The famous SF -> Seattle road trip

Old Oct 18th, 2016, 02:18 AM
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The famous SF -> Seattle road trip

Hello all,

First of all sorry of the typos and the English we are not native speakers, we'll do our best to be understood.
New here even though we read a lot of the posts on the forums but haven't gotten the answers we were looking for.

Basically we are planning a road trip from SF to Seattle from the 15th of Nov for 5 or 6 days (have the car for 6 days). While we initially planned to drive along the 101/1 along the coast, we were wondering if we won't do it too fast.

Basically what we are looking for are very nice landscapes, good food, small towns and great driving (aka we would rather avoid 4/6 lanes highways). Drinking while a glass or two are nice we still have to flight back home so bringing back 6 or 12 bottles would be difficult. BTW only Mr. is driving.

We discovered lately that there is some nice hot springs (Mrs is from Japan... wanna try it). Is it possible to combined both? Is it worth it to go to Westport/Aberdeen?

If you have any housing recommendation we would be grateful as well. I wouldn't say price isn't an issue but well we are on holidays so we can spent, for special places, up to a few hundred dollars per night (would say proud $300).

Thanks you in advance for your help!
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Old Oct 18th, 2016, 06:24 AM
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Welcome -- your English is fine

Sorry - but you really cannot avoid the major highways if you are trying to drive from San Francisco all the way to Seattle. By the shortest/fastest route that is over 800 miles/1300 km and two FULL days of driving without a single stop.

To go the most scenic route up the coast is nearly 1000 miles / 1600 km and three full days in the car without any stops. Adding in stops makes it about a 7 day trip and that is rushed. That is a lot of stress and is very tiring when you only have one driver.

You certainly could go up I-5 and see places like Mount Shasta, Ashland Oregon, maybe Crater Lake, and Portland -- but not the coast.

Are you flying in to SF and out of Seattle?
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Old Oct 18th, 2016, 07:44 AM
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janisj paints a gloomy picture. Our son lives in the North Bay area and we drive there (and back) from a Seattle suburb at least once each year. Can't recall it every requiring three full days, even including eating, getting gas, and getting two night's sleep...and we drive the coast.

Take the freeway (sorry) south to exit 39 (Kelso/Longview); follow WA-4 to Cathlamet. Decide whether or not you want to continue west on WA-4 to the bridge over the Columbia at Astoria or take the cheap ($3) ferry from Cathlamet over to the Oregon side and proceed to Astoria via US-30. The ferry is a nice break in the trip and is very scenic.

As you drive south from Astoria on US-101 you should check out Newport, Yachats, Bandon, and Brookings in Oregon and two drives in California that take you through the redwoods: The Newton P. Drury Scenic Parkway and the Avenue of the Giants. Consider Garberville for overnight. US-101 will take you directly to the Golden Gate Bridge.
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Old Oct 18th, 2016, 08:46 AM
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In mid-November, it will be rainy and dark in Washington and Oregon, not quite as rainy and dark in California. Personally, I prefer not to drive the coast highways in the dark. With 5 or 6 days, you can do the drive, but it doesn't give you much time for exploring. I would suggest you choose two or three places that are your highest priority and make those stops. "Is it worth it to go to Westport/Aberdeen?" It isn't for me. Those are some of the less interesting options, IMO.

Bob's suggestion to skip a portion of the Washington Coast by either driving between Seattle and Kelso/Longview on I-5 is a good one. Trying to drive the Washington Coast farther north takes a lot of time, as you have to get from Seattle to the coast, which is a substantial drive.
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Old Oct 18th, 2016, 01:13 PM
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First: Where are you from? What would most interest you?

Second: Be aware of the weather.

In Northern CA, Oregon, & Washington, along the coast, you *might* luck out with good weather in mid November, but are much more likely to have rain. Inland, (like near I-5) you could have any weather, but it is likely to be less rainy. In the Cascade Mountains east of I-5 you have a good chance of running into snow. (The north entrance to Crater Lake National Park is already (temporarily?) closed by snow)

The best source I know of for historical weather patterns, with lots of easy to read graphs, is https://weatherspark.com/

Third: Be aware of distances and time. Google Map's Direction capability (the little blue diamond on the upper left of the opening screen), gives you a good way to estimate distances and time.

San Francisco to Seattle, via the most direct route via freeway is 807 miles and would take about 12.5 hours driving time ... that leaves lots of time for stopping and sightseeing. But it's a boring freeway through fairly uninteresting scenery. https://goo.gl/maps/ExkxhcBVQo12

San Francisco to Seattle via the coast is much longer and has many options. But if you'd like the coast, and don't mind lots of driving on curvy roads while it's raining, I'd definitely go that way.I've sketched out a potential route that's a compromixe to save on driving time: https://goo.gl/maps/2JpjHMDSmy22. It's roughly 871 miles, 16.5 hours driving time, so could be done in 3 days with 5.5 hours driving time, leaving 3 extra days for sightseeing.

