Pacific Coast Highway - A Great American Road Trip
One of the great road trips anyone can take throughout the United States is the Pacific Highway Road Trip. This highway travels along the Pacific Coast, all the way from Washington down to California. Also known as US 101, traveling this highway is a fantastic way to experience the west coast. The highway starts in Olympia, Washington, runs north and around the Olympic Peninsula, then runs down along the Pacific Coast, it's terminus is in Los Angeles, where it merges with Interstate 5 to continue down the coast of California.
Drivers can start their trip on the Pacific Coast Highway in the northwestern corner of Washington. Then head south along US 101, make sure to stop at any point that interests the road tripper, and enjoy a nice leisurely pace. The very best way to travel along this highway is to stop frequently and enjoy plenty of exploring.
Located on the Olympic Peninsula, Forks is a great place to stay to enjoy all of the fun of Northwest Washington. Within Forks there is also plenty to do. The Forks Timber Museum is a good spot to learn about the history of the timber harvest in the community. Forks is also a popular destination for Twilight fans, and visitors will see all sorts of Twilight themed items and things to do. The town is also a great starting point for all types of outdoor recreation.
Olympic National Park, WA
The Olympic National Park is an amazing park to explore the wild beauty of the Washington peninsula and coast. There are beautiful beaches, rain forest, mountains and more. The Olympic National Park protects some unique Washington ecosystems and is also a good destination for wildlife viewing. Visitors to the park will love the many hiking trials, and the wild beauty of the beaches and the entire park.
Ocean Shores, WA
Ocean Shores is an excellent stopping point along the Pacific Coast Highway. The community has some fantastic lodging options and is a popular vacation destination for Washingtonians during the summer. Visitors to Ocean Shores will love the peninsula along the Highway 101, the beaches and ocean are lots of fun during the warm months.
Long Beach, WA
The town of Long Beach is another excellent beach destination along the highway, and is a relaxing stop during a road trip. Long Beach's miles of beautiful Washington ocean beaches provide many fun summer activities for visitors, including driving on the beach, digging for clams and much more. Long Beach also has museums, is great for enjoying all types of recreation, wildlife viewing and tours.
Cannon Beach, OR
This is a very popular resort town on the northern coast of Oregon. The downtown area is full of relaxing little shops, galleries and more. Visitors to Cannon Beach will probably spend most of their time on the beautiful sand beach. Haystack Rock is the most recognizable sight in the town, as it is the large haystack shaped rock standing in the water just off the beach. During low tide, visitors can enjoy exploring the amazing tide pools created by the rock formations around Haystack Rock. Visitors to the beach can also participate in sand sculpting, or horseback riding on the beach and even flying a kite. When visitors need a break from the beach they can explore the rainforest that stretches right down to the beach.
Cape Lookout State Park, OR
After enjoying all of the fun of Cannon Beach, travelers can continue south down the highway. Cape Lookout State Park is a fun little park to stop and enjoy the beach, old growth forests and much more for a bit after doing some driving. The park has access to the beautify Oregon coast and has nature trails passing through its acreage. Cape Lookout State Park's beaches are a fun spot to do some beachcombing. The region is also great for hang gliding.
As travelers continue south along this route they can stop in beautiful Newport. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful Newport beaches, but there are many other fun activities to enjoy while staying in Newport. Children will love the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Newport is also a good destination to enjoy some arts and culture along the trip, with a symphony orchestra and many art galleries. Fishing and crabbing are also fun activities to enjoy while in Newport. The city is actually an important spot for commercial fishing on the Oregon Coast and there are many different charter options for visitors. Newport also has lighthouses, and access to many other fun outdoor activities.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, OR
The awesome sand dunes at Oregon Dunes are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. The dunes stretch from Florence to Coos Bay and stand 500 feet above sea level. Visitors to the dunes can enjoy lots of off-highway vehicle riding, as well as hiking, fishing, horseback riding, canoeing and camping. As visitors wander to the dunes they can come upon the dense tree islands, wetlands and even lakes. Those visitors that enjoy water sports can have fun sailing, water-skiing, swimming and even scuba diving on the over 30 lakes and streams in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
Coos Bay, OR
Coos Bay is an important port city on the southern coast of Oregon, it is also the largest city on the Oregon Coast. The city is full of museums, art galleries, live theater and even festivals. In addition, visitors can enjoy golfing, sailing, canoeing, scuba diving, fishing and more at the areas nearby parks, Sunset Bay State Park, Shore Areas State Park, Cape Arago State Park among others. Coos Bay is also a great destination for crabbing and clamming which are allowed year-round. Storm and whale watching are also fun activities that visitors can enjoy at Coos Bay.
Crescent City, CA
Traveling south on 101, about 20 miles from the Oregon boarder drivers will come into the little town of Crescent City, at this point the Highway is called Redwood Highway. This little town is a great jumping off point to visit some of California's beautiful State and National Forests and Parks. Nearby visitors will find Pelican Bay, Lake Earl, Tolawa Dunes State park, Jedediah Smith State Park, Six Rivers National Forest, Klamath National Forest and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.
