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  1. Default Driving the West Coast


    I'd like to drive the coast from Seattle to San Francisco this summer but am having trouble figuring out how long it will take.

    We'd like to drive no more than 3-4 hours a day.

    About how many days will it take to get from Seattle to San Fran? Also, any recommendations for towns to stay in/places to see along the way?

    We will be driving from MN to Seattle and flying back to MN from San Fran.


  2. #2
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Thats Quite a While!

    Quote Originally Posted by GottaGo
    We'd like to drive no more than 3-4 hours a day.
    About how many days will it take to get from Seattle to San Fran?
    Hi, Gottago!

    3-4 hrs/day of driving seems a bit low. It will probably take you a day to get from Seattle to Portland, Portland to probably Eugene, Eugene to Medford/Ashland, Medford/Ashland to Yreka or Redding, then probably another day or two to SF. So, I'd say about a week, at least.


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

    Default Depends on route

    If you're simply going to drive down on I-5, you're looking at about 13-16 hours, depending on the speed you can average, so about 4-5 days driving 3-4 hours/daily. It's about 850 miles.

    If you're going to do the far more scenic, fun, and interesting coastal drive (Hwy 101 and CA-1), you're looking at about 950 miles. I would plan on 6-7 days to make this drive if you want to keep to no more than 3-4 hours/day. It will take quite a bit longer than I-5 for a couple of reasons. First, instead of an interstate, it's a narrow 2-lane road. And it's windy and a bit hilly. RVs are common on this road and, if you get behind them, they will definitely slow you down. Plus, there are far more places to stop and things to see on this route. A full week to explore this route would make for a really nice trip.

    If you let us know what route you're considering and what kinds of things you hope to see and do, it will be easier to make recommendations for towns to stop in for the night.

  4. Default

    Hi Judy,

    Yes, we are planning to take the coastal road. None of us have ever driven it before.

    Brad- we could increase our drive time...we just want to have some time to spend in the places we go...what about 5-6 hours of driving (split between morning and afternoon).

    Also, what do you think about just taking the interstate to Portland and then heading over to the coast from there?

    Thanks a lot!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Go for it!

    Quote Originally Posted by GottaGo
    Yes, we are planning to take the coastal road. None of us have ever driven it before.
    I have driven most of the road dozens of times. Every single time I discover places I didn't know about. If you can take the time, I would say go for it! To really see that road, and spend the time checking out the hidden places and the fun roadside bars, etc. It would take 2-3 months. None of us really have that much luxury of time. There are two books, you should get, borrow, (or whatever), and use them as a guide of places to make a priority. I use them myself whenever I travel along the coast. The first covers coastal Oregon and the second is the best guide I have ever found for the PCH.

    Given your parameters -- wanting to spend no more than 3-4 hours on the road, I would suggest that you can travel this distance in about seven days.


  6. Default Random Comments?

    I've done maybe 3/4 of the PCH route from LA to Seattle in the last 2-3 years in sections.. but coming up from the south, rather than the north

    Going north has one advantage -- you're on the inside of the road instead of the outside, when it gets really narrow (particularly in Big Sur area).

    Ventura to SF is doable in a day, but probably 2 days. Things you might want to stop at would include (from the South End)

    - Mission Santa Barbara, possibly the prettiest of the old Spanish Missions in California

    - Hearst Castle, at San Simeon (figure 2-4 hours there)

    - Elephant Seal Rocks (about 10 miles north of Hearst Castle)

    - Lunch at Nepenthe, in Big Sur if you can.

    - Monterey, including the aquarium and Torrey Pines drive

    SF to Oregon Border (we turned inland at Crescent City) -- doable in 2 days, but the scenery is worth 2 night stays (just to cover the ground to see things)

    - Bodega Bay (scenery)

    - Fort Ross (old Russian colony in California)

    - Redwoods area (we spent two nights here, going to different areas) And as a note, some of the roads are unpaved here, and not the best for large RVs.

    Portland to Seattle. Doable in one day, but that's zooming through with almost no side trips. We did Portland to Cresent Lake (long day), then on towards Seattle (actually in our case, up towards Vancouver BC via Banbridge Island)

    - Washington coast along the pacific ocean, particularly along the Olympic national park

    - Hoh Rain Forest

    - Crescent Lake (Stay at the Cresent Lake Lodge -- very scenic, with a nice easy 90-120 minute round trip to a waterfall, just the other side of the road).

    - Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park (south out of Port Angeles area)
    Last edited by W. Larrison; 05-08-2006 at 01:25 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default What about the Olympic Peninsula?

    Surprisingly, driving from Seattle to Portland via I-5 and then going out to the coast doesn't save you as much time you might think and you'll miss some good coastal scenery.

    Seattle to Portland (via I-5) and then out to the coast to Seaside: About 250 miles and 4-4.5 hours.

    Seattle to Olympia, then Hwy 8/12 to Montesano, then 101 through Raymond/South Bend, out to the coast, and crossing the Columbia River over the amazing 5-mile long bridge to Astoria, Oregon: About 180 miles and 4-4.5 hours. So, about the same amount of time, but much more beautiful scenic views and the cool bridge.

    Of course, if you enjoy the coastal drive in Washington, you will miss out on what I believe is one of the most amazing sites in Washington....Mt. St. Helens. You can get to the visitor center and look right into the crater from a viewpoint reached with only an hours drive from I-5. The road to Mt. St. Helens starts in Castle Rock, about the midway point between Seattle and Portland.

    Both drives are great. It's your call.

