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  1. Default SF to Seattle - I-5 or PCH/101?


    My family will be moving from the SF area to Seattle and am trying to determine whether or not to drive up I-5 or 101 - especially since I will be doing the majority of the driving. While my car is in good shape and I am planning on getting a good tune-up before leaving (brakes have already been worked on), I am not too fond of steep grades - especially in an automatic. There is a chance that I may be renting an RV for the trip due to having an advanced cancer person along and do not know whether a car can or should be towed behind the RV to help economize on expenses.

    I have gotten maps that show the elevations of the various roads and have been playing with Google Earth to get a better idea of what the roads are like but would really appreciate any information.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Go the Way You Want

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    I've driven the PCH, US-101, north out of San Francisco and up to Crescent City, where I used US-199 to cut inland to join I-5. As I recall, I chose this route for many of the same reasons that you are weighing to reach your decision. I definitely wanted to enjoy the scenery of the coastal route, as well as some of the giant redwoods, while not subjecting myself to a lot of heavy mountain driving. While the coastal highway had a number of twists and turns, but not much in the way of grades. I-5 was of course a typical Interstate with minimal curves, climbs and descents. The one stretch that you might find a bit of work is US-199 between Crescent City, CA and Grants Pass, OR. But that bit of highway is only 80 miles, so I wouldn't let it stop me making the trip.

    As far as choosing between making the trip in a car or and RV, have a look at this article for some general considerations as well as checking out other links to RV travel.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default How much time do you have for this trip?

    While you will definitely find the coastal highway to be full of twists, turns, and periodic hills, this shouldn't be enough to pose a problem no matter which vehicle you drive. I have seen huge motorhomes and 5th wheels on the coastal route. As long as you drive at a speed that you're comfortable driving and that suits the vehicle you're driving, you should be fine.

    To me, what can make or break this trip would be the time you have to do it in. If you are in a rush, the coastal drive might be frustrating. Especially if you are driving an RV. There is no way you can safely rush this drive.

    I would estimate that you would need 3 days to safely drive the coastal route in an RV. And this wouldn't leave you much time for stops to sight-see. You can do it in 2 days in a car without time to sight-see. Of course, why do the drive at all if you can't stop to enjoy the sights? So, if you don't have at least 4 days, preferably more, I would take I-5.

    And, of course, having a person with health issues along might cause some unplanned stops as well. So I think you have to consider that in your planning as well. Should a medical emergency arise, it will take longer to get your loved one to a more major medical facility if you take the coastal route.

    The Oregon Coast is only about 4 hours from Seattle. You could easily explore that area on a long weekends once you have moved to Seattle.

    Of course, if you haven't explored the northern California Coast while you've been living in the SF area, you might take AZBuck's recommendation and just do that leg on this trip and then head inland to I-5. Then explore Oregon later while living in Seattle.

    I actually find the I-5 route through Oregon quite pretty. It's a nice drive. I especially like how the trees change as you travel along this route. As you go north, you will see less-and-less deciduous trees and increasing numbers of evergreens. I like watching the changing scenery.

    Hope this helps a bit and doesn't just muddy the issue for you.

  4. Default If the issue is hilly terrain..

    Going up I-5 north, the primary hills you will go over are between Redding and Ashland. Going north, its not bad. The biggest grade is actually going down hill coming into the Ashland area. The grade going up hill is pretty gradual and the turns are pretty gentle -- plus you've got at least 2 lanes per side (and 3 or more on hilly sections going uphill). It'd doable in a long day from SF to Seattle -- but a long day. Two days would be quite reasonable.

    101/1 going north will be a narrower, more curvy road. The grades will be less overall (since you're not going over the range of mountains), but the road will be narrower with tighter turns. It will also take you (my estimate) around 3 days to get to Seattle -- 1 day to the Redwoods/ Crescent City area, 1 day to around mid Oregon Coast, and one last day to get to Seattle. You can save a little time by cutting inland north of Astoria instead of going around the Olympic Pennisula.

    You can cut inland at Crescent City on 199 back to I-5, but that is a narrow 2 land twisty road through the mountains. No really big grades, but 2 lanes and twisty.

    So.. how long do you want to take? And how comfortable are you driving on twisty roads?

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