A little farther south along the Highway travelers will come across the town of Klamath. Klamath is a great place to stop to enjoy some of northern California's recreational opportunities as well as some of the interesting sights the town has to offer. Redwood National Forest has truly amazing drives and hiking opportunities. The Klamath River Overlook is an amazing spot to look for grey whales and seabirds. Not to mention the awe inspiring Redwoods and the visitor centers provide all sorts of interesting information about the area.
The city of Klamath itself has a few interesting tourist activities. For those who are in smaller vehicles, there is the Tour-Thru Tree. This is a giant Redwood which has a car sized whole carved through the middle, so people can drive right through the tree rather than around. The Tour-Thru Tree is an interesting stop even for those whose vehicles are to large to go through the tree since there are picnic tables where visitors can watch others drive through the tree. Visitors can also take some time to see the Trees of Mystery, which are easily recognizable by the giant statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox. The Trees of Mystery tour highlights some of the amazing and oddly shaped trees that can be found in the area.
Eureka is another fabulous jumping off point to enjoy the coast of California, including various recreational opportunities. The city is bordered by Humboldt Bay and the Redwood Forests. As visitors drive through Eureka they may be lucky enough to see Gabriel's Garden, a delightful exhibit of folk art. In addition, in nearby McKinleyvile visitors can stop to see the World's Largest Totem Pole.
Calistoga, just a way off U.S. 101, near Santa Rosa has many attractions for its visitors. Many people stop to see California's Old Faithful Geyser. This geyser is called an old faithful because it is one of a very few geysers that erupts with regularity. Calistoga is also home to The Petrified Forest. This forest is an amazing example of a pliocene forest and is open to visitors daily. In addition, since Santa Rosa and Calistoga are placed right in the Napa Valley, the middle of California's wine country there are many nearby wineries. Visitors should plan on finding a few great local wineries, and schedule a few wine tastings as they pass through Napa Valley on U.S. 101.
Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, CA
As U.S. 101 passes across the Golden Gate Bridge and through San Francisco it becomes the Bayshore Freeway rather than the Redwood Highway. The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most iconic images of California and the west as a whole. Visitors should stop for a bit to enjoy the view of the Bridge, hopefully there won't be too much of the San Francisco fog. San Francisco has much to offer its visitors beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a very diverse and unique city, with lots to see, hear and smell. Visitors to San Francisco should plan to stay for a few days. Over a few days in San Francisco visitors can enjoy the Aquarium, take a cruise to Alcatraz, and explore the vast International District in San Francisco. Near Coyote/Fontanelle the Bayshore Freeway becomes the S. Valley Freeway, even though it remains U.S. Highway 101.
Salinas and Pinnacles National Monument, CA
Around Gilroy U.S. Highway 101 changes from S. Valley Freeway to El Camino Real. Salinas hosts a few interesting events each year, including the California Rodeo, the California International Airshow and the Steinbeck Festival. Also nearby to Salinas is Pinnacles National Monument. Pinnacles is a great spot to spend some time camping and recreating. The National Monument is best visited during the spring and fall when the weather doesn't get too hot. At Pinnacles National Monument visitors can enjoy hiking, camping and guided programs. In addition, Pinnacles has some good rock climbing and for those who aren't afraid of bats, a walk through the Talus Caves is a great experience.
San Luis Obispo, CA
Like most of the California Coast visitors will find plenty of recreational opportunities in San Luis Obispo. One of the most interesting nearby attractions is Hearst Castle. Hearst Castle is located on top of Hearst's La Cuesta Encantada, which is now a museum open to the public. Tours of the castle are very interesting and feature art from around the world.
Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Barbara is another one of California's fabulous cities. Visitors to Santa Barbara can enjoy a wide range of recreational opportunities as well as the fine dining and culture of the city. Santa Barbara is especially fantastic in the summer when the beaches are at their best. On the California Coast in Santa Barbara there are miles of beautiful beaches. On these beaches there are many different activities for visitors to enjoy. A little ways along U.S. 101, it's name changes once again from El Camino Real to the Ventura Freeway.
Hollywood and Los Angeles, CA
Near the end of the road-trip along the California Coast, U.S. 101 passes through Hollywood and becomes the Hollywood Freeway. Visitors to Hollywood have to stop and see a few of its most famous sights. Among these are the Hollywood sign, Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hollywood and Los Angeles are separate cities, but they are part of one continuous urban area at the terminus of the road-trip along U.S. 101.
U.S. Highway 101 officially terminates in Los Angeles. Los Angeles and Hollywood are at the end of the road-trip down U.S. 101, and it is certainly worth at least a few days to explore a few of its top attractions. Los Angeles is large enough that visitors could stay for weeks and would still be discovering new and amazing things to do. In LA visitors can get tickets to the LA Philharmonic or catch a showing of Cirque du Soleil. The children will also enjoy LA, families can make plans to visit Universal Studios or spend some time at the LA Zoo and Botanical Gardens.