U.S. Route 101

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"US 101" redirects here. For other uses, see US-101.
For other highways numbered 101, see List of highways numbered 101.

U.S. Route 101 marker

U.S. Route 101
Route information
Length: 1,540 mi[1] (2,478 km)
Existed: 1926[1] – present
Major junctions
South end: I‑5 / SR 60 / I‑10 in Los Angeles, CA
  I‑405 in Sherman Oaks, CA
I‑80 in San Francisco, CA
I‑580 in San Rafael, CA
US 199 in Crescent City, CA
US 20 in Newport, OR
US 26 in Seaside, OR
US 30 in Astoria, OR
US 12 in Aberdeen, WA
North end: I‑5 in Olympia, WA
Highway system

U.S. Route 101, or U.S. Highway 101, is a north–south U.S. highway that runs through the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, on the West Coast of the United States. It is also known as El Camino Real (The Royal Road) where its route along the southern and central California coast approximates the old trail which linked the Spanish missions, pueblos, and presidios. It merges at some points with California Highway 1.

Though U.S. Route 101 remains a major coastal north–south link along the Pacific coast north of San Francisco, it has been replaced in overall importance for transport through the West Coast states by Interstate 5, which is more modern in its physical design, goes through more major cities, and has more direct routing due to significantly easier geography over much of the route. Route 101 is a major parallel freeway or highway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is an alternative to the Interstate for most of its length. In 1964, California truncated US 101's southern terminus in Los Angeles, as Interstate 5 replaced it. The old road is known as County Road S-21 or Historic Route 101 in northern San Diego County.

The nearly 2,500 km (1,550 mi)-long highway's "northern" terminus is in Tumwater, Washington: the route remains along the Olympic Peninsula's coastal perimeter west, north, and east; the northernmost point on the highway is in Port Angeles. The southern terminus of U.S. 101 is in Los Angeles at the East Los Angeles Interchange, the world's busiest freeway interchange.[2]


According to the AASHTO's numbering scheme for U.S. Highways, three-digit route numbers are generally subsidiaries of two-digit routes. However, the principal north–south routes were assigned numbers ending in 1. Rather than number the west coast highway US 91, and lose four available north-south numbers (93, 95, 97, and 99) which, under the numbering plan, are supposed to be west of US 91, or assign the primary west coast highway a "lesser" number (one not ending in 1), AASHTO made an exception to its two-digit rule. Thus, U.S. 101 is treated as a primary, two-digit route with a "first digit" of 10, rather than a spur of U.S. 1, which is located along the east coast, on the opposite side of the U.S. Thus U.S. Route 101, not U.S. 99, is the westernmost north-south route in the U.S. Highway system.

Route description[edit]

U.S. Route 101 is called the "Oregon Coast Highway" in Oregon, and the "Pacific Highway" in parts of California. It is also called "The 101" (pronounced "the one oh one") by Southern Californians or simply "101" by residents of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. From north of San Francisco and continuing almost to Oregon it is also signed as the "Redwood Highway" though not often spoken of as such outside organizations responsible for tourism marketing. Urban portions of the route in Southern California are named the Santa Ana Freeway,[3] Hollywood Freeway, and Ventura Freeway at various points between East Los Angeles and Carpinteria, California.[4] In 2008, the portion of Route 101 that runs from the Conejo Grade to the Old Town district of Camarillo was dedicated as the Adolfo Camarillo Memorial Highway to honor the city's namesake and extends through the boundaries of the original Camarillo family ranch.[5] In 2003, the portion of 101 in Ventura County was named Screaming Eagles Highway in honor of the US Army 101st Airborne Division.[6] Urban portions of the route in the Bay Area are called the James Lick Freeway, Bayshore Freeway, and Central Freeway. A portion of the route between Cochrane Road in Morgan Hill and CA-85 in San Jose is named the Sig Sanchez Freeway. Street routings in San Francisco are more commonly referred to by their street names rather than the route number. Portions of the route between Southern California and the Bay Area are named El Camino Real or El Camino Real Freeway, but such names are rarely used colloquially; the route number is used instead.


In Southern California, the highway is a heavily traveled commuter route serving the Northwest portion of the greater Los Angeles area; this includes Ventura County communities in the West Conejo Valley and in the Oxnard Plain, along with Los Angeles County communities in the East Conejo Valley and San Fernando Valley. The route is the Santa Ana Freeway from East Los Angeles to Downtown Los Angeles. It becomes the Hollywood Freeway north of Downtown Los Angeles through the Cahuenga Pass, before turning west and becoming the Ventura Freeway. Communities along the alignment include Hollywood and the southern edge of the San Fernando Valley, and the cities of Hidden Hills, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks (includes Newbury Park), Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Atascadero.

The Golden Gate Bridge carries US 101 across San Francisco Bay.

