Pacific Coast Highway in California

Images of America

Pacific Coast Highway in California in the Images of America series tells the story of, and shows in historic pictures, the building of the Pacific Coast Highway from its earliest beginnings back in 1911.

It was in 1911, the Introduction to this excellent book tells us, that the first stretch of highway along the entire California coast was built, linking Carpinteria with the Ventura River, a distance of about 16 miles. This would gradually be extended so that Los Angeles could eventually link with San Francisco. In 1913 another stretch of coastal road was built, covering the ten miles or so between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.

Images of America: Pacific Coast Highway in California sample page with historic photos

From such modest beginnings an ambitious plan emerged to build a highway linking all the communities along the California coast, all the way to the Oregon border. This would improve trade and communications, and make those scattered towns and villages less isolated, giving them easier access to each other and the big cities.

Images of America: Pacific Coast Highway in California sample page with historic photos

The story of the building of that highway, which became the Pacific Coast Highway, is told in this excellent and informative book about the making of America's favorite drive. The story comes alive with the inclusion of hundreds of historical photos from the archives of the California Department of Transport (Caltrans), the people who still work hard to keep the highway open when mother nature with her winter storms closes it down.

Images of America: Pacific Coast Highway in California sample page with historic photos

Feats of Engineering

The Introduction also explains some of the amazing feats of engineering which were required in order to construct a highway along this dramatic and rugged coastline of mountains and deep gorges. One of the deepest canyons was the Arroyo Hondo near Gaviota, which required a multi-arched bridge that opened in 1918. It stood for about fifty years, by which time it was too small for the volume of traffic and the size of some of the newer vehicles, and a larger bridge had to be built.

The original still stands, though, so when you're driving the highway watch out for the Arroyo Hondo Vista Point where the old bridge now acts as a pedestrian walkway and a part of the Pacific Coast Bike Route.

Images of America: Pacific Coast Highway in California sample page with historic photo of Bixby BridgeBixby Bridge

Another hurdle was at Point Mugu, where the Santa Monica Mountains came right down to meet the Pacific Ocean. Workers had to scale the cliffs and blast away 108,000 cubic yards of rock to create a way through for the road, leaving Mugu Rock standing on the ocean side to become a noted landmark along the drive.

Images of America: Pacific Coast Highway in California book cover

Finishing the Pacific Coast Highway in California

There were problems other than engineering ones to overcome. The owner of some land in Malibu refused to allow a highway to be built through her property, and refused to sell the land. The battle raged on for years in the courts till eventually she lost her case and the final stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway between Santa Barbara and San Diego opened in 1929.

Then came the hurdle of Big Sur. We could go on to fill this website with stories about the building of the highway, but then that would spoil this fantastic book for people. 

Images of America: Pacific Coast Highway in California sample page with historic photos

The book runs to 128 pages, and after the three-page Introduction it's photos all the way. Most pages have two photos on them, though some have only one, but they all come with captions that tell mini-stories of their own. The photos cover wildlife, beaches, highway landmarks like Santa Monica Pier, lighthouses, natural disasters (and clearing up and rebuilding after them), and lovers of old cars will have a field day with the vintage shots of early cars driving the highway.

There's no doubt in our mind that anyone who's driven the Pacific Coast Highway in California, or plans to drive it, will get something out of this book.

Other books pages

  • Here are links to the different ways you can go along the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the most popular drives in the world but you can also cycle it.

    Ways to Go

    Here are links to the different ways you can go along the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the most popular drives in the world but you can also cycle it.

  • Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is made easier with Road Trip USA by Jamie Jensen, a good handbook for the west coast drive.

    Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

    Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is made easier with Road Trip USA by Jamie Jensen, a good handbook for the west coast drive.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in five days, including the best places to stay over, and the best things to do and see.

    Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Five Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in five days, including the best places to stay over, and the best things to do and see.

  • Here are the basic facts if you plan to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, including which is the best direction and when is the best time to go driving.

    Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

    Here are the basic facts if you plan to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, including which is the best direction and when is the best time to go driving.

