Don’t just drive on these bridges; stop and take photos of them, too

Taking a road trip in California isn’t just about enjoying the breathtaking scenery that the Golden State provides. You’ll have your fill of lush forests, beautiful coastlines, and countless tourist destinations that you can stop over and enjoy. But if you’re into unique viewing experiences on your road trips, keep an eye on the abundance of bridges that are found in California. Bridges are awesome. They can be as breathtaking as the Golden Gate Bridge, marvellous as the Sundial Bridge, or they can even tell unique historical stories like the Bridge to Nowhere. California has no shortage of incredible bridges, and the ones we identified aren’t just awesome because you can drive on them, but also because of the stories they tell of eras in the state that have long been forgotten by the passing of time.

Golden Gate Bridge

  • Built in 1933
  • Length 8.980 Feet
  • Height: 746 Feet

Arguably the most famous bridge in the world,

the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California is as famous for its unmistakable looks as it is for the feat of engineering that came with its development.

Built in 1933, the Golden Gate Bridge measures 8,980 feet long and 746 feet wide. Before it was built, many thought that it would be impossible to build a bridge in the location, in part because of strong currents, water depth in the Golden Gate Strait, and the frequent occurrences of strong winds and fogs. Strauss Engineering Corp., the architecture firm that spearheaded the construction of the bridge pushed on, and, well, California isn’t California today without the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bixby Bridge

The Bixby Bridge located on the Big Sur coast of California is nowhere near as long — 714 feet in length — or as high — 279 feet tall — as the Golden Gate Bridge. But if there’s one bridge in the state that can compete with the iconic Golden Gate in terms of charm and appeal, it’s this one. In addition to its unique aesthetic design, the Bixby Bridge’s popularity is connected to its location on the Big Sur coast of the state. Big Sur, of course, is a stretch of the Pacific Coast that has been left in its natural state. Tourists routinely visit this location through the Pacific Coast Highway and they’ll have to travel on the Bixby Bridge to get to their destination.

  • Built in 1931
  • Length 714 Feet
  • Height 279 Feet

Forest Hill Bridge

The Foresthill Bridge goes by several different names. It’s also called the “Auburn-Foresthill Bridge” or simply the “Auburn Bridge.” Whatever name you call it, Foresthill Bridge is a road bridge crossing over the North Fork American River in Placer County and the Sierra Nevada foothills in eastern California. Rising 522 feet from the ground, Foresthill Bridge is the highest bridge by deck height in all of California. It’s also unique in its own right. It spans the North Fork of the American River in Placer County between the city of Auburn and the town of Foresthill in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Foresthill Bridge is also a famous for all the “movie roles” it has accumulated over the years. The movie XXX, which was released in 2002, had a scene in which Vin Diesel’s character, Xander Cage, drove a Chevrolet Corvette off the bridge before jumping from the car and parachuting to his buddies at the bottom of the American River Canyon.

  • Built in 1971
  • Length 2,428 Feet
  • Height 522 Feet

Coronado Bridge

Anytime you’re in San Diego, you might have noticed this massive bridge, in part because it’s impossible to miss. The Coronado Bridge casts a huge shadow over San Diego harbor, connecting downtown San Diego with the peaceful and beautiful Coronado Island. It spans over 11,000 feet and it’s curved design is beautiful to see from afar. The bridge is signed as part of State Route 75 so a lot of people drive over it on a daily basis. But it’s not as fun when you can’t take a step back and admire its unique look and sheer size.

  • Built in 1967
  • Length 11,178 Feet
  • Height 200 Feet

Big Creek Bridge (PCH)

Just like the Bixby Bridge, the Big Creek Bridge is part of the Pacific Coast Highway located near Big Sur, California. It’s often mistaken for the Bixby Bridge, but Big Creek Bridge holds its own appeal, in part because of where it’s located. You don’t get to see how surprisingly beautiful it is if you’re driving over it, but see it from afar and you’re opinion is likely going to change. Fortunately, there are parked areas on both ends of the bridge so you can stop there, take pictures, and admire the view of your general surroundings. Don’t sleep on the Big Creek Bridge, folks. It’s just as beautiful as its more popular counterpart, the Bixby.

  • Built in 1932
  • Length 495 Feet
  • Height 200-300 Feet (est)

Sundial Bridge

The Sundial Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges in California.

