Pacific Coast Highway – The 10 Best National & State Parks On the West Coast PCH

Pacific Coast Highway – The 10 Best National & State Parks On the West Coast PCH

Welcome to our blog post dedicated to one of the most scenic and awe-inspiring drives in the world: the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Stretching along the breathtaking coastline of the West Coast of the United States, this iconic highway offers travelers an unforgettable journey filled with stunning vistas, charming coastal towns, and, most notably, access to some of the country’s most remarkable national parks.

In this article, I will delve into the Top Ten national & state parks that are easily accessible from the Pacific Coast Highway. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply looking for a serene escape, these national parks have something for everyone.

As we embark on this virtual exploration, I’ll traverse a diverse range of landscapes, from rugged cliffs plunging into the Pacific Ocean to towering ancient forests and towering granite peaks. Each national park has its own unique character, promising awe-inspiring beauty and endless opportunities for outdoor activities.

1. Olympic National Park, Washington

3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362
GPS: 48.09929, -123.42571

National and state parks along the Pacific Coast Highway

Starting in Washington, Olympic National Park is a true gem with its diverse ecosystems. From snow-capped mountains and lush rainforests to rugged coastlines, this park has it all. Explore the Hoh Rainforest, hike to the picturesque Hurricane Ridge, and marvel at the pristine shores of Ruby Beach.

Olympic National Park is a magnificent national park located in the state of Washington, along the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. Spanning over 1,400 square miles (3,600 square kilometers), the park is renowned for its diverse ecosystems, stunning landscapes, and rich biodiversity. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 and attracts millions of visitors each year.

2. Ecola State Park, Oregon

Ecola Park Rd, Cannon Beach, OR 97110
GPS: 45.91946, -123.97375

Best National Parks - Pacific Coast Highway

Ecola State Park, located along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway in Oregon, is undoubtedly one of the best parks along this scenic route. Nestled on the northern coast of the state, Ecola State Park offers visitors a mesmerizing combination of rugged coastal cliffs, lush forests, and sweeping ocean views.

As you enter the park, you’ll be greeted by towering Sitka spruce and western hemlock trees, creating a serene and picturesque setting. The park’s well-maintained hiking trails meander through the dense forest, inviting you to explore its natural wonders. One of the most popular trails is the Clatsop Loop Trail, which takes you on a scenic journey through old-growth forests, leading to breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

3. Arch Rock State Park, Oregon

22064 Oregon Coast Hwy, Brookings, OR 97415
GPS: 42.20495, -124.37387

California Highway 1 - best parks and national parks

Located in Oregon, this coastal park is renowned for its unique geological feature, the Arch Rock. As you venture into the park, you’ll be greeted by dramatic sea cliffs, pristine sandy beaches, and the awe-inspiring natural arch formed by the eroding forces of the ocean.

The centerpiece of Arch Rock State Park, the eponymous arch, stands as a testament to the power of nature. This stunning rock formation, sculpted by the relentless waves, creates a picturesque frame against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. It serves as a photographer’s paradise, offering breathtaking vistas and captivating sunsets.

4. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California

1600 US-199, Crescent City, CA 95531
GPS: 41.79676, -124.08182

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park - best pacific coast highway parks

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is a must-stop destination on the Pacific Coast Highway. Located in northern California, this park is renowned for its towering redwood trees, some dating back thousands of years. Hiking trails offer opportunities to immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the forest, while the Smith River provides a refreshing escape for fishing and kayaking. Camping amidst the ancient giants completes the experience. Don’t miss the chance to witness the awe-inspiring wonders of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park on your coastal journey.

5. Redwood National and State Parks, California

GPS: 41.40153, -124.04171

Redwood National and State Parks - another great stop on the PCH

Redwood National and State Parks in California are the pinnacle of national parks along the Pacific Coast Highway. With towering redwoods, breathtaking coastal scenery, and diverse wildlife, this is an essential stop. Hike among ancient giants, explore pristine beaches, and camp beneath the forest canopy. Prepare to be mesmerized by the awe-inspiring beauty of Redwood National and State Parks, a must-visit point on your journey along the Pacific Coast Highway.

