U.S. 101 North - Mendocino County


This U.S. 101 north sign is posted at the eastern end of California 253 (Boonville-Ukiah Road) and at the southern end of South State Street (Unsigned U.S. 101 Business). Button copy signs like this used to be very common along U.S 101 in California, but they are becoming increasingly rare in some parts of the state. Photo taken 07/05/13.

U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) north
Downgraded to an expressway, the first exit along northbound U.S. 101 within Mendocino County is Exit 525, Geysers Road, which is named for The Geysers. Located in the Mayacamas Mountains northeast of Cloverdale, The Geysers is the largest geothermal power generation facility in the world. The area straddles the Sonoma and Lake County line, and it produces enough power in 2006 for a city the size of San Francisco. This is more than adequate to power all areas in Mendocino, Lake, and Sonoma Counties (over 750 megawatts). Currently (2006) Calpine owns and operates 19 of the 21 power plants. Photo taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 begins to descend toward Exit 525 (Geysers Road). Photo taken 07/05/13.
Soon thereafter, U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) again crosses the Russian River. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Northbound U.S. 101 reaches Exit 525, Geysers Road. Use this exit to Old U.S. 101, which is found on the east side of current U.S. 101. The bridge over the Russian River is out, so there is no connection south to Cloverdale. The freeway ends, and U.S. 101 reverts to a four-lane expressway alignment. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Between Cloverdale and Hopland, U.S. 101 closely follows the Russian River. Ascending a grade toward Squaw Rock (el. 880 feet), northbound U.S. 101 retains two through lanes. However, due to incidental slides and earth movements, lanes may be closed. For the first time, the median is only painted (and without any kind of barricade between the two lanes of traffic, such as a concrete barrier or K-rail). This kind of arrangement becomes more common as U.S. 101 continues north. Photos taken 05/26/06.
The next intersection along northbound U.S. 101 is for Comminsky Station Road, one-half mile. U.S. 101 reaches a brief summit, but Squaw Rock and Hopland loom ahead. Photo taken 07/05/13.
In summer months, when rain is scarce, the hills are covered in golden brush and grass. In winter, when rains are frequent and common, the hills are alive with shades of green. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) meets the left turnoff to Comminsky Station Road. This rural county road offers a connection to camping and other recreational activities along the Russian River, which lies in a valley to the west of the highway. Photo taken 07/05/13.
As U.S. 101 continues north, it carries four lanes until it nears Hopland, with the exception of a temporary two-lane section due to road stability concerns. A prominent feature along U.S. 101 is Squaw Rock, also known as Lover's Leap. This rock sits on the west side of the Redwood Highway and is better seen from the southbound direction. The rock is steeped in Native American tradition and is made of basalt, implying a volcanic origin. Photos taken 07/05/13.
Most of the connecting roads on U.S. 101 between Cloverdale and Hopland provide local, ranch, and recreational access. The oldest alignment of U.S. 101 remains well to the west of here along Mountain House Road, which rejoins U.S. 101 at Hopland. After crossing Pieta Creek, look for the small settlement of Pieta (el. 476 feet) on the east side of Redwood Highway. Hopland itself is about five miles northwest of Pieta. Photos taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 proceeds uphill from Pieta to Hopland. At the top of the grade (and for the first time since leaving San Francisco), U.S. 101 will shift from a four-lane expressway to a two-lane conventional highway. The two-lane highway will carry us across the Russian River (again) and then into Hopland. Photos taken 07/05/13.
Northbound U.S. 101 approaches the turnoff to Old River Road. This county route follows the east bank of the Russian River past Hopland north to Old Hopland, then continues north to Talmage (just east of Ukiah). It is unclear if this route, known as Old River Road south of California 175 and as East Side Road north of California 175, was ever past of U.S. 101. However, it is part of an 1874 toll road that offered the first overland connection between Cloverdale and Ukiah via Hopland. At Talmage, it connects with California 222 (unsigned), which turns west to rejoin the U.S. 101 bypass freeway of Ukiah. Photos taken 07/05/13.
A U.S. 101 north reassurance shield assembly is posted shortly after the Old River Road intersection. U.S. 101 will next cross over the Russian River and proceed into Hopland. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Continuing north, two-lane U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) crosses over the Russian River and moves to the west bank of the river. This bridge, built in 1934, is a through-truss bridge with a girder approach. The truss structure is painted green. Older guardrail and a narrow width help to identify the age of this old bridge. When this bridge was constructed, U.S. 101 likely moved off of the Mountain House Road alignment, but it's also possible that U.S. 101 was moved off of the Old River Road alignment on the east bank of the river. Photos taken 07/05/13.
After crossing the Russian River, U.S. 101 next crosses the "Hopland Overhead," which takes the highway over the railroad that parallels the river. Photos taken 07/05/13.