In Northern California, Highway 101 is the primary coastal route providing motorists access in and out of the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as the primary commuter route between San Francisco and the North Bay. It is one of two major freeway routes connecting the South Bay and Silicon Valley with San Francisco and the North Bay. It serves as a more urban alternative to the rural Interstate 280, with Highway 101 running through Peninsula cities closer to the Bay and Interstate 280 running closer to the Santa Cruz Mountains, and Skyline Boulevard. Through northern San Francisco, Highway 101 remains routed on congested city streets due to freeway revolts, leaving the city on the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. It then departs the immediate coast and continues through wine country and Redwood forests until it re-emerges coast-side at Eureka. The route provides access through the extraordinarily rugged and scenic terrain of the North Coast and into vast groves of protected Redwoods in area parks, including Redwood National and State Parks before reaching the Oregon border.

In areas where Route 101 turns inland, Route 1 branches off to serve the coastal communities.

Unlike Washington, California does not sign the long east–west section of U.S. 101 between Gaviota and its junction with California State Route 134 and 170 in North Hollywood as "West" and "East." Instead, Caltrans observes the overall direction of the highway and marks these portions as "North" and "South". Local references to this portion of the freeway, including traffic reports, usually refer to the directions on this section as east for southbound lanes and west for northbound lanes. In the late 1990s, Caltrans began placing guide signs on local streets in the San Fernando Valley adjacent to 101 which identified eastbound and westbound entrances to the freeway. Other than replacing older guide signs which previously referenced the official northbound and southbound designations of the freeway, Caltrans made no other changes to mainline or street signing, and as such, pull-through signs, overhead signs, and freeway entrance signs all still reference north and south instead of east and west.


U.S. Route 101 enters Oregon seven miles south of Brookings, and is seldom out of sight of the Pacific Ocean except the northern end near Astoria and from Port Orford to Florence other than a viewpoint two miles south of Winchester Bay; with another major exception being a significant inland stretch south of Tillamook, Oregon. It crosses the Chetco River at Brookings, the Rogue River in Gold Beach, the Coquille River just north of Bandon, Coos Bay at North Bend via the McCullough Bridge, named after the engineer who designed a series of bridges built on the Oregon Coast in the 1930s, the Umpqua at Reedsport, the Siuslaw in Florence, Yaquina Bay at Newport, and the Columbia River by Astoria. The stretch between Florence and Yachats is considered one of the more attractive segments of this highway. There are at least 86 Oregon state parks along the Pacific coast, including the Heceta Head Lighthouse. There are also many scenic bridges along the Oregon Coast that carry U.S. 101, such as the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport, Oregon. Because U.S. 101 forms the main street of almost all of the coastal towns in Oregon (with the exception of Cannon Beach and a few others), traffic is frequently—though not always—congested and slow. The highway crosses the mouth of the Columbia River over the 4-mile-long (6-km) Astoria-Megler Bridge at Astoria into Washington, and follows the Columbia downstream to Ilwaco.

The Astoria-Megler Bridge carries US 101 over the Columbia River.

State routes 42 and 42S have taken over old portions of US 101 around Coquille following a bypass. Reconstructions of 101 in the post-World War II era shortened distances and eliminated the worst narrow curvy sections in various places on the Oregon Coast.


From Ilwaco, U.S. 101 follows the Pacific coastline as far as Raymond, from which it proceeds directly north to Aberdeen, offering access from this city into the Olympic National Park. While the AAA has designated this segment north and then east to Port Angeles and Sequim as a scenic byway, some clear-cut logging in the early 1990s has diminished the scenic value of the highway where it crosses the Quinault Indian Reservation and the Olympic National Forest.[citation needed] An expressway goes through Sequim. East of Sequim, Route 101 turns southward, leading to Shelton and its "northern" terminus in Olympia, the state capital. Upon reaching Shelton, U.S. 101 turns into a two lane bypass that changes to a freeway at the junction of State Route 3, merging with State Route 8 and finally ending at Interstate 5.

The highway runs north through Washington, running parallel to the Pacific Coast, all the way up the western side of the Olympic Peninsula. In the northwestern part of the peninsula, the highway turns east, and runs along the peninsula's northern edge, parallel to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In the peninsula's northeast corner, the highway then turns south, running along the eastern edge of the peninsula and along the western shore of Hood Canal, until the highway terminates at a junction with Interstate 5 in Olympia. Between the intersection with State Route 113, on the western edge of the Olympic Mountains, U.S. 101 is signed east/west, and roughly south of the intersection with State Route 20, U.S. 101 is signed north/ south but having turned around 180 degrees. The direct route between the towns of Aberdeen (on the coast) and Olympia is US 12 and State Route 8.

The Washington section of U.S. 101 is defined in the Revised Code of Washington §47.17.165.[7]


Hwy 101 as a gravel road in Depoe Bay on the central Oregon coast in 1938

Parts of Historic Route 101 can still be found in San Diego County between Oceanside and the border with Mexico under a variety of different names. Through Oceanside it is called Coast Highway. In Carlsbad it becomes Carlsbad Blvd, but to the south in Encinitas it is Coast Highway 101. Solana Beach keeps it consistent with Highway 101, but Del Mar changes it to Camino Del Mar. All of those together make up San Diego County Route S21. From there it continues along Torrey Pines Road to Interstate 5 in La Jolla. The old 101 routing continues on I-5 in San Diego until Pacific Highway, the old U.S. 101 freeway a little west of current I-5. It then continued on Harbor Drive and Broadway through Downtown San Diego and Chula Vista, then onto National City Blvd in National City. The southern parts of I-5 were U.S. 101 for a period before I-5 was completed also. All have been decommissioned, but the roadways still exist and are occasionally signed as Historic 101.

