The trip begins in California’s Central Valley, meanders through high elevation forests and snakes up the awe-inspiring Pacific coast. Not to be rushed, this extraordinary route is winding, narrow and flanked by ocean and redwood. As you make your way past beach towns and shifting sand dunes, you’ll find constant stops are necessary to photograph the stunning terrain.
Redding, CA to Arcata, CA
This western route bisects the northernmost portion of the fertile Sacramento Valley, curves along the Trinity River and crosses the coastal mountain range before terminating at the Pacific. Mountain passes and the higher elevations along the route are prone to winter driving conditions including snow and ice.
Arcata, CA to Crescent City, CA
Aptly named the Redwood Highway, this section of roadway either hugs the ragged coast or dips inland, where ferns and redwoods penetrate the ubiquitous fog. Members of the Roosevelt elk herd in Redwood National and State Parks may be seen grazing in the southern part of the parks.
Crescent City, CA to Port Orford, OR
Crossing the state border, US 101 becomes the Oregon Coast Highway. Seldom out of sight of the Pacific, this is perhaps the most beautiful stretch of the Oregon coast; yet, because of its distance from metropolitan areas, it attracts few visitors. As you travel north along the coast, chances of rain and fog increase, all part of the experience on this drive.
Shutterstock.com/Olivier Le Queinec
Port Orford, OR to Reedsport, OR
North of Port Orford, you’ll drive a mostly inland route offering only occasional glimpses of the ocean. But there is still much to see. Check out the colorful cranberry bogs outside of Bandon. Or, beyond Coos Bay lies the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, a unique area of windswept sand and the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America.