California’s Highway 1 closure: All you need to know

Bixby Bridge on the Central Coast of California © Visit California/Myles McGuinness

Bixby Bridge on the Central Coast of California © Visit California/Myles McGuinness

California’s Highway 1 is arguably the best road trip destination in the US. The sinuous highway hugs the Pacific for more than 650 miles, past misty redwood forests and secret coves, above wildflower-strewn cliffs which tumble down to the shore.

One of the most legendary stretches of Highway 1 is the section between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but recent landslides on the Central Coast have closed a portion of the route for up to a year. Despite this setback, the vast majority of the road is still open for business, while the subsequent diversion throws up a host of lesser known attractions in what the authorities are terming the ‘Best Detour Ever’.

Our map below shows the inaccessible portion between Ragged Point and Big Sur Ranger Station. Zoom in for a closer look at the inland re-routing along Highway 101. Driving this route takes about the same amount of time as driving Highway 1, even allowing for the sections where you’ll need to double back on yourself.  So don’t think twice about changing your plans – just prepare yourself for an unexpected adventure.

Ready for your road trip? All restaurants, art galleries, campgrounds, hotels and gas stations are open as normal, as well as everything listed below:

From the south

If you’re starting from Los Angeles you’ll find Highway 1 open all the way to Ragged Point, around 15 miles north of San Simeon. Highlights along the way include:

  • Morro Bay State Park, known for its birdwatching opportunities and the large volcanic plug located offshore
  • Classic California seaside towns like Morro Bay, Cayucos and San Simeon
  • Piedras Blancas State Marine Reserve, site of an elephant seal breeding rookery overlooked by a boardwalk and viewing areas
  • William Randolph Hearst Memorial State Beach; a protected sandy cove with a wooden fishing pier, picnic sites and barbecue grills.
  • Hearst Castle; a National Historic Landmark and previous residence of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst
Surfers at the pier in downtown Cayucos © Visit California/Chris Leschinsky

Surfers at the pier in downtown Cayucos © Visit California/Chris Leschinsky

From the north

The section of Highway 1 below Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea is accessible all the way south to Big Sur, including all of the famous landmarks and state parks below:

  • Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur’s best known symbol and probably the most photographed site on the West Coast
  • Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, famous for its wildflower meadows, hiking trails and whale watching opportunities
  • Garrapata State Park, renowned for its coastal hiking, redwood groves and outstanding views of the Pacific Ocean
  • Point Sur Light Station Historic State Park, open for guided tours which run on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays (additional moonlight tours are also available)
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, open for limited use, including Big Sur Lodge, first come first serve camping, and access to several hiking trails including Redwood Deck, Nature Trail, River Path, Warden’s Path and Liewald Flat Trail
Central Coast, Point Lobos State Reserve © Visit California/Hub

Central Coast, Point Lobos State Reserve © Visit California/Hub

Highway 101

The inland detour through the rolling hills of the Central Coast opens up a range of new sights and attractions:

  • Highway 46 travels through glorious wine country as it links Highway 1 to Highway 101 – stop off at one of the many wineries, vineyards and distilleries
  • Paso Robles was recently named ‘Best Wine Country Town’ by the influential Sunset Magazine
  • The 1797-founded Mission San Miguel Arcángel off Highway 101 is one of California’s best preserved adobe missions
  • The free Camp Roberts Historical Museum is the largest Army museum in California
  • Along the Salinas River, San Lorenzo County Park offers 90 campsite spaces, picnic areas, playgrounds, volleyball courts and walking trails
  • In the Santa Lucia Highlands, the Hahn Estate offers a memorable tour and wine tasting experience overlooking the Salinas Valley
  • Twenty minutes from Highway 101, Pinnacles National Park is the United States’ newest national park, established by President Obama in 2013
  • The National Steinbeck Center is a museum dedicated to the life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, located in his boyhood hometown of Salinas
Pinnacles National Park © Daniel Hartwig / Flickr Creative Commons

Pinnacles National Park © Daniel Hartwig / Flickr Creative Commons

Virgin Atlantic operates daily flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco from London Heathrow. For up to date information on the status of Highway 1, visit the official tourism website at Visit California.

About Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.
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