    Personally, I would probably go south on I-5 to Mt. St. Helens and then, after touring it, continue south on I-5 to Longview, WA; take exit 40 to get onto Hwy 4 through Kelso and Longview; then follow local roads to Hwy 433, which will take you over a bridge crossing the Columbia River to Oregon Hwy 30; take Hwy 30 to Astoria, OR, and start down the coast from there. This is about 175 miles and only about 3 hours. Clearly the shortest and quickest route. (The 3 hours doesn't include the time to visit Mt. St. Helens).

    Another option would be to take the ferry from Seattle to Bremerton and then going around the Olympia Peninsula on Hwy. 101, and then going down the coast of Washington to Oregon and beyond. Beautiful trip. I would only nix this if it means you can stop at Mt. St. Helens by going the other way. If you have time, I'd try to squeeze in both the Olympic Peninsula and Mt. St. Helens.

    As for the Oregon Coast itself, I would allow at least 2 days, if not 3 for this section. There is much to see and do. I have made countless trips down this coast in the last 25 years and still haven't seen everything I'd like to see. I would plan for a good 2 days, preferably 3, for the California section. I actually think the California section is a bit prettier because it is less populated and a bit more rugged. But this also means that there are fewer neat towns, harbors, etc. worth exploring so you can actually do more straight driving through the California section without being tempted to stop numerous times to check something out. So, I guess I'm saying, that I would plan more time for the Oregon section if time is of the essence.

    I guess I would respectfully disagree with Larrison on which side of the road is best. I always prefer the part of the drive where I'm going south. You see so much more when you're on the ocean side of the road, imho. When I have had to watch my time, I've always driven south on the coast and returned north on I-5.

    Some highlights of things to see (north to south):

    * Fort Clatsop - just west of Astoria, where Lewis & Clark wintered
    * Seaside - funky and fun beach town. Check out the reproduction of the still used to distill ocean water into salt on the beach (reproduction of the one that Lewis & Clark used in that approximate location)
    * Cannon Beach - beautiful coastal town where a lot of hang-gliders go from a cliff over the ocean down to the beach. Fun to watch.
    * Tillamook - Tillamook Cheese Factory with great cheese and yummy ice cream. If you have time, the Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge is worth a visit here.
    * Depoe Bay - the littlest harbor in the world. Fun, little town and great place to take a quick boat trip out onto the ocean.
    * Devil's Punch Bowl State Park - awesome waves/tons of power
    * Newport - great aquarium and some fun and funky tourist stops like a Ripley's Believe it or Not, a Madame Tussaud's and other fun stuff
    * Sea Lion Caves - take an elevator down to a huge cavern where the sea rushes in and which houses hundred (maybe thousands?) of sea lions. Very cool.
    * Oregon Dunes National Rec Area - rent a dune-buggy and have a blast
    * Bandon - cute, coastal town with almost a hint of Cape Cod to it. Great cheese!
    * Gold River - take a jetboat up the beautiful Rogue River
    * Brookings - I can't remember this town much but I remember thinking it's lovely

    * Crescent City - check out the area destroyed by the tsunami caused by the Alaskan quake in the 1960s
    * Redwoods - there are several redwood parks here. It's worth checking these amazing trees out.
    * Eureka - amazing Victorian architecture!
    * Leggett - where you change to CA-1 (twisty, curvy, awesome drive!)
    * Bodega Bay - watch out for "The Birds"! LOL

    Hopefully this gives you some good ideas for your trip!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Easier to pull out and enjoy the views!

    Quote Originally Posted by Larrison
    Going north has one advantage -- you're on the inside of the road instead of the outside, when it gets really narrow (particularly in Big Sur area).
    This is pretty interesting The reason I prefer the south-bound direction is that the road is narrow and twisty and it is easier to safely pull over on those tiny pull-outs and enjoy the views (since they are on your right-hand side going south-bound). Some of the best viewing turn-outs can not be accessed from the north-bound side without turning left against unseen traffic on blind curves.

    While Larrison's advice does have some validity -- the one time I really got "a big scare" was on the Big Sur was several years ago -- I was driving north-bound at dusk after a rain storm and I came around a curve and the right-hand lane did not exist anymore. It had been washed out and there was a gaping car-sized hole in the road. Obviously, I missed the hole. It is rare to have such problems, but one does have to keep a high level of awareness anytime you drive this scenic road!

    Enjoy the adventure!


  9. Default Driving the West Coast


    I just wanted some opinions and/or feedback on our trip that we are planning. I think we have an almost final itinerary...

    St Paul - Rapid City: One shot because there isn't anything we haven't already seen in SD. We are traveling with two friends from Norway so we will for sure see Mt Rushmore.

    Rapid City - Cody, WY: We are rodeo fans.

    Cody - Jackson: We will drive through Yellowstone and the Tetons.

    Jackson - Boise: We will loop off the interstate to see Crater Canyon.

    Boise - Umatilla, OR: We wanted to get closer to Seattle and don't know of any sites between Boise and Umatilla.

    Umatilla - Seattle

    Seattle - Astoria

    Astoria - Coos Bay,OR

    Coos Bay - Eureka,CA

    Eureka - San Fran

    Couple of questions...

    -We are not sure if we should stay in Boise or some town in the area...which would be more fun?

    -Coos Bay or North Bend?

    -We considered staying in Fort Bragg...anyone know/hear of anything fun there?

    ***We all like to go out at night and meet people when we travel.

    ***None of us have driven any further West than Wyoming, Colorado, Utah...never been to Idaho, Oregon and have only flown to San Fran and Seattle.

    Any advice on places to go, towns to stay in and things to see would be greatly appreciated!

    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-15-2006 at 08:57 AM. Reason: Combined Threads - Lets people see the planning that went into the 'final' product

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