Some of the most World Famous Scenic Drives is yet another reason Southern California is the Automotive Capital of the United States.  And the entire world!

In this iDriveSoCal Podcast, we continue adding to the long list of reasons Southern California is truly the “World’s Car Capital.” With Professor Clinton Quan’s help we identify world-famous scenic roads and iconic stretches of highways, unique to Southern California.

To enjoy an exploration of the roadways that give Southern California its amazing reputation among drivers and automotive lovers, click play below. Find out if your favorite SoCal roads are the same the Professor shares on his top list!


***Transcript***

Recorded July 3, 2018, in Los Angeles, CA

Automotive Capital of the US & World

Clinton Quan: Three of my favorite roads, but, also, three that are very, very well known to anyone who’s an automotive enthusiast. If you really enjoy driving, these roads you are very familiar with here in Southern California.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. Tom Smith here with our good buddy, pal, chum, amigo, the good Professor, Mr. Clinton Quan. Say hello, Clinton.

Clinton Quan: Hi, Tom.

Tom Smith: Hey, hey, hey. Today’s podcast is about… Well, it’s a continuation or justifications of that little rambling that I give at the open of each podcast, the automotive capital of the United States. But, again, not only is it the automotive capital of the United States, but Southern California is, in fact, the automotive capital of the world.

“Three of my favorite roads… three that are very, very well known to anyone who’s an automotive enthusiast.”

And now, that’s a big statement. I’ve had numerous calls, e-mails, snail mail from various entities in Detroit, cease, and desist, and whatnot.

And the mayor called, and they’re all up in arms. How can we possibly say Southern California is the automotive capital of the United States, much less the world? By the way, totally joking. I haven’t heard from anybody in Detroit.

So, at any rate, it is a big statement. And when I first came up with the statement, it was a little bit of showmanship flare, a little bit of, “What is a big headline, a big bold thing that I can say about our situation here in Southern California and driving?”

We know that it’s challenging to say the least when we’re in intense seas of cars and traffic. So, the good Professor was kind enough to reinforce that, “Yeah, man, you’re right, and for a number of reasons.”

World Famous Scenic Drives

So, this podcast is about one of those reasons. And categorically, that is beautiful stretches of scenic highways/roads.

Now, I’m not from Southern California. I’m from a teeny tiny town in Northern Illinois. By way of Chicago, came out here about 12-13 years ago. So, I’m pretty familiar with the roads that the Professor is about to talk about, but not as intimately familiar as he is.

“If you really enjoy driving, these roads you are very familiar with here in Southern California.”

So, Professor, what do you have for us? These stretches of highway/roads are famous scenic and further enforce the fact that Southern California is the automotive capital the world.

Clinton Quan: Well, we’re going to talk about three of my favorite roads, but, also, three that are very, very well known to anyone who’s an automotive enthusiast. If you really enjoy driving, these roads you are very familiar with here in Southern California.

Angeles Crest Highway

And we’re going to start with number three, which is Angeles Crest Highway located in the Angeles National Forest, just north of the San Gabriel Valley. And that connects La Cañada Flintridge all the way out to Wrightwood. It’s about a 66-mile drive.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: And it’s a-

Tom Smith: Sixty six-mile drive but that has no connection to Route 66, right?

Clinton Quan: No, it has no connection to Route 66.

Tom Smith: Okay, just making sure because that’s, you know-

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: … something that … For those that might be listening outside of Southern California, when the Professor says San Fernando Valley-

Clinton Quan: Oh, San Gabriel Valley.

Tom Smith: Oh, San Gabriel. Okay, San Gabriel Valley.

Clinton Quan: Not San Fernando Valley.

“…Angeles Crest Highway located in the Angeles National Forest, just north of the San Gabriel Valley.”

Tom Smith: I take that back. I take that back. Go ahead.

Clinton Quan: Yes, just north of-

Tom Smith: Carry on, Professor.

Clinton Quan: It’s north of the San Gabriel Valley.

Tom Smith: I’m going to zip my lip.

