Highway 101 in Washington
The Olympic Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean
Highway 101 runs from Olympia, Washington, around the Olympic Peninsula and down the Pacific Coast of Washington. It crosses the Columbia River at Astoria and follows the Oregon and California coasts to San Diego at the border with Mexico.
Except for a few loops in Washington and Oregon, and some stretches of California Highway 1, Highway 101 is the closest route to the Pacific Ocean for its entire length.
When it begins in Olympia and heads northwest, Highway 101 shares the road with Highway 8, the fast, direct route to the coast. A few miles out, it branches off, passing to the west of Shelton. At Shelton, drivers have the option of heading north through on Highway 3 through Bremerton and the Kitsap Peninsula, before crossing the Hood Canal Bridge and rejoining Highway 101.
Highway 101 itself reaches Hood Canal at the "Great Bend" and continues through Hoodsport along the west shores of the inlet, past a series of small villages.
At the extreme northeast point of the Olympia Peninsula lies Port Townsend, the "Victorian Seaport" of Puget Sound. It is a short drive off Highway 101 and is connected by ferry to Whidbey Island.
Heading west across through Sequim, a surprisingly dry community in the "rain shadow" of the Olympic Mountains, Port Angeles. The headquarters of the Olympic National Park are here, as well as ferry connections to Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia (Canada).
After Port Angeles, Highway 101 heads inland, entering Olympic National Park and passing the long and beautiful Crescent Lake. It continues around the northwest corner of the park, with side roads leading into the mountains to Sol Duc Hot Springs and out to the furthest tip of the Peninsula at Neah Bay.
Turning south, the highway goes through Forks, near the west entrance to the park. This is where you get access to the famous Hoh Rain Forest, where over 200 inches of rain fall annually, creating a botanical wonderland. Here also is where the highway to La Push branches west to some of the few publicly accessible beaches on the far north coast.
At Kalaloch the highway briefly comes close to the beaches, before heading inland toward Lake Quinault. The highway continues inland until Hoquiam, but you can take a shortcut to the beaches at Humptulips..
Hoquiam and Aberdeen form an inseparable urban area that is the industrial heart of Grays Harbor County and in fact the Pacific Coast of Washington. Highway 101 passes through both cities before crossing the Chehalis River and heading south. Those interested in reaching Westport should head west on Highway 105 instead of continuing on Highway 101 through Cosmpolis.
Highway 105 loops back just before Raymond. You soon reach South Bend, the county seat of Pacific County. The Pacific County Courthouse is a well-known landmark. From here, Highway 101 generally follows the eastern shore of Willapa Bay.
At the south end of Willapa Bay, you can branch off to explore the Long Beach Peninsula, where you will find the fishing center of Ilwaco, the world's longest beach at Long Beach and some interesting local history at Oysterville.
After just a few more miles, you come to the Columbia River, where the Columbia River Bridge awaits to take you into Oregon.