If you have 7 Days to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, then you are in luck. A week is just the perfect amount of time to drive the stunning route of Highway 1. We would recommend flying into San Francisco and then driving north as far as the road takes you!
Start your first day of the road trip at the northern end of Highway 1 in Leggett and see those majestic coastal redwoods that are a highlight of North California. Drive your car through the Chandelier Tree tunnel, then enjoy the thrilling wind gusts and inspiring views at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Then continue your way exploring San Francisco and Monterey before enjoying the amazing natural attractions of Big Sur. Relax and party in San Luis Obispo, then wind up in the pretty Danish streets of Solvang. If you have the time, visit the channel islands from Ventura and end your trip in the Home of Hollywood, Los Angeles.
Here’s a sample schedule for 7 Day Itinerary along the Pacific Coast Highway:
Day 0 – San Francisco
If you are flying in, then arrive in San Francisco a day in advance and get settled in for your Highway 1 road trip. Rent a car from the airport and get essential road trip supplies like water, road trip snacks, etc.
You can either stay in a hotel downtown and enjoy some of the city’s highlights in the evening or stay near the airport – this is cheaper – and skip the city’s traffic on your way to Leggett the next morning.
However, you will need to start very early the next day and reach Leggett via Highway 101 which takes a little over 3 hours. The drive back from Leggett to San Francisco is 6 hours via Highway 1, which will leave less time for sightseeing.
Instead, we recommend driving to Leggett on Day 0 and staying there prior to your trip. Take Highway 101 to reach there faster and be refreshed to drive the Pacific Coast Highway early morning.
Distance from San Francisco to Leggett via Highway 1 – 222 miles
Time required for the trip – 5 hrs 45 mins
Distance from San Francisco to Leggett via Highway 101 – 182 miles
Time required for the trip – 3 hrs 15 mins
Day 1 – Leggett and Point Reyes
As we mentioned before, Leggett is the northern end of the Pacific Coast Highway 1 in California. Located in Mendocino County, Leggett is home to the immensely tall redwood trees, which are amongst the tallest trees in the world.
The main attraction of Leggett is teh Drive-Thru Park where the Chandelier Drive-Thru redwood tree is located. For a fee of $10 per vehicle, you can drive your car through this giant tree. The redwood is over 300 feet tall and 21 feet wide and simply massive. It is also almost 2400 years old.
After seeing the tree, drive along Pacific Coast Highway 1 along the coast to Fort Bragg and Mendocino. Fort Bragg is most famous for its glass beach while charming Mendocino is one of the most pretty towns along the Pacific Coast.
We recommend taking a stroll in Mendocino and having lunch here in one of the popular restaurants. If you have the time, visit one of the 3 state parks near Mendocino. To read more about all the attractions in Mendocino County, read our post on Best Things to do in Mendocino.
After seeing Mendocino, road trip Highway 1 along the coast. The views here are just sublime. Make a couple of our favorite stops in the area. Eat freshly shucked oysters in Tomales Bay and see the Alfred Hitchcock movie filming locations in Bodega. Then continue further down the coast towards Point Reyes.
Distance from Leggett to Point Reyes – 185 miles
Time required for the trip – 5 hrs
Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the best places to visit along the West Coast. This stunning stretch of coastal wilderness is located just an hour away from San Francisco and is very popular with Bay Area folks. What that basically means, Point Reyes is mostly always crowded! However, in spite of that, you should definitely make it a point to visit Point Reyes on your 7 Day pacific Coast Highway Road Trip.
At Point Reyes, you will find rugged cliffs, beaches, redwood trees, pastures, marine life, and even a lighthouse. The area is managed by NPS and preserves over 71,000 acres of the coastline. Here, you will find miles and miles of hiking trails and other unique tourist attractions including the Cypress Tree Tunnel.
You can get free trail maps at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. If you have the time, visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse. The Lighthouse Visitor Center will give you information about the area while you can spot wildlife from the observation deck. Drake Beach located near the lighthouse is the most popular beach in Point Reyes.
