Exploring Highway 101 North Redwood Coast Trails, Beaches, and More

The stretch of Highway 101 between Arcata and Crescent City travels through the most beautiful coastline and redwoods of California, especially in Redwood National & State Parks. This post provides a Highway 101 road mileage guide to the wide variety of outdoor recreational opportunities along the northern Redwood Coast, primarily the best places to hike, camp, explore beaches, and view the ocean (including great whale-watching spots).

Highway 101 on the North Coast of California: beaches, redwoods, hiking trails, campgrounds... so much to explore!
Highway 101 on the North Coast of California: beaches, redwoods, hiking trails, scenic viewpoints, campgrounds… so much to explore!

Highway 101: Redwood Coast Hiking, Beach Wandering, Camping, Exploring…

US Highway 101 runs through the heart of Redwood National and State Parks and is the main artery for your visit to the North Coast of California. This extensive article begins with Highway 101 in Arcata near the southern end the region covered in my book (see below) with coastal hikes in Trinidad and Patrick’s Point State Park before continuing north past activities at beaches and lagoons to reach the hiking trails in the Orick region of Redwood National Park. Highway 101 then passes near Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park before crossing the broad Klamath River to reach more trails, beaches, and viewpoints in the northern portion of Redwoods National Park and Del Norte Redwoods State Park. From there it travels through Crescent City to meet Highway 199 near Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, home to the final hikes in my book and the end of this Highway 101 road mileage log.

My Guidebook to Redwood National & State Parks

Mountaineers Books, one of the premier world publishers of outdoor books, recently released my latest guidebook, Hike the Parks: Redwood National & State Parks (see it on Amazon, and more info here on the NCHT website). It’s a compact and lightweight all-color guide to the top 38 hiking trails in Redwood National & State Parks and nearby, plus everything else you’d want to do in the outdoors in the region: beach walks, whale watching, tide pool exploration, and camping.

It covers Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Patricks Point State Park, and more along and near Highway 101.

Highway 101 Road Mileages: Redwood National & State Parks and Nearby

Refer to the first number for the distance from the junction of  Highway 101 and Highway 299 in Arcata. The second number lists the distance from the junction of  Highway 101 and Highway 199 just north of Crescent City.

Note: If you are near Crescent City and driving south on Highway 101, scroll to the bottom of this post and then work your way up.

0.0 78.3 Exit 716A Junction US Highway 101 and CA Highway 299, Arcata

This is the southern main highway junction. Reset your trip meter to zero here if you’re heading north on Highway 101!

0.5 77.8 Exit 716B Guintoli Lane and Janes Road, Arcata

The east side of the freeway in northern Arcata has just about everything you need to stock up for a trip. You’ll find a supermarket, gas stations, plus several restaurants and hotels.

7.4 70.9 Exit 723: Clam Beach County Park

There are better beaches farther north (see below), but Clam Beach County Park is definitely worth a visit. There’s a first-come, first-served campground with 15 sites. No fee, and you can wander the beach for miles. The entrance Clam Beach County Park (and the campground) is on the west side of Highway 101 near the off-ramp. More details here.

12.7 65.6 Exit 728: Town of Trinidad, Trinidad Head Hike, Trinidad Beach

Now we get to Hike #1 in my book: Trinidad Head and Trinidad Beach. But there’s lots more to Trinidad, including several restaurants and cool places to spend the night, plus a harbor and some of the most gorgeous coastal/beach scenery on the entire California coast, all a short drive from Highway 101.

California's Trinidad Beach viewed from the Trinidad Head Trail. This is a short drive through town from Highway 101.
Trinidad Beach viewed from the Trinidad Head Trail. Easy drive from Highway 101, plus good eats in Trinidad town!

18.3 60.0 Exit 734: Patricks Point State Park Hiking Trails

Just a short hop from Highway 101, Patricks Point State Park is a popular destination for campers, whale watchers, beach combers, tide pool aficianados, and, of course, hikers. Two hikes here:

Hike 2: Patricks Point State Park Headlands Trails
Hike 3: Agate Beach

Patricks Point State Park has many hiking trails. This is the coast viewed from the Wedding Rock Trail.
Highlight of any drive along Highway 101 and the North Coast: Patricks Point State Park. This is the view from the Wedding Rock Trail.

20.0 58.3 West Side: Big Lagoon County Park Beach

The beach at Big Lagoon County Park stretches for miles in both directions: south to Agate Beach in Patricks Point State Park (Hike 3) and north into Humboldt Lagoons State Park. Take Big Lagoon Park Road from the west side of US 101 for 0.8 mile to the park, which has a campground and a picnic area.