A big reason for that is because it’s the most modern bridge on this list. Construction of the Sundial Bridge started in 1999 and it was completed in 2004. The bridge gets its name because it is actually a large sundial that can tell the time from 11 am to 3 pm. No part of it touches the water, too, in order to protect the salmon inhabitants in the Sacramento River. The Sundial Bridge is also reserved for pedestrians and bicyclists. Cars can’t cross the bridge. The Sundial Bridge is a must-see attraction if you’re in the Sacramento area. You can go there in the daytime and see the large sundial in action or you can go at night and marvel at the bridge’s beauty when it’s all lighted up.

  • Built in 2004
  • Length 699 Feet
  • Height 216 Feet

Fern Bridge

The Fernbridge is one of the oldest bridges on this list. It was built in 1911 and unlike the modern Sundial Bridge, the 1,320-foot long Fernbridge is a massive concrete monstrosity that has to be seen in person to be believed. The concrete arches are massive and its weathered and beaten down look tells a story of its own. It was coined the “Queen of Bridges” when it was built 108 years ago and, to this day, the Fernbridge still holds the distinction of being the longest functional poured concrete bridge in operation in the world.

  • Built in 1911
  • Length 1,320 Feet
  • Height 200 Feet (est)

Bridge to Nowhere

The Bridge to Nowhere is named as such because it literally is a bridge that leads to…nowhere. The bridge, which spans the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, was built in 1936 and was meant to be part of a road that would connect the San Gabriel Valley with Wrightwood. Unfortunately, the East Fork Road was still under construction when a massive flood washed it away. The project was eventually abandoned, leaving the bridge stranded in the middle of the Sheep Mountain Wilderness. It has a unique history, sure, and that’s a big reason a lot of people make the trip to the San Gabriel Mountains just to see the aptly named bridge that does, in fact, lead nowhere. Fortunately, the bridge has also become famous for being a site for bungee jumping.

  • Built in 1936
  • Length 200 Feet (est)
  • Height 120 feet

Cabrillo Bridge

The Cabrillo Bridge doesn’t get as much shine as other bridges in the state, and part of that is because the bridge isn’t as visually stunning. But it is historic because of its age — it was completed in 1912, a year after the far more imposing Fernbridge — and historic ties to San Diego. The Cabrillo Bridge provides access between Balboa Park and the Uptown area of San Diego. The massive arches are the Cabrillo Bridge’s most prominent aesthetic asset, spanning over the freeway below. Like most bridges on this list, the Cabrillo Bridge is better appreciated from afar. It rises up like a monolith amidst a sea of trees.

  • Built in 1912
  • Length 459 Feet
  • Height 121 Feet

Colorado St Bridge

The Colorado Street Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges in the state of California. It also happens to be one of the oldest as it was built in 1912. The bridge follows a curved path. It spans 1,486 feet at a maximum height of 144 feet, and it is notable for its distinctive Beaux Arts arches, light standards, and railings. The Colorado Street Bridge also has a few Hollywood credits to its name. It was featured in episodes of the 1970s TV series Emergency! and it also served as the starting point for the 21st season of the The Amazing Race. Most recently, the Colorado Street Bridge was seen in the 2016 movie La La Land.

  • Built in 1913
  • Length 1,486 Feet
  • Height 144 Feet

Tower Bridge

Sacramento, California is home to a lot of beautiful bridges. The Tower Bridge is one of them. The distinctive yellow bridge is hard to miss. It’s also one of the few lift bridges in the state, adding to its appeal. The Tower Bridge is also a favorite tourist spot for those visiting the state capital. You can probably guess why that’s the case. Sacramento’s Tower Bridge bears a striking resemblance to the far more famous Tower Bridge located in London, England. But just because this Tower Bridge isn’t as famous as its British counterpart, it’s still a sight to behold, especially at night when the lights add another layer of aesthetic beauty to its yellow color.

  • Built in 1935
  • Length 737 Feet
  • Height 161 Feet

Pudding Creek Trestle

If you’re a fan of old railroad bridges that have been turned into pedestrian bridges, Ford Bragg’s Pudding Creek Trestle should be on top of your must-see list. The Pudding Creek Trestle is also located right next to the famous glass beach that’s known for the abundance of sea glass in the beach created from years of dumping garbage into an area of the coastline near the northern part of Ford Bragg. You can hit two birds with one stone if you go to this area. That’s what makes the Pudding Creek Trestle a must-see bridge if you ever find yourself bridge-hunting in the state.

  • Built in 1916
  • Height 44 Feet
  • Length 527 Feet
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read More
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