U.S. Highway 101 Camping Tips
Camping Tips on
U.S. Highway 101
I've noted on my Highway 101 Travel Tips page,
the full length of the Oregon Coast, all 363 miles of it, perhaps 20 or 30 times in my life.
I even used to live on the Oregon Coast -- thus
explaining my pale complexion and webbed feet.
The drive on U.S. 101 from northern California to Washington
is one of my absolute favorites in the U.S. Here are my opinions about some of the campgrounds along
Highway 101 in northern California, Oregon, and Washington.
the summer time, it’s usually a good idea to pull into any campground in
northern California or on the Oregon Coast by early afternoon, since many fill up
by late afternoon (if not sooner). They
fill up especially fast on weekends.
State Park campgrounds in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington accept
reservations. However, except during summer weekends and holidays, you
don't normally need a reservation to camp in State Parks; you can usually find a
campsite if you pull into the campground by early afternoon.
about all State Park campgrounds on the west coast have showers, but very few
National Park or U.S. Forest Service campgrounds here, and elsewhere in the
U.S., have showers. Typical camping fees at State Park campgrounds are
around $16 per night.
Northern California State Park Campgrounds
Redwoods State Park (south of Eureka):
This is the largest redwood state park in the U.S. and has three
The best, I think, is the Hidden Springs campground, located on the southern end of the “Avenue of
the Giants” drive (the old Highway 101).
Springs is a large campground with over 200 campsites and it doesn’t usually fill up, except on
weekends and holidays. There’s a
really nice day-use picnic area about a mile north of it, with good access to
the Eel River.
The smaller Burlington campground, near the middle of
the park, is located next to the state park's Visitor Center and is
the only campground in this park which is
open year-round. The sites at Burlington are a lot more open than at
Hidden Springs, with nearly all of the sites visible from the Avenue
of the Giants highway. During the off-season, when the crowds are gone,
Burlington is a
great place to camp, especially during the misty, foggy winter months, which is
the best time to visit the Redwoods. I did a 3-day backpacking trip in
this park a few years ago, but I was disappointed because once I
climbed a few hundred feet, I broke out of the redwoods and into a
typical pine-fir-madrone forest. It was pretty, but it was also
a little disappointing. Nevertheless, this is a great state park
with plenty of good redwood camping opportunities.
Creek Redwoods State Park
(north of Eureka):
This state park is located on the Newton B. Drury Parkway (the
old Highway 101), about a mile north of where it splits off from the
new Highway 101. If you're heading either north or south on
Highway 101, signs will point the way.
Highlights of this state park
include a large meadow on both sides of the road, which is often filled with elk,
a wonderful Visitor Center, and the
graveled Cal Barrel Road,
a quiet, peaceful drive through a redwood grove.
The Prairie Creek campground is usually pretty crowded and fills up almost every day in the summer.
Because of the crowds,
the campground isn't one of my favorites but the
park offers some
of the best “redwood hiking” opportunities in northern California – both
short and long hikes are possible, including several routes to the beach, a few
miles west. During the off-season, only the campground's outer loop
Norte Redwoods State Park
(south of Crescent City):
This park has one campground, Mill Creek, which is on the east side of
Highway 101. The Mill Creek campground is pretty nice and
doesn’t usually get as crowded as other nearby State Park campgrounds, such as
Prairie Creek to the south or Jedediah Smith to the north.
The southern loop of the campground is in the redwoods and the
northern loop is in a dense alder
forest. As with most other State
Parks, there are usually evening campfire programs here. The best camping
sites are tucked in among a dense redwood forest in the southernmost part of the
southern loop, but this part of the campground is usually only open for a few months each
year. Although the campground is open year-round, the number of available
sites is restricted during the off-season. Although I
prefer the campground here over the one at Prairie Creek Redwoods,
there aren't as many interesting things to do here and the hiking here
isn't as interesting.
Smith Redwoods State Park:
This is a
nice campground on the Smith River, and it's especially popular with families.
I first camped here 30 years ago and have enjoyed it ever since.
However, it’s very crowded and you usually need a reservation in the
summer to camp here.
Incidentally, this park was named after one of the first white explorers
of this area. Jedediah Smith was one of the most amazing
explorers of the American West in the 1820s and 1830s. I read
his fascinating biography a few years ago and would recommend it to
anyone interested in American history.
under the redwoods at Hidden Springs campground in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, south of Eureka.
right: The wonderful Cal Barrel Road at Prairie Creek Redwoods State
Park is one of my favorite short drives in America.
It's a three-mile long dirt road that travels through the peaceful redwoods.
left: Driving through the redwoods in Jedediah
Smith Redwoods State Park, near Crescent City.
right: They grow 'em big up here in the Redwood Country.
This is also at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
Oregon State Park Campgrounds
Beach (north of Brookings):
Because it’s the first “beach” campground for
those heading north from California, this place gets really crowded.
It's not that great, in my opinion, with many sites just a few yards
from noisy Highway 101
(including mine the last time I camped here).
(on the Chetco River, east of Brookings):
less crowded and quieter than Harris Beach, though perhaps not as scenic.