20.7 57.6 Center Big Lagoon Bridge

Big Lagoon is one of the three shallow lagoons of Humboldt Lagoons State Park. All three feature shallow waters with mixed salinity that provide homes for a variety of waterbirds.

26.1 52.2 West Side: Dry Lagoon access road (Activity)

At the mile-long beach at Dry Lagoon in Humboldt Lagoons State Park, a berm keeps ocean water out of the “dry lagoon,” although it is definitely wet in winter. Take the signed access road from the west side of US 101 for 0.9 mile to the parking area.

27.0 51.3 West Side: Stone Lagoon Visitor Center of Humboldt Lagoons State Park: Boating

Stone Lagoon is easy to explore by boat. Stop by the visitor center during open hours to rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, or bring your own. You can also boat Big Lagoon just to the south and Freshwater Lagoon just to the north. The three lagoons, all part of Humboldt Lagoons State Park, are on the west side of US 101 between Patricks Point State Park and Orick.

29.1 49.2 West Side: Stone Lagoon Picnic Area: Beach Walk/Hike

The beach at the picnic area on the north side of Stone Lagoon runs for two miles between rocky points, one a half mile north, the other 1.5 miles south.

30.9 47.4 West Side: Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center, Redwood National and State Parks: Beach Walk/Hike

The Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center features informative displays about local natural and human history, and you can also obtain overnight hiking/camping permits for the Redwood Creek Trail, and get the key to hike Tall Trees Grove (accessed from Bald Hills Road).

The beach behind Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center goes a half mile north to the mouth of Redwood Creek and several miles south to a rocky point near Freshwater Lagoon in Humboldt Lagoons State Park.

32.9 45.4 Redwood Creek Bridge in Orick

Highway 101 runs right through Orick, which stretches out along the route. Here you’ll find a gas station, a couple of different places to buy food, and a couple of restaurants. This is your last chance to stock up until the small town of Klamath just north of the Klamath River bridge.

34.0 44.3 East Side: Bald Hills Road (access for Hikes 4-7)

Bald Hill Road heads west and south through Redwood National Park, encountering several great hiking trails on the way:

Hike 4: Redwood Creek to Tall Trees Grove
Hike 5: Lady Bird Johnson Grove
Hike 6: Tall Trees Grove
Hike 7: Dolason Prairie to Redwood Creek

Just north of Orick, Bald Hills Road leaves Highway 101 to travel through Redwood National Park. Redwood Creek Trail is one of the best hikes.
Just north of Orick, Bald Hills Road leaves Highway 101 to travel through Redwood National Park. Redwood Creek Trail is one of several beautiful hikes along and near Bald Hills Road.

34.4 43.9 West Side: Hike 8, Skunk Cabbage Creek/Coastal Trail

This section of the Coastal Trail in Redwood National Park runs along Skunk Cabbage Creek to the beach. From there you can hike north into Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park all the way to Fern Canyon.

35.0 43.3 West Side: Davison Road, Elk Meadow, and Hikes 9, 11-12

Davison Road first passes Elk Meadow, aptly named because you’ll frequently see a herd of Roosevelt Elk there. Near Elk Meadow is the trailhead for:

Hike 9: Trillium Falls

A beautiful hiking trail wanders past Trillium Falls and massive redwoods in Redwood National Park. The trailhead is just off Highway 101.
A beautiful hiking trail wanders past Trillium Falls and massive redwoods in Redwood National Park. The trailhead is just off Highway 101.

Continuing several miles on Davison Road brings you to the Gold Bluffs Beach Campground and then the trailheads for:

Hike 11: Fern Canyon Loop
Hike 12: Coastal Trail, West Ridge, and Friendship Ridge Loop

35.6 42.7 East Side: Hike 10, Lost Man Creek

The Lost Man Creek Trail begins near the spot where Redwood National Park was declared a United National International Heritage Site in 1980. It’s a dirt road that’s easy walking through stunning scenery.

A short drive from Highway 101, Lost Man Creek Trail wanders through gorgeous scenery in Redwood National Park.
A short drive from Highway 101, Lost Man Creek Trail wanders through gorgeous scenery in Redwood National Park.

