US Highway 101 in Oregon is every bit as spectacular as the more famous PCH in California. And if I had to choose, I’d say that the section of coastline in southern Oregon is the best in the state. There are numerous places where you can access the coast, and since it’s further away from the big cities, you’re more likely to have a beach all to yourself.
US Highway 101 runs along the entire Oregon Coast. On this page, I’ll be showing you what you can expect between the California state line and Cape Blanco.
Oregon’s entire Pacific Coast is dotted with state parks. Most of them don’t charge anything for entry or parking, so you’re free to drop into as many as you can manage. I learned very quickly that you simply don’t have time to stop at them all — but they will all tempt you.
I made my first stop of the day at Harris Beach State Park. It’s located just north of Brookings, Oregon. It’s memorable, in part, due to this hill that stands above the parking area. The access road squeezes around its base.
A short zig-zagging boardwalk takes you down to the water, where you’ll find everything that you hoped for: driftwood, jagged rocks…
… and some very big seastacks offshore. During high tide, you might have trouble going very far south (towards the rocks you see above). There is more beach to the north.
The only problem is, if you’re planning on covering a couple hundred miles of US 101 in a day, you don’t have a lot of time to spend at each beach. I enjoyed this one briefly, then headed north.
I didn’t get very far, before I was tempted to stop again. This time, I really did pick a beach that’s off-the-beaten path: Whaleshead Beach.
This is the aforementioned unbeaten path. The parking area for this beach is in the middle of the woods, and you have to hike through the trees, then down a steep slope, following this track. In spots, it was so overgrown that I had to push my way though the bushes.
This view proves that the effort was well worth it.
I was the only person on this beach. To the north, there was a sea stack and some smaller rocks.
One particular rock was taking a beating from the Pacific.
It felt like I was the first person to ever be here, but clearly I was not.
Looking south, I think I could have walked for quite a distance. But, I had a long way to go, and I knew I would be tempted by even more roadside beaches…
… so I hiked back up the trail, and got back on 101 again.
(By the way, there is a much easier access point for Whaleshead Beach. There is a larger parking lot, just up the road a short distance.)
My next stop was at…
Natural Bridges Cove
As you drive along US 101, watch closely for a turnout that provides access to Natural Bridges Cove. This viewpoint…
… is just a short walk down this trail…
… which is part of the Oregon Coast Trail. You could hike much further on this trail, but if you’re just looking for a view of the Natural Bridges, you don’t have to go very far.
A few miles further up 101, you’ll come upon an especially scenic area, where the road runs along the very edge of the ocean.
South of Cape Sebastian State Park
This stretch of US 101 is the highway of your dreams. The road is directly on the coast, with almost nothing between you and the ocean. And as an added bonus, you’ll see an assortment of contorted sea stacks, rising from the surf, just offshore. There’s also a pretty good chance that you’ll be swamped with sea fog. That’s okay, it won’t ruin the scenery, it will add an other-worldly feel.
A turnout along the side of the road allows you to walk down to the beach — although you really don’t need to, since you’ve seen it all from the road.
If you want more of this view, turn into Cape Sebastian State Park, and hike the 1.5 mile trail.
I would have been very happy to stop at one beach after another, all the way up the coast, but I knew I was already running out of time. I needed to get to Lincoln City by the end of the day. So, I picked up the pace, and made my next stop at Cape Blanco, the westernmost part of Oregon.
The Bottom Line
I could easily devote an entire day, or even two days, to the beaches along the southern Oregon coast. If you can, allow plenty of extra time in your travel schedule, so you can enjoy this area. Pick one of the beaches I’ve mentioned, or any other, and you’ll be very happy.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from the California state line, through Brookings, to Gold Beach: