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17 Days from Seattle to San Francisco - is my plan OK ??

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We are a family from the UK who are making a trip from Seattle to San Francisco next August. We have 17 days to spend on this trip. Worth saying that we a little older so walks and short hikes are fine but nothing more. Also we prefer National Parks more than walking around cities however nice they may be ….and one last thing, we like to base ourselves for 3-5 days in one place and do day trips, these save having to constantly pack and unpack. Here is our draft plan ….you feedback would be most welcome.

Days 1-2 leave Seattle and drive to Olympic National Park

Days 3-7 Cross over by ferry to Vancouver Island , spend 2-3 days exploring the Islands, cross over to Vancouver City for a day.

Days 8-12 Drive south and base ourselves in the Portland Area – day trips to the Oregon Coast , Mt St Helens , Columbia River etc ( are we to far from theCoast ?)

Days 13-17 Drive further South and base ourselves in the Medford Area - day trips to Crater Lake, Redwood National Park etc.

Please do tell me …if this is all wrong !! Also if I have missed out any must do sights please do tell me …..thank you

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    The RoyalBC Museum is definitely worth a visit in Victoria, particularly its ethnography section. But although I am sure that Vancouver Island has some splendid scenery, I would not choose that side of the straits as my sight-seeing destination. Maybe two night in Victoria and then concentrate on Olympic National Park and Neah Bay.

    Redwood National Park is far enough from Medford that it will be a stop along the way from Medford to Fort Bragg or Mendocino. Instead of Medford, I would stay in Grants Pass and take the opportunity to visit the Oregon coast as well as Crater Lake in the opposite direction on another day.

    You might want to browse through these pictures to get some more ideas. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/collections/72157624514508361/

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    Please view your map of the West at the same scale as you would view a map of England. The distances are bigger than you realize. I would literally start google mapping each point to point and add up how many hours a day you will be driving. You mention you are a family--do you have kids and what are their ages and tolerances for long hours in the car?

    It is also unclear if your heart is set on all these destinations or if you are still in flux.

    I myself would spend more time around Seattle, but it sounds like you are not planning to spend any. You may wish to look at old posts on Seattle or the Fodor's Destination Tab and see if anything in Seattle sounds intriguing.


    As often noted on this board, when renting a car, you need to find out if you need to pay extra for permission to take it into Canada. Many people will tell you don't bother taking a rental car into Canada. I always have taken my own personal vehicle so I can't speak to the cost or inconvenience factor of the rental itself. However, I have two reasons for driving: First, I do love the Port Angeles Ferry, which on a clear day gives you a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains against the water as you leave (or return to) Washington State. The other reason I like having my own vehicle is that you can get an early start up to Butchart Garden and also drive and view some of the lovely inlets and scenery right near the Gardens (take a hike if you want), and also the tropical Butterfly Garden Museum right near the entrance to Butchart.

    Also on the topic of Canada, you should post over on the Canada board for advice. I myself would not go to Vancouver and add that day elsewhere. You will spend more time getting there than appreciating it.

    A day trip to the North Coast in Oregon is do-able but I'd stay overnight at least one night if it were me. Doubly true if you have kids.

    You cannot really do day trips to Crater Lake and the Redwoods from Medford. I'd drive straight to Crater Lake and spend the night before at either the official Crater Lake Lodge or the Prospect right near the park. Do the boat tour--especially if you have kids. It's far more rewarding than just driving rim. Then either a second night near the park, or a second night maybe two hours away in Medford.

    I don't think I ever drove the route between Medford and the Redwoods, because we came down the coast. But it's easily 3 hours. Someone else will tell you more accurately.

    I notice you are continuing on to San Francisco. Will you spend time there or simply fly out?

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    I'll comment on your Days 8-12 having just returned from a week in the Portland area.

    We rented a 2 bedroom flat in the Sellwood neighborhood and found it a very convenient base for seeing Portland and for day trips. We found it on Airbnb https://www.airbnb.com/, liked the place and the area which had convenient shops and restaurants and good parking on the street for our rental car. The only down side was that the well-thought-of Portland public transport system was of no practical use to us there.

    We took day trips to the Columbia River Gorge and to the coast which is an easy hour and a half drive from the east side of Portland, less obviously should you stay on the west side of the city.

    We went to, among other places, the Saturday Market (on Sunday) http://www.portlandsaturdaymarket.com/, the Pittock Mansion http://pittockmansion.org/. the Chinese Garden http://www.lansugarden.org/ and the Rose Test Garden http://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/index.cfm?action=ViewPark&PropertyID=1113 I recommend them all.

