Scenic Highway 101 in Washington State

To explore massive old-growth forests, rich river valleys, and an abundant coastline, travel the pacific coast through Washington State. Scenic Highway 101 travels around the perimeter of the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park, making it possible to see the best the area has to offer in a limited amount of time.

Starting at charming Port Townsend, US-101 bends west around the north end of the Olympic National Forest, passing near the most northwesterly tip of the contiguous United States. Heavy rains (12-14 feet a year) feed the temperate rain forests and form mist around the small towns that dot the coastline.

The remote Olympic Peninsula features thick rain forest, a wild coast, and gritty towns. Photo © welcomia/123rf.

The harbor town of Port Angeles is the access point to the Olympic Discovery Trail—an old Milwaukee Railroad line that follows the waterfront, and the Olympic National Park. Explore more than 600 miles of hiking trails; discover 1,000 year-old trees that tower over rivers and glacier-fed lakes; or gaze at awe-inspiring views of the Olympic Mountain Range. The possibilities are truly limitless.

Tracing the edges of a landscape carved out by ancient glaciers and the Pacific Ocean, the highway follows the curves of the brilliant blue waters of Lake Crescent, then descends southwest through wooded lowlands and beaches toward the resort town near Lake Quinault and the maritime seaport of Grays Harbor.

The city of Seattle is a 35-minute ferry ride across Puget Sound, making it a convenient access point to the Olympic Peninsula, which offers interesting sights of its own.

Planning Your Time

To make the most of your road trip along Highway 101, plan at least four days in order to hit the main sights. Two weeks will give you time to explore and take it all in while making a couple of side trips.

The best places to stay are waterfront towns like Port Townsend, Port Angeles, Forks, and Grays Harbor. To make sure you don’t get stuck without a room, book 4-6 months in advance.

It’s roughly 330 miles from Seattle around the Olympic Peninsula and down to Long Beach on US-101. The Olympic Peninsula is a rural area connected by mostly two-lane highway, with long windy stretches between basic services, so fuel up and keep plenty of water, snacks, and an emergency kit in your vehicle.

Olympic Peninsula and the Coast

Fuel and Services

Services are limited inside Olympic National Park to minimize the environmental impact. Take advantage of the small towns that surround the park to gas up and stock up on supplies. Two of the state’s lowest priced gas stations are along Washington’s Pacific Coast route. Union 76 (907 E 1st St.) is easy to find in Port Angeles. Fifty-seven miles farther southwest in Forks, Ron’s Food Mart (170 N Forks Ave.) is a good source of area information, travel accessories, and snacks.

To receive reports on road conditions, call 511. If your phone carrier does not support 511, call toll-free at 800/977-6368.

For emergency assistance and services call 911.

Victoriah Arsenian

About the Author

Victoriah Arsenian is a writer, mountain climber, backwoods meandering tree hugger, an all-around adventure seeker, and a habitual coffee drinker. Raised most of her life in Los Angeles, Victoriah caught the itch for travel from her family’s yearly summer explorations of the Pacific Northwest. She grew up reading adventure novels by authors like Mark Twain, and Jack London, dreaming of finding her own adventures. After reading Scott’s Island of the Blue Dolphins she became fascinated by Native American culture. While attending college in Oregon, she’d often travel solo up the coast, exploring trails and mountains, and learning about local Native American legends.
Victoriah has since contributed to and authored several culturally-based travel publications including, the award-winning A Travel Guide to Indian Country (Washington & Oregon), Explore Pacific Northwest Tribes, an audio tour guide of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, and numerous itineraries, and articles on cultural immersion travel. She has also traveled to and explored unique places across the globe, following her feet to every destination with a giant-sized box of band-aids.

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