After spotting sea lions or whales and hiking along the coast, take Highway 1 to San Francisco. You will be driving on the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the iconic attractions of the Pacific Coast Highway!
Distance from Point Reyes to San Francisco – 40 miles
Time required for the trip – 1 hr 15 mins
Day 2 – San Francisco
Take this day to experience the urban attractions of San Francisco. The city by the bay, as it is popularly called, is one of the best cities to visit in America. It is trendy, vibrant, and beautiful. The main attraction is obviously the Golden Gate Bridge, but apart from the bridge, there are many other attractions in San Francisco.
Take a cruise to the island of Alcatraz and understand the history of this former federal prison. Stroll along Grant Avenue in Chinatown and admire the oriental architecture. Drive down the twisting curves of Lombard Street and enjoy an authentic cable car ride to the Ferry Building.
San Francisco is also a foodie paradise. Whether you want a California style burrito, sourdough clam chowder, sushi, or dim sum, San Francisco has it all. It also has shopping, urban parks, and unique architecture.
To read more about planning your day in the city and creating an itinerary, read our post on Best Things to do in San Francisco.
Day 3 – Half Moon Bay and Monterey
Half Moon Bay is just an hour south of San Francisco and makes for an idyllic stop along the Pacific Coast Highway. It has a charming coastal vibe with a historic downtown, quaint architecture, and beautiful beaches.
We would recommend spending some time exploring Half Moon Bay and nearby attractions such as Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Then make your way further down the coast to the beautiful city of Monterey.
Read our post on Best Things to do in Half Moon Bay here.
Distance from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay – 30 miles
Time required for the trip – 45 mins
Monterey is most popular for being home to one of the best aquariums in the World! At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you will find a large diversity of marine exhibits and see marine life including jellyfish, stingrays, and more.
If you are not a fan of seeing marine life indoors and enjoy seeing them out in the open, then Monterey is also the perfect place to go on a whale watching tour. The tours start from Fisherman’s Wharf. After you come back from the tour, eat a seafood dinner at one of the restaurants on the wharf.
Stroll along the Cannery Row or go for a spectacular trip down 17 Mile Drive. See the historic pioneer buildings in Old Monterey and see all the museums. Monterey is the perfect stop to rest before continuing your road trip down one of the best Pacific Coast Highway attractions, Big Sur.
To plan your day in Monterey and finalizing attractions as well as places to stay and eat, read our post on Best Things to do in Monterey.
Distance from Half Moon Bay to Monterey – 91 miles
Time required for the trip – 2 hours
Day 4 – Big Sur
If you have been a reader of PCH1 Road Trip for long, then you know this by now: we simply love Big Sur and can’t stop raving about it! Big Sur is honestly one of the most stunning, gorgeous places to visit along the West Coast of the USA. Rather, it is one of the best places to visit in the world!
Big Sur is the epitome of wild beauty: in Big Sur, you will find enormous redwood trees towering all the way up to the coast, the mountains ending suddenly at the Pacific Ocean, and a curving road that snakes up along the coast and treats visitors to stunning views!
Big Sur is actually 90 miles long and has dozens of unique attractions. Go hiking in Point Lobos or Andrew Molera State Park. See the beautiful McWay Falls from the observation deck and have lunch in Big Sur Village. Visit Pfeiffer Beach and see the iconic views at sunset. Drive on Bixby Creek Bridge and take its beautiful photos. Spot the sea lions at Piedras Blancas and enjoy the winds at Hurricane Point.
To plan your day in Big Sur and get an overview of the most beautiful attractions, read our post on Things to do in Big Sur.
You can either stay in Big Sur or drive all the way down to San Luis Obispo.
Distance from Monterey to Big Sur Village – 30 miles
Time required for the trip – 45 mins
Day 5 – San Luis Obispo and Solvang
If you are not a big nature person and need your share of city life after spending tie outdoors, then you will love San Luis Obispo. The city is full of nightlife, fantastic restaurants, and has a vibrant young population.
