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bossanova Nov 25th, 2017 06:54 PM

Seattle to San Fran Road Trip
My husband & I are planning a road trip by car from Seattle to San Francisco (small section of our larger trip) end of March till early April next year. Approx 5-7 days. Will cover Easter. We are Australian & have never visited the US before. Few questions ... realise this trip could have some winding roads but will weather be an issue this time of year, specifically with the driving & taking in the views? And will Easter be an issue for booking accomodation? Everyone goes away over Easter here in Aus, so accomodation bookings are a must. Is the US the same?

janisj Nov 25th, 2017 08:36 PM

>>Approx 5-7 days<<

Not enough time -- if you only have 5 days. With 7 days you could do a typical 'road trip' w/ a lot of driving but also time to see/do things along the way.. But at least with a week you would be able to head down the coast.

Seattle to SF down the coast is about 1000 miles and more than 20 hours behind the wheel. With stops for sightseeing and meals you are talking about being in transit about 7 hours per day over 5 days.

Late March can still be quite wet especially on the coast and wintery in the mountains . . . OR it could be lovely. Easter is a week off for most schools so yes, you will want to book ahead.

Gardyloo Nov 26th, 2017 06:38 AM

It looks like your first post; welcome to Fodor's!

I am (unusually) going to disagree with janisj; I think it's plenty of time.

<i>Because,</i> at that time of year you're likely to be in the car more than outside it. While the weather is changeable (it's spring in the Pacific Northwest) you're likely to encounter more wet weather than dry; it's just the nature of things that in March/April a series of weather fronts roll in off the Pacific, making weather on the coast something like a 3- or 4-day cycle of cloudy, wet, breezy/partly cloudy, then cloudy again, repeat.

The choice of routes depends a bit on your tolerance for longish drives. Most Aussies I know are okay for seven-hour days in the car, but it needn't be that long for most of your options for routes between Seattle and SF. I'm also assuming your 5-7 day timing doesn't include too many days in either Seattle or SF; if your "net" time for the drive is more like 3 days on the road, then that's another story.

Here's the route I'd recommend, but which can be shortened:

This starts with crossing the Cascade Mountains after a stop at Snoqualmie Falls 40 minutes east of Seattle. In March/April the falls are likely to be spectacular from local rains and the onset of melting snow in the mountains.

There will still (probably) be plenty of roadside snow crossing the mountains, but I-90 should be wide open. Once you reach the east side of the summit, conditions will dry out and the sun should probably come out; the ranching country around Cle Elum and Ellensburg is lovely at that time of year.

You'd head south from Yakima on US 97, which crosses through the Yakama Indian reservation and then through marvelous "old west" countryside down to the Columbia River at Maryhill. Stop at the Stonehenge replica overlooking the river canyon, and maybe at the nearby funky Maryhill Museum (Rodin in the sagebrush) then west along the river to Hood River, Oregon. (Stay on the Washington side of the river until then.)

Hood River is set at the head of the gorgeous Hood River Valley, which - depending on the year - might be in spring mode by then; the orchards and vineyards in the valley are stunning, especially if Mount Hood makes an appearance through the clouds, looming over the valley.

From Hood River, continue west on the "historic" Columbia River Gorge Highway (numbered as US 30 in parts) past numerous waterfalls and vista points. This road, which only recently reopened after some devastating fires this summer, is one of the most scenic in the country, a real "don't-miss" experience.

You can stop for some local weirdness in Portland, then continue south on Interstate 5 around two hours to the junction with Oregon Hwy 38. OR 38 is the fastest and also the most scenic route between I-5 and the Pacific coast; look for numerous Roosevelt elk in a refuge at the side of the road shortly before reaching Reedsport.

From there it's US 101 all the way to the Golden Gate. I'd recommend an overnight in Bandon, the most attractive town on the south coast; from there to the California line is the most scenic section of the Oregon coast. If by any chance you're familiar with the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, you'll see the similarities.

Right after the state line, you'll enter redwood country, which will extend for 150 miles or so. This may well be the highlight of the trip; the big trees leave most overseas visitors (and most Americans) gobsmacked, and for good reason.

Spend a night somewhere around Eureka - maybe the small waterfront village of Trinidad to the north, or the college town of Arcata, or picturesque Victorian Ferndale south of Eureka.

Drive the Avenue of the Giants byway, which parallels US 101 south of Eureka, then from there it's 4 hours or so to San Francisco. If you still have time for detours available, you might look at Sonoma in the wine country.

Google Maps' estimate of 19-20 hours on this route is probably pretty good, so if you have 5 days that's not a back-breaking timetable, depending on how long you spend in the various stopover points. Driving conditions will be okay; the slowest/twistiest parts will be the Columbia Gorge Highway, OR 38 in parts, and US 101 between Crescent City and Eureka, but again, only in parts. It's not a particularly challenging driving route, but you'll want to take your time, particularly in the redwoods.

Happy planning, and again, welcome!

janisj Nov 26th, 2017 09:01 AM

I would do Gardyloo's itinerary in a heartbeat . . . but with 7 days. 5 Days would just be too hectic IMO/IME. There are some fabulous places/scenery en route and you'd want a week.

happytrailstoyou Nov 26th, 2017 11:28 AM

Don't miss Cape Perpetua, between Yachts and Florence, on the Oregon coast.


JonandAnita Nov 26th, 2017 03:02 PM

This is very interesting thread. Thanks for the advice on weather along the coast in March/April span. What about in May? Does the rain start to let up by then?

Gardyloo Nov 26th, 2017 03:54 PM

<i>What about in May? Does the rain start to let up by then?</i>

A little, but reliably dry weather isn't usually part of the picture until late June or July. Things clear up in California before they do on the Oregon or Washington coasts, but one can encounter "June gloom" (overcast days) anywhere along the Pacific coast.

JonandAnita Nov 27th, 2017 05:08 AM

Thanks! Good to know.

bossanova Nov 28th, 2017 08:51 PM

Wow! Thank you for the info. Yes, first time on Fodors... and won’t be my last.
Thinking we might take the 7 days & follow Gardyloo’s suggested route.
Thanks again!

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