Vineyards start to appear as U.S. 101 north approaches La Franchi Road west. La Franchi Road connects to Mountain House Road (Old U.S. 101) and Duncan Springs Road west of here. Photos taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 north enters the unincorporated community of Hopland, which was established in 1859 (then named "Sanel") on the west bank of the Russian River. Hopland was founded on the east bank when the toll road was built in 1874, and people moved from Sanel to Hopland. With the arrival of the railroad in 1887, Hopland's population moved into Sanel, and Sanel lost its name to Hopland. Former Hopland became known as Old Hopland. Hopland is well-known as a destination for wineries and breweries, including the original home of Mendocino Brewing Company, which has since relocated to Ukiah. Photos taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 has two lanes as it passes alongside vineyards and approaches Hopland. Watch for heavy traffic. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Entering the community of Hopland, northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) approaches California 175, an east-west state route that crosses the Hopland Grade to connect Hopland with Lakeport. Lakeport is the seat of Lake County and is the basis for recreational opportunities on Clear Lake, California's largest natural lake wholly located within the state that is not a reservoir. The Hopland Grade is very narrow, very steep, and can be hazardous. Vehicles over 39 feet long are prohibited on the Hopland Grade portion of California 175. Photo taken 07/05/13.
After crossing Feliz Creek, U.S. 101 north will meet California 175 at an at-grade intersection. Allow at least 30 minutes for the 18-mile drive on California 175 east to California 29 (and 19-mile drive to Lakeport) due to the narrow, twisting road over Hopland Grade. California 175 passes over the grade into Lake County, offering stunning views of Clear Lake, Mount Konocti, Cobb Mountain, and the pear orchards and vineries of Kelseyville. The two-lane highway connects with California 29 and California 29 Business at the south end of Lakeport, and it merges onto the California 29 expressway traveling southeast toward Cobb Mountain. While California 29 follows the more direct route to Lower Lake and the city of Clearlake, California 175 takes a scenic, twisting route in a southeasterly direction over Cobb Mountain near Adams Springs before ending at California 29 in Middletown. Photo taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 crosses over Feliz Creek. The next left turn connects U.S. 101 north with Mendocino County 111/Mountain House Road, which is the original alignment of U.S. 101 between Hopland and Cloverdale. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Hopland has most motorist services, including gas, food, and shopping. A few restaurants along the highway cater to the beer and wine crowd. Watch for pedestrians crossing the road and slow down for the central business district. No bypass has yet been built around Hopland. Photo taken 07/05/13.
California 175 travels east over Hopland Grade to Lakeport, then joins California 29 to bypass Kelseyville and split near Mt. Konocti. California 175 travels over scenic Cobb Mountain, ending at California 29 in Middletown. Photos taken 07/05/13.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) meets California 175 at this intersection. No traffic signal is posted here, so watch for traffic turning onto U.S. 101 from California 175 west. After the junction with California 175, U.S. 101 enters downtown Hopland. This brief strip offers several shopping and dining choices. An excellent place for breakfast is the Bluebird Cafe, which is home to wonderful breakfast pastries. U.S. 101 has no bypass around Hopland; all traffic must pass through downtown at a reduced speed. Long-range plans call for an expressway or freeway bypass, but no timeline for construction is in place currently. Photos taken 07/05/13.
This series of pictures follows U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) as it passes through downtown Hopland just north of the California 175 intersection. Notable along this stretch are the Hopland Inn, Hopland Tap House, and Bluebird Cafe. Several winery tasting rooms are located along the main stretch of U.S. 101. Mendocino Brewing Company no longer has a presence in Hopland and have since moved north to Ukiah. Photos taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 quickly leaves Hopland and reenters rural areas fairly soon. Photo taken 07/05/13.
The center turn lane for U.S. 101 ends, and U.S. 101 resumes a two-lane configuration. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Now leaving downtown Hopland, U.S. 101 north again assumes a rural highway configuration. This mileage sign provides the distance to Ukiah (12 miles), Eureka (168 miles), and Crescent City (252 miles). Photo taken 07/05/13.
Northbound U.S. 101 approaches Hewlitt Road and Sturtevant Road. On the left side of the highway is Jepson Vineyards. Photo taken 07/05/13.
A passing lane begins in two miles. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Still two lanes, U.S. 101 passes through rolling hills yellowed from the summer and peppered with live oak trees. The hills turn green each winter with the rainy season, but the long, hot, and dry summers make all the ground appear golden. Fire dangers are at their highest during summer. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Vineyards line this long valley, and the Russian River continues to parallel north-south U.S. 101 a bit east of here. A bit further north, U.S. 101 again enters foothills alongside the valley. Photos taken 07/05/13.
A passing lane forms as U.S. 101 ascends the last hill before entering greater Ukiah. The highway will shift into a freeway configuration after crossing over this hill. Photos taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 proceeds for another few miles as a two-lane highway with occasional passing lanes, with vineyards and a winery or two connecting along the way (including Jaxon Keys). A major intersection along U.S. 101 is Henry Station Road, which travels east and McNab Ranch Road west. Both roads provide local and ranch access. After Henry Station Road, U.S. 101 widens to four lanes and gains a median strip. Photos taken 07/05/13.
The next intersection along U.S. 101 north is Nelson Ranch Road. After this intersection, the U.S. 101 freeway will resume. Photo taken 07/05/13.
