Driving Highway 101 up the southern Oregon coast.
From Klamath, CA to Florence, OR.
For the third part of our west coast road trip we continued north along 101 along the southern Oregon coast. It’s similar to the northern California coast but with even more spectacular haystacks and rugged PNW shoreline. We explored the lighthouse in Crescent City before staying the night in Brookings and eating a crab dinner. The next day was filled with scenic roadside stops of megalithic haystacks on pristine beaches and cliffside hikes down to rock formations. There’s really no where else like the Oregon coast.
Paul Bunyan at Trees of Mystery
What’s a roadtrip without a giant Paul Bunyan statue, and this one’s a doozy. At 49 feet high with 35 foot tall Babe the Blue Ox, its truly a sight to behold. The statue has an articulated hand that can wave on demand and has a booming voice manned by someone who can see everything via cameras so Paul will talk to you about whatever you’re doing and wave to you. The Paul voice had some jokes at the ready as I posed with the giant blue ball sack.
I first saw this statue on a post card back when I was still a teenager. Babe the Blue Ox, a Brooklyn band that would sometimes play Gumby’s, a bar and live music venue in Huntington, WV, had used the art, and it had always lingered in my imagination. This was the first time I had seen the statue in person. So excited!
You can find them at the Trees of Mystery park about 5 miles past Klamath. The park had an entrance fee with a canopy trail and other attractions. But we were happy to pose with Paul and Babe for free by the parking lot. There’s also access to a giant gift store.
Crescent City and Battery Point Lighthouse
From Klamath you drive through the Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park to Crescent City, a medium sized coastal town with places to eat and shops. We drove straight to the pier attached to a long jetty and to the Battery Point lighthouse. When the tide is up the island the lighthouse is built on is completely separate from the shoreline, unless you want to get wet. So we had to wait a while for the tide to go out. I waited until a large enough portion of rocks were sticking out of the surf and clumsily hopped across until I landed on the road. The lighthouse is pretty cute with good views and we spent some time exploring the rocky shoreline and interesting tide pools.
While we were there an older woman who was traveling in her car was robbed. Some guy smashed her window out and stole her purse and a cop was responding. There’s always a danger in these types of lots where tourists park.
Originally we had planned to stay at Gold Beach but when I discovered all of the interesting points between Brookings and there, we decided to stop at Brookings for the night and get an early start. We stayed at a modest looking hotel with great rooms and it was near a fantastic seafood restaurant where we finally got our crab meal that we had missed in Bodega Bay.
The crab was one of the highlights of our drive. I don’t think we left a piece uncracked. The oyster shooters were ENORMOUS. Almost more than a mouthful. These are the same oysters we’ve had near Astoria and fell in love with. I think most of these guys get shipped off to Japan.
When I was young I had this post card of the Oregon coast with coastal haystacks covered in pine trees shrouded in a fog. It was so magical. And it symbolized the area to me in a way. That lush wonder of the pacific northwest. Sort of burned into my imagination. This time I had the good sense to find that card and finally figure out where it was taken. About 11 miles north of Brookings is an area called Natural Bridges with a small pull out from 101. There’s an observation deck but not really that great of a shot. But if you hike up the Oregon Coastal Trail that parallels 101 for a bit and then climb down the steep cliffside, you can get better views of the formations there. The climb down was a bit treacherous with steep falls in all directions, and I almost blew a lung climbing back out, but entirely worth the effort. The sun was brutal when we were there so it was hard to get a good shot but I managed to get a few. Once at the bottom, the trail goes out along a narrow natural bridge high over the ocean crashing below. We climbed most of the way out but then the bridge gets very narrow. To get the exact shot from the postcard you need to climb down a slippery rock face and shimmy across a narrow spine to get fully across the natural bridge, and drowning wasn’t quite on the itinerary, so we were happy to stay on our side. It may be possible to reach the bridge from the other side, maybe from past the observation deck a ways, but it would take some serious effort.
Only 1.2 miles past Natural Bridges you find a much larger turnout for Arch Rock. Probably the best scenic views for a single stop that we found. There’s a picnic area with bathrooms, plenty of parking spots, and a small coastal trail with views of a cliffside shoreline and amazing haystacks. One of these is Arch Rock but there were many more massive haystacks that were just as impressive.
If you haven’t guessed, the theme of this area is majestic haystacks formed from ancient lava flows. They’re iconic for the pacific northwest shoreline. And Ariya’s Beach has a great collection of them. Soft sand beaches punctuated by enormous pillars of rock. We pulled off the road before we reached the official beach to explore the amazing haystacks but if you drive to the beach first there’s a parking lot and you can hike back down the beach to see some of the haystacks along the shore.
After all the desert hiking we had done previously, I was done with hiking dunes, but Katy was still excited to get out there. There are lots of dunes areas along the Oregon coast, enormous dunes partially covered in forests, and some open to recreation for dune buggies and motorcycles. We stopped at the Umpqua Lighthouse (not that exciting as far as lighthouses go), then drove down to the Umpqua Beach #3 Day Use / OHV Staging Area to hike around a bit. The vibe was a bit yeehaw for my taste but the beach was nice.
At Florence we turned west onto 126 toward Eugene where we had rented a house for two months to get vaccinated and check out the city for a possible future long term stay. I had been to Eugene many times, mostly on my way to the Oregon Country Fair, a huge hippy festival. You can read my post about the Oregon Country Fair here.