This book is designed to be a Travel Guide. You can set your GPS to drive from San Francisco, CA to Crescent City, CA and it will take you on the current route of US 101. What you will miss is the original 1920’s and 1930’s routes that went through all of the towns and cities along the way. You will also miss many of the points of Interest and Roadside Attractions that are included in this book.
The original route of US Highway 101 covered by this Travel Guide is approximately 370 miles long. Many miles of the original 1926 route are still existing and drivable, but bypassed by the current route.
Starting in Marin County at the Golden Gate Bridge this Travel Guide will lead you on a path to the Oregon State Line through five counties, with a choose of the current route of US 101 or as much of the original route as is still usable. You will start at the San Francisco Bay, then pass by the Russian River, along the South Fork of the Eel River and through the Redwood Groves to the coast at the Pacific Ocean and across the Klamath River to the Oregon State Line. If making a round trip, there is an alternate route between Sausalito and Laggett that follows the coast for a much longer distance.
This drive is a great way to see one of the very historic back roads of California and visit small town America. So get in your car, RV, motorcycle or collector car and take a ride. This route is suitable for a drive any time of the year, but Spring, Summer and Fall are best.
The maps in this Travel Guide show driving from South to North, but it is easy to go the other direction. Where possible, highway exit numbers are shown for south bound drivers.
History of US 101:
US 101 was one of the original national routes established in 1926. However much of the road existed long before it was named US 101. A large section from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA followed the El Camino Real or “The Royal Road” which was the route to the Spanish Missions. In other areas, local roads connecting towns and cities were used.
Originally, US Highway 101 started in San Diego, CA near the Mexico Border and ended at Tumwater, WA near the Canada Border, with an approximate length of 1,550 miles at that time. In 1964, the southern end of US 101 was moved to Los Angeles at the interchange of I-5, I-10, US 101 and CA 60. US 101 no longer continued to San Diego.
Between San Francisco and Marin County, an auto ferry was used to cross the Golden Gate until 1937 when the Golden Gate Bridge opened. Toll on the bridge was 50 cents in each direction.
The section of highway that this Travel Guide shows is known as the “Redwood Highway” for the many redwood trees in Northern California. Although there are large Redwood Groves in Marin and Sonoma Counties, these are not near US 101. As you get into Mendocino County, more redwood trees will be visible. The Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County will take you for miles through a Redwood Grove.
In 1923, The Redwood Highway Association was formed in San Francisco to promote the northern section of US 101 to tourists. Many local chapters were formed in the towns along the way. This was the beginning of the Roadside Attractions to draw people into the small towns.
This Travel Guide will provide directions from the Golden Gate Bridge to the California/Oregon State Line, following both the Current Route and the Original Route.
The Current Route is marked US 101 for the entire length.
The Original Route where shown is based partly on maps from 1936, just before the Golden Gate Bridge was completed and many of the Northern California towns or cities were by-passed by a freeway. Connections between the Current Route and the Original Route are shown as part of the original highway to make following the maps easier. In some locations, the original route was covered over by the Current Route and no longer exists, but is just a few feet below your tires.