Traveling California – Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is certainly not the fastest way to travel from San Diego to San Francisco, but it is, without a doubt (certainly), the most scenic (with beautiful scenery, or views)! The PCH – California Highway 1 – is a narrow (small, not wide), two-lane highway that hugs (stays very close to) the coast (where the ocean touches the land) as it carries travelers 485 miles (780 km) from near San Diego, in southern California, almost all the way to San Francisco.

PCH is interrupted (stops for a short distance) occasionally as it winds (doesn’t travel in a straight line) its way up the coast. For the most part (usually), it treats (gives) patient (not in a hurry) travelers to beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. It begins along the warm, sandy beaches of southern California and travels to Big Sur. There large waves crash (make a loud noise) on the rocks far below as the road hangs precariously (dangerously) from the cliffs (edge of mountain that goes straight down) near Ragged Point and crosses deep gorges (narrow valley with vertical sides) on bridges like the Bixby Creek Bridge.

In southern California, the views of the Pacific are punctuated (interrupted) by cities, like San Diego, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara. As the PCH continues north, the cities and towns grow smaller. The view (what you see) is filled first with gentle hills and vineyards (where grapes grow) and, later, with rugged (rocky, rough) mountains and forests (place with many trees).

The PCH also carries the traveler through significant (important) moments (times) in California history. The California Missions Trail follows Highway 101, which runs parallel to (goes the same direction), and occasionally joins (comes together with) the PCH. Between 1769 and 1823, the Franciscans (followers of St. Francis of Assisi) established 21 Roman Catholic Missions (churches) beginning near San Diego and extending (continuing) all the way to Sonoma, north of San Francisco. Most of the missions have been preserved (saved; protected) and some, like Mission San Juan Capistrano, between San Diego and Los Angeles, give tourists a very real taste (experience) of what life was like in California more than 200 years ago.

If you’d like to begin to explore the PCH for yourself, start with this short video, then check out (look at) Driving California’s coast in 10 days from the Los Angeles Times or Pacific Coast Highway California from the National Geographic Traveler.

To really experience the PCH, however, you have to come to California, rent a car, and try it for yourself!

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor and coach, creator of Successful English, where you can learn more about how to improve your English.

photo of California coast near Ragged Point by W. Ediger

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12 Responses to Traveling California – Pacific Coast Highway

  1. Kuong Do says:

    I love California because there are many Vietnamese people living there.

  2. Farahnaz says:

    How beautiful!
    Lucky you Warren and eslpod group who are living there and thank you for the picture of beauuuuutiful California. Maybe one day I can afford to travel to California (I hope). I’m sure the people are friendly and beautiful as ESLpod group.

  3. Karengera Daniel says:

    just want to say that, it took me a great deal of time to get to understand the entire sens of this article. there are lots and lots of complicated expressions in it, to such an extent that the article is barely intelligible. I’m really looking forward to see an article that is easy to understand. thanks anyway

  4. Rezaul Karim says:

    The spectacular and romantic description of California makes me think of going to California to really experience the Pacific Coast Highway. Really mind blowing.

    Rezaul Karim
    Gurudaspur, Natore

  5. Jeff McQuillan says:

    Daniel – Thanks for your comments. We try to give our readers different levels of reading on our blog – some more advanced than others. I’m sure you will find other posts at a lower level. The nice thing about our website is that if something is too difficult, there is usually something else easier to understand.

  6. emiliano says:

    Thank you Warren, it has to be really an unforgettable experience to do such a trip along PCH.
    Well I think I am going to make and advise to my older daughter Eva, who is the one that have always in mind to do such
    kind of travelling and may afford doing them together with her husband.
    If there are not kids, always is easier to move around the world.

    First time I saw S.Francisco and a Franciscan Mission building was in “Vertigo” from A. Hitchcock, I was amazed with S.Francisco,
    The Golden Gate, The Franciscans, Kim NovaK (of course) and the landscape of California.
    The film is one of the Hitchcok´s best, at least for me.
    Another Hitchcock film situated in S.Francisco was “The Birds” and yes, I like it very much too.
    This is my way of traveling, just going to the theatre and watching a good film.

    I have been always looking foward to go to California and see all these places but…….only at movies I could see them.

    Nice post, thank you again Warren.

  7. Mehrdad says:

    Dear Warren,
    Thank you very much for your attractive post. I felt the atmosphere as if I have been there.

  8. dongsung says:

    Thank you for tip of traves this beautiful sight of PCH. I want to drive along this high way If I have a chance.

  9. Tania says:

    Hi! Dear Emiliano, you have such a memory… I saw all your mentioned movies but I did not know so many details like you. I think we often travel on the PCH without knowing in a lot of movies.
    I have to be more carefully. I have not known too many about the Pacific Coast Highway and nor the symbol PCH.
    I am checking out the sources mentioned by you , Warren, and … thank you for this nice travel and the beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.

    Best wishes,


  10. emiliano says:

    Hi Tania,
    nice to see you, here in Spain “Vertigo” was translated to: “De entre los muertos” and it was because Kim Novak apparently took her own life
    throwing herself from a tower in a Franciscan Mission near San Francisco.
    She took advantage from James Steward running the stairs up to the bell tower, as she knew S.Steward was suffering vertigo.

    He was completely upset as he was in love with her after searching her beaviour on behalf of her husband.

    Here in Spain the movie was a “boom”, and we saw USA country like another dream planet by those past times, so I can never forget such
    amazing films.
    Afterward I have seen “Vertigo” several times, even in English, incredible good film to everybody.

  11. emiliano says:

    James Stewatrd was a police at the begining of the movie, he was running after a criminal and he have to jump from a roof to another one in S.Francisco city.
    As jumping he nearly fall from the roof and remains hunging from the gutter along endless seconds, but another police fall and J.Steward was so impressed
    that begins to suffer vertigo and he needs to be retired from the police.
    He started to work like a private detective and this is just the begining of the movie.

    The music is great, incredible good, very recognizable and has it´s own place in the movie.

    To me, Steven Spielberg always do the same with music in flms directed by him.
    He Just folows Hitchcock tracks and the music is very important in all his movies, we only has to remember “Jaws” all people may identify this movie by the music.
    Spielberg has done the same with, ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schindler’s List, Indiana Jones, and so on.
    A very clever director too, learning from the old masters.

  12. Stanislav says:

    Thanks for your article!It has a very usefull information for me.I really want to visit and stay in California but I have very little information about its nature and sights)

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