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  1. #1

    Default Help with itinerary SF to Seattle

    Hi! First time writing on this forum after some weeks reading getting tons of good advice. I need help with planning the last leg of a five week train/roatrip from NY to Seattle. The itinerary is as follows:

    July 9 Arrive LA (evening) night at airbnb in echo park, LA
    July 10-11 LA
    July 12 Leave LA for Big Sur, 2 overnight stops already booked
    July 14 evening arrive motel SF
    July 15-17 SF
    July 18 drive north, have to arrive in Seattle evening of
    July 25 flying out from Seattle midday July 26.

    Before this we will have visited NY and then by train to SLC where we rent a car and drive through grand Tetons (only one night here) and on to Yellowstone for three nights. After this we drive south through some of the national parks of Utah and North rim of grand canyon before going to LA via Las Vegas and Palm Springs.

    We are a family of five (three kids 7, 11, 14) We live in Stockholm, Sweden. We are used to roadtripping since we’ve done it through Europe every summer the last few years, but never been to the US other than New York a couple of times. The kids are happy spending a lot of time in the car an even more so if the scenery is nice. We usually follow up one or two long driving days with a few more easy ones. The longest distances we usually drive when when road tripping is around 800 km, or 500 miles, usually the first day driving after a longer break but that only if the roads are nice and fast. We are used to driving in the mountains and on smaller roads (have a lot of them in Sweden) and we are used to driving in snow but i guess this won’t be an issue this time of year.

    We like the outdoors and the kids are good hikers and can do 10 km (6 miles) in one day but time is limited so i guess we will have to stick to shorter hikes. We have plenty of wildlife at home so that is not really a big draw except maybe see whales but i guess summer is the wrong time of year. We are not that much in to big cities but would like to see the highlights of LA and SF (according to the kids that is Hollywood and Golden gate bridge and maybe Alcatraz). We are not interested in shopping or theme parks like Disneyworld but like nice museums, but most of all we are looking for great scenery, nice short hikes and quaint small towns and maybe some historical sights. We will not bring any camping gear so no camping on this trip staying at a mix of hotels/motels/airbnb. We do not need fancy lodging or lots of amenities though an occasional pool/swimmable beach would make the kids happy.

    The thing I now need help with is planning the last leg of this trip. At first we thought of driving along the 1/101 all the way to Astoria and then cutting over to Portland but this is too time-consuming and i am also thinking we might want to see something else than the coast or at least a mix of inland/coast since we already been to Big Sur.

    Right now i am thinking of driving 101 from SF and then 128 (is this a scenic drive?) to Mendocino to go through some nice vineyards (not into wine at least not with the kids around so no longer stops here needed) and visit the Anderson valley brewery (my husband is a big fan of craft beer) and then continue north for a bit to stop for the night as close to the Oregon border as possible (any suggestions). After this i can’t get my itinerary straight (probably because i try to squeeze in a lot). Things that we are considering seeing is:

    Some redwoods
    Part of the oregon coast
    Portland, preferably for more than one night
    Columbia river gorge (maybe a day trip from portland)
    Crater lake (probably too far)
    Mt st Helens
    Astoria (looks like a nice town and we are big fans of the Goonies)

    And i would really like to see just a little part of Olympic National park (i know i’m not doing this area justice but would really like to see the Hoh rainforest and maybe Ruby beach) and got so crazy about his idea that i booked an overnight in the Forks area on july 24, can be cancelled though). IF we go to the Olympic national park we would like to end that trip by taking the ferry into Seattle (good idea?)

    I don’t want to drive the interstate all the way up but maybe a good mix of smaller roads, scenic byways and interstate to save us some time in-between sights. Could maybe cut one day from SF if necessary but are meeting friends on the evening of the 17:th so will have to see if that can be rescheduled. Also, any advise on nice clean unfancy lodging is appreciated!

    Sorry for the massive amount of text! Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Hitting most targets.

    Hello and welcome to the RTA forums !

