On Highway 1 in California

Highway 1 from San Francisco to LA is a classic US road trip. But you can also drive it further north – and you will be rewarded with great things.

California as you know it from the postcard. Rugged cliffs along the paths. – Verena Wolff/dpa-tmn


the essentials in brief

  • Highway 1 in northern California is on the cliffs, with great vantage points.
  • One should visit Sea Ranch, a wellness place to relax on the way.
  • Whale lovers get their money’s worth, especially in spring, when gray whales make their way.
  • The redwood forests fascinate with coast redwoods that can hold people in.

An icon awaits right at the beginning of the journey in northern California: the Golden Gate Bridge.

The bridge completed in 1937 San Francisco with Marin County on the other side of the bay, is always an experience even for seasoned USA visitors.

Golden Gate Bridge water coast
The Golden Gate Bridge is a landmark for San Francisco. – Pixabay

So first stop: photos with bridge and skyline. Back in the car, Highway 101 tunnels, merging with Highway 1 here, before forking at the Stinson Beach exit.

We follow Highway 1 toward the Pacific.

No hurry on the road

You quickly realize what you have gotten yourself into: the road is curvy and the road will remain curvy. And partly it leads directly along the cliffs. Curves, hairpin bends and hairpins require concentration.

“You have to take your time for this road,” says Jeff Weiss, spokesman for the Caltrans road authority.

It’s spectacular, but it’s also very exposed in many places. As a result, parts of the road are regularly buried or break away during storms and heavy rainfall.

In some places it is even being moved further inland.

“Erosion from rain and wind threatens the road from above, the waves and the rise in sea level from below,” Weiss explains of the Gleason Beach Project between Bodega Bay and the Russian River, where the road is currently up to 120 meters long for around half a mile being moved away from the coast – for 26 million Dollar.

Graphics Highway 1 California coast
Go North! From San Francisco you can also follow Highway 1 north along the Pacific Ocean. – dpa-tmn

But as long as Highway 1 is where it is, travelers can enjoy the coast road and the numerous Vista Points along the way.

High cliffs rise out of the Pacific, there are beaches with black and white sand, seals relax in the sun.

The dream of a better world at Sea Ranch

We stop at Sea Ranch. This place emerged in the 1960s, somewhere in the middle of nowhere between the dense forest and mountains on one side and the waves of the Pacific Ocean on the other. Striking wooden houses stand on a cliff.

During the Coronapandemic, many people from the big cities have settled in this quieter part of California, says artist and gallery owner Maynard Hale Lyndon.

California house wood hazy coast
In California you can also find utopian-looking wooden houses like this one. – Verena Wolff/dpa-tmn

His brother Donlyn was one of the architects of what the New York Times described as California’s modernist utopia some sixty years ago, with the aim of making the world a better place.

Through architecturethe the Nature left her space.

Relax in fermented cedar shavings

Michael Stusser also had a great idea decades ago. “We wanted to create a completely new place,” he says. A place to feel good. Wellnessbefore the term even existed.

He built his life’s work Osmosis on the Bohemian Highway. To get there, you have to go to Valley Ford exit Hwy 1.

Stusser spent many years in Japan and imported some ideas from the Far East to California.

The result is what is now called a “retreat”, a place of retreat – here with a bamboo forest, Feng Shui garden including a koi pond and treatment house in the forest.

California bamboo forest feng shui garden cushion pond garden
A little bit of Japan can also be found in California: an oasis of calm including a bamboo forest and a manicured Feng Shui garden with a koi pond. – Verena Wolff/dpa-tmn

But the most coveted of his offers is a large wooden box.

“Cedar Enzyme Bath” is what Stusser is proud of. The guest sinks into a warm mixture of ground cedar wood and rice bran – enzymes that are produced during fermentation are said to help with numerous ailments and are good for the skin.

Anyway, it smells nice and is nice and warm.

The Whale Highway

There’s another highway along the California coast. However, it is in the Pacific.

Pretty much all kinds of fish swim here big whales von north to south – and back again. From Alaska to Mexico and Hawaii to have their children there. And back to Alaska to gorge on for the summer.

More Wal Flosses Fluke
Probably the highlight of many tourists: whales. In California, pretty much all species of great whales swim from north to south – and back again. – Verena Wolff/dpa-tmn

Especially in spring, gray whales swim in both directions.

“We actually see whales here every day when we go out,” says Captain Tim Gillespie, who steers his fishing boat “Sea Hawk” out to sea from Fort Bragg.

Not a tour for the faint of heart. Because the port exit to the Pacific is narrow and that water is in motion. But the hardships are forgotten immediately when the first fountains can be seen from the whales’ blowholes.

The road of the tree giants

The further north you drive on Highway 1, the more prominent the typical trees in the area become.

Along the Avenue of the Giants, a road through the redwood forest, it is mostly quiet, only the wind can be heard. The Sequoia sempervirens, as the coast redwoods are called in botany, only branch out high up.

Man Tree Trunk Forest Redwoods Giant
The tree trunks of the redwoods can easily accommodate a full-grown human inside. – Verena Wolff/dpa-tmn

And sometimes a branch falls on the road. Then Justin Legge is over the moon. «Here it is Naturewhat she wants», says the nature guide.

“It doesn’t happen that often anymore.” Almost every day he is somewhere on the avenue in the woods, often with a group of stressed-out city dwellers – for a forest bath.

Anyone who arrives at the Avenue of the Giants has already left Highway 1 behind – 30 miles earlier, at Leggett, it becomes Highway 101 again.

More on the subject:

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