37.4 40.9 Exit 753: Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park has it all: towering redwoods, open prairies populated with Roosevelt Elk, year-round streams, and miles of coastline. It also has two excellent campgrounds (reservations required year-round: ReserveCalifornia.com): Elk Prairie Campground (75 sites) and Gold Bluffs Beach Campground (26 sites), along with the highest concentration of hiking trails in my book:

Hike 13: Redwood Access Trail and Revelation Trail
Hike 14: Elk Prairie Loop Trail
Hike 15: James Irvine and Miners Ridge Trails
Hike 16: West Ridge Trail and Prairie Creek Trail Loop
Hike 17: Prairie Creek Trail and Cathedral Trees Trail Loop
Hike 18: Brown Creek Trail, Rhododendron Trail, and South Fork Trail Loop
Hike 19: Hope Creek Trail and Ten Taypo Trail
Hike 20: Ossagon Trail
Hike 21: Carruthers Cove Trail

Even if you are pressed for time, get off the freeway and drive Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway through the park (no entrance fee); it’s one of the most beautiful drives on the planet.

The Prairie Creek Trail wanders through some of the best scenery in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It's one of the easiest and most popular hikes in the park.
The Prairie Creek Trail wanders through some of the best scenery in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. It’s one of the easiest and most popular hikes in the park.

48.6 29.7 Exit 765: Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

See the entry just above. Don’t miss Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park!

52.1 26.2 Exit 768: Klamath Beach Road to Coastal Drive

Klamath Beach Road heads west to the Coastal Drive, which is described in detail in the book. Coastal Drive passes the trailhead for the Flint Ridge section of the Coastal Trail, and then it wanders past headlands with expansive Pacific Ocean views, and near historic sites, before dropping to the mouth of the Klamath River.

52.5 25.8 Klamath River Bridge

The Klamath River Bridge is famous for the golden bears that border both ends. The golden bears represent the Grizzly Bear that is on the official California state flag.

The Klamath River begins in the mountains of southern Oregon and flows west and south to empty into the Pacific Ocean just a couple miles west. (See the Coastal Drive description above.)

53.2 25.1 Exit 769: CA 169, Klamath/Terwer Valley

This is an alternate way to reach the town of Klamath. The best way is described just below.

53.7 24.6 East Side: Town of Klamath

The small town of Klamath has a store, a gas station, a restaurant, and a hotel, and is a good place to get supplies if you won’t be traveling as far as Crescent City or Orick or Arcata.

55.4 22.9 West Side: Requa Road, Hikes 22-23, Klamath River Overlook

Requa Road rises to an expansive viewpoint over the mouth of the Klamath River, the rugged coastline, and the vast Pacific Ocean. The Mouth of the Klamath River viewpoint is also the trailhead for:

Hike 22: Mouth of the Klamath River Overlook
Hike 23: Coastal Trail to Hidden Beach

The viewpoint and both trails are excellent for whale watching from fall through spring.

58.3 20.0 East Side: Trees of Mystery

Trees of Mystery = giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Yes, it’s a major tourist attraction, but kids love it, and there’s an excellent and free Native American museum inside.

Just north of Trees of Mystery on the west side of Highway 101 is a trail that runs a half-mile west to connect with the Coastal Trail near Hidden Beach.

Trees of Mystery: Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, Highway 101 icons of the redwood coast of Northern California.
Trees of Mystery: Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, Highway 101 icons of Northern California’s redwood coast. (Courtesy Wikimedia)

59.2 19.1 West Side: Lagoon Creek and Hike 24, Yurok Loop Trail and Hidden Beach

The Lagoon Creek Picnic Area has picnic tables (of course), and it also has beautiful Lagoon Pond. In addition, it’s the trailhead for the Yurok Loop Trail, and also the Coastal Trail section that contours along the coastline to Hidden Beach (also a good tidepool exploration spot), and then farther south to Klamath River Overlook described above.

False Klamath Rock viewed from the Yurok Loop Trail/California Coastal Trail in Redwood National Park near Hidden Beach.
False Klamath Rock from the Yurok Loop Trail/California Coastal Trail, with trailhead on Highway 101

59.9 18.4 West Side: Wilson Creek Beach

Wilson Creek Beach is a favorite stopping point for many driving along Highway 101. There’s plenty of parking, and you can stroll the beach in either direction, or just watch the waves rolling or pounding False Klamath Rock and other jagged rocks offshore.

60.7 17.6 West Side: Vista Point

Make sure you spare a few minutes to stop at one of these two vista points, two of the finest along Highway 101, and the entire California coast for that matter. Both give sweeping views of the Del Norte County coastline and the vast Pacific Ocean. This is the spot where I took the cover shot for the fourth edition of my 100 Classic Hikes: Northern California.

61.1 17.2 West Side: Vista Point

See what I said just above. Be careful crossing Highway 101 if you’re driving north.

63.4 14.9 West Side: Damnation Creek Trail (Hike 25)

The Damnation Creek Trail drops steeply to the coast. However, a footbridge is currently out near the bottom of the trail, preventing access to the beach.

