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Old 07-14-2016, 12:54 PM   #1
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Beware Highway 1 in North California

Just got back from a trip down the Oregon and north California coast from Washington. We have done the Oregon coast (Hwy 101) numerous times -- one of our favorites. I did not research the drive form Oregon 101 down to Ft Bragg California. Ended up taking Highway 1 and was that a white knuckle drive. Hairpin after hairpin after hairpin - and no shoulder for bicyclists, etc. Recommend people putting it on their "don't take" list (in my case Highway 20 was taken on the way back). Lesson learned to check out the route on the internet rather than just wining it.
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Old 07-14-2016, 12:58 PM   #2
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You are right on the money on that drive! It is one of the listed roads on

Awesome drive in a car or on a motorcycle!We did travelled it in a Jeep in 2004 on our honeymoon. I am glad you made it safely.
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Old 07-14-2016, 01:00 PM   #3
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I have driven it several times towing our 27' with no problems. Just depends on your comfort level.

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Old 07-14-2016, 01:13 PM   #4
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We left our trailer at a nice campground north of Willits, drove the pickup to Ft Bragg making the loop, nice drive...
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Old 07-14-2016, 01:27 PM   #5
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I respectfully whole heartedly dissagree!
I have done it numerous times in its entirety north to south... south to north without the slightest problem! Ive got a triaxle so its the longest available. I would not hesitate to do it again!
My only complaint are the drivers expecting to drive 80 mph. I simply stand my ground and wait for them to pass! There are many places to pull off and let cars past and take a lunch nap!
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Old 07-14-2016, 01:41 PM   #6
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We have taken it with different campers, pleasant drive if not in a hurry and not worried about others who are.
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Old 07-14-2016, 04:14 PM   #7
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So, it is like white water rafting. Scout it out before towing. If you think it is to your comfort level go for it, if not take another way with the trailer.
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Old 07-15-2016, 11:54 AM   #8
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CA Highway 1 Elk
to Jenner is the most spectacular drive in the country. Take your time, pull over whenever someone comes up behind, enjoy. Great corned beef hash at Queenies in Elk, world-class bakery in Point Arena, stupendous hiking along the cliffs below Point Arena Lighthouse in the new National Monument, find the secret Bowling Ball Beach, visit Fort Ross [the home of the Russian Empire in North America]; all along an otherwise desolate coast--California's secret coast. Few dare to go there; yet survive!
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Old 07-15-2016, 11:54 AM   #9
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Hwy 1 Trip Planning Reccos


A few thoughts for everyone about "Highway 1," "Coast 1," "SR-1," "PCH" or Pacific Coast Hwy., etc. - whether north of or south of San Francisco - it's pretty much a winding 2 lane old school road dating from the earliest days of roads in the early 1900's (1920-30's mostly), which has been successively superseded by wider & more "comfortable" roads to travel on, with US 101, then I-5.

Of course it's been regraded, repaved & recontoured with guardrails added for safety since then, but it's still a small 2-laner - especially in the northern CA stretch mentioned above.

However, it is magnificent scenery - especially north of Morro Bay up through Big Sur, being the better known part - but with the stretch north of San Francisco being equally rewarding, as well as the Oregon coastline section, if a bit less mountainous.

For much of those two noted sections, you're on a road basically carved into the mountain sides where the mountains drop directly into the Pacific Ocean.

So I wouldn't necessarily take it completely off your "To Do" lists, but rather plan for it accordingly, & take your time.

So here are my thoughts & suggestions....

1.) If you're at all leery about driving along a road hanging onto a mountainside, with a shear drop to the ocean next to it - then do the trip, leg or run of the SR-1 from South to North - so that you're on the INLAND side of the road next to the mountain, rather than next to the cliff. You can still see the views, but your stomach may be calmer there.

2.) As others have said, take your time, use a speed that you are comfortable with given the road conditions & your rig or vehicle, & just let others pass, & do not get pressured by the impatient folks behind & whizzing past.

