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Old 05-12-2014, 05:16 PM   #1
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Pacific Coast Highway

Looking to head up the Pacific Coast Highway mid-June and looking for some insight from those of you who have made the trip up Route 1 from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. I know it's tight and full of curves but just how bad is it? I am used to driving mountain passes and drive 550 from Durango to Ouray, CO quite often, so the drop-offs don't scare me.

Also looking for recommendations on CG's, as I plan to stop at Hearst Castle, Big Sur and Monterey/Carmel.
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Old 05-12-2014, 05:34 PM   #2
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Did it with our 31' Sovereign. Lots of turn outs to let traffic by. Very curvy but not particularly scary. California has some nice beachfront dry camping but it tends to book/fill early.

Buy gas whenever you come across an accessible gas pump as some aren't and there are spots when they are quite a ways apart.

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Old 05-12-2014, 05:55 PM   #3
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When we did it (in a car) we saw several tour buses at different spots. What are they, 40'?
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Old 05-12-2014, 06:04 PM   #4
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Last time we drove that route, we got stuck just south of Bug Sur for a couple hours due to a rock slide on the road. Probably 50-60 cars with us, and at least one motorhome.

Everyone was strolling about, talking, and just hanging out looking at the view. The couple in one of the motorhomes offered up the use of their bathroom to anyone who might need it.

Point is, I've seen motorhomes do it!
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Old 05-12-2014, 08:16 PM   #5
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Reservations for campgrounds along the central California coast are a must have in the summer at State and Federal campgrounds, especially on weekends, and they book very quickly as they become available six months in advance. There are numerous campgrounds along that route, both public and private. There are very few public camps that have hookups so if you want them, a private campground would probably suit you better.

If Hearst Castle is on your agenda, you may think about San Simeon State Park as it is really close by. The main camp is right across Hwy 1 from the ocean and it has flush toilets and showers. The Washburn Camp that is part of the park is on the hill above and has a tendency to fill a bit slower since it is a primitive camp on a gravel road with pit toilets. The sites are large and there are some great views of the coast from there. You can make reservations at Reserve America. The quaint town of Cambria is just down the road too, and there is a nearby Elephant Seal rookery.

The Big Sur coast is fine to tow on if your confidence level is above average. I tow my 28' up there quite often with my F250. My combined length is about 52'. The worst part are the curves where you go into the mountains north of San Simeon and South of the Monterey County line. There are some tight areas and hairpin curves. They do drive tour buses on that road all the time. The best places to camp on the Big Sur Coast in my opinion are Kirk Creek and Plaskett Creek. They are both National Forest camps and are the only public campgrounds around that still have some first come first served sites, but they fill up very quickly during the week. Forget about it on the weekend unless you are very lucky. They also have reservable sites and reservations for these can be made at Recreation.Gov. Pfeiffer Big Sur campground is very nice and in the Redwoods but very hard to get a reservation. There are some private campgrounds in the town of Big Sur, but like a lot of tourist destinations, they have a tendency to pack the campers in tight.

There is no diesel on Hwy 1 between Cambria and Carmel (about 100 miles) so keep that in mind. June can be very foggy on the coast, but it generally clears out by late morning.

Other public campgrounds to consider from Santa Barbara to Big Sur are:
1. El Capitan State Beach
2. Refugio State Beach
3. Pismo State Beach
4. Montana de Oro State Park
5. Morro Bay State Park (has some sites with hookups)
6. Morro Strand State Beach
All of these are beautiful campgrounds if you can get a site.

If you have any questions feel free to ask. I have lived in this area for 35 years and camp here all the time.
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Old 05-12-2014, 08:20 PM   #6
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The biggest problem with that stretch of road is the very distracting views around every corner - and there are lots of corners. Take your time and you'll have a trip you won't forget
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Old 05-12-2014, 08:41 PM   #7
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If you can set up your trip, at least from Carmel to Morro Bay to go north to south you have much better views. Going south to north you are against the cliffs and have to look across the other lane of traffic and the scenic lookout parking is on the ocean side. Also the drive from Carmel to Morro Bay is 3 to 3 1/2 hours depending on how many stops it can be longer. If you schedule it right camping outside of this scenic drive is less crowded.
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Old 05-12-2014, 09:35 PM   #8
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First, you cannot get better advice than you got from CA Streamer. We drove it round trip twice this year (in a 23 footer), plus a trip up only as far as San Simeon State Park where we prefer the Washburn Campground. There is only one tricky stretch -- just above San Simeon -- that is only about 15 miles and in my opinion less challenging than Durango to Ouray.
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Old 05-12-2014, 10:38 PM   #9
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Done this trip twice recently. Recommend El Capitan campground somewhat north of Santa Barbara. Beautiful campground on a bluff overlooking a classic California beach. San Simeon campground for the Hearst Castle area. Large sites, clean, and nice. Large beach just across the highway. Maybe five miles to castle. In Monterey I just recently stayed at the Monterey fairgrounds but don't recommend it. Its just a parking lot with hookups. Only plus is closest to downtown. If you are military, look up the Monterey Pines RV Campground. If not, even better is the campground at Laguna Seca racetrack and recreational area. Some face the track, and some face a quiet canyon. Most have hookups.

Don't sweat the drive. Its reputation far exceeds the reality. Try to stop at many of the pullouts as there's no chance to make a U-turn.
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Old 05-13-2014, 12:04 PM   #10
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Thanks all for the info. Have managed to book some CG's and will take a chance on early arrival at Kirk CG for a walk-up space. Having to make all these reservations sure interferes with the way I like to travel!!
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Old 05-13-2014, 02:59 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mojo View Post
Thanks all for the info. Have managed to book some CG's and will take a chance on early arrival at Kirk CG for a walk-up space. Having to make all these reservations sure interferes with the way I like to travel!!
Here's a pic of Kirk Creek from last year. They no longer have a water supply there so be sure to carry a full tank when you go.
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Old 05-15-2014, 05:37 PM   #12
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Stop in San Luis Obispo for the farmers market. Of course, Hurst Castle. Drive slow and enjoy, why you ask? Well that is a trip you make only once in your life pulling a trailer. Have fun drive safe
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Old 05-16-2014, 12:47 PM   #13
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CA Streamer,

Do you remember what the site number was in your Kirk Creek picture?
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Old 05-18-2014, 03:38 PM   #14
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CA Streamer,

Do you remember what the site number was in your Kirk Creek picture?
I believe it was site #17. It was right on the bluff over the ocean.
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