After Nelson Ranch Road, U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) again widens into a freeway. Photo taken 07/05/13.
The nascent U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) freeway starts with four lanes. Photo taken 07/05/13.
A begin freeway sign is posted soon thereafter. This segment of freeway will continue north past Ukiah. Built in 1964, the Ukiah bypass of U.S. 101 provides an alternate for through traffic to avoid downtown and facilitates access to several intersecting roads, including California 222 and California 20. Photo taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 again enters the hills, this time in a freeway configuration (for the first time since just north of Cloverdale). Photo taken 07/05/13.
Several wineries are based in Ukiah, which has flourished in recent years due to the high demand for quality wines from the four-county region (Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties). Photo taken 07/05/13.
The first exit on the Ukiah Bypass section of U.S. 101 freeway is Exit 544, Burke Hill Road (one-half mile). Photo taken 07/05/13.
Northbound U.S. 101 meets Exit 544, Burke Hill Road. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Exit 544 is a standard diamond interchange and serves local and ranch access. Photo taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 passes under the Burke Hill Road overpass. Photo taken 07/05/13.
The next exit along U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) north is Exit 545, Cox-Schrader Road (one-half mile). Photo taken 07/05/13.
The second exit from U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) north is Exit 546, California 253 west and State Street (Old U.S. 101) north (0.75 mile). Photo taken 07/05/13.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) reaches Exit 545, Cox-Schrader Road. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Exit 545 is another diamond interchange. Photo taken 07/05/13.
The next exit along U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) north is Exit 546, California 253 west to Boonville and Historic U.S. 101/State Street north to Ukiah (one-half mile). Photo taken 07/05/13.
After passing under Cox-Schrader Road, a U.S. 101 north reassurance shield is posted along Redwood Highway prior to the on-ramp from Cox-Schrader Road. Photo taken 07/05/13.
The next four exits along U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) north serve the city of Ukiah: Exit 546, California 253 west to Boonville and Historic U.S. 101/State Street north to Ukiah; Exit 548A, California 222/Talmage Road; Exit 548B, Gobbi Street; and Exit 549, Vichy Springs Road east and Perkins Street west. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Use Exit 546 for Historic U.S. 101/State Street north to Ukiah Municipal Airport. The runway is located between the U.S. 101 and the State Street business route. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Another U.S. 101 north reassurance shield is posted prior to the off-ramp for Exit 546. Photo taken 07/05/13.
California 253 travels from southern Ukiah west to Boonville, where it ends at California 128. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) meets Exit 546, California 253 (Boonville-Ukiah Road) west to Boonville and Historic U.S. 101/State Street north to Ukiah. Another twisting and windy road, California 253 connects U.S. 101 with California 128 to the west. Exit 546 also provides a connection to State Street, which is the unsigned and unofficial business loop through downtown Ukiah. Some sources indicate that U.S. 101 Business in Ukiah has been approved as a designation, but there are no signs to that effect in the field. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Exit 546 is almost like a trumpet interchange, with a flyover ramp connecting U.S. 101 north to State Street north. Upon exiting and crossing over U.S. 101, turn right for U.S. 101 Business/State Street north or turn left for California 253 west. Photo taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 passes under the flyover ramp for Exit 546. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Plant Road crosses over U.S. 101 on this bridge. Photo taken 07/05/13.
This mileage sign provides the distance to the next three exits on the bypass: Exit 548A, California 222/Talmage Road; Exit 548B, Gobbi Street; and Exit 549, Vichy Springs Road east and Perkins Street west. Photo taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 crosses over the railroad on the South Ukiah Overhead. Photo taken 07/05/13.
The next exit along U.S. 101 is Exit 548A, California 222/Talmage Road. Although unsigned, Exit 548A connects U.S. 101 to California 222, a short spur from the U.S. 101 bypass east to the unincorporated community of Talmage. Talmage is home to 1,141 people as of the 2000 Census. At the eastern end of California 222 is the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, which is an international Buddhist monastery. The state route ends literally at the gates to the religious establishment (about four miles east of U.S. 101). Photo taken 07/05/13.
U.S. 101 curves toward the northeast onto its four-lane bypass alignment, staying east of downtown Ukiah. Photo taken 07/05/13.
The Mendocino Brewing Company, noted for its Red Tail Ale, comes into view to the northwest of the freeway. Use Exit 548A to the brewery. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Through traffic is advised to use the left lane for the next three miles due to several freeway entrances and exits in rapid succession. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Northbound U.S. 101 reaches Exit 548A, California 222/Talmage Road east and Talmage Road west. At this point, U.S. 101 enters the city of Ukiah, which is the seat of Mendocino County and is located at 610 feet elevation and reaches an annual average of 36.96 inches of rain. Ukiah was incorporated on March 8, 1876, and had a population of 16,075 people as of the 2010 Census. As we travel north, the rainfall annual average will increase. Photo taken 07/05/13.
The gore point sign for Exit 548A is barely wide enough to accommodate all four digits of the exit number (548A). The interchange is a partial cloverleaf, with one exit and two entrances. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Departing the freeway, a single lane connects U.S. 101 north to California 222. Photo taken 07/05/13.
