I'm planning an ambitious, six day coastal road trip (US-101 to CA-1) that starts in Portland, OR and ends in the Los Angeles area. I've been to sporadic places along the California coast but never to Oregon so this should be quite an adventure. Departing from the Portland airport (about 90 miles inland) and then taking the most coastal route via Depoe Bay, OR, the journey is about 1,100 miles, not including side trips.
Below are my notes regarding many places of interest along the way - mostly scenic, recreational attractions that are not that far off the Pacific Coast Highway. Because of time constraints, we are not going to start as far north as Astoria, OR so this itinerary omits Oregon's North Coast (Astoria, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Tillamook). The places of interest listed below begin just north of Depoe Bay, OR near the top of Oregon's Central coast and run through Big Sur, CA. The 300 miles from Big Sur to Los Angeles haven't been covered in any detail because we'll mostly be driving that day without much time for stopping.
Day One - Portland Airport (PDX) to Depoe Bay, OR via OR-18 W.
|Depoe Bay, OR|
The point of this day is simply about getting from the airport to the coast! Google Maps say it's approximately 115 miles (2.5 hours) via OR-18 West. The coastal places of interest begin around US-101 mile 125 (about 12 miles south of Lincoln City). Of special note - I was able to include mile markers for all of the sites in Oregon because that information is provided in the Oregon Coastal Access Guide
by Kenn Oberrecht - a book I highly recommend.
U.S. 101 mile 124.8 - Fogarty Creek Recreation Area
Trail with wooden bridges along creek and under highway to scenic cove and beach with tide pools.
A spouting horn south of the beach shoots jets of water skyward during incoming tides.
U.S. 101 mile 126.1 - Boiler Bay Scenic Viewpoint
If low tide, descend short rough trail to see tide pools.
During high tide waves crash into shore creating salty mist.
U.S. 101 mile 127.2 to 127.5 - Depoe Bay Promenade
Stone seawall and sidewalk with spouting horns that can shoot water 60 feet high.
Depoe Bay - world's smallest navigable harbor; whale watching capital of Oregon.
Day Two - Depoe Bay, OR to Port Orford, OR (160+ miles)
|Cape Perpetua Lookout Station|
This day is all about getting acquainted with the wild Oregon coastline and perhaps getting in a short hike or two. Towns along the way include Yachats, Florence and Bandon.
U.S. 101 mile 129.5 - Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint
Overlook with views of ocean waves and Whale Cove to the north.
U.S. 101 mile 131.2 - Cape Foulweather and Otter Crest State Scenic Viewpoint
Viewpoint 500 feet above the ocean.
Views (south) of Otter Crest, Devils Punch Bowl and Yaquina Head.
The Lookout gift shop.
U.S. 101 mile 132.4 - Otter Rock, north junction (Devils Punch Bowl)
Hollow rock formation that resembles a giant punch bowl.
Stairway to Beverly Beach south of the Punch Bowl.
U.S. 101 mile 137.6 - Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
Turn west off highway on Lighthouse Drive (1-mile drive off Highway 101).
Some of the best views and photo opportunities on the central coast.
Tallest lighthouse in Oregon at the tip of the promontory.
U.S. 101 mile 138.3 - Northwest Ocean View Drive
Residential street that parallels highway along the ocean.
Rejoins Highway 101 at mile 141.3.
Good way to avoid Highway 101 traffic through Newport town center.
Leads to Agate Beach, Nye Beach, and Donald A. Davis City Park.
U.S. 101 mile 148.9 - Ona Beach State Park
Short trail to beach.
U.S. 101 mile 163.3 to 165.6 - Yachats
Village of Yachats (pronounced YAH-hahts) with a beach like surface of the moon.
U.S. 101 mile 166.9 - Cape Perpetua Scenic Area (Devils Churn Viewpoint)
Hike trail down to water's edge to 800 overlook to see incoming waves.
U.S. 101 mile 167 - Cape Perpetua Day Use (800 foot high overlook)
Turn east on Klickitat Ridge Road, go .8 mile, then north (left) on Forest Service Road 5553, which leads to the day use parking lot. An overlook stands 803 feet above sea level with view of 65 miles of coastline.
A short trail leads west from the overlook to a stone lookout called the West Shelter.
U.S. 101 mile 168.4 - Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint
Day-use area with benches overlooking ocean and access to beach and tide pools.
U.S. 101 mile 175.6 - Carl G. Washburn Memorial State Park
Hobbit Trail - winds 0.4 mile through dense forest to three-mile long beach.