A *very* general description is as follows.
I've only noted places of interest ... if you elect to go this route there's lots of decisions to make about your specific itinerary.
It's mostly freeway and/or busy highway from San Francisco to the Redwoods. You can get an overview of the redwoods at http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24723 and at http://outdoors.visittheusa.com/8-am...ods-california Don't miss the Avenue of the Giants in Humbolt Redwoods State Park).

It will get a bit boring near Eureka (and old and deteriorating - but somewhat interesting - major logging and sawmill center), but there are interseting redwoods and coastal stretched north of it.

Areas between Brookings Oregon and Bandon have spectacular cliffy/ocean views. (Hopefully you are ok with driving very curvy 2 lane highways with cliffy dropoffs to the ocean.)

It's less interesting between Bandon and Florence. But from Florence, throufg Yachats to Depot Bay is the centeral feature of the spectacular Oregon Coast.

Noth of there it's a nice drive along the coast, but I wouldn't recommend it with your limited time, so I'd cut over to I-5 at some point and drive that boring freeway through Portland to Seattle.

Portland is an interesting city, with possible side trips to the famous Columbia River Gorge or to Mt. Hood (Mt. Hood will likely be snowy in mid November - but I don't know if you'd have time for either of those detours.)
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Old Oct 18th, 2016, 01:17 PM
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I was in a hurry, sorry for my multiple misspellings.
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Old Oct 18th, 2016, 02:10 PM
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A number of years ago (1986 to be exact) my son and I did a drive from our home in Illinois all the way to Vancouver (Victoria) by way of the Tetons. While at the Tetons, a nice young man in a restaurant told us that if we were going to the Pacific NW area that we really should take the drive (called CHUKANAUT (sp)) going north a bit out of Seattle. What a gorgeous drive it was! To the OP, I don't know if you have time to go beyond Seattle, but if you do, and IF this drive is still as special as it was, it was well worth the detour we took to take it!
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Old Oct 18th, 2016, 02:46 PM
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Oops -- just realized when your trip is -- no to Crater Lake.

>>we drive there (and back) from a Seattle suburb at least once each year. Can't recall it every requiring three full days, even including eating, getting gas, and getting two night's sleep...and we drive the coast.
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Old Oct 18th, 2016, 05:33 PM
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The scenic Chuckanut Drive referred to by Carol, above, starts closer to Bellingham than to Seattle, which is an additional 90 miles north of Seattle. So given your already ambitious schedule, I expect you will need to save it for your next trip.
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Old Oct 18th, 2016, 08:12 PM
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I very much endorse Elbegewa's coastal path for a drive north in mid November. The coast route will insulate you against surprising weather closing the road in southern Oregon (as is possible on inland Interstate 5, even though it is quite early in the season for that to be the case).

The coast still has views even if it is cold and windy, or even raining.

As you set out, expect that the Oregon coast will be mostly rainy, and then be glad for anything else you get there.


Your available time seems just fine for such a path.

The Washington coast is the least interesting of the 3 states, especially in November.

Westport isn't really too appealing, and the hot springs require additional time driving north to the top of the Olympic Peninsula. IF you go there, you could head to the east side of the water, and the Seattle airport, by ferry boat.

But I think to do so would turn a comfortable trip from San Fran to Seattle into a rushed journey.

You CAN still do it... but there is so much to see along the way that perhaps even time spent in Portland, Oregon, OR in Seattle, at the end, would be more rewarding than the effort to experience the hot springs.
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Old Oct 19th, 2016, 01:09 AM
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Dear all,

Thank you very much for all the advices and tips.
To answer Elbegewa, I am French, living in Thailand and I used to live in Japan. I guess I would mostly be interested in natural wonders and some pretty towns to have lunch/dinners/drinks/walk around .

Actually I am planning to do the trip with a Corvette C7 but I do hope the weather will allow me to enjoy the drive. Have an SUV in back up if needed.

While my girl wants to do back and forth between in-land and the coast I guess we'll mostly stick to the coastal road except at the end to avoid some extra miles.

I am used to do road trips where I am the only one driving for a few days straight.

Back to work, will check it more today and potentially ask additional questions, thanks again for all your advices and help!
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Old Oct 19th, 2016, 09:20 AM
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Don't know what the rest of your plans are -- but one option would be to do a great road trip just out and back from SF up the coast maybe as far as the Redwoods -- but to Mendocino for sure. Then back down 101 through wine country, drop the car and fly up to Seattle . . .
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Old Oct 19th, 2016, 09:33 AM
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The southernmost end of the trip, near San Francisco, will very often be sunny and warm in November. One source re hot springs in that area is http://calihotsprings.com/
Once you get up into the Redwoods there there is increasing chance for rain and it will likely be cooler. Once you get to Oregon it is very likely you will experience rain. These graphs for Newport OR give an excellent indication of the probabilities of the weather to expect on the Oregon Coast: https://weatherspark.com/averages/31...-United-States
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Old Oct 19th, 2016, 04:50 PM
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Here's a link to a current Fodors' forum trip report on a trip to the redwoods: http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...s-169812-2.cfm

It contains a link to some great photos by the poster.
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Old Oct 20th, 2016, 12:18 AM
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Just driving around SF for a few days would be a bit too much and we really want to see the changes in mother nature as we go north.