At the top of the off-ramp, motorists may turn left for Talmage Road west to areas south of downtown Ukiah or right for California 222/Talmage Road east to Talmage. The state route is unsigned. Photo taken 07/05/13.
Back on the mainline, U.S. 101 continues to bypass the city center and approaches Exit 548B, Gobbi Street. Ukiah became county seat when Mendocino County split from Sonoma County in 1859; Ukiah incorporated in 1876. Home to 15,497 people as of the 2000 Census, Ukiah is another major wine-producing region and is home to the Mendocino Brewing Company (which was formerly the Hopland Brewing Company, see above for more information). Use Gobbi Street west to areas south of downtown Ukiah. Photo taken 05/26/06.
This mileage sign provides the distance to the next three exits: Exit 548B, Gobbi Street; Exit 549, Perkins Street/Vichy Springs Road; and Exit 551, North State Street. Unlike other communities that are located adjacent to their waterfront, Ukiah lies well to the west of the Russian River. The river travels northeast from Ukiah toward its headwaters to the northeast. Photo taken 05/26/06.
All facilities are available at the Gobbi Street interchange. Exits 548B, 549, and 551 are the best exits for motorist services in Ukiah. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) reaches Exit 548B, Gobbi Street. The next interchange is Exit 549, Perkins Street and Vichy Springs Road. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Exit 549 connects U.S. 101 to eastbound Vichy Springs Road, which travels northeast to Vichy Springs. This resort features mineral hot springs with naturally carbonated water, the only such establishment in North America. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) reaches Exit 549, Perkins Street and Vichy Springs Road, which is signed as "Central Ukiah." Photo taken 05/26/06.
The next exit along northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) is Exit 551, North State Street. This is the north end of the unsigned business loop; prior to 1964, State Street was part of U.S. 101. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Use Exit 551 to the Pinoleville Indian Reservation. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) reaches Exit 551, North State Street (Old U.S. 101). This is the last Ukiah interchange, ending the Ukiah Bypass that opened in 1964. The section of U.S. 101 between North State Street (Exit 551) and West Road (Exit 557) was built in 1962. Photo taken 05/26/06.
This mileage sign provides the distance to Calpella (four miles), Eureka (153 miles), and Crescent City (237 miles). Photo taken 05/29/06.
The next exit along northbound U.S. 101 is Exit 552, Lake Mendocino Drive. The Russian River is dammed as Lake Mendocino northeast of Ukiah. Recreational activities such as boating and fishing abound on this reservoir. Photo taken 05/29/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 reaches Exit 552, Lake Mendocino Drive. Photo taken 05/29/06.
This U.S. 101 north reassurance shield is posted after the on-ramp from Lake Mendocino Drive. Photo taken 05/29/06.
U.S. 101 through Ukiah has four lanes and concrete lanes with a grass median. Photo taken 05/29/06.
The next exit along northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) is Exit 555A, Calpella. Calpella is notable as the location for the interchange between U.S. 101 and California 20. This township extends north from Ukiah toward Round Valley and Little Lake, and the town of Calpella as founded in 1858, making it one of the earliest settlements in Mendocino County. Calpella was considered as a site for Mendocino County, but Ukiah was chosen instead. Ukiah has since vastly outpaced Calpella in growth over the years. The town was named by settlers for the chief of the Native American tribe; "Calpella" refers to a "shell bearer" in the Native American language. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Immediately after Exit 555A is the second exit, which is Exit 555B, California 20 east to Upper Lake (California 29), Nice/Lucerne, Clearlake (California 53), and Williams (Interstate 5). This major east-west highway connects the coast with the mountains near Lake Tahoe. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The California Department of Transportation is organized into 12 districts, each of which has its own signing standards. After the state decided to move forward with exit numbering in February 2002, District 1 (which covers Mendocino County) decided to allow the use of exit number tabs on top of existing roadside signs, such as this one for Exit 555A, Calpella. Photo taken 05/29/06.
U.S. 101, which has been a truck route since its inception in Los Angeles, does not remain a truck route all the way to Eureka. This sign warns truckers that the truck route ends about 60 miles north of here, near Leggett (around Exit 618). Through trucks should use California 20 east past Clear Lake to Interstate 5 in the Sacramento Valley (northern Central Valley). Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) reaches Exit 555A, Calpella. The next exit is Exit 555B, California 20 east to Upper Lake and Williams. Photo taken 05/29/06.
This sign used to feature an older, button copy sign with a white California 20 shield as recently as 1995. The sign has since been replaced, and an exit tab was added at some point thereafter. Photo taken 05/29/06.
Lake County, which is located along California 20 between Mendocino County (Calpella) and Colusa County (Williams), has a variety of resorts on the north and south shores. One of the most popular is Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa, which is on the south shore of the lake in Kelseyville between Buckingham and Riviera Shores. On the north shore, Nice and Lucerne are both popular summer destinations. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) reaches Exit 555B, California 20 east to Upper Lake, Clearlake, and Williams. This is one of the few fast, east-west highways across the Coast Range north of San Francisco. Photo taken 05/29/06.