Most of Historic 101 between Gilroy and San Francisco is still active, either signed as Business 101 or as State Route 82. The 101A bypass, however, is mostly discontinuous and is paralleled by the actual freeway, in some cases serving as an access road to the freeway.

Large parts of the old U.S. Business 101 and State Route 82 surface roads between San Francisco and San Diego are designated El Camino Real (The Royal Road), a designation originally given any thoroughfare under the direct authority of the King of Spain and his viceroys. These portions constitute the first major road in California.

Before the Golden Gate Bridge was completed, Highway 101 was divided in the San Francisco Bay Area. U.S. Route 101W followed the same general right-of-way of today's 101 from San Jose to San Francisco. U.S. Route 101E (east) generally followed the right-of-way taken by today's I-880 from San Jose to Oakland, then across the Carquinez Bridge to follow what is now California State Route 37, joining US 101W. Since there was no Golden Gate Bridge yet, US 101W became a ferry ride across the Golden Gate Strait. As today, US 101W proceeded up Van Ness, but without any left turn at Lombard, ending at the Hyde Street Pier. From there, motorists would drive onto a ferry boat which would cross the Golden Gate to Sausalito, where they would drive off the ferry directly onto the main street of Sausalito, which was signed for U.S. 101 once again.[8]

The US 101E designation was removed by the 1940s and became state Route 17 (later Interstates 880 and 580) between San Jose and Santa Cruz. As the Bayshore Freeway was built along the east side of the San Francisco peninsula in the early 1950s, old U.S. 101 along the El Camino Real was posted as U.S. 101 Alternate or 101-a, and the freeway was marked U.S. 101-Bypass or 101-B. In 1964, when California renumbered numerous state highways, El Camino was renumbered California 82 and the Bayshore Freeway lost the Bypass designation.

In popular culture[edit]

Historic Route 101 in Solana Beach

US Route 101 has become internationally renowned over the years in film, popular culture, and song. It is often quoted alongside other legendary roadtrip routes, such as Route 66, as a recognized symbol of American culture and lifestyle. US 101 is one of the courses in the racing game Cruis'n USA. Country music band Highway 101 was founded in Los Angeles, the southern terminus of the road. Their self-titled debut album featured the "101" in a stylized highway marker shield. US 101 has inspired numerous songs, including Jan and Dean's "Surf Route 101", Albert Hammond Jr.'s "Back to the 101", and a hit single by Herb Alpert, "Route 101", which peaked at number 37. Phantom Planet's single "California" references it with the lyrics Hustlers grab your guns/Your shadow weighs a ton/Driving down the 101. Texas recording artist Nick Lokken released a single for his upcoming album titled "The 101", which led to a partnership with West Coast apparel company Specifically Pacific, whose trademark is The 101. It was stated that "This is not the symbol of a road or a highway. It's the symbol of our lifestyle our passion for the coast. It’s a declaration that our life is more than getting to a destination, but rather appreciating where we are at the moment. This life, this lifestyle can't be found on the East Coast, the Midwest, the Rockies, or anywhere in between. This life and how we live it are Specifically Pacific."

Major intersections[edit]

I-5 in Los Angeles
I-10 in Los Angeles
I-110 in Los Angeles
I-405 in Los Angeles
I-280 / I-680 in San Jose
I-880 in San Jose
I-380 on the San BrunoSouth San Francisco city line
I-280 in San Francisco
I-80 in San Francisco
I-580 in San Rafael
US 199 northeast of Crescent City
US 20 in Newport
US 26 northeast of Cannon Beach
US 30 in Astoria
US 12 in Aberdeen
I-5 in Tumwater

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b US Highways from US 1 to US 830 Robert V. Droz
  2. ^ "East Los Angeles Interchange". Socalregion.com. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 
  3. ^ 2013 Named Freeways, Highways, Structures and Other Appurtenances in California (PDF). Caltrans. p. 83. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  4. ^ "2008 Named Freeways, Highways, Structures and Other Appurtenances in California" (pdf). State of California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2013-01-29. 
  5. ^ "LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST ACR 116, Strickland. Adolfo Camarillo Memorial Highway MARCH 12, 2008". Retrieved 2014-05-11. 
  6. ^ "ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION: SUMMARY OF LEGISLATION". Archived from the original on 2010-03-26. Retrieved 2013-01-29. 
  7. ^ "RCW 47.17.165: State route No. 101". Apps.leg.wa.gov. Retrieved 2013-01-29. 
  8. ^ "Sausalito ferry". Retrieved 2013-01-29. 

External links[edit]

Route map: Bing / Google