Clinton Quan: You were going to ask me something, right?

Tom Smith: Nope.

Clinton Quan: Okay.

Tom Smith: Carry on. Angeles Crest Highway.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. So, this is Angeles Crest Highway. And when I go on this drive, I usually like to start out in La Cañada Flintridge, which is just north of Glendale. That’s where Highway 2, and it traverses through the Angeles National Forest. And you’ll reach some of the highest points in all of LA County along this drive. And it’s just… It’s an absolutely beautiful drive. It’s a two-lane road. A great place to go for a drive, especially in the springtime and summertime.

It’s 66-Miles & No Relation to Route 66

If you’re going to go in the wintertime, you might need a four-by-four. And some of the roads, they might be closed off.

Tom Smith: Really?

Clinton Quan: Well, yeah.

Tom Smith: So, two-lane road. The whole stretch?

Clinton Quan: From everything I can remember, it is a two-lane road, the entire stretch.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, lots of twists and turns, two-lane road. You got some altitude there.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: So, that means that you have some tricky driving, and in altitude, and weather, and especially when you’re saying that it could be shut down from time to time.

Clinton Quan: Yes, it definitely could be shut down, especially during wintertime. I remember, I think, the last time I went for a drive, I actually got to drive a BMW 7 Series. It was a vehicle.

“…it’s a great place to go test drive a new vehicle.”

It was the latest 7 Series, which I’ve got to drive for three days, and I’ve decided to go for a drive. And I actually got to see the current, at the time, which was the brand new Infiniti Q60.

And there were a number of… I believe, they were journalists who were test driving the vehicle out there on Angeles Crest Highway. So, it’s a great place to go test drive a new vehicle.

Tom Smith: So, test drivers. And you’ve test driven some of the vehicles from our dealer partners out on that highway, yeah? A little bit?

Clinton Quan: Not that highway.

Tom Smith: No?

Clinton Quan: No, I haven’t done that.

Tom Smith: I thought you did.

Clinton Quan: No, not that one.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Not that highway.

Pacific Coast Highway

Tom Smith: Well, I’m batting. I’m betting a thousand here on my wrongness of commentary. So, when you say that part of the road is closed down in the wintertime, that’s because of snowfall?

Clinton Quan: I think, yes, snow.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: So, do you know what altitude it gets up to?

Clinton Quan: I believe, it’s… If I remember correctly, I think, it’s 7900.

Tom Smith: Oh wow, okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: All right. All right. Well, very cool. Angeles Crest Highway, there you have it. One of the beautiful scenic roads that is well known to car lovers near and far.

And one of the feathers in the cap of why Southern California is the automotive capital of the United States and the world. So, that was number three in three of three. And we’re going… We’re counting up to one-

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: …being your favorite.

“There’s nothing quite like taking a drive along the coast.”

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: So, what you got for two?

Clinton Quan: Number two got to go with the Pacific Coast Highway being in Southern California. There’s nothing quite like taking a drive along the coast.

Tom Smith: PCH.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, from Santa Monica out to Point Mugu right before you hit Camarillo in Oxnard.

Tom Smith: Yup.

Clinton Quan: It’s about a 35-mile drive.

Tom Smith: Point Mugu is just fun to say.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Sunset with ocean and side of mountain separated by Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles County

Tom Smith: Mugu.

Clinton Quan: It’s fun.

Tom Smith: I wonder if you remember the cartoon character, Mr. Magoo.

Clinton Quan: Yes, I do.

Tom Smith: What if that came from Point Mugu?

Clinton Quan: I don’t think so.

Tom Smith: Because he was a bad driver because he couldn’t see very well if I remember right.

PCH Connectors 

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: That would be one of my mom’s insults that she would throw at drivers.

Clinton Quan: And for all. I’m-

Tom Smith: Calling a bad driver Mr. Magoo or something. So, PCH. Now, PCH has made it into … And going back real quick to Angeles Crest Highway on the PCH point, lots of TVs and movies PCH has made it into.

Clinton Quan: Oh, yeah.