U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) north and California 20 west
Between Exit 555B and downtown Willits, California 20 west is merged on a shared alignment with U.S. 101 north. The two routes are generally well-signed, although fewer reassurance shields are found closer to Willits. Westbound California 20 splits at Willits, then turns west toward the town of Mendocino and city of Fort Bragg on the coast via Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The next exit along northbound U.S. 101 and westbound California 20 is Exit 557, West Road. This is the final exit of the 1962 section of U.S. 101 freeway. Photo taken 05/26/06.
West Road connects to Redwood Valley and Laughlin, unincorporated communities located east of U.S. 101. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) and westbound California 20 reach Exit 557, West Road. Photo taken 05/26/06.
This mileage sign provides the distance to Willits (14 miles), Eureka (148 miles), and Crescent City (232 miles). Photo taken 05/26/06.
Someone forgot to add a California 20 shield to the U.S. 101 reassurance shield assembly after the West Road interchange. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Signs advise that the freeway comes to an end in a half mile, right after the West Road interchange. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The next intersection along northbound U.S. 101 and westbound California 20 is North State Street and Uva Drive. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 and westbound California 20 reach Exit 558, North State Street and Uva Drive. At this point, Old U.S. 101 finally rejoins the highway. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Continuing north, Reeves Canyon Road splits to the northwest from U.S. 101 and California 20 to provide local and ranch access. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The four-lane highway ascends Ridgewood Summit, but the median is nothing more than a rumble strip on top of a painted median. Uphill traffic should watch for fast vehicles coming downhill or swerving into the northbound lanes. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A concrete barrier was placed on this section of U.S. 101 as the highway approaches the Ridgewood Summit. Photos taken 05/26/06.
Rocks and rip rap were placed here to assist with controlling erosion and drainage, which has threatened the stability of the highway as it climbs to Ridgewood Summit. Photo taken 05/26/06.
This unmarked left turn provides local and ranch access after several uphill miles without any exits. This section of U.S. 101 remains a four-lane expressway, not a freeway. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A Redwood Highway reassurance marker is posted after the local and ranch access left turn; U.S. 101 north and California 20 west continue uphill to Ridgewood Summit. Photo taken 05/26/06.
U.S. 101 and California 20 enter a more alpine biome as the highway continues to climb to Ridgewood Summit. Photos taken 05/26/06.
Reaching Ridgewood Summit, northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) and westbound California 20 leave the Russian River watershed and enter the Eel River watershed. Ridgewood Summit rises to an elevation of 1,953 feet. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A California Department of Forestry Fire Station is located at Ridgewood Summit. From here, U.S. 101 and California 20 begin to descend into Willits. Photo taken 05/26/06.
U.S. 101 descends from Ridgewood Summit as a four-lane highway, briefly widening to a freeway configuration before flattening out and reverting a two-lane highway for the first time since leaving Hopland. Photos taken 05/26/06.
The proposed Willits bypass, which is in the Regional Transportation Improvement Plan (RTIP), would begin somewhere near the end of the existing freeway segment at the base of Ridgewood Summit and go around Willits on a freeway alignment to the east of downtown. The two-lane section would likely revert to being a business route. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The next left turn along northbound U.S. 101 and westbound California 20 is Walker Road. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A pleasant drive along a two-lane rural highway, U.S. 101 enters the Willits metropolitan area. While future plans call for a U.S. 101 bypass around Willits, the 2006 configuration still has U.S. 101 north and California 20 west passing through downtown Willits. Changes could be happening as soon as 2007. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Hollands Lane provides local and residential access on either side of U.S. 101/California 20. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Heavy traffic is a frequent malady that plagues this area, and this overhead sign is activated when traffic backs up from the traffic signal with California 20 in downtown Willits. The intersection is still several miles north of here, but traffic delays can begin this far south. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Willits is the first city city along U.S. 101 since leaving the vicinity of Ukiah. Incorporated as a city in 1888, Willits is known as the "Gateway to the Redwoods." To the west, Jackson State Demonstration Forest and Noyo can be found along California 20, with several stands of redwoods along the way. To the north, U.S. 101 immediately enters redwood country. Willits (named for founder Hiram Willits) is the last city of significance on U.S. 101 until reaching Eureka (aside from several picturesque smaller towns along U.S. 101). The Pacific Northwestern Railroad provides north-south train service to Eureka and San Francisco (as of 1901), and the California Western "Skunk Train" was put into service as of 1911. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A shopping center entrance is the site for the first traffic signal on U.S. 101 since leaving San Francisco. An older traffic signal sits at the intersection of U.S. 101 and California 20 a bit further north. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Breakfasts are cheap in Willits! Photo taken 05/26/06.
The second Willits traffic signal is with Holly Street. This local street also provides local access. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Speed limit for mainline U.S. 101 drops to 25 miles per hour as the highway enters downtown Willits. Ahead is the Skunk Train crossing. This train connects Willits with the coast along a secluded railway corridor that is not always readily accessible from California 20. Some settlements and homes along the way take their access solely from the Skunk Train. In service since 1904 (with a 1911 extension to Willits), the Skunk Train uses some 30 crossings and two tunnels to get to the coast. The mid-point of the Skunk Train is located at Northspur. Photo taken 05/26/06.