    If you're book people I also recommend visiting Powells Books main location downtown, City of Books, as good as they say. https://www.powells.com/ There are convenient and reasonably priced city garages for your car if you drive into town as we did.

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    Several comments.

    Traveling from Vancouver Island to Vancouver city for a day is not a very good idea. First, it takes at least three hours to get from, say, Victoria to Vancouver; more if you have to wait for a ferry. Second, if you want to take public transport it will take longer, and if you want to take a car it will be very expensive - the ferry costs C$15.50 per passenger and C$51.25 for the vehicle (probably more next year) in each direction, so you're out C$164.50 right there.

    Instead, I'd reverse the route and drive from Seattle to Vancouver, then ferry to Vancouver Island for your stay there, then ferry to Port Angeles for the Olympic NP part of the trip.

    I don't know what islands you're planning to explore with a base on Vancouver Island. I'm assuming the Canadian Gulf Islands? Again, travel from Vancouver Island to these islands is not quick, so your time may be a bit crowded with all the logistics.

    Portland is fine as a base for exploring the Columbia Gorge, Mount Hood, and even Mount St. Helens. It's not that great a base for visiting the Oregon coast - again, a lot of driving.

    As for Medford as a base for Redwood NP and Crater Lake, to be blunt I think that's a terrible idea. Medford in August will be scorchingly hot, and, again, you're looking at several hours of uninspiring driving in each direction to see those places. Using Medford as a base would also largely exclude the possibility of visiting the southern Oregon coast, which in my view (shared by many) is the most scenic part of the coast.

    Your desire to base yourselves in local areas to avoid the pack/unpack drill (which I fully understand and endorse) is, frankly, a bit at odds with the reality of your plans. More than many regions, the sights and attractions you want to experience on this trip are located largely in linear order, with a lot of distance between them. Also, because of pesky mountain ranges and ocean inlets, arranging zigzag routes east-to-west or v.v. is complicated. In some areas, most notably southern Oregon, there aren't that many roads through the mountains, so you end up going a long way out of your way to include, say, both Crater Lake and the Oregon coast. It's certainly doable, but not comfortably given your time constraints.

    So in my view, something has to give. A couple of thoughts present themselves:

    Skip Vancouver Island. Logistically it complicates things tremendously, and the days you'd spend bouncing around on ferries would be better allocated elsewhere. Victoria is a very popular city, but most of its appeal comes from a concerted effort to make itself appear to be English (as in Ye Olde rubbish). It IS charming and "quaint" to a degree, but if you're coming from the UK to begin with, well...?

    Instead, add more time in Olympic National Park, which in August has so much going for it that it's ridiculous. Alpine meadows, astonishing rocky coast and wild beaches, the unique rain forest valleys on the coast, wildlife... way more than you could see in one or two days.

    I'd also drop Crater Lake. Yes, it's beautiful, but given the time you have, it's a long detour through very hot country. Instead, I'd allocate more time to the Oregon Coast and to the Redwoods in northern California.

    I've taken a number of British friends on drives between Seattle and San Francisco, and to a person they've declared the redwoods to be the single most memorable experience they had on their trips. Universally. Don't cut them short. Base yourselves for a couple of days in Ferndale, California (a cute Victorian era town) and visit the redwood groves in Humboldt County, such as the "Avenue of the Giants" and also maybe visit the "Lost Coast," a strip of northern California shoreline virtually ignored by tourists because of its remoteness.

    Long-winded; sorry. Keep on planning!

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    I'd REALLY take Gardyloo's last paragraph to heart. >>I've taken a number of British friends on drives between Seattle and San Francisco, and to a person they've declared the redwoods to be the single most memorable experience they had on their trips. Universally. Don't cut them short. Base yourselves for a couple of days in Ferndale, California (a cute Victorian era town) and visit the redwood groves in Humboldt County, such as the "Avenue of the Giants" and also maybe visit the "Lost Coast," a strip of northern California shoreline virtually ignored by tourists because of its remoteness.<<

    I have several British and Irish friends who have visited me over the years (I live in northern California so am usually traveling in the opposite direction as your plan but cover the same territory often). The best thing about Medford (IMO) is it has a nice little airport and some decent shopping for folks living in rural parts of southern OR and very northern CA.

    Without exception - the Redwoods, CA coast and bits of the souther Oregon coast have been their highlights. Crater Lake is an amazing sight - but not worth the long detour to get there on such a short trip covering so much territory.

    And NO you cannot base in or near Medford for Crater Lake or especially the coast/Redwoods.

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    Darn . . . lost a fairly long post. Will try again.