Tom Smith: TV shows and movies.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

“…really beautiful scenic roads that connect Pacific Coast Highway – Topanga Canyon, Kane, and Dune, Los Virgenes.”

Tom Smith: Angeles Crest Highway, same thing. Maybe we just don’t quite know about it.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, I’m sure. I’m sure there’s a good number-

Tom Smith: I mean-

Clinton Quan: …of commercials and…

Tom Smith: PCH got, you know… I mean, that’s commercials constantly. You got the beautiful Pacific Ocean on one side and…

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: various things, various scenes…

Clinton Quan: Well, you’ve got-.

Tom Smith: …to the…

Clinton Quan: Along the way, you’ve got the beautiful Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

Tom Smith: Yeah, yeah.

Clinton Quan: And then, there’s all those other really beautiful scenic roads that connect Pacific Coast Highway, including Topanga Canyon, Kane, and Dune, Los Virgenes. So, there’s a number of other roads that connect in PCH.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: And you’ve got Malibu, home to celebrities.

Tom Smith: The Bu.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, yes.

Tom Smith: The Bu. That’s like when we are talking about, is it Porsche or Porsche?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: If you own one, it’s Porsche. It’s Malibu if you don’t live there. If you do, it’s the Bu.

Clinton Quan: And speaking of Malibu, they also have their own cars and coffee.

Tom Smith: They do, don’t they?

Clinton Quan: Yeah. I think they do that twice a month.

Mulholland Highway

Tom Smith: All right.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, it’s on a Sunday, early in the morning, 7:00 to 9:00.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Number one?

Clinton Quan: Number one, it’s gotta go with Mulholland Highway.

Tom Smith: Mulholland.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Now, Mulholland Highway in…

Clinton Quan: That is my favorite.

Tom Smith: But there’s also the Mulholland Drive.

“…there’s a lot of overlooks along Mulholland Drive… it’s a great place [to] get views of the San Fernando Valley, and the West Side, and Hollywood.”

Clinton Quan: There’s Mulholland Drive. So, Mulholland Drive is a more urban stretch. And that goes from the Cahuenga Pass, right by the Hollywood Bowl Overlook, all the way right pass 405-

Tom Smith: All right.

Clinton Quan: … in Encino. And that’s about a 20-mile stretch. However, it being in the urban area and with lot of where it’s so residential, there’s a lot of traffic, so you’re not going to be able to really take your car out and really enjoy it as you would out on Mulholland Highway.

But there’s a lot of overlooks along Mulholland Drive. So, it’s a great place where you can get views of the San Fernando Valley, and the West Side, and Hollywood.

Tom Smith: Now, again, you know, these roads much better than I. I believe I’ve been on all of them for sure. I don’t know that I’ve traversed the entire length of each one. With regard to Mulholland, specifically, I think, I may have been on part of it that you’ve never been on. And that is-

Clinton Quan: The dirt path?

Tom Smith: Exactly.

Clinton Quan: Yes, I’ve never been on the dirt path.

Tom Smith: I got you.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

More Mulholland to Drive and Ride

Tom Smith: I got you. There are a killer mountain bike trails up, I want to call… I want to say it’s the Westridge Trailhead, which you get into off a sunset. I’m forgetting the… But it’s up in the Palisades.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: And then, you take a fire road up to dirt Mulholland. And then, there’s some single track that drops down into the canyons in there. Oh my god, I used to love that mountain biking. And interestingly up there, it’s fire road. So, the only vehicles that get up there are, you know, county vehicles, Los Angeles County.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: But have you ever been to Nike Tower up there?

Clinton Quan: I have not been to Nike Tower.

Tom Smith: Have you heard of it?

Clinton Quan: No.

“…it’s a little bit of a landmark up there on Dirt Mulholland.”

Tom Smith: Okay. Nike Tower is actually a relic of the Cold War. And it was an old lookout point for, I think it was Nike missiles or something like that. I don’t know.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been up there. But it’s a little bit of a landmark up there on Dirt Mulholland. I’m so excited that I’ve actually been on something that you haven’t. That’s really cool.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Although it’s not in a car, it’s on my mountain bike, but, hey-

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: …iDriveSoCal on my mountain bike sometimes.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: So, there you have it. You have Angeles Crest Highway. You have PCH.