U.S. 101 north and California 20 west prepare to cross the Skunk Train railroad prior to the Willits Arch. Downtown Willits had a bit of notoriety due to contamination from the Remco plant that closed in 1995. Several dump sites scattered throughout the town resulted in a polluted legacy for the town. For more information, visit Boy-s death uncovers toxic contamination, offsite dumping at Willits Remco plant. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The Willits Arch is the only such arch to cross over U.S. 101 in California (at least until the U.S. highway is relocated onto the proposed Willits Bypass). The arch was placed in 1995. Photo taken 05/26/06.
This small plaque is located near the Safeway parking lot adjacent to northbound lane of U.S. 101. It states that the Willits Arch was dedicated in 1995 and that it came as a gift from Reno, Nevada. The arch was formerly one of the several famous Reno arches (Biggest Little City in the World). Photo taken 05/26/06.
U.S. 101 north and California 20 west divide at the next intersection. This is the first guide sign for the split; California 20 travels west to California 1, which travels north to Fort Bragg and south to Mendocino. Note the old neon Safeway sign behind the sign and the tree. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A California 20 west shield is posted prior to the next traffic signal. Photo taken 05/26/06.
At Flower Street, California 20 turns west toward Fort Bragg and Mendocino. U.S. 101 continues north along Main Street and proceeds north toward Eureka. Photo taken 05/26/06.
U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) north
After the California 20 intersection (Flower Street), northbound U.S. 101 enters downtown Willits. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A middle lane for turning traffic is found along U.S. 101 as the highway passes through downtown, still on a reduced speed limit. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Continue straight ahead to the police station, train station, college center, parks, library, rodeo, and museum. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A wide variety of restaurants, shops, and banks line U.S. 101/Main Street as it passes through downtown Willits. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Another traffic signal is located at Commercial Street. After this intersection, U.S. 101 leaves downtown. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Continuing north, the final traffic signal in Willits is for Sherwood Road and Brooktrails. U.S. 101 leaves Willits and re-enters rural Mendocino County. Photo taken 05/26/06.
This mileage sign provides the distance to Laytonville (22 miles), Eureka (132 miles), and Crescent City (216 miles). There is not much development in between each town. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A Redwood Highway sign is posted along northbound U.S. 101 after departing Willits. The Little Lake Valley spreads around as U.S. 101 continues along a straight and relatively flat section once again. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Shortly thereafter, a variable message sign advises of weather and road conditions. During the winter rainy season, it is possible for sections of U.S. 101 to close due to minor rockslides and flooding. Photo taken 05/26/06.
An old railroad crossing is located shortly thereafter. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A railroad bridge is located to the west of U.S. 101 as the highway crosses Outlet Creek. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Continuing north, a seven percent grade carries U.S. 101 out of Little Lake Valley toward Longvale. Photo taken 05/26/06.
U.S. 101 is a two-lane highway from Willits north to Shimmins Ridge Road, where it widens out to a four-lane highway. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The trees are taller as U.S. 101 continues north along Redwood Highway. Photo taken 05/26/06.
At Shimmins Ridge Road, U.S. 101 widens out to four lanes. Photo taken 05/26/06.
This mileage sign provides the distance to Laytonville (14 miles), Eureka (124 miles), and Crescent City (208 miles). Photo taken 05/26/06.
U.S. 101 passes through this rock cut as it continues north past Shimmins Ridge. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 approaches California 162 east to Round Valley and Covelo. Currently, California 162 is a spur route that connects U.S. 101 to remote Round Valley via a path along the Shimmins Ridge toward Dos Rios alongside the Eel River. Photo taken 05/26/06.
California 162 east passes over the Poonkinny Ridge, then drops into Round Valley (el. of around 1,300 feet). After passing through Covelo, the largest town in the valley, California 162 ends on Mendocino Pass Road. State law calls for the state highway to be extended across Mendocino Pass to connect with the other signed section of California 162 in the northern Central Valley, but it is not in any immediate plans. A seasonal national forest road crosses Mendocino Pass. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A rest area is located three miles north of the California 162 interchange. Photo taken 05/26/06.
An advance California 162 shield is posted here prior to the turn off. Although U.S. 101 is an expressway through here, the junction is an intersection, not an interchange. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Due to the narrow and winding nature of California 162, especially over Poonkinny Ridge, trucks over 30 feet in length are not advised. Photo taken 05/26/06.
