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  1. Default Portland, OR - San Francisco


    my partner and i are looking to do a road trip from portland to san francisco in the next few weeks. we're from australia, so we don't know much about the logistics of such a trip. we are wanting to do it over two days, stopping in briefly in eugene, ashland and then driving through the redwoods.

    from the maps it looks like we'd have to back track from ashland in order to take in the redwood national park, is this the only way?

    any suggestions from folks who have done it before would be greatly appreciated. also, any receommendations for things to see along the way/ place to eat etc, would be awesome.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Western/Central Massachusetts

    Default Welcome

    Welcome to the RoadTrip America forum!

    The straight-through route (I-5) looks pretty simple and doable in two days, but then that's not what you want!

    I am not very familiar with that area, so I would have to say that everything is weather-permitting. Looking at the map, it appears that you can take CA-96 to CA-169 to Redwoods, but that terrain looks pretty rugged from the satellite photos.

    Just with a cursory glance at the map, I'd recommend adding at least another day to your itinerary - the trip from Redwoods to San Francisco is ~330 miles itself. Seattle to Redwoods is ~540 miles, and about half would be off-Interstate.

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

    Default 3 days, at least needed!

    I agree with Mass Tim. You will want at least 3 days for this if you're going to veer off to see the redwoods.

    I would suggest taking 199 from Grant's Pass to Crescent City. It's far more traveled than 96/169 and more likely to be clear during the winter. It does mean backtracking a bit, but you're only talking about 30 minutes or so and it will be worth it. Not only is 199 safer but it will also be quicker, so backtracking will actually save you time. You can call 511 in Oregon to get road conditions. I would do that prior to leaving I-5 just in case there are icey/snowy conditions. You can also visit Oregon's TripCheck if you have internet access while here in the states prior to leaving Portland or Ashland.

    The Oregon Vortex/House of Mystery is one of my favorite tacky tourist traps. It's really a fun and interesting place and worth a stop, imho. Crescent City is worth a stop only because it's kinda interesting to see how a tsunami wiped out part of the city resulting in several deaths. Morbid, I know.

    Here's an interesting trip report from a guy who toured the different redwood areas that you might get some good tips from, and a report from the Out West newsletter, and a fun report from Roadside America. They should all give you good ideas of things to see and do.

    Eureka, CA, is a fascinating city worth spending time at. I haven't been there for years so I can't give specific recommendations. But it has some great architecture, interesting shops, and I'm sure there are some great restaurants there worth checking out. Check out the guide for visitors there.

    Hope this helps!

  4. Default Also recommend 199 from Grants Pass

    Hello jasonspaceman,

    I'll also recommend taking 199 from Grants Pass to Crescent City, and planning on 3 days for this leg of the trip if you want to see the Redwoods.

    199 is a good quality road, but 2 lanes and winds through the coast range of mountains to get to Crescent City. At this time of year (mid winter) you should be aware of weather, and that this route *may* get snow. There are other routes which go on smaller, less travelled roads through this part of Oregon & California, but those roads are more likely to get closed by snow and in some cases the roads may not be reopened until the snow melts. There was a recent case of a family which had taken a wrong turn on such a secondary road and gotten stuck in the snow for a week or more.

    From a timing standpoint, if the weather is good, and the roads are open it *is* possible to get from Portland to Crescent City in a day. Rough driving time (not including gas stops, meal stops, sightseeing, bathroom breaks, or get-out-of-the-car-and stretch time) is about
    4-5 hours from Portland to Ashland
    2-3 hours from Ashland to Crescent City

    or about 5-6 hours from Portland to Crescent City (via Grants Pass, and not through Ashland). That's going to be pretty much a full day of driving.

    You can spend a day in the Redwoods -- there are some very good places to look, but to really see the Redwoods you have to get off the main highway and get out of your car. I'd recommend the Lady Bird Grove, Gold Beach, and a couple of other spots in the area. The Redwoods stretch pretty much down from Crescent City in the north to near Eureka in the south, between the different sections of the National Park, and several neighboring State Parks (Prairie Creek State Park, Humbolt Lagoons, Patric Point, etc.)

    From Crescent City to SF is a full day's drive, perhaps 2 -- depending upon where you visit or stop. Last time I did this leg of the trip (which I drove south-to-north), it was 2 days to Crescent City area, since I came up Coast 1 from SF area, instead of the faster 101 freeway. That allowed me to stop at the old Russian fort at Fort Ross, and several other scenic spots along this rocky coast.