    That's quite a family adventure you have to look forward to ! With so much to chose from it is sometimes difficult to decide but at least there are no poor choices travelling through these parts. To have time to see the Redwoods and to get close to Oregon would really mean having to take 101 all the way, but even then you should plan on stopping the night around the Redwoods. Humboltd State park is home to the amazing drive along the 'Avenue of the Giants' which shouldn't be missed. I would look to stay around Fortuna to Eureka for the night. There is a lovely Victorian town nearby called 'Ferndale', the lodgings will likely be expensive, but it makes a nice little detour even if you don't stay. If you wanted to visit Crater Lake then you could turn inland from Crescent City to get there [Another nice Redwood drive is the Newton B Drury scenic parkway through Prairie creek just north of Berry Glen]and spend another night. From Crater Lake you could head up through Bend and through the Mt Hood forest to Hood river for a night and then start the drive through the Columbia River Gorge into Portland. You would have time to visit Mt St Helens on the way to Astoria with a little backtracking or you could continue north and west towards Olympic NP before ending in Seattle. It'll be quite busy, but enjoyable. It's just whether you would prefer to do less and take more time at fewer places.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default So Much to See and Do

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    I love the entire trip you've got planned out, and may steal a few ideas for my next RoadTrip with the grandsons. But to help you sort out some of the questions you have, I'd first suggest that you start out hugging the coast as you leave San Francisco. This gets you two immediate payoffs: You get to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, and just to the north of that is Point Reyes National Seashore. Then you can work your way north along some spectacular coast that has history, interesting towns and beaches in a relatively short span. You can then head inland via CA-116/CA-12 to Santa Rosa and US-101 north which will provide a faster route up to Orick and Redwoods National Park.

    From there, you can take US-199 inland and then on to Crater Lake. You could then include a bit of Oregon coast by taking US-20 through Corvallis (a university town) to Newport, then up to Astoria on US-101, and back to Portland on US-30. That stretch of coast includes a nice forestry museum, some famous sea stacks, and a recreation of Lewis and Clark's final outpost. Portland itself is renowned for its many gardens, and the Historic Columbia River Highway offers great views of the river as well as many short hikes to spectacular waterfalls.

    Finally, you could include short visits to Mount St. Helens, Mount Rangier and the Olympic Peninsula, but be careful. While a week seems like a long time for a drive from San Francisco to Seattle, it will quickly disappear as you add more stops and take more time at each one. And one or two final bits of advice. Since it looks like you might be visiting several national parks and monuments, it's probably worth it for you to buy an annual pass at the first one you come to. And your children are just about the perfect ages to benefit from the Junior Ranger Programs at those parks.


  4. #4


    Thank you for all the great advice Southwest Dave and AZbuck!
    I will really look into getting an annual pass, that might save us a lot of money and already started to look at the junior ranger programs (although only the two older kids have the english language skills needed to participate i guess). The museums and sights you suggested seem perfect. I have made up two rough alternative itineraries with a few additional questions. I really can´t decide which one is the best alternative, so much too se and no matter how long time we have it just never is enough is it?

    18 Drive from San Francisco early in the morning and overnight in Eureka area. Ferndale looks really nice Southwest Dave but lodging options for a family of five seem limited, we will try to make a visit here though!

    Do you have any alternative suggestions in Eureka area, we where looking at Trinidad but maybe to far? Google maps say this drive is around 5 h if we take 101 all the way. Is this an accurate timing or is the drive substantially longer time wise? Do you think it is possible to drive all the way to Eureka area with crossing over from 101 to 1 on the 128 if we still want to do that? Is it worth it for scenery? Or maybe a better option as suggested by AZBuck to start at the coast and then drive the 101 to Eureka/Ferndale/Trinidad/Orick? I have been told that the coastal route is really slow but taking a part of it might not add up that much to the total travel time.

    19 Afternoon drive Eureka area - Crater lake. Is this a nice scenic drive? I have still do do my research on the crater lake area as i though it was completely out of question but if we decide to go any suggestions for a nice overnight stop in the area?

    20 Crater lake - Hood River 5 h. Is there anything in particular worth seeing during the drive to Hood River? Suggestions for lodging in Hood River?

    21 Hood River - Portland 1 h drive, time to explore columbia gorge waterfalls etc.

    22 Portland - Astoria (via mt st helens) 4 h Is Astoria a nice place to spend the night or should we continue north to get closer to ONP for next day.

    23 Astoria - Lake Quinault area 3 h maybe a short evening hike

    24 Lake Quinault area - Forks 2 h explore Hoh rainforest and maybe Ruby beach?

    25 Forks - Seattle 4,5 exploring a little on the way, am I right that there are a few small nice towns/villages (sorry english not being my native tongue i don´t really know the difference) en route to the ferry?