An unusual 10 mile per hour exit sign is placed on the ramp to California 162 east. At this point, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad leaves U.S. 101 and follows California 162 northeast to Dos Rios, then follows the Middle Fork of the Eel River on an alignment separate from U.S. 101. The railroad and highway do not rejoin until near Founders Grove in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The railroad had the first choice of routes to take from Willits north to Eureka, and it was decided to route it along the Middle Fork. This left U.S. 101 to follow the South Fork of the Eel River, which is of concern due to the frequent flooding along that branch of the Eel River (including the 1964 flood). While U.S. 101 is still there, but in California, west of the Central Valley, the railroad doesn't run north-south from the Oregon Border to San Francisco any longer due to frequent washouts and landslides, and hasn't for many years. So for now, U.S. 101 travels alone. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A yield sign is located at the end of the ramp; note the end California 162 shield that is posted above the U.S. 101 trailblazer. Photo taken 05/26/06.
This mileage sign provides the distance to Laytonville (10 miles), Leggett/California 1 (32 miles), and Eureka (120 miles). Photo taken 05/26/06.
U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) widens out to a four-lane highway configuration (with no median barrier). Photo taken 05/26/06.
A rest area is located near Longvale after the junction with California 162. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The next rest area is located 20 miles north of here. An old alignment of U.S. 101 can be seen on the road that leads into the rest area. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A U.S. 101 reassurance shield is posted immediately after the rest area. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The landscape changes as U.S. 101 penetrates the Eel River watershed. The hills have much more green foliage and less of the golden grass that was common further south. It is part of the gradual transformation of the climate as average annual rainfall totals increase. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Reverting to two lanes, northbound U.S. 101 approaches several elk crossings, the first of which is signed here. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Even U.S. 101 can have sections devoid of traffic ... but not many of them. This is a far cry from U.S. 101 in Los Angeles. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) approaches Davidson Road and Steel Road. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Entering Laytonville, U.S. 101 again ceases to be an expressway, and cross traffic becomes more prevalent. Home to 1,301 people as of the 2000 Census, Laytonville is an unincorporated community of Mendocino County. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The next intersection on northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) is with Harwood Road. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Entering downtown Laytonville, the speed limit drops to 35 miles per hour. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Approaching the primary intersection with Laytonville-Dos Rios Road east and Branscomb Road west, U.S. 101 widens in downtown Laytonville. Use Laytonville-Dos Rios Road east to the 1888 Burger Creek Historic Bridge and west to the Pacific coast via Branscomb. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A U.S. 101 reassurance shield is posted as the Redwood Highway leaves Laytonville. Photo taken 05/26/06.
This mileage sign provides the distance to Leggett (21 miles), Eureka (110 miles), and Crescent City (193 miles). The Redwood Highway serves all of these destinations, then turns northeast via U.S. 199 to end at the Pacific Highway (Interstate 5, was formerly U.S. 99) in Grants Pass. Photo taken 05/26/06.
U.S. 101 remains two lanes as it leaves Laytonville and prepares to ascend Rattlesnake Summit. A few climbing lanes are added as the highway gains elevation from 1,645 feet at Laytonville to 1,790 feet at Rattlesnake Summit. Photos taken 05/26/06.
Reaching a height of 1,790 feet at Rattlesnake Summit, U.S. 101 begins its descent toward Cummings. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Check out this oddly painted garage on the east side of U.S. 101 after Rattlesnake Summit. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) approaches Bell Springs Road. The highway closely follows Rattlesnake Creek toward Cummings, where it merges with the South Fork of the Eel River. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A rest area is located one mile ahead. U.S. 101 briefly turns from northbound to westbound until it reaches Leggett, where it again turns northbound. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Now reaching the bottom of the Rattlesnake Summit grade, the next exit is Exit 609, California 271 north to Cummings. California 271 is old U.S. 101; the new alignment follows a freeway, while the old alignment is preserved as a state route. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 reaches Exit 609, California 271. Two sections of California 271 exist: this section between Cummings and Leggett another section through Piercy, both within Mendocino County. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Exit 609 is signed with an exit number at the gore point, which is an increasingly common attribute as U.S. 101 continues north. Also note that the next six miles are part of a high wind advisory segment. A climbing lane creates a third lane as U.S. 101 veers around the Elkhorn Ridge to the southwest and foothills around Little Red Mountain to the northeast. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The third lane ends after the California 271 southern interchange. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A massive cut allows U.S. 101 to pass alongside the South Fork of the Eel River. The South Fork of the Eel River comes alongside U.S. 101 for the first time since entering the Eel River Watershed. U.S. 101 and the Eel River will remain within view of each other for quite a distance to come. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Between Cummings and Leggett, U.S. 101 has four lanes with no center divider. This type of design becomes increasingly common further north on U.S. 101. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The next exit is Exit 614, California 271, South Leggett. The historic alignment of U.S. 101 switches from the north/east side of the freeway to the south/west side. Much of this freeway stretch between Cummings and Leggett was built between 1967 and 1970. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Even though ostensibly a freeway, a left turn is allowed near the base of this hill. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Use Exit 614 to Drive Thru Tree Road, which serves a local redwood tree attraction. The redwood tree (Chandelier Tree) was gutted out to allow vehicles to drive through it, even though the tree has enough girth to allow such a large hole to be bored through it. A fee is charged to drive through the tree; it is privately owned and is not park of the state park system. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Trucks are not recommended on California 271 north into Leggett. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) reaches Exit 614, California 271/South Leggett. Photo taken 05/26/06.