U.S. 101 mile 178.8 to 179.1 - Heceta Head Viewpoint
Three small turnouts lean west off the highway.
One of the best viewpoints on the entire West Coast.
U.S. 101 mile 190.7 - Florence Old Town
Riverside town of Florence. Waterfront Depot restaurant.
U.S. 101 mile 222.3 - John Dellenback Dunes Trailhead
One-mile interpretive loop trail through forest to dunes.
Five-mile beach route marked with blue-banded posts.
U.S. 101 mile 232.3 - Viewpoint
Small parking area with views of North Slough, Haynes Inlet, and Coos Bay.
U.S. 101 mile 233.2 - Conde B. McCullough Memorial Bridge
5,305 foot masterpiece by Oregon's premier bridge builder, completed in 1936.
Sidewalks on both sides of bridge provide platform to see and photograph from.
Highest point of bridge is said to have great view of Coos Bay.
U.S. 101 mile 259.2 - Bullards Beach State Park
The park road skirts the north bank of the lower Coquille River and ends 2.8 miles from Highway 101 at the Coquille River Lighthouse.
U.S. 101 mile 262 - Bandon
Old Town Bandon - shops, galleries, restaurants, including Winter River Books and Gallery.
U.S. 101 mile 262.5 - Beach Loop Road (Face Rock)
Scenic road that leads to beaches, trails, park and Face Rock, a basalt monolith that resembles the face of a woman gazing skyward.
The Beach Loop Road rejoins 101 at mile 277.6.
U.S. 101 mile 296.4 - Cape Blanco
Westernmost point on the Oregon coast. 5 mile drive off Highway 101 to Cape Blanco State Park and Cape Blanco Lighthouse.
Day Three - Port Orford, OR to Trinidad, CA (140+ miles)
|Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor|
The fifty mile stretch from Port Orford to Brookings is said to be the most scenic portion of the Oregon Coast. This day's drive also enters into the Redwood Forests across the border into California. I don't have mile marker info for California, but I believe everything is still listed in a North to South order.
U.S. 101 mile 299.8 to 301.8 - Port Orford (Battle Rock)
One of the most beautiful natural harbors on the West Coast.
Port Orford Heads State Park - view of Port Orford's natural harbor, rocky shoreline and 1,756 foot high Humbug Mountain.
Mile 301.4 - Battle Rock Wayfinding Point.
U.S. 101 mile 334.8 - Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor
Parking lot and viewpoint more than 200 feet above the ocean. On clear days visibility extends north to Humbug Mountain.
U.S. 101 mile 337.3 - Myers Creek Beach at Pistol River State Park
Mile-long beach at Myers Creek with sea stacks and monoliths.
U.S. 101 mile 344.1 to 353.3 - Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Twelve mile stretch of Highway 101 along forested coastline overlooking pocket beaches, cliffs, islands, sea stacks and rock formations. The most scenic part of Highway 101.
Mile 344.6 or 344.8 - Arch Rock Viewpoint.
Mile 345 - Spruce Island Viewpoint.
Mile 345.9 - Natural Bridges Cove Viewpoint.
Mile 347.8 - Thomas Creek Bridge - highest bridge in Oregon.
Mile 348.4 - Indian Sands Viewpoint.
Mile 349.2 - Whaleshead Beach.
Mile 351.2 - House Rock Viewpoint.
Mile 351.9 - Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint.
U.S. 101 mile 355.7 - Harris Beach State Recreation Area
Craggy rock formations and evergreen forest with views of Bird Island (AKA Goat Island) off shore.
Clifford Kamph Memorial Park - 2 miles South of Oregon border.
On a bluff overlooking beach.
Brother Jonathan Park and Vista Point at Pebble Beach Drive and 9th Street.
Point St. George - end of Washington Blvd. Cliffs and steep trail to beach.
Battery Point Lighthouse - located on an island just north of Crescent City Harbor.
Crescent Beach Overlook
Cliffside platform at South end of Enderts Beach road with trail to Enderts Beach.
Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway - Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
(About 5 miles south of Klamath.)
5-mile alternative to 101 with roadside pullouts and paths into the forest.
Big Tree Wayside - walk up to the 304 feet tall "Big Tree" on a short loop trail.
Gold Bluffs Beach
- Access via Davison Road, three miles north of Orick.
Fern Canyon Trail
- end of Davison Road near Gold Bluffs Beach. Water streams down 50 foot walls draped in ferns.
Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail
- South end of Redwoods National Park.
1.4 mile loop where redwoods and fir create cathedral like canopy.
Patrick's Point State Park
The Rim Trail follows a route along the ocean bluff.
Trinidad State Beach College Cove Parking Area
- one mile North of Trinidad town.
Day Four - Trinidad, CA to Jenner, CA (250+ miles)
|Avenue of the Giants|
By now dramatic coastlines, beautiful beaches, craggy rocks and massive trees should be old hat so I'm hoping we can cover more ground this day - hence this challenging 250 mile leg of the journey.
Avenue of the Giants - 20 mile alternative to 101 between Scotia and Garberville
Founders Grove Nature Loop Trail (mile 20.5 on Avenue of the Giants) - easy half-mile trail, big trees up close.
Benbow Inn restaurant with patio overlooking water.
- Junction of US-101 and CA-1. Leave 101 to get on CA-1.
Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree
South Kibesillch Gulch View Area
- overlook at mile post 71.95, south of Westport.
- pristine stretch of coastline just north of Fort Bragg.
- Windsong Used Books and The Bookstore Vinyl Cafe
Pomo Bluffs Park
- just south of Noyo River Bridge
Views of Noyo River mouth from atop bluff.
Jug Handle State Park Natural Reserve
Sandy cove beach and short hike to unusual pygmy forest trail.
Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park
- 300 acre nature preserve 2 miles North of Mendocino.
Picturesque artsy village.
Mendocino Headlands State Park - Cypress Grove and Portuguese Beach.
Mendocino Bay Overlook
- views from South of Mendocino town from grassy bluff.
Van Damme State Park
- 3 miles south of Mendocino
Pygmy Forest - .25 mile loop trail of stunted cypress and pine off Little River Road.
Point Arena Cove
- end of Iversen Ave./Port Rd., 1 mile west of CA-1.
- where Russian River meets the Pacific.
Day Five - Jenner, CA to Big Sur, CA (220+ miles)
|Bixby Bridge - Big Sur|
Unfortunately we don't have time to include an overnight in San Francisco, but thankfully I've been there a couple times before. This day's mission is to get through the congestion of the Bay Area and stay on the coast through idyllic Santa Cruz, Monterey and Carmel-By-the-Sea to finally arrive at the grand destination that is Big Sur!
CA-1 does not run along coast in San Francisco. To stay along the coast take the Great Highway to CA-35 (Skyline Boulevard). The Great Highway starts at the western end of Geary Avenue (Point Lobos Ave.) and follows beach past the San Francisco Zoo. When it hits Skyline Blvd. (CA-35) take CA-35 for five miles where it meets CA-1.
- old fisherman's wharf.
- Enter at Pacific Grove Gate and exit at Carmel Gate.
Famous scenic drive. Toll is charged for entry.
Lone Cypress, beaches at Spanish Bay, many turnouts, Pebble Beach golf course, Bird Rock and Seal Rock (seals and sea lions).
Rocky Creek Bridge
- half mile north of Bixby Creek Bridge
Similar but smaller than Bixby Bridge.
Bixby Creek Bridge
- 11 miles north of Big Sur Village
713 foot long bridge built in 1932. There's a pull off on the North side.
260 foot high bridge.
- Rugged coast between Carmel and San Simeon. CA-1 twists around mountains and clings to rocky cliffs.
Day Six - Big Sur, CA to South Pasadena, CA (300+ miles)
Due to the long, demanding drive from Big Sur to the Los Angeles area (not recommended to do in one day) I've only listed a couple sights along the way. I'm not making it a plan to seek out and stop at the typical tourist attractions along this route - I know I am leaving out a lot of interesting places during this stretch - but may explore random sites more spontaneously this day if time and interest allows. Although, I have listed the Morro Rock because that sounds interesting.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (11 mi. S. of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park)
Overlook trail leads to observation deck with views of McWay Falls.
Park east of CA-1 and cross under the roadway on the Waterfall Trail.
Morro Bay (110 miles south of Big Sur)
- W. end of Coleman Drive.
580 foot high "Gibraltar of the Pacific".
There you have it. These notes are mostly so that I have a customized online place that I can refer to along the way, but it may be of interest to others as well. In addition to the Oregon Coastal Access Guide
mentioned above, I also used the books Coastal California Access Guide
, Moon Coastal Oregon
and Moon Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
to gather the notes for this trip. If you're looking for one book that covers it all, that may be Moon Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip
by Victoriah Arsenian.