History and art lovers will enjoy the Spanish mission, museums, and historic downtown area of San Luis Obispo. This is a perfect place to rest for the night, enjoy its vibe, dine, and wine before driving towards the city of Solvang.
Read our post on the Best Things to do in San Luis Obispo before you plan your trip!
Distance from Big Sur Village to San Luis Obispo – 110 miles
Time required for the trip – 2 hours 30 mins
Your next stop is Solvang. To reach Solvang, you will need to take a detour from Highway 1 but it is worth the visit. With fewer days in hand, you cannot really fit in a trip to Solvang, but since you have 7 Days on the Pacific Coast Highway, you should definitely visit this charming European city.
That’s right, Solvang is a charming Danish town in central California! It has got Danish architecture, windmills, and even a round tower. You can take a stroll through the town and spot many Danish icons. You can try tasty Danish treats at the bakeries: try aebleskivers – small puffy pancakes that seem to melt in your mouth!
Solvang is also excellent for those who like boutique shopping. Buy clocks, windmill replicas, wooden toys, unique apparel, handmade chocolates, and more while in the town. Visit the museum to explore Danish culture.
We recommend staying the night in Solvang and heading down the coast to Ventura the next day.
Distance from San Luis Obispo to Solvang – 70 miles
Time required for the trip – 1 hr 30 mins
Day 6 – Ventura and Santa Barbara
Ventura is a vibrant and artistic town along the Pacific Coast. It is known for its cultural vibe and is a popular place to live for many Hollywood folks. It is known for its beaches. Surfer’s Point is popular for windsurfing.
There are many things to do in downtown Ventura too. Take a stroll along Main Street and explore historic buildings including the Mission San Buenaventura. See the museum and take a walk in the Ventura Botanical Gardens.
Ventura also happens to be the gateway to California’s Channel Islands National Park, one of the least visited national parks in the country. Take a boat tour to the islands from the Ventura Harbor and within an hour, you will arrive on America’s Galapagos Islands! Here you can spot unique marine life and have plenty of water adventures including kayaking and diving among kelp forests.
Distance from Solvang to Ventura – 75 miles
Time required for the trip – 1 hr 15 mins
From Ventura, drive the coast for half an hour to the tranquil oceanside city of Santa Barbara. We recommend staying in Santa Barbara for the night and enjoying the many attractions in the city.
Start your visit at the Mission Santa Barbara and enjoy its beautiful colonial Spanish architecture. In fact, you would be surprised to see that the entire city is built in a similar style of architecture. Few people know this, but after teh old city was destroyed in a fire, it was rebuilt to match the Mission.
Visit the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and admire the views from its clocktower. Try shopping and dining at Stearn’s Wharf and simply enjoy the ocean breeze. Relax, you are almost winding down your Pacific Coast Highway road trip!
If you love zoos and museums, read our post on the Best Things to do in Santa Barbara to add them to your itinerary.
Distance from Ventura to Santa Barbara – 30 miles
Time required for the trip – 30 mins
Day 7 – Los Angeles
And finally, it’s time to see the city that people around the world are enamored with! Welcome to Home of Hollywood, the city of glamor and awesomeness, the cultural capital of the west coast, Los Angeles!!
This huge, sprawling suburban city is one of the best places to visit in California for multiple reasons. Los Angeles has got some of the world’s best shopping, a legendary culinary scene, and a bevy of cultural attractions including the LACMA and Broad.
While in Los Angeles, you can visit museums, parks, theatres, and beaches. Along with downtown LA and Griffith Park, spend time in eclectic neighborhoods and suburbs such as Hollywood, Santa Monica, Malibu, and Venice.
Read our post on Best Things to do in Los Angeles to decide on the best attractions to visit based on your interest.
Distance from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles – 100 miles
Time required for the trip – 2 hrs
Other useful posts to plan your Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
Pacific Coast Highway 4 day Itinerary
Pacific Coast Highway 5 day itinerary
Pacific Coast Highway 10 day itinerary
All PCH Itineraries
Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Planner
Best Places to Stay along the Pacific Coast Highway
Best Pacific Coast Highway Stops