A private sign for the drive through tree is posted on the left (west) side of the freeway after the California 271/South Leggett interchange. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Descending toward the junction with California 1, U.S. 101 loses its freeway status. The junction with California 1 is a regular intersection. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The road reduces to one lane northbound, two lanes southbound (for climbing). Photo taken 05/26/06.
The next intersection along northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) is California 1 south to Leggett, Fort Bragg, and Mendocino. The two-lane highway follows the coastline south toward San Francisco. Photo taken 05/26/06.
With the end of the truck route at the California 1 intersection, new truck restrictions for length are in place for U.S. 101 north of Leggett as described by this sign. Photo taken 05/26/06.
This is the only California 1 trailblazer posted on northbound U.S. 101 for the Leggett intersection. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 reaches Exit 618, California 1 south to Fort Bragg. Truck restrictions are in place from this point forward on northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway). Photo taken 05/26/06.
After the California 1 intersection, this sign advises of more tight curves over the next nine miles. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The next turnoff is for Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area, which has facilities for day use picnicking, swimming, and hiking. Some camping is also allowed. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Shortly thereafter, visitor information is available as U.S. 101 again follows a two-lane alignment past Hickey. U.S. 101 begins to ascend Confusion Hill. This hill is often a source of problems for through traffic and is one reason why trucks over a certain length are not allowed on U.S. 101 north of Leggett. Plans call for the portion of Confusion Hill most affected by landslides to be bypassed using two bridges that will cross a bend in the South Fork of the Eel River. Completion is expected to begin in June 2006 and end in June 2009. Confusion Hill in Mendocino County coupled with Richardson Grove State Park create the "Redwood Curtain," as drivers must pass through both areas to make the long-distance connection between Willits and Eureka. Photo taken 05/26/06.
U.S. 101 clings to the South Fork of the Eel River as it crosses near Confusion Hill, which rises nearly 1500 feet above the highway between Leggett and Piercy. Due to the proximity of the highway to the river and the hill, closures along this stretch of U.S. 101 can be common. For example, in the in the rainy season of 2002-2003 (during winter), Confusion Hill closed ten separate times.1 This area is considered geologically unstable, meaning that landslides induced by rain or earthquakes are likely if not probable. A section of recently repaired landslide on U.S. 101 can be seen among these photos; netting tries to capture falling rock. Fog can also cause visibility issues, especially on narrow segments with limited sight distance.

An old alignment segment is located on the west side of the highway; look for the photo with the small orange cone to see the location of the walkable old alignment. A side hill viaduct from the 1920s is found along this old, extant section of old U.S. 101. The viaduct was bypassed thanks to the large cut through the hill shown in this series of photos. A very narrow section of U.S. 101 that has not been bypassed has suffered landslides and other problems. At the end of the Confusion Hill segment, U.S. 101 resumes as a freeway ... and California 271 will emerge again for its northern segment. Smithe Redwoods State Park is located adjacent to this section of U.S. 101. Photos taken 05/26/06.

Descending from Confusion Hill, the next exit along northbound U.S. 101 is Exit 625, California 271 north to Piercy. Photo taken 05/26/06.
California 271 follows old U.S. 101 between Exit 625 and Cooks Valley at the Mendocino-Humboldt County Line. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Mountain scenery provides a dramatic backdrop as northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) reaches Exit 625, California 271 (Old U.S. 101) north to Piercy. Piercy sits at an elevation of 800 feet, which is lower than Leggett (952 feet) to the south of Confusion Hill. Photo taken 05/26/06.
The next exit is Exit 627, California 271 to Piercy. Two very old U.S. 101 bridges (from 1935 and 1917, both concrete arch bridges) along modern California 271 cross over the South Fork of the Eel River and McCoy Creek. Photo taken 05/26/06.
This bridge carries U.S. 101 over the South Fork of the Eel River. It was built as part of the U.S. 101 bypass of Piercy in 1974. Photo taken 05/26/06.
No services are available at Piercy. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) reaches Exit 627, Piercy. From here, U.S. 101 leaves Mendocino County and enters Humboldt County. Photo taken 05/26/06.
Leaving Mendocino County, northbound U.S. 101 (Redwood Highway) enters Humboldt County upon crossing the South Fork of the Eel River via this 1970 bridge. Photo taken 05/26/06.

Sources:

  1. Rough Road: When Disaster Strikes, Don't Count Highway 101 from the North Coast Journal May 4, 2006, by students from Humboldt State University (class taught by Marcy Burstiner; the students who wrote and contributed to this story are: John Anderson Jr., Lindsay Brokaw, Elise Castle, Jessica Cejnar: Joseph Clerici, Donald Forrest, Amy Gaber, Karina Gianola, Brooke Gibson, Cynthia Gilmer, Thadeus Greenson, Elizabeth Hilbig, Melody Hogan, Jill Koelling, Ashley Mackin, Bryan Radzin, Allison Sampite, Dietrich Seney and Joshua Tobin based on interviews with locals impacted by the current condition of U.S. 101 in Humboldt County

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