I've been one of those "whizzers" in past years in my `73 Porsche 914-2.0 sports car enjoying the "twisties" during off-season, & we types won't hold a grudge for the occasional trailer/RV touring folks, & most should know better than to try to enjoy that road's curves during peak season. But I've also been one in my `88 VW Westfalia with it's blazing 0-60 in 30 minutes, loaded down further with wife, kids & gear - at far more sedate pace! We've yet to do it with our `60 Avion T20 - it being relatively new to us since 2012, but we will.

3.) The section of SR-1 just across the bay from San Francisco which goes down to Stinson Beach etc. is limited to vehicles of a certain length - which I believe is only 22' if memory serves - so you'll need to cut over from US-101 a bit further north.

Also, while not length limited as far as I recall, the far northerly stretch up from the coast to US-101 which the OP mentions is also quite winding, so some folks may want to cut across on one of the easier roads to the south of the stretch up the valley, in favor of a less winding alternative a bit further south, & forego that last bit of the "PCH Experience."

4.) Make sure you have a properly set-up & dialed-in rig, then check ALL of your towing equipment & brakes, steering, etc. before that run, as well as during it at every stop. If in any are in doubt, then don't do it - or stop & get it repaired before continuing. this is no place to experiment nor take risks with a damaged sway control or coupler, etc.!

5.) Leave yourself enough time & then some more in order to do this run - take your time, enjoy the view, stop often to take it all in & see the various sites. Also, plan to eventually do both the north of SF & Redwoods area, as well as the CA Central Coast & Big Sur sections - eventually, even if on separate trips. So research & plan it all & map it out ahead of time - as the OP said - & you can always make adjustments on the fly to see various sights etc.

If you need to make time or have a tight schedule, then take US-101 or I-5 - & leave PCH for another trip!

6.) If you prefer not to do the run with your full rig - the plan to use a "base camp" as one poster above did - leave the trailer there, & then just enjoy the drive in your TV or TOAD alone.

7.) ENJOY!

Can you tell that I worked my way through college in the early 1970's doing those trip maps & plans at Texaco, from those postcards you could get at the gas stations for your summer vacations!!??

Tom T
Orange CA
1960 Avion T20, #2 made, Hensley Cub, TV tbd- looking for 08-22 Cayenne S, EH, etc
1988 VW Vanagon Westfalia CamperGL (Orig Owner) + 1970 Eriba Puck
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Old 07-15-2016, 12:47 PM   #10
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I followed Hwy 1 from just north of Fort Ross up up to Oregon in the very early spring. I have towed on lots of narrow with hairpins highways so was not inclined to not doing it as planned after a couple of folks at a campground indicated they would never tow on it. I do have to admit that Hwy 1 California was a bit challenging in regards to keeping alert and taking it slow for long periods of time due to the number of hairpins.

The view was worth it though. Not sure I would have been as comfortable pulling anything over 25' on it and or doing it in months when the highway has heavier traffic. I just slowing down and took my time along it, may not have felt as comfortable with that approach if I was to have had a long line of cars building up behind me every mile though as there were not a lot of pull outs large enough to use with the trailer.
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Old 07-15-2016, 01:01 PM   #11
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Ha! So funny that you report on his. My wife and I just got back to Maryland from a 2-month road trip to California that included the Coast Highway and you are correct that once you drive north from Ft Bragg, it is a white knuckle drive to say the least. I have never been on highways with 55 MPH speed limits where you can read your own trailer license plate on so many hairpin turns! I don't get car sick but I swear I was after the trip from FT Bragg to Garberville. Why doesn't CA have guard rails??? The Avenue of the Giants though is worth risking your life for.
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Old 07-15-2016, 03:40 PM   #12
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granted Westport to Legett on Hwy 1 is a bit curvy...opens up a lot at FB and South. Enjoy Ave of the Giants, camp at Richardson Grove and allow for a full day to get over to the coast...simply take your time and enjoy the redwoods and ferns. If still hesitant, wait until Willits, jump over on 20 and enjoy the rest.

