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Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

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Richmond, Virginia
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Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

I am driving from San Franciso south on Hwy 1 all the way down, with a nervous driver. I think Ive read that the "scarier" part of the drive is in the Big Sur area. But I haven't been able to find anything on just how long the particularly nerve-wracking part is. Is this just a 15 minute stretch or the whole way? We don't want to bypass it (the whole point is the beautiful drive) but I was hoping to know when and for how long I should expect white knuckles. :) Thanks!

San Francisco...
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1. Re: Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

You may want to ask the person or persons who said it was scary to answer that. Highway 1 does have winding parts that hug the coast and hundreds of thousands of visitors drive that coast.

Richmond, Virginia
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2. Re: Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

That's what I'm having trouble with. I keep seeing articles or old posts referencing being nefvous on cliff-hugging hairpin turns and no guardrails, but haven't seen it specified exactly which area this predominates. I imagine this is sporadic throughout the drive, but was curious if there was a particular stretch that is especially harrowing?

santa rosa, ca
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3. Re: Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

I don't remember how long a drive it was (an hour? 40 minutes? maybe less? we turned out a lot to look at the views) but I believe the area south of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park as you descend the Santa Lucia mtns. into San Simeon is the scariest part.....but I do recall seeing guardrails. The rest of the drive has lots of ocean scenery but the road is set back and should not make you anxious. Relax and enjoy!

Shell Beach...
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4. Re: Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

The drive through Highway 1 in Big Sur is 90 miles of winding cliffs over the ocean. It's about 3 hours drive without stops. There are very few stretches of straight road - mostly in the Pacific Valley area which is just a few miles long in the far southern part. There are no places without guardrails or high berms. It's impossible to go over the cliffs unless you're just not paying attention to the road.

Once you're south of Monterey you're committed to the entire drive through to Cambria - there are no viable turn offs inland except truly scary mountain roads like Nacimiento-Fergusson that are even windier and do lack guardrails.

New York City, New...
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5. Re: Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

To me the scariest part is between Santa Cruz and Monterey where the highway is two lane straightaway with hundreds of uncontrolled access points on both sides where people try to pull into 70 mph traffic from a dead stop.

Grover Beach...
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6. Re: Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

Here's a photo blog of the Highway 1 drive through Big Sur:

www.pashnit.com/roads/cal/Hwy1BigSur.htm

*Note*.... Some of the photos are from the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road and are labeled as such.

_________________________________________________________

As for the drive......

Yes, there are several hairpin turns. The majority of them are on the south end of the Big Sur coast past the Gorda rest stop. All of the hairpin turns are signed telling you how fast to go (20 MPH). There are also several turn-outs you can pull off into if you become overwhelmed. You can use those opportunities to exit your vehicle and soak in the views while regaining your composure, if necessary.

Keep in mind that this is NOT a 55 MPH highway. Your average speed will be around 35 MPH between Carmel and San Simeon. The Big Sur drive is fabulous and I hope you can enjoy it without being scared. As a former worry wart when traveling, I can assure you that this drive is well worth the effort and is actually, IMO, safer than open, straight highway.

Edited: 10 July 2013, 15:54
Santa Clara...
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7. Re: Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

Another worry wort here and I am very very prone to motion sickness. Have been on this stretch of road many times. I much prefer to drive it than be a passenger due to my motion sickness. The southern part is most challenging as a motion sick prone person but also as a driver due to the hairpin turns. But just follow the speed limits and enjoy the scenery. If a long queue is behind you, look for a SAFE turnout to let them pass.

Richmond, Virginia
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8. Re: Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

@kibblesmom, that link was super helpful on many levels.

Thank you everyone for all the posts. I am not worried, but my boyfriend who will be driving is because he remembers being scared when he took the drive as a child with his parents. I've offered to drive that part, but he finds the prospect of my driving more terrifying. :) I truly do hope he's able to relax and enjoy the scenery, but we will make good use of the pullouts for our sake and others'.

Curious about traffic on a Tuesday afternoon in August. I know it's peak season, but will we benefit from it not being the weekend? Also, is that road work I keep reading about causing significant slowdowns? I've read the traffic website but don't quite understand it -- does anyone know exactly where the one-lane-closure area is and how long it lasts?

Thanks again!

New Jersey
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9. Re: Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

I would think that driving PCH at night is the scary part especially if you are unfamiliar with the road. During the day, there are a few windy parts, but as long as you stay within your comfort zone speed-wise and pull over if several cars start trailing you, you'll be okay.

Grover Beach...
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10. Re: Which part of PCH drive is the scary part?

Hi dragonfly

Tell your boyfriend that he's not a child anymore and that you know he'll do just fine. :-)

Your Tuesday drive shouldn't be too bad. There is a one lane closure approx. 14 miles south of Camel just south of Rocky Creek Bridge. Any wait time will depend on how much traffic there is and how long it takes for the northbound traffic to cross. It shouldn't take any longer than 5-10 minutes, although one can never say for sure.