    26 Flight home

    18-19 as above
    20 drive from Crater Lake to Newport area (lodging suggestions here?)
    21 Newport - Portland through Astoria for lunch maybe, see coast and visit lewis and clark sight and forestry museum
    22 Portland with day trip to Hood River overnight Portland
    23 Drive to ONP via Mt st Helens and overnight in ONP area
    24 Overnight Forks
    25 Forks-Seattle as above.

    Any input more than welcome!

    I am mostly worried that day one and the drive to and from crater lake is too long, will it really give us any time to enjoy the scenery at Crater Lake and the Redwoods? I am tempted though since it looks really nice and i also like the idea of going inland up to Hood River even though i have no idea what to expect from that drive. I also had in mind to stay more than one night at at least one location during this leg of the trip but i can’t really seem to fit that in in the first alternative.

    Last edited by liljeberg; 05-18-2016 at 12:21 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    Mapping programs are always overly optimistic with drive times, they presume you can drive at the speed limit all day and never have to stop for food, fuel, rest or ever face traffic congestion and possible road works. To add to that the fact you want to see the Redwoods and the place I have recommended is on route to Eureka [Avenue of the Giants] and there are other options such as the Marin Headlands on the north side of the Golden Gate bridge with excellent views of the Bay and Bridge, maybe a detour to Ferndale and suddenly you are looking at quite a full day on the road. The same would go for each leg of your journey, to continue to Crater Lake while exploring more of the Redwoods area would be a reasonably full day and then you would need time to drive around the rim of Crater lake which would then produce another full day to Hood river or somewhere in the Gorge area, and so on. So yes you can enjoy the areas but you won't need to worry about filling up time with places in between really, just stop and have a rest when a spot looks interesting. I believe they have cabins at the south entrance to Crater lake but you would have to check prices and alternatives, we actually travel by RV most of the time. If you can find lodgings to suit in the Trinidad area that should work. If you take CA1 and go to Point Reyes etc I think it would be too far .

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Half Days?

    I agree with Dave that if you plan to see any of the sights just north of San Francisco, then Eureka is probably too far to try to get on that same day. Instead, think about taking your days driving north to Seattle and splitting them 50/50 between driving and sight-seeing. That would leave you several hours each day to visit places, while still letting you get about 250 miles (or so, but not much farther) down the road. Sticking to an overall mix like that would make your first stop (after San Francisco) at Willits, then maybe Crescent City after a day exploring the Redwoods, Corvallis after a visit to Crater Lake, and Portland after your drive up the northern Oregon coast. Note that those stops assume you follow the routes I laid out for you. You don't have to, of course, but whatever route you decide to take, keep that 50/50 mix in mind. It's way too easy to think you can do it all, but in the end fewer stops and a less frenetic pace will lead to a more enjoyable experience.

    Also note that stopping in larger towns will give you a better range of options for accommodations. Unfortunately, we don't have bed and breakfasts like you may be used to in Europe. Here they tend to be more boutique-style lodging with prices to match. We do have an outfit, called Airbnb where people rent out homes (typically) for relatively short periods of a few days. That might be worth looking into, but for single night stays, they don't work very well.

    And finally, don't sell your youngest short on the Junior Ranger Program. English helps but is not a requirement. Mostly the program involves giving the child some activities to perform so that he can learn a little something more about the park. The older children (and adults) can translate for the youngster if needed, but the 'rewards' for completing the tasks include badges and certificates that make great mementos of the trip and I'm sure the park rangers will be glad to make accommodations rather than leave him out in the cold.


  7. #7


    Hi and thank you again for all good advice! Funny with the mapping programs, my experience driving in Europe is the opposite! But I will follow your advice and add some time (20% I read somewhere, would that give us more accurate timings?). And I noticed the differences with bed and breakfast, we always stay at those when driving Europe but planning this trip I have only found a handful that are reasonably priced and caters for families.

    I have now made three preliminary itineraries and would be more than happy to get feedback, having a really hard time deciding.

    18 Drive to Eureka area, spending the evening before in Sausalito visiting friends and might stay over to get a small head start. Overnight Eureka area. 267 mi/429 km/8 h drive.
    19 AM visit redwoods, maybe a short hike. PM Drive to Crater Lake. 267 miles/429 km/8h drive. Overnight Crater Lake lodge.
    20 AM Rim drive Crater Lake. PM drive to Portland. 233 mi/374 km/6h drive. Overnight Portland.
    21 Portland full day or day trip to Mt Rainier/Mt St Helens/Coast. Overnight Portland.
    22 Portland with day trip to Mt Hood area/Columbia River Gorge. Overnight Portland.
    23 Portland - Lake Quinault (via Mt Rainier or Mt St Helens or coast) overnight Lake Quinault area.
    24 Explore ONP. Overnight Forks.
    25 Forks to Seattle. Overnight Seattle.

