We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

Which San Francisco hotels are on sale?
dd/mm/yyyy dd/mm/yyyy
See hotels
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
24 posts
4 reviews
Save Topic
SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

Hello,

I am planning to visit SF, and after a couple of days drive down on Highway 1, to Cambria via the 17 mile drive, and head west to Death Valley NP.

Here are my questions:

1. In SF, which are the "best" vantage points to take pictures especially of GG bridge, and specifically what times of the day?

2. On my way to Cambria on Hwy 1, I would like to do do the 17 mile drive as well. Is this doable? Since, I would assume I would take my time on the most scenic part of Hwy1, I would like to skip the "non-scenic" part of this highway. So, where does the Scenic part of the hwy start from? I would be starting my trip from Union Square area..

Once again, thanks for your help in planning my trip.

Highly appreciate your resposnes..

McKees Rocks, PA
Level Contributor
436 posts
Save Reply
1. Re: SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

17 mile drive is not all the scenic IMHO. If you like seeing expensive homes then it might be nice,

The view from the lighthouse in Montara is very pretty and the ride south to Santa Cruz is very nice. Lunch at La Haut Enchilada in Moss Landing is worth the trip alone. Nearby Elkhorn Slough is a great place to see sea lions.

Things don't start getting really spectacular until you are south of Carmel and start getting into the Big Sur area.

I did 17 mile drive by bicycle. It was free for me. If I ride the coast again then I will probably ride it again but if I had to pay or was short on time I would skip it.

Don't get me wrong 99% of Hwy 1 is wonderful from San Francisco to Cambria but if I really had to pick the very best then it would probably be south of Carmel. And I would probably skip 17 Mile Drive all together.

Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
Level Contributor
31,950 posts
7 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

The 17 mile drive is not a route, it is a scenic drive between Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel. It has nothing to do with Highway 1 through Big Sur.

If you are going to drive down to Cambria, I would skip the 17 mile drive. You will have all the scenery on that drive that you need.

You cannot "skip the non-scenic" part of Highway 1. It goes down the coast to Cambria with no ways to get off and take another route.

At any rate, from Carmel to Cambria there are no "non-scenic" parts.

Grover Beach...
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
Level Contributor
20,035 posts
10 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

I agree with spinnaker: you don't really need to do the 17 Mile Drive, unless you MUST see the Lone Cypress Tree or Pebble Beach Golf Links, which you don't see much of anyway.

You'll see more than enough fantastic views for free while driving Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast.

I pretty much consider all of Highway 1 from Pacifica scenic. Although not as dramatic as the coast south of Carmel, the drive south of Pacifica to Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz is quite pleasant. You'll be along shoreline for parts of the drive and see lighthouses, farmland, small (don't blink) towns and produce stands.

As for the Golden Gate Bridge: There are several vantage points to get great shots of the bridge, even if the fog is rolling in. There are sections on both sides of the G.G. on both the S.F. and Marin sides where you can get good shots. I'm not an expert, though, on the best times of the day. I would say just after sunrise and around sunset would be good times, but, again, I'm no expert.

My favorite photo of the Golden Gate Bridge is just after a rain storm and the sun is just peeking out from the clouds. The orange-red of the G.G. really pops if you can get a shot like that!

Sacramento, CA
Destination Expert
for Sacramento
Level Contributor
4,011 posts
39 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

I agree with Spinnaker

The drive south from Pacifica to Santa Cruz is quite scenic.

IMHO The drive along the coast from Monterey and around the point at Pacific Grove to Asilomar Beach (where 17 mile drive begins)is much more Scenic than 17 Mile Drive itself.

Once you pass Carmel it starts to get spectacular except for the 'town' of Big Sur where the hwy. goes inland for a little while.

For a great vantage point og the GGB try Baker or China Beaches southwest of the bridge. Or the Battery Spencer park overlooking the bridge on the northwest side.

McKees Rocks, PA
Level Contributor
436 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

I missed the "Lone Cypress" on 17 mile drive. :)

To tell the truth, I did not know it existed until I got back. :)

From a cyclist point of view, 17 Mile Drive is very pleasant and relaxing. Very quiet with not a lot of traffic. Once you get to the South Gate, things start to get a little busy but not too bad.

McKees Rocks, PA
Level Contributor
436 posts
Save Reply
6. Re: SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

I'm sure tripjunky did not mean to suggest that the town of Big Sur is not spectacular, because it is. It is just different. You can no longer see the ocean, that is true, but you are surrounded by beautiful tall Redwoods trees.

The whole drive is simply awesome! :)

Sacramento, CA
Destination Expert
for Sacramento
Level Contributor
4,011 posts
39 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

You're right Spinnaker,

Spent several months there while Hwy. 1 was washed out on both sides. Had the beaches to ourselves and absolutely loved it. It is beautiful in its own right, just not as spectacular to view from a moving car as the coastal panoramas on either side.

Big Sur State Park is definitely worth a stop if you have some time to do some hiking.

California
Level Contributor
57 posts
38 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

Chomi, I used to live and work in Cambria for years. Is that where you are planning on staying? If you have any questions about motels or restaurants, let me know.

Cambria is a darling little town and Leffingwell Landing (in Moonstone Beach) is a great place for photos. I used to take my coffee and drive over to Leffingwell Landing in the morning and sit on the bench and watch the sea otters having their breakfast. You can also see the whales passing by during migration.

There is a viewpoint just north of town where you can see hundreds of sea otters. During mating season they all come ashore, which provides wonderful photo opportunities.

The Marine Terrace area of Cambria will also provide you with some nice photo opportunities.

Have fun!

SF Bay Area
Level Contributor
226 posts
37 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

Weather dependent, the best spot to take pictures of the GG Bridge is from the Marin Headlands, especially Hawk Hill.

santa rosa, ca
Level Contributor
668 posts
1 review
Save Reply
10. Re: SF - Cambria Hwy 1 via 17 Mile.... Most scenic part?

Another unusual place to photograph the GGB is at Fort Point located almost under the bridge...you can get some unusual angles AND, if you are a fan of ALfred Hitchcock movies, you might recognize the spot where Jimmy Stewart saved Kim Novak from drowning...

I agree with the rest of the posters, skip 17 mile. Visit Moonstone Beach in Cambria...so pretty!