Driving Pacific Coast Highway 101

US 101 highway sign.

Pacific Coast Highway 101 runs from southern California to Washington. It’s a very scenic highway, but one that requires the driver's full attention. The road in many places is narrow, windy and hilly. You can expect to negotiate steep grades and sharp curves along most of its length.


Big semi passing a bicyclist on Pacific Coast Highway 101.

Big heavy commercial trucks and bicyclists are common on the US 101.

Take Your Time

The 101 is a very heavily traveled roadway and you’ll find a mixture of vehicle types. Everything from bicycles to log hauling semi-trucks. For those of you driving an RV, regardless of size, the posted speed limits are too fast for most RVs so the slower you go the less stress and fatigue you’ll experience.

In some places shoulders are narrow or nonexistent. Use care while driving along the US 101.

In October 2015 we drove our 38’ motorhome from Pacific City, Oregon south to Gilroy, CA. Our average speed was somewhere between 45-50 mph. Some areas you can cruise right along at 55 mph while others you'll be weaving your way around corners at 25-30 mph.

Spectacular Scenery and Quaint Towns

The scenery all along the 101 is nothing short of spectacular. It winds along ocean and cliffs, through heavily wooded areas, and quaint towns. There are many opportunities to pull off the road, rest for awhile and take it all in. Not every pull off is suitable, but you’ll find enough that are sized to accommodate your rig. Take advantage of these stops not only to let faster traffic pass but to relax and enjoy RVing!

Bridges of all types and sizes can be expected along the US 101. The narrow, long and high bridge to the left is in Newport Beach, OR, a vibrant small town with a fisherman's wharf that puts San Francisco's to shame. 

You'll see a variety of vehicles along the US 101.

Share the Road

As I mentioned, you'll be sharing the Pacific Coast Highway 101 with bicycles. In places the 101 is narrow and in many places there is little if any shoulder. Many of the bridges are narrow and have no sidewalk or bike lane, so you need to be vigilant and watch for these situations.

Oregon has posted warning signs with flashers indicating when a bicyclist is on a narrow bridge. Even if the flashers aren’t flashing expect a bicyclist to be there…you never know.

Many bicyclists don't seem to understand that an RV can't stop as fast as they can and that an RV isn't agile enough to zip around them with oncoming traffic. Some of these cyclists are keen to maintain situational awareness as to where they are on the roadway and what traffic is approaching them. Many aren’t!!!

A fellow RVer along the windy hilly US 101.

Some will wander into your lane just yards in front of you, forcing you to swerve into the oncoming lane or slam on the brakes, hopefully with enough room to stop. The signage says 'share the road'…so they expect you to, and you should. But, understand this: not every cyclist understands their responsibilities. We saw some who took the whole road instead of staying safely along the road’s edge. Even if you have room to go around them, be sure you move way over into the other lane as the wake from your rig could suck them into it. I know that our bus creates such a wake.

Just because the road widens out, doesn't mean its time to speed up. Twists
and turns combined with steep grades...just slow down and enjoy the trip.

If you drive cautiously the trip along the 101 is worth taking. There are plenty of campgrounds and RV parks along its length to stop for a night, a week or even a month. We really enjoyed our trip, looking forward to going back and doing it again.

Weather conditions can change without much warning. Darkness and coastal
fog really reduce visibility. Drive with your lights on to be seen by others.

Coastal fog can come and go within minutes. Use caution, stop
at a suitable pull off it it gets too thick. Drive with your lights on.

RV Parks Near Pacific Coast Highway 101

No post about driving the 101 with an RV would be complete without mentioning at least a few of the RV parks along the route. (Follow the links to read our reviews of each park.) Beginning in Oregon and heading south, we spent 17 nights at Whaler's Rest Thousand Trails near Newport Beach. Following this we spent four nights at the lovely Turtle Rock RV Resort in Gold Beach, where we took daily walks on the beach and watched the sun set on the ocean every single night. Our next stop was Golden Bear RV Resort in Klamath, California, where we watched sea lions play in the water right in front of our coach.  Our final stop on the 101 was Russian River Thousand Trails for five nights, right in the heart of California's wine country.

Have you driven the 101 with your RV? What was your experience like? Do you have any tips to share with our readers? Please comment below.

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Gerald Voigt

Gerald's interests are wide and varied. His work career started in the United States Air Force and since then has worked in logistics management, retail & service management as well as manufacturing. He's an author, photographer, pilot, radio show host and marketing consultant who enjoys RVing which allows him greater freedom to explore, meet new acquaintances and serve his clients.