The longest state route in California, State Route 1 is a major north-south highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline. As such, it is aptly named the Pacific Coast Highway. Other names used to refer to the road included Shoreline Highway, Cabrillo Highway and simply Coast Highway. While the northern terminus of the state route is at U.S. Route 101 near Leggit in Mendocino County, the southern terminus is at Interstate 5 near Dana Point in Orange County.
Exploring Orange County on the Pacific Coast Highway
The southern terminus of the Pacific Coast Highway is at I-5 in Capistrano Beach in Dana Point. From here, the state route travels west into the city center. After leaving Dana Point, the route continues northwest along the coast through Laguna Beach and Crystal Cove State Park. SR 1 then enters Newport Beach, where it is known as Coast Highway.
After Coast Highway enters Newport Beach, it passes through several of the city’s affluent neighborhoods. These include Corona del Mar and Newport Coast. The state route also spans the entrance to the Upper Newport Bay, where it marks the boundary between the West Coast Highway and the East Coast Highway before crossing California State Route 55.
Once Coast Highway enters Huntington State Beach, the route regains its Pacific Coast Highway designation before reaching Bolsa Chica State Beach and Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Pacific Coast Highway then continues along the coast until it reaches Seal Beach, which is the final city on the route within Orange County.
The History of State Route 1
Built piecemeal in various stages, the first section of State Route 1 was opened in the Big Sur region in the 1930s. As more segments opened, portions of the route had many different names and numbers over the years. The entire route was ultimately renumbered and officially designated as State Route 1 in 1964.
While State Route 1 is a popular route due to its scenic beauty, it experiences frequent landslides and erosion along the coast. As a result, several segments have been either closed or re-routed inland for lengthy periods of time for repairs.
While State Route 1 is part of the California Freeway and Expressway System and is eligible for the State Scenic Highway System, only a few stretches between Los Angeles and San Francisco have been designated as scenic highway. Furthermore, the Big Sur section stretching from San Luis Obispo to Carmel is an official National Scenic Byway.
In addition to connecting the coastal cities and communities that are situated along its path, State Route 1 provides access to parks, beaches and other attractions located on the coast. This makes the route, which runs beside the coastline or close to it nearly the entire time, popular among tourist, helping to bring in several billion dollars to the state’s tourism industry. With some segments of the route ranging from rural two-lane roads to urban freeway, getting off of the route and taking other routes such as US 101 or I-5 can be a faster option for reaching various attractions along the way.