Clinton Quan: Well, we didn’t talk about Mulholland Highway. That’s the big portion.

Tom Smith: Oh, I’m sorry, Professor. Please.

Clinton Quan: That’s big… That’s the portion that-

Tom Smith: Okay. That’s the portion that had you really excited.

When to Drive

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: And that’s about a 30-mile stretch-

Tom Smith: All right.

Clinton Quan: …going from Calabasas all the way out to the Pacific Ocean Valley, Ventura County line.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: And that is just an absolutely beautiful stretch of road. And the further west you drive, the more narrow the road gets, and you get these amazing views of the ocean the further west you go.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, you know what, they… Were you done?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay. Let’s be helpful to you, our listener. And Angeles Crest, PCH, Mulholland Drive/Highway, let’s break down. If somebody really wants to go and enjoy the scenic routes, when would be the best times to go and enjoy each where they can actually drive?

“…on Angeles Crest Highway, you want to go when the weather is nice.”

Now, maybe not, you know, push their sports car to the limit drive, but drive to take in the scenery.

Clinton Quan: Well, definitely, if you’re going to go on Angeles Crest Highway, you want to go when the weather is nice.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, we want to do a spring, summer, fall kind of thing, not summer.

Clinton Quan: Spring and summer, yeah. Winter, you just don’t. If it’s raining or if it’s snowing, then that’s maybe closed off.

Tom Smith: So, that’s the season.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: But then, what time of the day, and what day or days?

Clinton Quan: I always recommend going as early as you can. Probably a weekday would be best, but if you’re going to go on a weekend, start at 8:00 in the morning when there’s less traffic.

How to Beat Traffic

But if you can go on a weekday, Monday to Friday, then those would be the best days. And definitely, on Mulholland, there’s going to be a lot more.

Tom Smith: Monday to Friday at 8:00 a.m.?

Clinton Quan: Well, like-

Tom Smith: Or like 4:35 a.m.?

Clinton Quan: Well, 8:00 should be fine. If you’re-

Tom Smith: 8:00, Monday through Friday in Los Angeles, I mean-

Clinton Quan: No, no. If you’re already out there, not driving at 8:00-

Tom Smith: Okay, get on the road.

Clinton Quan: Yeah,

Tom Smith: And get-

Clinton Quan: I mean, be at Mulholland Highway at 8:00.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Well, we’re talking about Angeles Crest first.

Clinton Quan: Okay, yeah. Angeles Crest should be the same thing, same thing with Mulholland. Now, Pacific Coast Highway, that’s a whole different story.

Tom Smith: Okay.

“…Angeles Crest should be the same thing… same with Mulholland. Now, Pacific Coast Highway, that’s a whole different story.”

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: So, Angeles Crest and Mulholland, 8:00 a.m., Monday through Friday. As well as Saturday and Sunday, then?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, Saturday and Sunday should be fine too.

Tom Smith: Okay, Starting points.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Not leaving your house-

Clinton Quan: Yeah, I don’t know-

Tom Smith: … commuting to there, whatever.

Clinton Quan: Everyone has a-

Tom Smith: Where are you coming from? You, podcast listener? No, really you. Yeah. You’re the one I’m talking to. You. I’m just kidding. Obviously, we’re all going to be coming from many different points.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: So, that’s Angeles Crest and in Mulholland Drive/Highway both?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay. And then, Mulholland, is it the same thing? It’s just the Angeles Crest that you wouldn’t recommend doing the winter?

Clinton Quan: Correct.

Tom Smith: Mulholland is okay in winter, right?

Highway Seasonality

Clinton Quan: Mulholland is fine in the winter, yeah.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, just-

Clinton Quan: Well, not if it’s raining hard. They might have some road closures.