    Please take Gardyloo's last paragraph to heart: >>I've taken a number of British friends on drives between Seattle and San Francisco, and to a person they've declared the redwoods to be the single most memorable experience they had on their trips. Universally. Don't cut them short. Base yourselves for a couple of days in Ferndale, California (a cute Victorian era town) and visit the redwood groves in Humboldt County, such as the "Avenue of the Giants" and also maybe visit the "Lost Coast," a strip of northern California shoreline virtually ignored by tourists because of its remoteness.<<

    I have several British and Irish friends I've taken around over the years. (I live in N. California so am usually traveling in the opposite direction as you plan - but often cover the same territory) Without exception, the Redwoods and CA/southern OR coasts have been the highlights.

    Crater Lake while an amazing sight (IMO) isn't worth the detour/extra driving on a trip covering that much territory.

    And NO, you can't base in Medford to visit Crater Lake or especially the coast / Redwoods. That would be like basing in Leicester to visit Cambridge and Chester.

    The best thing about Medford is it has a nice little airport and some decent shopping for folks in southern OR and VERY northern CA.

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    That's just silly. I wouldn't stay in Medford, but Crater Lake and the coast are within easy driving distance of the
    Rogue Valley, especially given how much time they have.
    I'd stay in Grants Pass or Ashland.

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    I'd stay in Grants Pass or Ashland.

    I do not see that Ashland would be any better than Medford in terms of distance either to the coast or Crater Lake, but it probably is prettier.

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    bbqboy -- >>I wouldn't stay in Medford, but Crater Lake and the coast are within easy driving distance of the Rogue Valley, especially given how much time they have. <<

    The OP isn't just talking about Medford for the coast (which would be bad enough) but also Redwood National Park.

    Medford to Crescent City takes nearly 3 hours -- not hardly useful for a day trip.

    Ashland is about the same.

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    I like Gardyloo's plan - maybe an itinerary as follows:

    Day 1-3 - (2 nights Seattle): Arrive Seattle on Day 1, explore on Day 2 (you don't have to like cities to like Seattle, you can go to Mt. Rainier as a day trip or stay in town and walk the waterfront, go to Pike Place Market, visit Space Needle), on Day 3 morning drive to ONP. It is 3.5 hours south through Olympia to Lake Quinault or you could start north (drive to Aberdeen and cross over) and work the loop heading west, then south.

    Day 3-7 - (4 Nights ONP): Explore Olympic National Park. If you want to base at one place, we spent a wonderful 5 days at Lake Quinault and did day trips to the the Hoh Rain Forest and to the beaches. A little further (too far) to get to Hurricane Ridge. Alternatively, you could leave Seattle, head north to Aberdeen, stay a night or two at Lake Crescent Lodge and a night or two at Lake Quinault or Klaloch Lodge.

    Day 7-8 - (1 Night Portland): Travel south to Portland with stop at Mt. St. Helens. Overnight in Portland, next day enjoy a nice breakfast in Portland, maybe visit the International Rose Garden or Japanese Garden or visit Powell's Bookstore, or shop on Pearl street before heading to coast.

    Day 8 - 12 - (4 nights Oregon Coast): From Portland head to the Oregon coast, 3 nights at an Oregon beach town, pick a point on the coast (from Seaside or Cannon Beach, or Bandon, Newport or Gold Beach) and relax a few days with beach walks, and a visit to Tillamook cheese factory.

    Day 12 - 16 - (4 Nights Redwood country): Continue south to Ferndale (or other Northern California town), explore redwoods. If you were in a southern Oregon coast town like Bandon its about 4 or 5 hours. If you were driving from a more northern point like Cannon Beach, it is closer to 8 - 9 hours so plan on a really long driving day, with stops along the way or an overnight to break up the drive. Others on the site can probably give better driving suggestions and times as I let my DH handle that aspect of our trips.

    Day 16 - 17 - San Francisco - (1 or 2 nights SF): One day to see the major sights and eat really well.

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    I think to really enjoy the redwoods you should stay closer to them- one suggestion is the Requa River Inn just south of Crescent City-makes easier drives to see the area. Just up the hill from the inn is a great ocean overlook area with trails for short or long hikes and just below you can usually view whales. They have a great restaurant too.

    http://www.requainn.com

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    I would drop Victoria before Crater Lake. My reasoning is, if you are British, then seeing a charming small city that has a lot of British qualities may not be as intriguing to you.

