Outbound Collective logo

West Coast Roadtrip down Highway 101

Beach sunsets and adventures through amazing coastal forests.

By: Michael Fricke + Save to a List

When my summer in the North Cascades came to an end and I was to head back south to California, I knew I wanted to take some time to enjoy my trip back. There are so many things between the northern part of Washington and the bottom of California to do. My girlfriend was coming on this journey with me and we decided to take the trip home down the coast on Highway 101.  It was very hard to plan this trip because there are so many things to do!

Day 1

I left North Cascades in the morning and picked my girlfriend up from the bus station in Burlington, WA. We drove west to Deception Pass State Park. We got to our campsite and setup before heading out to do a small hike called Lighthouse Point. It was beautiful and a great way to start our trip.

After that we headed to the bridge between Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands to watch the sunset. It was a bit cloudy for sunset but still a beautiful view.

Day 2

After camping the night at Deception Pass State Park we got up and headed down Whidbey Island towards the ferry that would take us across to the Olympic Peninsula. We drove to Coupeville where we had lunch and went to the Historical Museum and checked out the wharf. After a nice walk around, we got back in the car and headed south to Fort Casey Historical State Park to go into the Admiralty Head Lighthouse.

With that it was time for our ferry over to Port Townsend. We drove to the ferry landing and boarded the ferry then enjoyed a nice 40 minute ride over to the Olympic Peninsula.

From Port Townsend it was a 2.5 hour drive to Sol Duc campground where we were to stay the second night. We made a quick stop at Lake Crescent while driving by. The thing about this trip that really got me was there were so many places we passed that I wish I could have spent an entire day exploring!

After that quick stop we arrived at Sol Duc Campground, set up and ate quickly in the rain so we could checkout the hot springs at the Sol Duc Resort before they closed. We had a nice time at the resort hot springs before heading back to camp to sleep.

Day 3

We got up early for another adventure-filled day. First thing on the list for the third day was to hike to Sol Duc Falls. This is an excellent short hike. The falls were absolutely beautiful. The Sol Duc area of Olympic had more fall color than I was expecting. I had always thought of Olympic National Park as a very green place and was surprised with a little color.

After that we continued down the 101 with plans to stay at Kalaloch Campground on the coast. We made a quick stop to check out Ruby Beach, a nice beach with cool rock formations.

After that quick stop we made it to Kalaloch, setup camp and went for a nice stroll on the beach then decided to do a quick nature trail that leaves out of the campground.

After enjoying the nice nature walk we returned to beach for sunset. It was a relaxing, beautiful site. Not many things beat a nice beach sunset with the sound of the waves in the background

Day 4

One of our goals on this trip was to go to one of the amazing rainforests Olympic has to offer. Unfortunately the Hoh section of the park was closed for road repairs when we were there. Fortunately, Olympic has many great rainforests. We started our day by driving to Quinault and hiked the Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail, a nice short interpretive trail.

After that we headed into Quinault and checked out the largest Sitka Spruce Tree and the Historic Quinault Lodge.

We had lunch at the Quinault Mercantile then headed to the Maple Glade Rainforest. The Maple Glade Rainforest really blew me away. Like I said earlier, I was surprised by the color at Sol Duc, and the Maple Glade also had lots of color. As we walked around, there were golden leaves falling from the trees. The ponds reflected the green and gold of the forest beautifully. It is a very magical place.

It started raining just as our time there was done; it is a rainforest after all. After spending a few days in Washington, we had to start making our way south. This night we were to stay in a beach cabin in Rockaway Beach, Oregon. The rest of the afternoon was spent driving. Thankfully, we were able to get there right before sunset and we enjoyed another great beach sunset.

Day 5

After a few days of outdoor adventure, we decided to take it a little easier on this day. We enjoyed pancakes at a local cafe in Rockaway called Grumpy's. They make massive pancakes. We then checked out some goofy beach shops in Rockaway. One of the great things about the 101 is you drive through so many small towns, all with their own interesting vibes and cool small businesses. But we also had to check out a large business in the area. We drove into Tillamook and got Ice Cream at the Tillamook Creamery. After a relaxing day eating ice cream and buying gifts for some loved ones, we headed back to the cabin and enjoyed another Rockaway sunset, this time from the back porch of the cabin. It was so nice to stay in the same place for a second night.

Day 6

This day was mostly spent driving. From Rockaway, we wanted to reach the Redwoods in California. Along the way we made a stop at Cape Perpetua where Thor's Well is. This stop was amazing. The rock formations and the way the rocks hit the shore is awesome. During high tide, which we were there for, the water shoots up certain rock formations.

I would love to come back and explore the Southern Oregon Coast more but we wanted to spend some time exploring California on this trip, too. We arrived at Gold Bluffs Beach Campground, where we would be staying the next couple nights before sunset. We set up camp and headed out to the beach for another excellent beach sunset.

We then stayed up and were rewarded with clear skies and amazing stargazing for the first (and only) time on this trip.

Day 7

We got up and headed out to Fern Canyon. It is exactly what the name indicates, a canyon with lots of ferns. It is amazing. Walk through the canyon (wear waterproof shoes) and loop back on the trail above. I had been here before, but this is a place worth returning to.

Following that we hiked the Miner's Ridge Trail, a beautiful trail through the forest. It's hard to go wrong hiking in the Redwoods, the huge trees and growth just drive home that you are walking through something much much older than you. It's always amazing.

After hiking through lots of big trees, we wanted to check out one of the biggest in the area so we made a quick stop at the "Big Tree" near the Prairie Creek Visitor Center.

With that we headed back to camp. It started raining hard, so decided to retire to the tent during the evening.

Day 8

Another big driving day. We left Gold Bluffs Beach and headed to Santa Cruz. On the way we took the Avenue of the Giants scenic alternate route along the 101 through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. This is well worth it if you have time and are driving through the area. The road goes right next to giant redwoods.

We didn't do much besides drive and stop for food and gas along the way to Santa Cruz. 

Day 9

The last day of our journey was to drive back to Southern California. We took Highway 1 along the coast. We stopped at pull-outs along the way going through Big Sur. The entire drive is pretty scenic from Washington to California but this section along the 1 is probably my favorite to drive.

We had some miles to do so we didn't stop much. We decided to do more stuff up north because the southern part of California we can explore on our weekends living down here.

This trip was amazing. We passed so many things I would love to explore more. One could spend years just exploring the west coast of Washington, Oregon, and California. We had a week and tried to make the most of it, which I think we did.

If you want to continue to see adventures follow me on Instagram.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


A Solo Woman's Escape to Santa Maria Valley

Kristi Teplitz

Velo Vino: 30 Miles of Cycling Perfection through the Santa Maria Wine Country

Josiah Roe

Boats, Backpacks and Booze: Why You Should Try Island Backpacking

Kristen Fuller

11 Photos That Will Make You Want to Hike Channel Islands National Park

Katie Y

One Ideal Day on Santa Cruz Island

Leigh Maneri