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  1. Default Road trip from San Francisco to Seattle in Aug/Sept 11

    Hi all

    My husband and I did the drive from San Francisco down to Carmel, then up to Yosemite, Tahoe and back, last year, and loved it. We are thinking of returning this year and this time driving in the other direction up the Pacific Highway. As we live abroad, we will have to fly into and out of San Francisco. We will have about 14 days for the trip (excluding the time flying into and out of San Fran).

    I am thinking of doing a loop - driving from San Francisco up to Seattle, our ultimate aim being to spend about 3-4 days in Olympic National Park doing some hiking and just admiring the scenery. Other "must sees" which I can gather from this forum and general internet research are: Point Reyes, Portland, Oregon, the Pacific Coast in general, and maybe Crater Lake if it is not too out of the way. We would like a mix of city and nature on the trip, so will probably spend a couple of days in San Fran and Seattle.

    Would very much appreciate advice on:
    (i) whether this is this doable within 14 days - we want a relaxed pace since it is a holiday after all
    (ii) how we should plan our route - I understand that it is better to drive down the coast rather than up it because of the right-hand drive in the USA, so would it make sense to drive "inland" when we are heading up to Seattle i.e. hit Oregon and Crater Lake first, and then after Seattle and the Olympic National Park, hug the coast on the way down? If so how much time should I budget to get up to Seattle, and how much time coming back down?
    (iii) Alternatively, would it be better to fly from San Francisco to Seattle and then just do the drive down?
    (iv) Whether there is much difference if we go in August or September, weather-wise. From my research it seems that the fall colours only start coming out in September.

    Thanks all for any help you can give!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Right On

    Your instincts are, in my opinion, spot on for this trip. This is a trip that is certainly feasible within 14 days even as a complete loop, at a relaxed pace, and with plenty of stops for some scenic hiking. As you note, it is probably better to come south along the coast so that you have the pullouts and coastal side roads on your side of the highway. That means you should head north along an inland route to get the full benefit of doing a loop and maximizing your time on 'new road'. The inland route would generally follow the Coast Ranges and/or Central Valley in California and the Cascades through Oregon and Washington. You might, say, string together visits to Lassen Volcano National Park, Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, Crater Lake National Park, Mount Hood, the Columbia River Gorge, and Mount Rainier National Park on your way north. Southbound should pretty much take care of itself, but be sure to include both Fort Clatsop and the Oregon Dunes.

    For several reasons, I would put this trip off until as late in the August/September time frame as you can. Certainly there are the reasons you mention, weather and foliage, but another big one is that as schools start back up again in late August and early September, more and more families will conclude their summer vacations and get off the roads, leaving them to you.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia


    This sounds like a great trip,

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    You might, say, string together visits to Lassen Volcano National Park, Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, Crater Lake National Park, Mount Hood, the Columbia River Gorge, ...
    I would include Mt St Helens in there as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    ... and Mount Rainier National Park on your way north.


  4. Default

    Wow that sounds like a lot to see and do - but thanks very much guys. I'll do some research on the places you suggested and then get back on here if I have more questions.

  5. Default

    Hi guys
    We have booked our tickets and will be flying into SF end Sept and out of SF on the 12th Oct. I've done a lot of reading on the net, as well as of guide books, and think that maybe it is too ambitious to drive the loop up to Seattle and back down to San Fran, as I don't want to be spending hours each day in the car if we can help. Am now thinking of either flying or taking the Amtrak from SF up to Seattle where we will rent a car, and then driving back down to SF. (I am aware that the car rental company will slap on a one-way car charge if we do this)
    Would really appreciate some help with this itinerary as I'm not sure if we are being too ambitious. If possible, would like to not have to spend too much time on the road each day ("too much" being more than 3-4 hours) and where possible to have a decent amount of time to explore each place, not do a hit and run kind of tour. I realize that there are lots of beautiful places to see and that we won't be able to see everything if we want a slightly slower pace, but that's fine by us.

    This is our very rough plan:

    Day 1: Arrive in SF (night). Stay near airport.
    Day 2: Fly from SF to Seattle, explore Seattle
    Day 3: Explore Seattle
    Day 4: Explore Seattle, possibly pick up rental car today and make a trip out to the premium outlet
    Day 5: Do day trip from Seattle to Mt Rainier or Victoria
    Day 6: Seattle - Port Angeles (by ferry - I think we can take the car onto the ferry, please correct me if I'm wrong!!): explore Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent. Any advice on whether we should stay in Port Angeles or Lake Crescent Lodge?
    Day 7: Port Angeles - Kalaloch Lodge or Lake Quinault Lodge: explore Pacific Ocean beaches, Ruby Beach and Lake Quinault(nb. we are not really keen on seeing the rainforest aspect of the park as we live in a tropical country and get plenty of rainforest here). Is it actually possible to drive and see the west-side loop of US 101 in a day or will it be too rushed?
    Day 8: Not very sure what to do here. Should we drive down the coast to Astoria/Cannon Beach (which I understand will take longer) or drive back inland to Portland (which should be faster?)
    Day 9: Down the coast, see Oregon Dunes, coastal views. Any suggestions on where to spend the night?
    Day 10: Can we make it down to Mendocino/Point Reyes and have sufficient time to explore? Would probably spend the night in either place.
    Day 11: Drop off car and spend day in SF
    Day 12: SF
    Day 13: Fly home

    Would very much appreciate comments on this itinerary. In particular: is there anything you would suggest we drop/include; are the driving times realistic; any recommendations for driving routes to take so we avoid jams and just do the slow windy drives when the scenery is worth seeing?

    Other places that attracted me when I was doing the research, but which I think we don't have time to fit in, are the Puget Sound Islands, a trip to Vancouver (which I think would need at least a night's stay) & the Northern Cascades.

    Thanks in advance for any comments and advice!

  6. Default Vancouver/(Whidbey?)/ONP/Seattle - help please

    Hi guys
    Husband and I are flying into San Francisco (from overseas) on 30 Sept and flying out 14 Oct. This is my itinerary:

    Husband and I will be making a trip to Seattle/Vancouver in early Oct. We'll be flying into San Francisco from overseas.

    This is our rough itinerary:

    Day 1 (Fri): Land SF
    Day 2 (Sat): Fly SF-Vancouver, stay Vancouver
    Day 3 (Sun): Vancouver
    Day 4 (Mon): Vancouver
    Day 5 (Tue): Pick up rental car in Vancouver and drive to Whidbey Island.
    Option A: spend night in Whidbey Island (possibly Langley).
    Option B: Continue from Whidbey Island to Port Townsend and spend night at Lake Crescent Lodge, ONP
    Day 6 (Wed):
    Option A: explore Whidbey Island in morning and then take ferry to Port Townsend, continue to Lake Crescent and explore Hurricane Ridge, spend night at Lake Crescent Lodge.
    Option B: Explore ONP Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent area
    Day 7 (Thurs): Explore ONP Neah Bay, Cape Flattery, spend night at Lake Crescent Lodge
    Day 8 (Fri): Explore ONP Rialto Beach, Second Beach, Hoh rain forest area, stay B&B in Port Angeles area
    Day 9 (Sat): Stay in Port Angeles area (mainly to relax and do laundry, perhaps see Dungeness Spit & Port Townsend)
    Day 10 (Sun): Ferry to Seattle
    Day 11 (Mon): Seattle
    Day 12 (Tue): Seattle
    Day 13 (Wed) Seattle - San Francisco
    Day 14: San Francisco
    Day 15: Fly home

    Apart from any general comments on the route which are very welcome, I have two specific questions:

    (i) For days 5/6: One option (A) is to stay overnight in Whidbey so that I can explore this a bit, and some people on the Whidbey forum have helpfully given suggestions of where to stay and what to do. The other option (B) I am considering is to just drive through Whidbey, getting to Port Townsend and driving straight to Lake Crescent, all in a day. Is option B too ambitious? How long do you estimate it would take, all in, including a lunch break and stopping for pictures etc as we make our way down Whidbey? The main reason for my thinking of doing the straight drive to Lake Crescent is so we don't have to do a one night stay in Whidbey - I just find it a hassle to unpack and pack up again. Also, I figure we will see plenty of the sea/nature in general from Port Angeles & ONP.

    (ii) Day 5: I'm a bit worried about the border crossing as it seems from what I've read that it can be quite a long wait. I've come across a suggestion of driving to Bellingham the night before so that the border crossing is done in the evening when the traffic is light, instead of waiting till the morning. I'm slightly reluctant to do this because it will cut our time in Vancouver and again, would mean that we have to leave our previous accommodation andspend one night in Bellingham. However, if it will really save significant time at the border crossing it is definitely something worth considering. Any advice on this? We were originally planning to pick up the car in Vancouver at about 9 or 10am on Day 5.

    Really appreciate any advice you guys have on this. Thanks!

    Mod Note. I appreciate the fact that you did not get a reply to your last post, but please keep all questions regarding this trip here. Thankyou.
    Last edited by Southwest Dave; 06-17-2011 at 02:37 AM. Reason: Merged threads.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    One thing stands out like a sore thumb - you can't rent a car in Canada and return it in the US. Fly to Seattle and rent the car there - and drive to Vancouver.

    A general note - if you are that concerned about a border crossing delay, you have the trip scheduled too tight. You also need to carefully look at all the ferry schedules.

  8. Default

    Hi glc
    I've already booked the rental car for pick up in Vancouver and return in Seattle. I've tried checking out the ferry schedules but it seems they aren't out for October yet so I have no idea what the timing is like in fall. Will the fall schedule be the same as the summer schedule?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I'm afraid I don't know.

    I thought you were going to be DRIVING to San Francisco from Vancouver/Seattle. I know for a fact that you can't drop a Vancouver car in SF.

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