Thanks a lot for all the tips and links. Some pictures look amazing actually.

We are going to look at the hot springs in CA, OR ( and WA if there is any) but we won't deviate for hundreds of miles just for them, even though soaking an a warm pool is always good when driving.

Pre-booked on B&B for the first night, gonna look for the rest of the trip. Do you know if it is better to always book in advance or if we can "go with the flow"?
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Old Oct 20th, 2016, 05:03 AM
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>>Just driving around SF for a few days would be a bit too much
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Old Oct 20th, 2016, 08:44 PM
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Usally Nov. is a very slow month in the PNW, so just going with the flow and not booking in advance, with one notable exception:Nov 24-27 is Thanksgiving weekend ... it rivals Christmas as a holiday in the states. It's wise to pre-book during that time.

Since one of the vehicles you are considering using is a Vette C7, regardless of whether you use that or an SUV, I'm sure you will enjoy the 2-lane winding roads once you get to the redwoods and on north.

Unfortunately, you won't find any hot springs north of the redwoods along the coast ... in OR and WA they tend to be inland, along the Cascade Mountains or further east. (An exception: there are some in the Olympics, but I don't see how you can get to them in a 6 day trip.) OR hotsprings: http://soakoregon.com/oregon-hot-springs-map/ and WA: http://www.seattlemet.com/articles/2...rings-may-2012 .
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Old Oct 20th, 2016, 08:50 PM
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There are several in the Napa wine region -- mostly around Calistoga.
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Old Oct 21st, 2016, 06:16 AM
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I'm coming to this thread a bit late.

I've been traveling between northern (and southern) California and the Seattle area for decades; I really couldn't say at this point how many times I've made the drive - dozens at least.

Frankly I would start over with your plan. November weather will almost certainly make you prisoners in your car, regardless of the route you choose. It will be gloomy and very wet; if the sun DOES come out it will be only briefly. So far this autumn has been wetter than average and there's no reason to believe things will improve in the next month. In addition, daylight is getting noticeably shorter.

I would strongly urge you to revise your plans to an all-California itinerary. There is ample opportunity to see the same types of natural sights - big trees, rocky coast, high mountains, picturesque towns - that you would on the drive north, but with the distinct advantage of staying in areas where the weather has a good chance of being good, the days a little longer, and the roads more welcoming and scenic.

Look at one of these loops - https://goo.gl/maps/XtShitqgeGo or https://goo.gl/maps/8LJC2US5Ut32 - both of which would begin and end in San Francisco or at the SF airport. (Note these "loops" would also save you a lot of money on car rental costs as they'd avoid expensive one-way or "drop" fees.)

The first route heads north up beautiful Highway 1 along gorgeous coastline - similar to parts of the Oregon coast - to the Avenue of the Giants redwood groves. This substitutes the lovely Sonoma and Mendocino county coast for the more distant Oregon coast, and includes the picturesque town of Mendocino as well as other attractive little towns along the coast.

It then heads east to the Gold Rush country along the western foothills of the Sierras, with scenic CA Highway 49 as the main route. This passes through numerous picturesque and historic towns including the museum town of Columbia, and in November there still should be some good autumn color about. This is also an up-and-coming wine region. You'd then spend a day in the Yosemite Valley before heading west back to San Francisco.

The second route heads through the Napa/Sonoma wine country over the the same Gold Rush area, down to Yosemite, then across the central valley to the Monterey Bay area. Visit Big Sur for coastal scenery every bit as spectacular as anything farther north, and stop at Point Lobos State Park for coastal scenery and lots of marine wildlife. Stay in charming Monterey, Carmel (visit the historic and lovely Spanish mission) or Pacific Grove.

Then return to San Francisco via the Henry Cowell or Big Basin redwoods, funky Santa Cruz, and the coast.

Either of these routes will offer lots of variety, terrific scenery and natural wonders, lovely and interesting little towns, and better weather and driving conditions than you'll encounter further north.

Don't get me wrong - I love the drive between SF and Seattle. It's just that November is NOT a good time of year for it, while there are alternatives that are much - MUCH - more pleasant closer to the Bay Area.

If you still need to get to Seattle, fly - around 90 min. and $100 from SFO. Let the people up front do the driving.
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Old Oct 21st, 2016, 07:47 AM
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Good recommendations from Gardyloo!
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