Road trippers are always looking for the next great road trip challenge. While touring the country we came to one of our favorite routes along the Pacific Coast – Highway 101. This route has everything you could ask for in a classic road trip. It includes winding roads, elevation changes, coastal cliffs, and beaches. We followed Scenic Highway 101 for two days, from Washington to Oregon to California.
In this Road Trip Planner for Highway 101 we’ll cover the first leg from Tacoma, WA to Grants Pass, OR.
ROAD TRIP PLANNER HIGHWAY 101
Our trip began in Tacoma, Washington with our final destination being San Francisco, California. The easiest way to make the trip is to simply shoot down I-5 and you can do it in a little over 13 hours.
We were looking for something much more scenic so we decided to hug the Pacific Coastline and ramble along Highway 101.
It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. I’ve always heard the Pacific Coast was beautiful, but we were both amazed by just how striking it truly is. For an East Coaster like me, who’s used to the glass-like water and manicured beaches of South Beach and the Gulf Coast, the Washington and Oregon Coastlines were absolutely breathtaking and stood in stark contrast.
There’s something truly raw and elemental about them. For someone that is used to seeing miles of sunbathers and beach umbrellas it was astounding to be presented with waves crashing against a 300 ft cliff while staring in wonder at the massive rock outcroppings that dot the coastline. As we drove Highway 101 we were completely entombed by the sounds of the sea in a constant reminder that there is something larger than us out there.
We headed out from Tacoma towards Olympia, WA and along HWY 8 which took us through a town called Montesano, where we saw a great car show. From there we took a short jaunt down 107 S and then intersected HWY 101 and continued south.
As HWY 101 heads towards the coastline it takes you through miles of beautiful pine groves that have been used by the logging industry for years. You can see a blend of old and new growth forestry and there are signs stating exactly when each grove was planted.
In Raymond WA, the road turns south and the coastal viewing begins. The Highway 101 has several great points to stop and wander including the Lewis & Clark National Park in Naselle, WA. It’s a great spot to plan for a stop and enjoy a picnic.
Our drive then took us into Oregon via the Astoria- Megler bridge and through countless quaint seaside beach towns and fishing villages. We made our next pit stop in Cannon Beach to stretch our legs (and walk our 4-legged companions) and take in some of the refreshing yet surprisingly chilly sea breeze.
After our stop we continued South and were continuously surprised and delighted by stunning vistas and picturesque views. We repeatedly thanked whomever designed the road as there are 100’s of turnouts where you can stop and take pictures or just bask in the epic beauty of it all. Our favorite views are in Oswald State Park as we were taken through Smuggler’s Cove and Devil’s Cauldron. Here, we hit some great elevation changes and nice winding roads. It was a really great spot to stretch the GTI’s legs and really put the 2.0L turbo to the test and I must say she passed with flying colors!
The southbound trip continued for us through Tilamook until we hit Newport, OR. You can continue all the way south to CA on Highway 101 if you choose, but we decided to cut in East on HWY 20 after sundown and book some miles along I-5 S. Part one of our two-day trip ended in Grants Pass, OR and as we laid our heads down to rest we took the sounds of the ocean with us.
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