6. Muir Woods National Monument, California

1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941
GPS: 37.89284, -122.57250

Muir Woods National Monument, California - best parks to visit on the road trip PCH

Muir Woods National Monument in California is a serene destination known for its towering coastal redwoods. Walk among ancient giants, listen to the sounds of nature, and immerse yourself in the peaceful atmosphere. Experience the magic of Muir Woods—a must-visit for nature lovers along the Pacific Coast. Please note that due to the popularity of Muir Woods, it’s advisable to plan your visit in advance and be aware of any reservation requirements.

7. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, California

GPS: 36.51591, -121.93824

Pacific Coast Highway travel guide - list of best parks and national reserves

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a top stop along the Pacific Coast Highway and a remarkable natural park. With stunning coastal landscapes, diverse marine life, and inspiring vistas, it offers a memorable experience. Explore the trails, witness the vibrant underwater world, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Point Lobos—a must-visit along the coast.

Point Lobos is also a sanctuary for art and inspiration, attracting artists and photographers from around the world. The ever-changing interplay of light and shadow against the rugged coastline and pristine waters creates a canvas that sparks creativity and awe.

8. Garrapata State Park, California

GPS: 36.45655, -121.92405

Garrapata State Park - very popular park in the California Highway 1 ( Pacific Coast Highway)

Garrapata State Park is a picturesque natural gem located on the central coast of California, about 6 miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Spanning over 2,000 acres, this stunning coastal park offers visitors a diverse range of natural wonders, including pristine beaches, rugged cliffs, scenic trails, and flourishing coastal redwood groves. Its breathtaking beauty and rich biodiversity make it a popular destination for nature lovers, hikers, photographers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Garrapata State Park is easily accessible from the renowned Highway 1, which runs along the central coast of California. Visitors can enjoy day trips or choose to camp overnight at the park’s campgrounds, immersing themselves in the tranquility of nature.

9. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, California

Pfeiffer Big Sur Rd, Big Sur, CA 93920
GPS: 36.24758, -121.77901

One of the best parks on the PCH! Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, California.

Nestled along California’s breathtaking Pacific coast, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park stands as a testament to nature’s awe-inspiring beauty. This captivating state park, located along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, offers visitors an enchanting escape into a realm of towering redwood trees, rugged cliffs, and pristine beaches.

Spanning over 1,000 acres, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts seeking tranquility and adventure. The park’s crown jewel is its ancient coastal redwood forest, where sunlight filters through towering giants, creating a serene and magical atmosphere. Hiking through the verdant trails, visitors can marvel at the sheer grandeur of these majestic trees, their immense trunks rising towards the sky.

If you’re eager to unearth the hidden gems along California’s iconic Highway 1, I warmly invite you to peruse my latest blog post: Pacific Coast Highway – What Is The BEST & Most Beautiful Part of Highway 1?

10. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California

GPS: 36.15783, -121.67217

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California - best parks along the scenic road

Nestled along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway in California, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park stands as one of the finest state parks along the breathtaking Pacific coast. With its awe-inspiring landscapes, dramatic coastal vistas, and unique features, this park offers visitors an unforgettable experience.

Named after Julia Pfeiffer Burns, a beloved pioneer woman known for her environmental stewardship, the park encompasses 3,762 acres of pristine natural beauty. Its crown jewel is the iconic McWay Falls, a mesmerizing waterfall that cascades directly onto a pristine beach. The sight of the turquoise waters and the white sandy shore beneath the tumbling waterfall is nothing short of breathtaking.

👍 Find out more:

Pacific Coast Highway Travel Guide - 202 Best Stops

Discover the best stops along the PCH Highway in my travel guide, “Pacific Coast Highway Travel Guide – 202 Best Stops”, which is available on Amazon. This is the ultimate travel guide and pocket reference for anyone wishing to experience the adventure and wonder of THE PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY! MUST-HAVE for all West Coast travelers. Visit 202 places on the PCH with “Scan QR and go” for easy navigation.


Pacific Coast - Mark Watson

Mark Watson is a California-based member of a Los Angeles motorcycle club and an avid traveler. He has completed seven full journeys along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway on his Harley-Davidson and is passionate about promoting this historic drive to others. Mark has also explored the Alaska Highway and Route 66, and has authored three bestselling travel guides on Amazon: “Route 66 Travel Guide – 202 Amazing Places,” “Alaska Highway Travel Guide – 202 Best Stops,” and “Pacific Coast Highway Travel Guide – 202 Best Stops.”

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