Histo​ric US Highways

Travel Guides and Books of Historic US Highways​

Historic US 101


Introduction:

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.

Marin County:

Marin County Website: www.marincounty.org


Marin County History:

Marin County was one of the original counties of California created in 1850 at the time of statehood. In the early days Marin County was known for cattle ranching and agriculture.


Today Marin County is known for many miles of beautiful coastline, the San Francisco Bay, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Muir Woods National Monument and the Golden Gate Bridge.


San Rafael is the county seat.


Marin County - The Drive:

You enter Marin County on the mid-span of the Golden Gate Bridge. However, we will start our trip just south of that at the Vista Point at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center at the Toll Plaza in San Fran


From there, drive north into Marin County and stop at the Vista Point at the north end of the bridge for more views of San Francisco. From the onramp onto US 101, it is a very short distance to the off ramp to Sausalito at Alexander Ave. turning right onto Alexander Ave will take you to the Ferry Terminal and the beginning of the Original Route of US 101. Turning left and going under US 101 will take you to the Marin Headlands and another great place for pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge. This road is not recommended for large vehicles.


The Alexander Ave off ramp is where you decide to take the Current Route, which is all freeway through Marin County or take the Original Route through Sausalito. Between Sausalito and San Rafael the Original Route no longer exists, there is a short section of the Original Route at San Rafael, then back to the freeway to Novato where you return to the Original Route through town.


Sonoma County:

Sonoma County Website: www.sonomacounty.ca.gov


Sonoma County History:

Sonoma County was one of the original counties of California created in 1850 at the time of statehood. In the early days Sonoma County was known for cattle, sheep, chicken ranching, agriculture and wine.


Today Sonoma County is known for many miles of beautiful coastline, agriculture and wine.


In 1846, the City of Sonoma became the site of the Bear Flag Revolt. In June and early July of 1846, about 500 Americans lead by William B. Ide, issued a declaration of independence and hoisted a flag with white background, emblazoned with a grizzly bear facing a red star. The revolt ended on July 9th. Today, the California State Flag still has a bear and a red star on it.


Santa Rosa is the county seat.


Sonoma County – The Drive:

You will enter Sonoma County on the Current Route and can follow that route all the way through the county which is all freeway and will bypass all of the towns and cities. Or you can follow the many miles of Original Route starting at Petaluma through every town and city until just past Cloverdale, the last city in Sonoma County.

Mendocino County:

Mendocino County Website: www.mendocinocounty.org


Mendocino County History:

Mendocino County was one of the original counties of California created in 1850 at the time of statehood. In the early days Mendocino County was known for logging and lumber mills, much of which was transported by railroad.

Today Mendocino County is known for many miles of beautiful coastline, redwood groves, wine production and Lake Mendocino. A large part of its economy is now based on cultivation of cannabis.


Ukiah is the county seat.


Mendocino County - The Drive:

You will enter the county on the Current Route and can follow that route through the entire county or you can follow the many miles of the Original Route that still remain. Much of the Current Route, follows the Original Route but has been rebuilt into Highway or even Freeway in some locations. After Ukiah, most of the road is two or four lane highway with center dividers in some locations. In Mendocino County, you will start seeing the first of the old “Roadside Attractions”. Just south of Leggett, the South Fork of the Eel River will come into view from both routes. You will follow the general route of the Eel River into Humboldt County.

Humboldt County:

Humboldt County Website: www.humboldtgov.org


Humboldt County History:

Humboldt County was established on May 12, 1853 from the western part of Trinity County. In the early days Humboldt County was known for logging and lumber mills, much of which was transported by railroad.


Today Humboldt County is known for many miles of beautiful coastline and redwood groves. A large part of its economy is now based on cultivation of cannabis and tourism.


Eureka is the county seat.


Humboldt County - The Drive:

You will enter the county on either the Current Route or CA 271 which is the Original Route of US 101. From the intersection of these two roads, you can follow the Current Route through the entire county or take any of the sections of the Original Route that still remain. The Original Route will take you through many of the towns that the Current Route bypasses. Much of the Current Route, follows the Original Route and is still two lane road with passing lanes on some of the hills. Some locations have been rebuilt into Highway or even Freeway near towns. Both routes generally follow the South Fork of the Eel River and after Weott, then following the Eel River until just north of Fortuna where it turns west to the Pacific Ocean.


You will pass some old “Roadside Attractions” and redwood groves. Don’t miss the Ave of the Giants for some of the largest redwood groves and a beautiful drive. When you exit Humboldt County, it will be on the Current Route or traveling through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park on Newton B. Drury Parkway which is the Original Route.

Del Norte County:

Del Norte County Website: www.co.del-norte.ca.us


Del Norte County History:

Del Norte County was established in 1857 from part of Klamath County, which ceased to exist altogether in 1874. In the early days Del Norte County was known for gold mining, logging and lumber mills, much of which was transported by railroad and river.


Today Del Norte County is known for many miles of beautiful coastline and redwood groves. A large part of its economy is now based on tourism related to camping, fishing, the ocean beaches, Klamath River and the many redwood groves.


Crescent City is the county seat.


Del Norte County - The Drive:

You will enter the county on either the Current Route or from Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway which is the Original Route of US 101. From the intersection of these two roads, you can follow the Current Route through the entire county or take any of the sections of the Original Route that still remain. The Current Route will take you through most of the towns as they do not have bypasses. Much of the Current Route, follows the Original Route and is still two lane road with passing lanes on some of the hills. You will cross both the Klamath River and the Smith River on the way to the Oregon State Line. In several areas you will follow the coast line at the Pacific Ocean.         

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