A good place to camp, though, if Harris Beach is
all right, but it’s right next to Hwy. 101 and you can see (and hear) the
highway traffic. There’s a nice
day-use area just south, though, and you can hike to the top of Humbug Mountain.
Blanco: I like this State Park and campground
a lot, partly because it's not usually very
park is about five miles off Hwy. 101 and it's nicely secluded.
There’s a lighthouse here that offers tours to the public and you can
walk down to the spectacular beach. However, being on
peninsula that sticks out into the ocean, it can get
pretty windy and foggy here.
Along with plentiful campsites, there are a few basic cabins in the campground with nice views of the coast that cost around $30 a night.
A very nice (but very
popular) campground, and another one of my favorites.
lighthouse here that’s open for tours and it’s only a few miles from
Bandon, which has a lot of interesting things to see.
This campground is getting really popular with retirees and their RVs,
however, and during most times of the year, it's best to either have
reservations or to pull in before 4 p.m. if you want a campsite.
A few miles west of Coos Bay and North Bend, Sunset Bay State Park has a nice campground.
Located on a dead-end highway, it's off the beaten path and there's beach access nearby,
although the beach really isn't that great here. There are two other interesting
Parks nearby further down the road.
However, Sunset Bay is
really popular in the summer (especially with locals) and it fills fast.
This campground caters to dirt bike,
dune buggy, and ATV
enthusiasts who like to travel across the nearby dunes, so don’t bother camping
here unless you like the sound of irritating dirt bikes.
I've driven through the campground
a few times to check it out, but
I've never camped here
because of all the dirt bikers.
Not very impressive with no special features or
attractions and lots of cookie-cutter, bland and exposed campsites, b
ut a good place to stay if everything else is booked up.
Honeyman: One of my favorites and a favorite for kids because of the
lakes, playground, and sand dunes. I
haven't rolled down the towering sand dunes here since I was a kid, but I still
enjoy hiking the few miles across the dunes to the Pacific Ocean. Although
the campground is very large, it
can get pretty crowded, so arrive early. There are also several USFS
campgrounds along Highway 101 south of here.
left: Cape Blanco State Park near Port Orford, on a glorious
center: The Cape Blanco lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse on
the Oregon coast. Tours are given daily during the summer.
at Honeyman State Park, near Florence. There are lots of lakes and high sand dunes
here, and a
nice campground. I first camped at Honeyman when I was in diapers.
It hasn't changed much since then -- come to think of it, neither have I.
too impressive and not too much for kids to do here. Although the beach
here is impressive, it's a half-mile
away and on the other side of Highway 101. The campground is pretty dark and
(south of Newport):
o.k. from what I’ve seen on my drive-throughs, although I’ve never camped here.
It's just a few miles from the city of Newport, which is either good
A pretty campground
with safe beach access under Hwy. 101.
Lookout (near Netarts):
Part of this campground got washed away a few years ago
but they've since reopened it.
It’s a nice place and well off the beaten path.
This campground only has
“walk-in” sites (push carts are available free of charge to tote your stuff
from your car to the campsite 20 or 30 yards away).
Since I always sleep in my truck, I’ve never camped here -- but it looks
the beach, but the campground isn’t very interesting because there are few trees and the campsites all look the same.
Yeah, it's pretty bland -- but it works in a pinch.
park has the largest
state park campground in the U.S. and it's one
of my favorite state parks in America. The
campground, with nearly 600 sites, is pretty nice. The older loops
(lettered A through O) are more worn but are more forested. I
prefer the newer loops (numbered 1 through 287), which are more open
and have better restrooms. If you
stop at this park, be sure to visit the wreck of the ship “Peter
Iredale,” see the WWII fortifications, and drive to the tip of the Columbia
Because of its proximity to Portland,
this campground often fills up on summer weekends.
left: The bow section of the
"Peter Iredale" at Fort Stevens State Park. The Iredale was
beached during a storm in 1906 with no loss of life. Every time I visit,
it's a little smaller.
right: Camping at Fort Stevens State Park.
Canby State Park:
This park is near Ilwaco, just across the Columbia River from Oregon.
It has a
nice campground with a large, interesting museum which has a great display
on the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The park offers great views of the
Columbia River bar and it’s a good place to stay if nearby Fort Stevens State
Park in Oregon is filled (which it often is during the summer).
National Park: The scenery and
wildlife in Olympic National Park are absolutely spectacular. Although
this park receives a lot of visitors, it's so large and spread out that it
rarely feels crowded. My favorite campgrounds are at Hoh and Sol Duc.
Hoh has great rain-forest hiking, and at Sol Duc, you can hike a mile to the
impressive Sol Duc waterfall. If you visit Olympic, be sure to drive up to
Hurricane Ridge east of Port Angeles for one of the best views in the Northwest.
As with other National Parks,
there are no showers in the campgrounds.
left: The majestic Olympic Mountains of western Washington,
from chilly Hurricane Ridge. Yes, that's snow in the foreground.
center: Olympic National Park has a lot of great
campgrounds, including this one at Sol Duc.
right: Sol Duc falls (right) and river
(left) in Olympic National Park.
left: Hiking on the mossy Hoh River
center: Sword fern on the Hoh trail after a morning shower.
right: A curious elk
at the Hoh campground in Olympic National Park.