US 101 Coastline: Pistol River North Beach


As I made my way up the Oregon coast on US 101, I was feeling a bit gloomy.  My vacation was winding down, and most of the big destinations on the trip were behind me.  All that was left, really, was this day on the Oregon Coast, and then I had to high-tail it back to Portland to fly home.  It didn’t help that the day had started out rainy.  But it turns out, nothing clears up the blues like a very long walk on a very beautiful beach, and I couldn’t have picked a better one.  Pistol River North Beach is loaded with everything you’ll love about the Pacific coast, and you can wander for as long as you want.


It’s fairly obvious where to find Pistol River North Beach — it’s on the northern side of the outlet of Pistol River into the Pacific Ocean.  This stretch isn’t part of an official state park — although Pistol River State Park is directly to the south, and Cape Sebastian is just to the north.  There are plenty of parking spots at the side of the road, and it’s easy to find a trail that will take you down to the water.

My Visit

Road-trippers must balance recreation with forward motion.  You’ll never get to see anything if you spend too much time seeing one thing, in one place.  So for most stops along the coast, I chose to explore for, perhaps, 10 minutes at the most, then get going again.  But here, I didn’t feel like leaving.  I was in no hurry to find a better place, somewhere up the road.  And I think the pictures in the slideshow above make the reason obvious.  There’s probably no better place on the Oregon coast than right here.  So I explored, for nearly an hour.

Pistol River North Beach offers sea stacks, driftwood, dunes and grass, all beautifully arranged and easily walkable.  Little inlets provided some shallow water to wade through or hop over, while bigger waves crashed onshore.  The sound drowned out busy US 101, and it was easy to forget that a major road was nearby.

And as a bonus for me, the clouds started to break, lifting my spirits with some much-needed blue sky.  I can’t guarantee the same thing will happen for you.  But time and time again, I’ve discovered that the weather on the Oregon coast can surprise you.  The sunshine didn’t last long — it was drizzly and grey again after a while, but I was thankful for what I got.

I explored Cape San Sebastian during some even gloomier weather during my 2007 trip down the Oregon Coast.  You can check it out here.

The Bottom Line

There are many, many good places to stop and enjoy the Pacific coast along US 101 in southern Oregon.  North Pistol River Beach is just one of them — but it’s a very good one, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you stop here.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the time-lapse video of the drive from Harris Beach to Port Orford, Oregon.

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