    18 As above
    19 As above
    20 AM Rim drive crater lake, PM drive to Mt Hood. 222 miles/357 km/6-7 h. Overnight Mt Hood.
    21 Day explore Mt Hood area/Columbia River Gorge. Evening drive to Portland. Overnight Portland.
    22 Portland (Maybe day trip Mt St Helens or Mt Rainier). Overnight Portland.
    23 Portland - Lake Quinault via coast. 241 mi/387 km/6 h drive.
    24 As above
    25 As above

    18 As above.
    19 As above.
    20 AM Rim drive. PM drive to Newport area. 221 miles/357 km/5 h drive. Overnight Newport area.
    21 Drive to Portland (via Astoria). 230 miles/370 km/6 h drive. Overnight Portland.
    22 Portland. Day trip Mt Hood area/Columbia River Gorge. Overnight Portland.
    23 Portland - Lake Quinault (via Mt Rainier or Mt St Helens). 289 miles/ 465 km. Overnight Lake Quinault area.
    24 As above
    25 As above

    A few more questions: Is it possible to make a day trip to Mt Saint Helens or Mt Rainier from Portland? Would you recommend it? If I were to take something out from this itinerary what would that be? I have of course googled and read guidebooks about all these places and they all look stunning, so having a really hard time deciding. I guess it is weather dependent as well, have done hiking in the Swedish mountains in snow/rain/fog and that kind of takes away the nice part of the experience. Does any of the days seem completely impossible? Wish I had another week (already added one from our original plan though).

    Thank you so much in advance!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Electronic mapping programs are wonderful for giving you the correct mileage. For driving times, however, they are not. You could either add 20% to the driving time, OR, take the mileage and divide:
    By 55-60 for interstate driving
    By 50 for US/State 2-lane highways

    That will give you real-world drive times that realize you will stop for fuel, food, and pit stops. However, it does NOT account for traffic congestion, accidents, or construction. For my husband and me, we would figure on 8-9 hours to do 500 miles on an interstate, but would allow for 10 hours in case of other issues.

    For national parks, figure that you'll be driving very slowly (25-30 mph) and doing a lot of stops. Keep that in mind as you continue your planning. I've been to Crater Lake 3 or 4 times, and do the Rim Drive every time. You'll see the highlights in one morning, but you won't be able to do any hikes or stop at every scenic viewpoint. (The Pacific Crest Trail comes through Crater Lake.)


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    Is it possible to make a day trip to Mt Saint Helens or Mt Rainier from Portland?
    Mt St Helens would be about a 5 hour round trip to the Johnston Ridge Observatory and you could spend 2 or 3 hours there quite easily. I don't think it would be viable to visit Mt Rainier as a day trip return, your time in the park would be limited. If you went to Mt Rainier and onwards, it's still too much to expect to get to Quinault in my opinion. That's over 350 miles and close to 7.5 hours of driving before you do any sight seeing in the park. Olympia area would possibly work, maybe push on to Aberdeen, but that would be pushing it with time spent in Rainier.

  10. #10


    Ok thanks a lot again, I have taken your calculations in consideration Donna and that helps a lot, not used to using miles when planning a road trip and tend to overthink the distances we can drive each day. By 2-lane highway i assume that you mean one lane in each direction?
    I understand that we can not see everything with the limited time we have but since it is unlikely that we will be able to make a trip like this again (at least not in many years) I tend to want to squeeze in too much. We really like driving but I now that the kids like to stay more than one night at a location every now and then and have a day of rest with no specific itinerary.
    We are now thinking of cutting either Crater Lake, ONP or Oregon coast from the itinerary. So if anyone has been to any of these parts of Oregon and Washington have any recommendations that would help out a lot!
    If we don´t go to ONP we might visit Mt Rainier or Mt St Helens on our way to Seattle from Portland. We could also cut down time in ONP to only one single night but after reading on different forums the standard minimum time to spend there is said to be three nights so maybe not worth going at all? Although there is an itinerary on the ONP website for one day only that includes some highlights.

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