67.7 10.6 East Side: Mill Creek Campground

The Mill Creek Campground (145 sites) is open from mid-May to the end of September. (reservations required year-round: ReserveCalifornia.com)

70.2 8.1 West Side: Vista

The vista stretches north, encompassing Crescent Beach, the town of Crescent City, and adjoining coastline and forest. This is a good spot to get that selfie in front of the Redwood National and State Parks sign.

71.4 6.9 West Side: Endert’s Beach Road, Crescent Beach Overlook, and Hike 26, Coastal Trail to Endert’s Beach

Enderts Beach Road passes a picnic area before ending at Crescent Beach Overlook and a trailhead for the Coastal Trail to Endert’s Beach (Hike 26). The Crescent Beach Overlook is a wooden platform perched on a cliff with an excellent view of endless waves breaking on Crescent Beach, with Crescent City and the redwood forests of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park farther to the north.

Crescent Beach near Crescent City, California. View point at Enderts Beach/Coastal Trail trailhead in Del Norte Redwoods State Park.
Crescent Beach and Crescent City from the view point at the Enderts Beach/Coastal Trail trailhead.

72.4 5.9 West Side: Crescent Beach Near Crescent City

There’s plenty of parking for a long stretch on the west of Highway 101 adjacent to Crescent Beach, just south of Crescent City. There’s always people on this beach, but typically not too many; it’s a good mix of locals and visitors — and you can take your dog.

73.4 4.9 Elk Valley Road, Crescent City; Access to Howland Hill Road and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Crescent City’s many hotels and restaurants begin just south of here and continue along ways through town along both sides of Highway 101.

Most people choose to access Howland Hill Road and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park by taking Highway 199 north of Crescent City. However, you can reach the west end of Howland Hills Road and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park by turning right on Elk Valley Road and following signs.

Howland Hill Road has some of the most spectacular redwood groves and some of the best redwood hikes, including these in my book:

Hike 34: Little Bald Hills Trail
Hike 35: Stout Grove (with Smith River access)
Hike 36: Mill Creek (currently closed until summer 2021 for construction of the Grove of the Titans project)
Hike 37: Boy Scout Tree Trail
Hike 38: Nickerson Ranch Trail

73.9 4.4 Front Street

Heading west on Front Street quickly brings you to Beachfront Park and the North Coast Marine Mammal Center.

74.1 4.2 Fifth Street to Pebble Beach Drive

Head west on Fifth Street until it curves northwest and becomes Pebble Beach Drive. True to its name, Pebble Beach Drive runs just above Pebble Beach, a great place to find gorgeous rocks of all hues rounded and smoothed by water and beach erosion, and also excellent tide pools at low tide. There are also several places to park the car and take in the views of Castle Rock and Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

74.6 3.7 Northcrest Drive to Point St. George (Hike 27) and Lake Earl/Tolowa Dunes (Hike 28)

Northcrest Drive leads to both the hiking trails along the bluffs of Point St. George and also to wildlife havens of Lake Earl State Wildlife Area and Tolowa Dunes State Park.

Lake Earl Wildlife Area: Tolowa Dunes and Cadra Loop Trail. Close to Highway 101 and Crescent City with great hiking.
Lake Earl Wildlife Area from the Cadra Loop Trail. Just outside Crescent City and easily accessible from Highway 101.

75.4 2.9 Exit 791: Washington Boulevard

This is near where the freeway portion of Highway 101 briefly resumes for a three miles until it meets Highway 199. If you like shopping at Walmart, you’ll find one a short distance down Washington Boulevard. If you’re heading south on Highway 101, the business district starts here and continues south; look for numerous restaurants and motels, along with supermarkets, gas stations, coffee shops, and just about anything else you need from civilization.

78.3 0.0 Junction US Highways 101 and 199

This is the northern main highway junction. Reset your trip meter to zero here if you’re heading south on Highway 101!

Highway 199 Leads to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and the Smith River

My guidebook Hike the Parks: Redwood National & State Parks (on Amazon, and here on the NCHT website) ends with hikes in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, home of some of the top redwood hiking trails in the state:

29. Simpson-Reed and Peterson Memorial Trails
30. Leiffer and Ellsworth Loop Trails
31. Hiouchi Trail
32. Myrtle Creek Botanical Trail
33. Craig’s Creek
Hike 34: Little Bald Hills Trail
Hike 35: Stout Grove (with Smith River access)
Hike 36: Mill Creek (currently closed until summer 2021 for construction of the Grove of the Titans project)
Hike 37: Boy Scout Tree Trail
Hike 38: Nickerson Ranch Trail

Your Take: Highway 101 and the North Redwood Coast

Questions or comments about all the beautiful territory along Highway 101 between Arcata and Crescent City?

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