo Highway. Also smaller segments of the Highway has been assigned several other names by the state and municipal governments. Highway 1 also at times runs concurrently with U.S. 101, most notably a 54 mile stretch in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, and across the Golden Gate Bridge.
When the road was first envisioned in the World War 1 era, California Highways were referred to either by a highway name or by a route number. State construction of what became Highway 1 started after the state’s third highway bond issue passed before 1910. California State Route 1 was built in various stages and portions of the route had several names and numbers over the years as more segments opened. California Highway 1 signs first went up after California decided to number its highways in 1934, but only the section from Santa Barbara County north was posted as Highway 1. The Highway 1 designation was first designated in 1939. It was not until the 1964 state highway renumbering that the entire route was officially designated as Highway 1.
California Highway 1 starts at the southernmost end in Orange County, California State Highway 1 at Capistrano Beach in Dana Point starts, and ends at U. S. Highway 101 near Leggett in Mendocino County.
From Dana Point it goes north into the city center, where, for about 1 mile northbound traffic continues along the original Pacific Coast Highway alignment and southbound traffic is diverted onto the parallel Del Prado. After the two roads merge back, Highway 1 continues north along the coast through Laguna Beach and Crystal Cove State Park. Highway 1 then enters Newport Beach, where it is known as simply Coast Highway. It passes through several affluent neighborhoods, including Newport Coast and Corona Del Mar, and spans the entrance to the Upper Newport Bay. Upon entering Huntington Beach, Highway 1 regains the Pacific Coast Highway designation.
The Pacific Coast Highway enters Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, and passes through L. A. districts of Wilmington and Harbor City. While bypassing the immediate coastline of Palos Verdes, Highway 1 continues to head west into the cities of Lomita and Torrance. Continuing north through the McClure Tunnel, Highway 1 emerges along the beachfront in Santa Monica and continues along the coast. Upon leaving Santa Monica, it once again regains the name Pacific Coast Highway as it follows the coast to Malibu where it spans the entire 21 miles of that city.
After leaving Malibu, Highway 1 crosses into Ventura County and continues along the coast through Magu State Park, approaching the Oxnard Plain, it passes through a notch in the mountain that forms Point Magu. At that point, Pacific Coast Highway leaves the coast and heads north to an interchange at Rice Avenue, Pleasant Valley Road, and Oxnard Boulevard in Oxnard. From there, Highway 1 heads north inland to U.S. 101, where it begins its first concurrency with that U.S. 101 Route. After traveling through Ventura, Highway 1 separates from U.S. 101 to travel along the beach to the Mobil Pier Undercrossing near Seacliff, where it rejoins U.S. 101 about 3 miles south of the Santa Barbara County line.
Entering the Central Coast and Big Sur the U.S. 101/Highway 1 concurrency from the Mobil Pier Undercrossing runs for 54 miles, passing through the City of Santa Barbara and up the coast. The route then turns away from the coast at Gaviota, avoiding Point Conception, and heads north through Gaviota State Park and he Gaviota Tunnel. In Las Cruces, Highway 1, now named Cabrillo Highway, splits again from U.S. 101 and heads northwest to the city of Lompoc. It is briefly joined with Highway 246 along Lompoc’s east-west Ocean Avenue, where it regains the Cabrillo Highway name.
After reaching the main entrance to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Highway 1 turns northeast, away from the immediate coastline of the base, to join Highway 135, which splits from Route 1 south on Orcutt, and the Cabrillo Highway turns northwest back towards the coast to Guadalupe. Entering San Luis Obispo County avoiding the immediate coastline of the protected Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, before passing Grover Beach and subsequently joining U.S. 101/Highway 1 for the third time at Pismo Beach. The U.S. 101/Highway 1 concurrency that avoids the immediate coastline of Avila Beach and Diablo Canyon Power Plant, and instead heads inland to San Luis Obispo.
Highway 1 splits from U.S. 101 at Santa Rosa Street in San Luis Obispo and then resumes as a four lane road as the Cabrillo Highway and rejoins the coast in Morro Bay, running through that city as a freeway. After crossing Morro Creek, Highway 1 proceeds north until it again becomes a winding, two lane road with occasional passing lanes. Going along the coast through Cambria and San Simeon, Highway 1 enters the Big Sur region, and for about 90 miles, the road winds and hugs the cliffs of Big Sur. The road briefly leaves the coast for a few miles and goes through a redwood forest in the Big Sur Valley which was built between 1919 and 1937.
Monterey Bay Area crossing the Carmel River, Highway 1 turns inland and continues to Monterey where it becomes a freeway. After bypassing the immediate coastline of Pebble Beach and the Monterey Peninsula, the freeway heads north along the coast of Monterey Bay. At the interchange with Highway 156, Highway 1 continues north as a two-lane rural road to Moss Landing and becomes a freeway just before entering Santa Cruz County. This four-lane freeway continues up the coast. Upon reaching downtown Santa Cruz,it continues as Mission Street and Coast Road, before regaining the Cabrillo Highway name after it leaves the city and continues north as a two lane road up the coast.
San Francisco Bay Area entering San Mateo County, Highway 1 follows the coast past Half Moon Bay up to Pacifica where becomes a freeway once again at Sharp Park before turning inland to join Interstate 280 in Daly City. Just before reaching San Francisco, Highway 1 leaves Interstate 280 and shortly thereafter, the Highway makes a left, becoming the six-lane wide 19th Avenue. Highway 1 then turns into Park Presidio boulevard after it passes through the city’s Golden Gate park. Then after entering the Presidio of San Francisco, it goes through the MacArthur Tunnel before joining U.S. 101 for a 4th time on the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Golden Gate Bridge view from North Vista Point (Photographer Henner Zeller)
After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and entering Marin County, Highway 1 then splits from U.S. 101 again near Marin City, where it leaves the city and becomes known as the Shoreline Highway, which turns into a 2 lane
winding road where it heads north along the coastline to where Highway 1 avoids the immediate coastline of Point Reyes National Seashore and the rest of the Point Reyes Peninsula, and instead heads towards, and then along, the eastern shore of Tomales Bay. Continuing north inland, it then rejoins the coast in Bodega Bay, where its name changes to the Coast Highway winding up the coast past Sea Ranch in Sonoma County.
Mendocino County, Highway 1 crosses over the Gualala River, through the town of Gualala heading up the beautiful and rocky coastline to Point Arena in which it becomes Main Street, before following School Street to the northwest and then becoming Shoreline Highway once again. Crossing the Garcia River, then the town of Elk, the Navarro River, where it meets Highway 128.
At the town of Albion, the Albion River is spanned by the Albion River Bridge, the only remaining wooden trestle
bridge on Highway 1. Continuing up the coast through the town of Little River, going further north crossing Big River Bridge where you can see the village of Mendocino which is on the Headlands overlooking the pacific Ocean. Highway 1 continues north to Fort Bragg where it turns into Main Street. Continuing north past Fort Bragg as a single-lane highway again to Westport, and after passing Westport-Union Landing State Beach, the road goes through a series of redwood-forested hairpin turns before reaching Rockport. North of Rockport, the highway turns away from the Lost Coast to avoid steep and unstable highlands created by the Mendocino Triple Junction uplift. The highway follows Cottaneva Creek inland through redwood-forested mountainous terrain before termanating at U.S. 101 just outside of Leggett.