When you think of iconic American roads, the Pacific Coast Highway—also known as the PCH—will likely be right at the top of the list. With the road’s legendary status confirmed by the many movies, TV shows, and books set along it, you can feel confident a PCH motorcycle ride will be unforgettable.
For northbound travel, the Pacific Coast Highway begins in Orange County, California, near Dana Point. It travels a little over 650 miles north before ending at a juncture with US Route 101 (US101) near Leggett. Keep in mind that only a relatively small section of our ride has signage that actually lists the Pacific Coast Highway by name. The signs to follow are for California State Route 1 (SR1).
While you could power through and complete the ride in approximately 18 hours, you’d miss out on many of the beautiful stops that make the PCH experience so special. Plan on at least three days—in this case, more is better and worth every moment on your bike.
The California coastline is beautiful all year round, but when it comes to riding weather, late spring through early fall is probably the opportune time for your PCH motorcycle ride. If you’re looking for a bit more solitude, consider planning your ride before school lets out in the spring or after it starts up again in the fall. You’ll likely experience the busiest roads during July and August.
Because many stretches along the PCH have few commercial facilities, try to plan out your fuel stops—and don’t pass up good opportunities to stop. Know your motorcycle’s fuel range and the distance between yourself and the next coastal community.
Also, expecting to find affordable lodging at the spur of the moment can be tough, especially during peak season. Making reservations ahead of time should allow you to avoid riding on into the night on twisty, fog-shrouded roads.
To help you make the most of your California ride, we’ve mapped out the southern PCH and northern PCH routes. Follow this south-to-north route and be sure to choose some additional stops along the way to create your own unique memories. Start with a few of the sites and attractions we’ve listed below.
Take time to stop at the many overlooks and beaches to capture memories of your southern PCH ride. Be sure to bring your camera, binoculars, and sunscreen!
Alongside Julia Morgan, California’s first licensed female architect, William Randolph Hearst built what he called “La Cuesta Encantada”—The Enchanted Hill—between 1919 and 1947. Now known as Hearst Castle, it’s registered as a National Historic Landmark.
The Bixby Canyon Bridge opened in 1932, spanning Bixby Canyon along California’s Big Sur coast. The gracefully arching concrete structure is one of the most photographed bridges in California—and the perfect backdrop for a glamour shot of your bike to share with your riding buddies.
This colorful boardwalk in Santa Cruz is a picture-perfect experience. Kick off your riding boots, enjoy some cotton candy, and don’t forget to ride the roller coaster.
You’ll pass through many Southern California beach communities along your ride. Here are a few we encourage you to spend some time exploring.
Santa Monica is a resort town located near the northern coastal edge of the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, making it a perfect launch point for your PCH adventure. The city is home to the Santa Monica pier, which is also the western terminus of Route 66.
Malibu offers motorcycle riders access to several exciting roads that climb through nearby mountain canyons ridges and deep into canyons. The Rock Store in Cornell is a famous riding destination along Mulholland Highway, which intersects the Pacific Coast Highway just north of town.
Known as a historic artistic enclave on the Monterey peninsula, this city sits in a particularly beautiful section of the PCH. Try to time your ride so you can watch the sun set over the Pacific in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
This small coastal town is known for agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Half Moon Bay sits just 30 miles south of the Golden Gate Bridge, making it a logical midpoint along your trip and the beginning of your northern Pacific Coast Highway adventure.
While this section of the PCH stretches nearly 500 miles, the yearly climate in the city of Lompoc, California, offers a pretty representative idea of the weather you can expect to experience along the southern PCH.
This section of California offers countless places for motorcyclists to stop and enjoy both rugged coastlines and man-made wonders. Here are three must-see attractions:
The Golden Gate Bridge is internationally recognized and associated with San Francisco. Both US101 and SR1 cross this bridge from San Francisco into northern California. Once you cross the bridge, stop by Vista Point for a fantastic view of the bridge and city.
This 71,028-acre nature preserve allows you to experience wild coastal beaches untouched by development. While you ride through Point Reyes, you can also visit historical sites such like the Point Reyes Lifeboat Station and the Point Reyes Lighthouse.
Between 1906 and 1967, local beaches were used as trash dumps by the Fort Bragg community. Thankfully the area was cleaned up in 1967, and since that point, leftover pieces of broken glass and pottery have been ground smooth and rounded by the pounding of the ocean waves. Colorful jewel-like pieces of glass now cover Glass Beach.
Be sure to explore San Francisco and the bay area—including several scenic routes popular with local riders—before heading north for smaller, more laid-back communities on the northern Pacific Coast Highway.
After riding inland for a while on SR1, you’ll return to the ocean at Bodega Bay. You may recognize Bodega Bay as the setting for the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds. Don’t worry—in reality, Bodega Bay’s seagulls and crows are quite docile.
The unincorporated town of Mendocino sits in a beautifully scenic location within Mendocino County, and has become popular as an artists’ haven. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live the quiet life along the Northern California coast, you may get a glimpse in Mendocino.
Leggett sits at the juncture of SR1 and Highway 101 and represents the end of the Pacific Coast Highway. This tiny town is home to some of the largest trees in the world—the mighty coastal redwoods—including the famous Chandelier Drive-Through Tree.
As you’ve probably gathered, the weather along the northern section of California’s Pacific Coast Highway tends to be rainier and more varied than the southern section. Here’s what you can expect as you ride through Santa Rosa:
California is currently the only state to have fully legalized lane splitting. Familiarize yourself with rules of the road and safety considerations before your PCH ride.
Even the most safety-conscious rider can end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you get in an accident, you can trust our claims services to help get you back on the road.The general information in this blog is for informational or entertainment purposes only. View our blog disclaimer.