  5. Default

    thank you all for the info, you've been a great help. i don't really have any experience driving in snowy/icy conditions, so i would definitely want to avoid that if possible. we will be quite stretched for time, so it looks like the best thing may be to forget about ashland and just drive from portland to crescent city (via grants pass) on the first day, then onto san francisco from there. what do you think the likelihood of snow/ice would be if we left in early feb?

    another option is just to go straight down the I-5 and miss out on the redwoods. is the I-5 likely to get snow at this time of year, and (aside from ashland) is there anything to see taking this route?

    a third option would be to take the coast (101) all the way down oregon to crescent city. from the oregon trip checked it looks pretty clear and free from snow! any idea on how long this would add to the journey, and are there places to stop along the way?

    sorry for all the questions! thanks again for all your help.

    ps. does anyone know whether there is a site like the oregon trip checker, for california?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Québec, Montreal, Arizona, California, France

    Default Sometimes you can't avoid them

    I don't really have any experience driving in snowy/icy conditions, so i would definitely want to avoid that if possible.
    If you happen to be driving through such conditions, just drive slower, at your own pace, no matter how pushy the other drivers might be. If you obey these simple rules, everything should be fine.

    As for the roads and attractions, I don't know that area so well, so I'll let the others take over!

    Drive safe!

  7. Default Random thoughts...

    There is always the possibility of snow in this part of the US during this time of year. I-5 is the main north south route along the west coast, and while it is a very high quality road, and there is a very high priority placed on keeping it open and free from snow and ice, it does go through some areas with elevations of 3000' or more. (Most of these areas are south of Grants Pass and north of Redding). If there is a major snow storm that blows through, I-5 is the priority for getting the roads cleared. From what I recall, I can't think of when the route was closed for more than a day.

    The coastal road (1, or 101) can get snow as well, but it usually doesn't last long since it is at a much lower elevation. For example right now, coastal Oregon including the towns of Gold Beach and Coos Bay have an advisory that the snow level may be down to sea level tonight, and that by tomorrow morning there may be 2 inches of snow by Thursday morning. However, since the day's high will be 45 F or more, that snow will last a very short time.

    For things to visit or sights to see, there are some interesting places along I-5. These include Mt Shasta and Castle Craigs. And I always stop in the North Central Valley of California, south of Red Bluff in the little town of Corning to buy things like Olive Oils (an amazing variety), rice (like 20 different varieties), nuts and fruits of numerous types. Or there's Napa Valley of course between I-5 and SF.

    For trip distances I typically use one of the internet mapping engines -- Google Earth,, or Yahoo Maps. By typing in two towns, they'll give you the distance between them and usually estimate the driving time (but not including any stopped time, for sightseeing, gas stops, bathroom breaks, etc.)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Why Ashland anyway?

    Ashlahd is a lovely, little town but it's not the first place I think of stopping. If I had to choose between Ashland and the Redwoods, the Redwoods would win hands-down. In fact, I think Eureka is far prettier than Ashland anyway and you'll be going right through it on your way to San Francisco. So, unless there was something else specific that you really wanted to do in Ashlahd, I wouldn't consider skipping it all that big of a disappointment.

    I live on Washington's coast and we have had snow/ice since yesterday. But the sun is out and we will probably have clear roads by tomorrow. To be honest, while it does happen once in awhile, it's pretty rare to get snow and ice on the coast. You're more likely to see it on the connecting roads between I-5 and 101, then you are on 101.

    Personally, I think going the coastal highway all the way from Portland is the prettiest and funnest option. I would really suggest a minimum of 3 days for this. Even with 3 days, you won't have a lot of time to stop and explore but you will have beautiful scenery all along your drive. While I-5 through Oregon is scenic, it is nowhere near as scenic as the coast, imho.

    Do take caution driving on the more hilly, twisty stretches if the temperatures dip into the 30's. Especially in dips where the sun might not ever reach it. If there is any moisture on the ground, and moisture in the form of rain is pretty darn common here, there might be black ice in those dips. Black ice can't be seen but it can be slick. Don't be paranoid about it. Just be aware. Just slowing down a bit through those areas is enough to make it safe. Just don't punch the gas when going back up the hill from the dip and you'll be fine.

    TripCheck for Oregon tells you the road conditions, not the miles. To get the same info for California, you can go to this California Dept. of Transportation website or you can call 1.800.427.7623 or 1.916.445.7623.

    For maps and mileage between places, the places Larrison suggested are quite good.
    Last edited by PNW Judy; 01-11-2007 at 05:55 PM. Reason: Added info

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