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10 Most Instagrammable Stops on Highway 1

California's most scenic road reopens today and is ready for visitors—here's where to stop along the way

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Posted 3 years agoby Sarah Feldberg

Highway 1 (often called the Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH) is the quintessential California road trip, an undulating strip of asphalt that snakes along the coast for 655 miles, from Dana Point in the south to Leggett in the north with countless views of the mighty Pacific along the way. But the route’s most iconic section—which passes through Big Sur along the Central Coast—has been blocked for more than a year by a massive landslide. Until now. With the roadway repaired, Highway 1 reopens today, restoring one of the country’s classic cruises full of spots worth pulling over to snap a pic.

Driving from the north, here are 10 stops we suggest for a perfect photo op. And trust us—there are plenty more where that came from, including Visit Ventura's suggestions for can't-miss stops from L.A. to San Francisco.


Stop one: Carmel-by-the-Sea

Come for the powdery beach backed by gnarled Monterey cypress trees, but fall in love with the town’s fairytale cottages built by local Hugh Comstock in the early 1900s.


Stop two: Calla Lily Valley

This beautiful fluke of nature is best witnessed in spring, when wild white lilies mark a path to the sea at Garrapata State Beach and the surrounding hillsides are covered in lilacs and wildflowers.


Stop three: Bixby Creek Bridge

California loves its bridges. This graceful arch isn’t as famous as its “golden” sibling three hours north, but catch it at night under the Milky Way and you’re in for some serious magic.


Stop four: Point Sur Lighthouse

Since 1889, this historic lighthouse perched on volcanic rock has both witnessed and prevented shipwrecks off the California coast. Stop by for a regular daytime tour or check the schedule for a moonlight experience.

Stop five: Big Sur River Inn

Pull up an adirondack chair out of the river and alongside this historic motel and restaurant and listen to live bands that play the backyard BBQ every summer Sunday.


Stop six: Pfeiffer Beach

Inside Los Padres National Forest, this slice of shoreline is known for its naturally purple sands and the arch rock just offshore, which turns daily sunsets into spectacular photo ops.


Stop seven: McWay Falls

While there’s no beach access inside Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, it’s well worth the 10-minute walk to see this “tidefall” pour straight into the ocean.


Stop eight: Limekiln State Park

Redwoods, waterfalls, and rugged shores? Yes, yes, and yes. Camp for the night or hit the trail and marvel at how the towering trees filter the sunlight.


Stop nine: Ventana Big Sur

There’s glamping, and then there’s Ventana Big Sur, where safari-style tents are nestled among the forest and luxury means heated pools, Japanese baths and cliffside dining on Pacific seafood.


Stop 10: Hearst Castle

Designed by architect Julia Morgan, William Randolph Hearst’s hilltop estate is a veritable castle, with 165 rooms, an impressive art collection, and this stunning blue pool, covered in mosaics to evoke ancient Roman baths.

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