(credit: shutterstock)

(credit: shutterstock)


Southern California is home to some of the best beaches, dense forests and mystic deserts in all of America. But sometimes it is not about the destination as much as it is about the journey. The drives are also some of the most amazing scenic drives that lead to some of the rarest and most popular spots in all of America. Here are the best scenic drives in or near Orange County.
(credit: scottt13/shutterstock)

(credit: scottt13/shutterstock)


Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1)

The Pacific Coast Highway is the best reason to rent a convertible and cruise down the West Coast. The coast-hugging road starts in Santa Barbara and runs all the way to San Diego’s border with Mexico. Best traveled from south to north, it is best known as the “All-American Road” and the stretch between Los Angeles to San Francisco has been designated one of the best in the entire world. The scenic route with the famed stops along Big Sur and Carmel are one of the most beautiful areas to drive through. The Orange County portions of PCH should not be missed either as they passes through some of the most affluent and beautiful regions such as Newport Coast, Laguna Beach, Corona Del Mar and Huntington Beach.

(credit: shutterstock)

(credit: shutterstock)


Alta Park In Laguna Beach

On a clear day in Laguna Beach, the road from the main beach to Alta Park is one of the most beautiful and scenic routes in Orange County. Starting at the very well-known Pacific Coast Highway toward Legion Street, the cruise up the Legion will guide you through the beautiful homes and leads to the winding road of Park Ave. That eventually leads to some of the best views of the city as it continues up in altitude and eventually to Alta Park where you end up at top of the world. This road is one of the best insights into the local award-winning architecture and breathtaking views.

(credit: RSZ)

(credit: RSZ)


Rim Of The World

This is a 110-mile route and has various scenic routes that traverses through three freeways. Heading to the San Bernardino Mountains there is a scene to catch when passing Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake. When you start the drive west of the 138 you will hit the Mormon rocks first, where you will reach a bed of uplifted sandstone. You’ll reach the Cajon Pass Overlook, a popular location with photographers and history lovers. This location is the pass that was created by the movements of the San Andreas Fault and filled with geological history. The journey further down east on the 138 will then bring you to Silverwood Lake Recreation Area that is a lake that offers swimming, boating, hiking, picnicking and fishing. The 138 leads to the CA-18 where you can enjoy the view of the San Bernadino Valley, Santa Ana Mountains and the San Jacinto Mountains. The Heaps Peak Arboretum is also a great sight to drive through that is a beautiful one mile drive where you can see some of the most beautiful and varied trees and flowers.

Related: Walking Tour Of Downtown Laguna Beach

(credit: Julie D./yelp)

(credit: Julie D./yelp)


Route 74

Running from Palm Desert to San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, the Pines to Palms Scenic Byway freeway was established in 1934 and has even appeared in the 1963 film “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” It is the section of the route between San Juan Capistrano and Lake Elsinore that holds its claim as one of the most dangerous highways in the state because of its narrow width and high traffic volume. The route is 48 miles long and offers the views of the San Jacinto Valley and the peaks of the San Jacinto Mountains.

(credit: Alex L./Yelp)

(credit: Alex L./Yelp)


Sunrise Scenic Byway

The 24-mile route known as the Sunrise Scenic Byway takes you through East San Diego County to the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area by the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail of the Cleveland National Forest. At the junction of the I-8 and Country Road S-1 there are great views of some of the most beautiful landscapes that San Diego has to offer. The park in the area is best when explored, and make sure to head back up the S-1 until you reach the Highway 79 junction.

Related: Best Hiking Trails In Orange County

Elle Toussi is a freelance journalist covering all things Southern California. She has traveled to the Middle East in 2013 and 2014 covering the Syrian refugee situation in Jordan. That experience inspired her to become the founder of InOneMinute.org which uses the power of mobile technology and philanthropy to meet specific needs of women around the world. Her previous work can also be found on Examiner.com and AXS.com.