Tom Smith: Well, if it’s raining hard, you probably don’t want to be driving anywhere in Southern California-

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: …because our drainage stinks here.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: And it’s just like everything turned into a lake immediately.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: So-

Clinton Quan: But I did do that drive in the Elantra when it was raining pretty hard.

“…why Southern California is the automotive capital of the United States, as well as the automotive capital of the world.”

Tom Smith: Professor. Okay. So, Angeles Crest, Mulholland. We got the Mulholland Drive and Highway down, right?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, now, PCH. Now, PCH, that is a massive commuter stretch.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, it’s-

Tom Smith: There’s really got to be … I’m one to say, you know what, seriously, if you want to enjoy it, get out there at 4:00 a.m.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Right?

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Because …

Clinton Quan: Well, no. You probably don’t want to-

Tom Smith: Because it’s going to be dark. You’re not going to see the ocean, right?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, that’s too early.

Tom Smith: But okay.

Clinton Quan: I would say on a weekend, go early. If you’re going on a weekday-

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Clinton Quan: … you want to go after everyone’s out for rush hour.

Tom Smith: But weekend early, like 8:00 a.m. on a weekend, you’re going to be sitting in beach traffic-

Clinton Quan: Yeah, you could be.

SoCal Driving Trivia 

Tom Smith: …pretty much year round because there are so many tourists out here that are trying to get to the beach thinking that, you know, in December it’s going to be comfy cozy on the beach in Southern California.

Clinton Quan: Okay. Well, 6:30 should be good.

Tom Smith: Okay. There you have it, folks. The Professor’s number three, two, one: Angeles Crest Highway, Pacific Coast Highway, Mulholland Highway/Drive. And, of course, I’ve chimed in a little bit there with Dirt Mulholland.

Clinton Quan: And, also, I want to add in, Mulholland Highway was named after the famous civil engineer William Mulholland. And it was designed as a scenic byway.

Tom Smith: As a? What is a scenic byway design?

Clinton Quan: A highway designed to-

Tom Smith: So, it’s designed to be scenic?

“Mulholland Highway was named after the famous civil engineer William Mulholland. And it was designed as a scenic byway.”

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: All right. And, of course, there’s a… Speaking of movies, Mulholland Drive was the name of a movie, wasn’t it?

Clinton Quan: I think it was the name of a… It was either a movie or a television show. Yeah.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: And there’s been numerous movies filmed on Mulholland Drive or Mulholland Highway as well. There was one time I went on a drive, and I think they were filming, I believe, it was an Acura commercial.

Tom Smith: Fascinating.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, it’s a great place to go for a drive. Great place to film a commercial, especially with all the twists and turns.

Tom Smith: All right.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Be the Driver or Passenger

Tom Smith: Back to you, planning on filming a commercial area, Mulholland Drive, give that a try. Contact us at [email protected] We’ll forward that over to the Professor. And he can be your consultant on the shoot. All right. Anything else?

Clinton Quan: I think that’s it, yeah.

Tom Smith: All right. Professor, as always, thank you so much. That was our continuation of justifying why Southern California is the automotive capital of the United States, as well as the automotive capital of the world. And this was… What are we calling this one? Beautiful Scenic Drives for Auto Enthusiasts.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Something like that.

Clinton Quan: These are the roads where you do want to … This is where you want to-

Tom Smith: You want to take it in.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: You’re just as good being a passenger-

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: … as a driver. Probably better being a passenger than a driver actually.

Clinton Quan: Either way, yeah.

Tom Smith: I know I’ve been on PCH.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

World Famous Scenic Drives
1. Mulholland Highway
2. Pacific Coast Highway
3. Angles Crest Highway

Tom Smith: And yes, but I’m so safety-conscious now that I have my son.

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: Like I’m … Yeah. Well, I’m so safety-conscious that I’m not going to be driving and sightseeing.

And then, at the same time, I’m not going to be a passenger with my wife driving because I love you, babe, but I’m just a better driver than you. But that’s it.

Okay. Professor, thanks again. Thank you for listening. For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. We will reconnect very soon.