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Old 09-19-2019, 07:42 AM
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Sacramento to San Diego: Which part of scenic 1 would you take?


Hey. We are visiting friends in Auburn, CA before heading to San Diego for a few days. We considered flying, but decided to drive instead. Our friends suggested driving down scenic highway 1.

While I dig the idea of taking a beautiful drive, I realize that this will significantly increase our travel time. So I'm thinking that maybe we could drive 101 for part of the trip and scenic 1 for part.

If we could bypass the worst of the traffic (e.g. through SF or LA), that would also be ideal.

While we have reservations in San Luis Obispo, which looked like a decent halfway point, that can easily be changed.

So what would you recommend for us?
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Old 09-19-2019, 08:14 AM
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If possible, ditch the car and take Amtrak from SLO to SD. Its for the most past an absolutely gorgeous ride and no traffic.
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Old 09-19-2019, 08:28 AM
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I drove this route a few years ago and enjoyed it. The most memorable part was stumbling onto an elephant seal rookery near Cambria. I was spectacularly lucky that I happened to be passing by when the seals were there.
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Old 09-19-2019, 09:01 AM
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Highway 1 is going to be slow. Very slow. If you get stuck behind anything you will be homicidal by the time you can pass. Just know that going in.

If I were doing the trip, I'd take the 5 South until you get to Los Banos, then take the 152 over to Gilroy and Watsonville. Pick up Highway 1 there. 1 south to Orcutt, where you swap over to the 101 to Oxnard. Then back onto PCH through Malibu all the way down to Dana Point, then back on the 5 into San Diego.
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Old 09-19-2019, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Highway 1 is going to be slow. Very slow. If you get stuck behind anything you will be homicidal by the time you can pass. Just know that going in.

If I were doing the trip, I'd take the 5 South until you get to Los Banos, then take the 152 over to Gilroy and Watsonville. Pick up Highway 1 there. 1 south to Orcutt, where you swap over to the 101 to Oxnard. Then back onto PCH through Malibu all the way down to Dana Point, then back on the 5 into San Diego.
Thank you! That seems reasonable. I'm assuming that any way through LA is going to be slow, but are we talking hours to get from one side to the other?
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Old 09-19-2019, 11:39 AM
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Not really, if you time it right. Anything between 2pm and 7pm is going to be heavy, but actually PCH moves faster than the 405! It's a surface street from just south of Malibu through LA, but traffic is usually moving along. Once you get past Seal Beach it will be clear sailing south.
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Old 09-19-2019, 11:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Highway 1 is going to be slow. Very slow. If you get stuck behind anything you will be homicidal by the time you can pass. Just know that going in.

If I were doing the trip, I'd take the 5 South until you get to Los Banos, then take the 152 over to Gilroy and Watsonville. Pick up Highway 1 there. 1 south to Orcutt, where you swap over to the 101 to Oxnard. Then back onto PCH through Malibu all the way down to Dana Point, then back on the 5 into San Diego.
I second that recommendation, except take 156 through Hollister and 129 from 101 to Watsonville. 1 from Monterey to Orcutt is the slowest part, but most worth driving. Figure 2 hours longer than 101 for that stretch.
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Old 09-19-2019, 11:51 AM
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Go to Google Maps and click on traffic and follow the route: how much green (fast) vs red (slow) do you see on each route?

The very best time to do this would be the same day of week and hours you plan to go through each area

Last edited by PastTense; 09-19-2019 at 11:56 AM.
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:38 PM
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I second that recommendation, except take 156 through Hollister and 129 from 101 to Watsonville. 1 from Monterey to Orcutt is the slowest part, but most worth driving. Figure 2 hours longer than 101 for that stretch.
Thirded. I'd take 152 if you want to get a mountaintop scenic view of the ocean on the way, or 129 for a more relaxing flat-land drive. It's about the same amount of time either way.

Really the most spectacular part of Hwy 1 is Carmel to SLO. Drive it now before winter storms do bad things to the road and close it again.
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by madsircool View Post
If possible, ditch the car and take Amtrak from SLO to SD. Its for the most past an absolutely gorgeous ride and no traffic.
Having done Amtrak from Sacramento to Santa Barbara, IMO the scenery really starts one station north, at Paso Robles. You're not on the coast until after SLO, but the ride down the Cuesta Grade between Paso Robles and SLO is equally scenic.
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:56 PM
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Budget time for Hearst Castle if that sort of thing appeals to you.
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Old 09-19-2019, 01:43 PM
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Monterey to SLO is just beautiful on the 1 although a huge pain in the ass with all the winding Cliffside roads you have to drive down. That area is called Big Sur and is one of the most gorgeous places on Earth. The 1 goes right into SLO and that's also where the 101 is, and I'd recommend taking the 101 from there.
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Old 09-19-2019, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by madsircool View Post
If possible, ditch the car and take Amtrak from SLO to SD. Its for the most past an absolutely gorgeous ride and no traffic.
The itinerary I looked at left at 7am from SF Fisherman's Wharf and arrived at 1am in San Diego. That's a little too long for us, but thank you for the suggestion!
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Old 09-19-2019, 10:54 PM
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You'll have to take the 5 when passing through Camp Pendleton in north San Diego County, but if you want to hop back on the scenic route for most of the rest of the way to San Diego, after you pass Oceanside take the Carlsbad Village Drive exit west (right) then south (left) on Carlsbad Blvd. That road is pretty much the remainder of US 101 (also called Coast Highway, S21 and other street names) and goes all the way to La Jolla. The stretch is mostly a mixture of beach town main streets and ocean views. Depending on the traffic, it's likely to take an hour give or take, but there are some really nice views.

