Once you leave Lake Crescent behind, US 101 gets a bit boring. All you pass are trees, trees, and more trees. So take a detour back to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, up State Route 113, then 112, headed north and west. You’ll still have to drive through another half-hour or more of forest, but you’ll eventually reach water again.
After you pass through Clallam Bay (we’ll come back to this town, and its famous Running Fish statue later), you reach the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There are plenty of places here to pull off the road and walk down to the water.
Some of these rocks were covered with graffiti, but some creative camerawork, and the lack of light from the quickly setting sun, helped me hide the spray paint scars.
Cape Flattery, Near Neah Bay
One wind-swept tree hangs on the edge of Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point in the contiguous U.S.
Just off Cape Flattery, you can see Tatoosh Island. There’s a lighthouse here, whichtechnically marks the most northwestern point in the country (excluding Alaska, of course.) The island and surrounding waters are protected by the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
Several viewpoints provide incredible views of the rocky coastline. This one looks south…
… while this one looks north. The crashing waves have eroded the rock, forming a series of sea caves and inlets. If the surf is rough, you can feel the waves shaking the ground below your feet.
As you look at this last picture, and notice how the sun has almost set, consider this: I still must hike a half mile up a muddy trail through a thick forest in near darkness, to get back to my car! That experience was a bit scary.
Neah Bay, WA
Once I made my way back through Neah Bay, it was almost too dark to take any more pictures. Neah Bay’s most scenic feature is the water that surrounds it. As for the town itself, it’s a run-down, depressing place, that’s obviously consumed by poverty. I didn’t see any motels or restaurants in town, nice enough to recommend. That’s a shame, because it seems this community could do more to capitalize on its two biggest tourist draws: Cape Flattery, and sport fishing.
A view of town, from the outskirts. You can’t see much, because there isn’t much there.
As you climb the hill on the way out of Neah Bay, a small roadside turnout provides this view. This is also the last place you’ll have cell-phone coverage, until Clallam Bay, so if you haven’t called your friends to tell them you’ve survived your trip to the northwestern corner of the country, do it now.
Note: This trip was first published in 2004.