Remember too Hwy 1 is a looong and beautiful highway and a headline as "Beware Highway 1 in North California" is like only reading the cover of a book.Just to add to TomT and TomDorn and others post #43.

From the perspective of the Tour of California...

note the first part is Meyers Grade Road, which is on the ridge above Highway 1. That's Tomales Bay (San Andreas Fault off in the distance) In he video Hwy 1 starts at 1:19...and continues past Jenner to almost to Bodega Bay before the course heads inland to Occidental (1:58). @ 1:54 there is one of the switchbacks referenced in the post 43 link above.

If you want to see the Jenner to Coleman valley road section of coast go to the ride...or as the AS t-shirt says...this is how I rollBob
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Old 07-15-2016, 04:51 PM   #13
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Highway One is one of our test tracks. We wondered if our TV was going to be strong enough (everyone pitches diesel for towing) or if we were going to be up for the two lane drive with a concentration of hills and tight turns.

What we found was that our rig was quite well matched and capable. After the original shakedown trips over both the North and South sections of HW1 we were confident that our future travels were not going to be a problem. The avatar picture is a view looking North at the top of HW1 just before it cuts back to HW101.

The 23 is only 8 ft wide. So, not quite as wide as the 25-34s. Our TV is easy to get going in another direction. So we have an advantage. There was a turn on the South section outside one of the state parks where cars had parked, not quite off the road. We were very happy that we were not any wider than we are. We understand the concern of folks here. As said several times, take it slow. Use care. But HW1 is doable. IT need not be a white knuckle experience.

The suggestion to take the North HW1 South to North is a good one. Our last trip used that approach and what I remember as a challenging section was a good trip. Understand these trips were almost a year apart and we have gained a bit of experience along the way.

The one suggestion that I would make is to not make these trips on a weekend. The point about there not being room for bicycles is correct. You may have to go to flashers and go slow until it is safe to pass. We came South when some group was holding a bicycle race. It was about the worst experience we have had with bicycles. Touring cyclists will pull off if the conditions are unsafe. Racers just try, try, try to go faster. It is not a good combination. Please, do what you can to keep as much space between you and these folks as possible.

Note also, that if you drive North, the pullouts are less frequent than they will be Southbound. Not all the pullouts are safe to transit. Some have really bad drop offs, holes, and a lack of parking space. Look before you turn off. Go slow.

We have seen quite big rigs make the HW1 trip. We will do it again. But just because we do it should not make it a must for you. If you are not comfortable on tight two lane roads, park it and do the drive solo.

One final caution. We have been told that some connecting roads between HW1 and HW101 are very tight and may be as difficult to transit As HW1. We had one fellow tell us there was a hairpin that he had to back and fill to get around it. So yes ..... check it out before you tow it.

Travel safe. Pat
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Old 07-15-2016, 06:19 PM   #14
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Livingston , Texas
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Respectfully Disagree With the No Drive List Conclusion

Driving the tough sections of Hwy 1 in our 27 ft. Airstream is a blast as long as we are not in a hurry. Best part about it is that there are many nice places to stop by the side of the road to enjoy a gorgeous view, eat a meal, take a nap and even boon-dock. Besides not being in a hurry, the other key thing is to make liberal use of your tow vehicle's downshifting capabilities on the steep ups and downs to take the pressure off the engine and braking systems. Once you find your rhythm with the downshifting and braking, it's actually pretty easy - just slow going. Highway 1 is pretty special and I would hate for anybody to miss out on it because it is on a No Drive List.

Safe travels everybody!
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Old 07-16-2016, 08:37 AM   #15
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Love the PCH. We just took our time got in a little late a couple nights but overall it was spectacular.
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