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    “no battle plan ever survives the first encounter with the enemy,” often attributed to Colin Powell, but also to Field Marshal Helmuth Carl Bernard von Moltke.

    try to take a few deep breaths

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    Sorry for the late reply. We have lived in the Pacific Northwest for 15 years- half in the Seattle area and now Grants Pass in So.Oregon. The post from 5alive is sage advice- the distances (and travel times) are much greater than you would think- especially since Seattle is rated as the 7th worst city in the US for traffic and San Francisco is rated #3. Although there are a lot of wonderful sights around Seattle many of them are more than day trips. For example Google maps will tell that Paradise Inn (the heart of Mt. Rainier National Park) is approximately 2 1/2 hours from central Seattle; however if you allow for traffic it's actually closer to 3 1/2 hours which doesn't leave a whole lot of time for really enjoying the park. Our recommendation would be to spend a day in Seattle to visit the waterfront and Pike Place. You might also consider a visit to Tillicum Village (via one of the tour boats leaving from the Seattle waterfront) for a taste of Northwest Native American culture (plus a delicious salmon bake and show) before heading over to Olympic National Park. The Hoh Rain Forest in the park is especially beautiful and the Lake Quinault Lodge nearby is a step back in time to the Great National Park Lodges of America.

    We, too, would avoid Victoria and/or Vancouver. They are very nice places however Vancouver is a very busy city with it's own traffic problems and it takes 2-3 hours via ferry to get to Victoria from Vancouver or Port Angeles. If you do decide to do though make sure you see Butchart Gardens- one of Victoria's prime sights.

    Heading south if you decide to go to Mt. St. Helens the best approach is not from the south but from the northeast to Windy Ridge where you travel right by Spirit Lake and can see the vast devastation the eruption caused. That is a much longer trip though and if not feasible then our second choice would be to come in from the northwest to the Johnson Ridge Observatory. It's not quite as spectacular however it still tells a dramatic story.

    As for Portland the traffic from Vancouver, Washington, to downtown Portland along Interstate 5 can be especially nasty during the morning and afternoon commutes. you might consider staying in Vancouver instead. Be aware that signage is also not that great and roads exit both right and left off I-5 in Portland so you need to really make sure you know where you want to go before you start driving in Portland. There are a lot of nice sites there (as mentioned by others) however our favorite day trip would be taking the historic Columbia River Highway from Troutdale (on the outskirts or Portland) through to it's junction with I-84 just past Ainsworth State Park. It's a beautiful drive with many wonderful sights including Vista House overlooking the Columbia River, a ton of waterfalls including Bridal Veil, Multnomah and Horsetail and the Oneonta Gorge.

    A day trip to the coast would probably be too far from Portland. We would recommend instead that after a day or two in Portland to head to Tillimook or Lincoln City and travel south along the Oregon coast. There is a cheese factory in Tillimook, a wonderful aquarium in Newport, Sea Lion caves north of Florence and Oregon Dunes south of Florence so there's lots to see and do along the Oregon coast.

    If you dont's want to miss Crater Lake then at Reedsport you can divert inland taking Oregon 38 and 138 to Sutherlin and on to Roseburg. From Roseburg you can take Oregon 138 to Crater Lake and if you can stay at the lodge there you should. Yes, Medford is hot in August however Crater Lake definitely is not. The Lake sits at 8000 feet and is worth seeing. I do caution that the boat ride requires quite a hike as parking is on the rim of the crater and you have to hike down the crater rim to get to the boats.

    From Crater Lake you can take Oregon 62 south. There's a really nice stop at the Farewell Bend of the Rogue River where it cascades through an ancient lava tube. Just south of Shady Cove you'll find Oregon 234 which takes you down to I-5 and on in to Grants Pass (Medford is just another big city and is way out of the way if you plan on going to the Redwoods). The temps will start warming up a lot by the time you get to Shady Cove so be prepared. For the most part though you'll find pine forest most of the way from Crater Lake all the way to Grants Pass and on to Crescent City. Crater Lake is about 3 hours (with stops) from Grants Pass and Grants Pass is only a little over 90 minutes from Crescent City.

    From Crescent City 101 South is stunning. South of Klamath, California, make sure you get off 101 and take the Newton Drury Parkway. It goes through the heart of the ancient redwood groves and you'll want to take your time here for some of the most beautiful forest you'll ever see. There isn't much in the way of lodging between Crescent City and Arcata so if you plan on spending any time here plan ahead. The Requa Inn is beautiful and there are some cabins at Elk Meadows but other than that it's mostly camping.

    If time permits highway 1 along the California coast to San Francisco is breathtaking. It absolutely hugs the coastline and rejoins US 101 just north of the Golden Gate.

    Hope all this helps. You've chosen some of the most scenic country in the US. Enjoy your trip and if you happen to come through Grants Pass we'd love to say hi!

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