Hwy 1 is more scenic, but 17-85-280 is a pretty drive as well (except the part through SJ itself).
What route are you taking TO Santa Cruz? Maybe take one there and the other one back to SF
Thanks for your response. We are driving from L.A on Hwy 1 so its a one way trip. We have the route & attractions pretty well sorted to Santa Cruz. I am trying to show as many highlights as possible as i have my teenagers on their first trip to USA. Would like to see the redwoods and Stanford so am not sure whether i can do it all in the one day i have to get to San Fran. Cannot believe how quickly and how helpful people like you are in responding. It really is appreciated.
While Hwy 1 between Santa Cruz and San Francisco is "more scenic", meaning you are driving along the coast, Hwy 17 is scenic and Hwy 280 has been called "most beautiful freeway in the world."
We drive to the city several times a year and our route is 17/85/280. We can be in San Francisco from Santa Cruz in about an hour and 15 minutes.
Furthermore, you will find it hard to get to Palo Alto to visit Stanford if you are on Hay 1....very hard. You would need to be on winding roads over the coast range and there is no direct way to do it.
I would take either Page Mill or Sand Hill Road to get to Stanford from 280, probably Sand Hill.
Do you know about Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, 7 miles from Santa Cruz?
Here is a traveler article about Santa Cruz, which includes a link to it, among other things.
It would be on your way from Santa Cruz to Hwy 17. Just take Hw9 towards Felton. 7 miles later, on your right, is Henry Cowell Redwoods. When you leave the park turn right and go into the town of Felton and take Mt. Hermon Road over to Hwy 17.
By the time you get to Santa Cruz the kids may have had enough with rugged California coastal scenery and I'm kind of biased towards Hwy 17.
I would go on Hwy 17 and check out Henry Cowell State Park. Some people like this place called the Mystery Spot nearby but I think it's kind of a waste. I'll let others with a more recent experience chime in.
Scotts Valley is a beautiful spot. Maybe have lunch there or a later breakfast.
Take 85 to 280 for Stanford
drill-n-fill and I were typing at the same time......
Scotts Valley is between Felton and Hwy 17. I do not believe the day use part of Henry Cowell opens until 10:00 am, so you may want to have breakfast in Santa Cruz before you start on your journey. I am assuming that you are staying the night before in Santa Cruz. Do you have lodging?
Forget the Mystery Spot. It is a total schuck and not worth the detour.
You could go up 1 to Half Moon Bay and cut-over to 280 via 92. You only have to back track about 8 miles south on 280 to the Sand Hill exit for Stanford. If you decide to take the 17/85/280 route, take the Sand Hill exit to Stanford. Page Mill can be congested.
If you do decide to take the coastal route, there is plenty to see and do. Ano Nuevo State Park is on your way and you can take a guided walk to see the massive elephant seals. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=523
Thanks everybody. Looks like consensus is 17/85/280, yes the kids will have seen plenty of coast rd. Will be staying a night somewhere near San Simeon and then the next night in Monterey before we head to Santa cruz and San Fran. Have not got accom booked yet and have a bit of flexibility in where we stay but i have 2 days from San Simeon to SFO, but only 2 nights in SFO so need to be mindful what time we get in there.
Best Regards Paul