Last edited by zbuzz; 09-19-2019 at 10:55 PM.
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Old 09-19-2019, 11:53 PM
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I'm mildly surprised silenus didn't recommend taking either 46 or 41 inland from 1. Cambria et all is sort of pretty, but I guess it's how pressed you are for time. Morro Bay can be congested, depending on the time. The rock is photogenic though.

I might recommend, depending on time of day, and your interests, taking 580 inland from 5, to 680, to 17, to 1. That's if you wanted to see Santa Cruz at all. Also, it's not a major detour on that route to catch redwoods at Big Basin (or Nisene Marks, which I never see mentioned as a redwoods spot, yet there are a few there.) Or see elephant seals at Ano Nuevo.

Obviously, you want to hit 580-680-17 at a time to minimize traffic.

What are your interests?
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Old 09-19-2019, 11:55 PM
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Budget time for Hearst Castle if that sort of thing appeals to you.
It's not so much even the architecture but the art. Hearst had a fantastic collection of black and red figure pottery, among other pieces.

Edit: real quick, and not needing its own post. If you've never been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and you've an interest in that, make it a priority of your visit. It's that amazing and unique.

Last edited by Gray Ghost; 09-19-2019 at 11:57 PM.
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Old 09-20-2019, 07:18 AM
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I'm mildly surprised silenus didn't recommend taking either 46 or 41 inland from 1. Cambria et all is sort of pretty, but I guess it's how pressed you are for time. Morro Bay can be congested, depending on the time. The rock is photogenic though.
I like Morro Bay, I dislike Atascadero. Simple as that. I also think the scenery from Oceanside south is rather pedestrian, to say the least. Unless you are into prowling the little shops alongside the road, just get on the 5 and get to your destination in San Diego.
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Old 09-22-2019, 02:03 AM
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If you love nature you should consider visiting Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. I once took a friend there who said, "Everything here looks like a Sierra Club calendar."

There are long stretches where it isn't easy to get from Highway 101 to Highway 1. Once you're south of Salinas on 101 or Monterey on 1, you're pretty much committed to one highway or the other until you get to Highway 46. You need to take this into account if you're going to try to save time by taking Highway 1 only partway.
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Old 09-30-2019, 03:46 PM
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Thanks for all the feedback. We're back and heeded the advice to catch 1 south of San Francisco. There were a couple of traffic jams caused by road repairs but all in all it was a very nice drive, even though it was foggy much of the way.

After SLO, we switched to 101 in order to meet a friend in Sherman Oaks for lunch. LA was crowded but we managed to time it right and got through it with a minimum of stoppages.

Thanks for the advice. It was a really nice drive. California gets a bad rap for some reason, but we found it to be quite beautiful.
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Old 09-30-2019, 06:53 PM
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Glad you enjoyed the trip. It really is quite pretty.
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Old 09-30-2019, 11:08 PM
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What were your favorite parts of the trip?
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Old 10-01-2019, 12:24 AM
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I was thinking about this thread today, wondering how it went. Any standout parts?

Last edited by squeegee; 10-01-2019 at 12:25 AM.
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Old 10-01-2019, 12:34 AM
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You picked a good part, any Monterey-ish part is good.

I always enjoy Auburn, nice smallish town to hang out in.
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Old 10-01-2019, 05:48 AM
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Originally Posted by PunditLisa View Post
Thanks for all the feedback. We're back and heeded the advice to catch 1 south of San Francisco. There were a couple of traffic jams caused by road repairs but all in all it was a very nice drive, even though it was foggy much of the way.

After SLO, we switched to 101 in order to meet a friend in Sherman Oaks for lunch. LA was crowded but we managed to time it right and got through it with a minimum of stoppages.

Thanks for the advice. It was a really nice drive. California gets a bad rap for some reason, but we found it to be quite beautiful.
Bummer it was foggy so late in September. Usually the marine layer stays well offshore then and in the first half of October. Glad you had a great time.
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