How to Travel to the Oregon – California Coast
It is surprisingly easy to get here. There is a major airport a few hours north, and several regional airports in and around the area. For drivers, just seek out US Highway 101 and head towards the Oregon / California coast.
Airports – Flying to the Southern Oregon Northern California Coast
Portland: The Portland International Airport (PDX) is about a two and a half hour drive north of Route 38. The Portland International Airport offers flights on many major airlines to airports around the world.
Directions: Take I-205 south to I-5 and continue south towards Salem and Eugene. After Eugene, take exit 162 and merge onto Route 38. Continue on Route 38 to Reedsport. Enjoy the hour drive down OR-38 along the beautiful Umpqua River. Total travel time from the Portland Airport to Reedsport will be about 3:30, but it will feel like much less because most of I-5 is not crowded and the scenery along I-5 and OR-38 is so fascinating. Don’t forget to stop at the Elk viewing area just before Reedsport.
The following are smaller regional airports. Service is frequently added and deleted, so be certain to check.
Medford: The Medford (Jackson County Oregon – MFR) Airport is located between Crater Lake and the coast and offers regional connections to Las Vegas (LAS), San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), Eugene (EUG), Portland (PDX) and others (subject to change). It is about two hours from the ocean.
Directions: Head north on I-5 towards Grants Pass. Take exit 55 onto US 199 and follow it to the coast and the Giant California Redwoods. US 199 will also continue onto US 101. Once in California, the drive down US 199 offers spectacular views of the Smith River and the valley.
North Bend / Coos Bay: The Southwest Oregon Regional Airport (OTH) located in North Bend in the heart of the south Oregon coast. The airport offers a new terminal (2008) with connecting flights to San Francisco (SFO) and Denver (subject to change).
Crescent City: The Jack McNamara Field Airport (CEC) located in Crescent City offers connecting flights to Oakland.
Arcata / McKinleyville: The Arcata (ACV) airport is located at the southern end of the northern California Coast and offers connections to San Francisco (SFO). Service to Los Angeles (LAX) maybe offered.
Redding Airport: Redding Airport is about 4 hours away and offers flights from San Francisco (SFO), Sacramento (PCM) and Oakland (OAK). Drive west on CA 36 or CA 299 to Eureka – Arcata. Watch for winter closures.
San Francisco: The San Francisco airport (SFO) is one of the world’s major airports and is about a five hour drive to Eureka. Directions: Drive north on US 101 to Eureka.
Oakland International Airport: The Oakland Airport (OAK) is about a five hour drive to Eureka and offers international connections. Directions: Drive north on I-880 to north on US 101 to Eureka.
Driving to the Oregon California Coast
Driving here from San Francisco, Portland, Seattle or Crater Lake. US Route 101 transverses the length of the coast.
The nearest Interstate Highway is I-5. There are three main routes from the Interstate to US Route 101: OR-38 (exit 162), US 199 (exit 55), and from Redding. The highways hug the valley of major rivers and are enjoyable drives with wonderful scenery (yes, part of the fun is getting here). Traffic is usually light on all the routes. OR-38 enters from the north, at Reedsport, while US 199 enters near the state line, at Crescent City (CA).
Traveling from Redding offers two possibilities: CA 299 and CA 36. Both are winding, fairly slow routes that offer panoramic views of the coastal mountains and are fun drives – but don’t be in a hurry. CA 36 is about 3 & 1/2 hours from I-5 exit 662. CA 299 is closer to 4 hours from exit 678-B of I-5. This author has driven CA 299 several times in a sports car and looks forward to doing it again. Both roads are prone to winter closures and neither has reliable gas service. US 199 further north or CA 20 further south are more reliable routes.
From Crater Lake
Crater Lake is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Northwest, yet many visitors miss the spectacular nearby coast with the California redwoods and spectacular ocean views. The three-hour drive is half the fun, then you will be gazing up into the tallest trees in the world, ready to start your Pacific coast adventure.
If returning to the south (San Francisco), then take the north route to Reedsport (see map above).
If returning to the north (Portland), then take the south route to Crescent City (see map above).
Directions to Crescent City: Head out the south entrance to Crater Lake National Park and turn right onto Route 62. Route 62 will merge into Crater Lake Highway. Follow Route 62 / Crater Lake Highway until Route 234. Turn right onto Route 234 / Sams Valley Highway to I-5. Head north on I-5 towards Grants Pass. Take exit 55 onto US 199 and follow it to the coast and the Giant California Redwoods. US 199 will also continue onto US 101. Once in California, the drive down US 199 offers spectacular views of the Smith River and the valley.
Note/Warning: Some computer maps / GPS systems may designate a route from I-5 exit 61, towards Galice and Agness via BLM-34 and NF-23 as an alternative route. This is not recommended. During the months from October through mid-May the road may be blocked by snow. Portions may not be paved and the road can be hazardous even during the best weather.