  • Pacific Coast Highway driving tips for this great American road trip include finding cheap gas, watching the speed limits, and allowing plenty of travel time.

    Pacific Coast Highway Driving Tips

    Pacific Coast Highway driving tips for this great American road trip include finding cheap gas, watching the speed limits, and allowing plenty of travel time.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in two days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

    Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Two Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in two days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in three days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

    Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Three Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in three days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

  • Review of the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips book from Lonely Planet, which includes a California Driving Guide, by the Pacific Coast Highway Travel website.

    Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips: Lonely Planet Guidebook Review

    Review of the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips book from Lonely Planet, which includes a California Driving Guide, by the Pacific Coast Highway Travel website.

  • Pacific Coast Highway travel offers advice on driving from LA to Hearst Castle, including distance, journey time, and route.

    LA to Hearst Castle

    Pacific Coast Highway travel offers advice on driving from LA to Hearst Castle, including distance, journey time, and route.

  • When to Drive the Pacific Coast Highway depends on whether you want to drive in Oregon and Washington as well as California, and on the weather.

    When to Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

    When to Drive the Pacific Coast Highway depends on whether you want to drive in Oregon and Washington as well as California, and on the weather.

  • California coast charging stations are so numerous that the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the best US road trips to drive in an electric vehicle or EV.

    California Coast Charging Stations

    California coast charging stations are so numerous that the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the best US road trips to drive in an electric vehicle or EV.

  • Drive times and distances on the Pacific Coast Highway or the quickest routes from Seattle to San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Diego.

    Pacific Coast Highway Drive Times and Distances

    Drive times and distances on the Pacific Coast Highway or the quickest routes from Seattle to San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Diego.

  • Driving from San Francisco to San Diego has two main options, the fast way on I-5 or the scenic route along the Pacific Coast Highway.

    San Francisco to San Diego

    Driving from San Francisco to San Diego has two main options, the fast way on I-5 or the scenic route along the Pacific Coast Highway.

  •  Pacific Coast Highway Travel takes the 17-Mile Drive from Carmel to Pacific Grove and Monterey, stopping to see the Lone Cypress and beautiful coastline views.

    The 17-Mile Drive between Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel takes the 17-Mile Drive from Carmel to Pacific Grove and Monterey, stopping to see the Lone Cypress and beautiful coastline views.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide book covering the drive from Vancouver to San Diego.

    Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide book covering the drive from Vancouver to San Diego.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in four days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

    Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Four Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in four days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

  • Pacific Coast Highway stops include big city vacation destinations like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and smaller places like Monterey.

    Pacific Coast Highway Stops

    Pacific Coast Highway stops include big city vacation destinations like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and smaller places like Monterey.

  • Epic Drives of the World from Lonely Planet describes 50 of the world's most exciting road trips, including, of course, the Pacific Coast Highway.

    Epic Drives of the World

    Epic Drives of the World from Lonely Planet describes 50 of the world's most exciting road trips, including, of course, the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • One of the best guides to West Coast RV Parks, covering campgrounds in California, Oregon, and Washington, is West Coast RV Camping from Moon Guides.

    West Coast RV Parks

    One of the best guides to West Coast RV Parks, covering campgrounds in California, Oregon, and Washington, is West Coast RV Camping from Moon Guides.

  • If visiting California and planning to drive the Pacific Coast Highway it's important to know California driving laws in case they differ from your own state.

    California Driving Laws

    If visiting California and planning to drive the Pacific Coast Highway it's important to know California driving laws in case they differ from your own state.

  • Road maps of the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH are essential for anyone planning to drive the trip, and detailed routes are available for free.

    Maps of the Pacific Coast Highway: Free Driving Maps of the PCH

    Road maps of the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH are essential for anyone planning to drive the trip, and detailed routes are available for free.

  • Historic Route 66 winds from Chicago to LA, going through Los Angeles, meeting the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, California, at the Santa Monica Pier.

    Route 66 Meets the Pacific Coast Highway

    Historic Route 66 winds from Chicago to LA, going through Los Angeles, meeting the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, California, at the Santa Monica Pier.

  • Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.

    Coastal California Guidebook

    Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.



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