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7-10 day San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip May 2019

7-10 day San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip May 2019

Mar 3rd, 2019, 03:53 PM
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7-10 day San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip May 2019

This is my first thread/post on Fodors. While doing some initial research, this looks like the place to go for lots of helpful tips. My family of 5, myself, husband, and 3 daughters (33, 22, and 21 in April) would like to travel from San Francisco to Seattle post my daughter's graduation from SDSU in mid-May. We would not stay in San Francisco (we've been before and this trip is about seeing new things), but use it as a starting point. My plan is to rent a car for one way trip. We would love to see beautiful scenery, go on short hikes, eat yummy food, and explore. We love nature and animals. So, here's my very rough initial thoughts leaving on the 20th or 21st of May:

Day 1 - Fly from San Diego to San Francisco
(would renting a car somewhere other than SFO be less expensive?; maybe fly in to nearby airport)
Drive to Mendocino; Saw a post about staying at Glendeven Inn and venturing out from there
Day 2 - hike near Inn-Pygmy Forest or other; Kayak Mendocino Sea Cave Adventure Tour; Ft Bragg Glass Beach
Stay 2nd night in Mendocino
Day 3 - Redwood National Park/Avenue of the Giants
(do we need 2 nights here or a stop in between?)
Day 4- Crater Lake National Park
Day 5 - Coos Bay
(Oregon Dunes and Tillamook)
Day 6 - Portland
Day 7 - Portland
(day or 1/2 day trips from Portland-Mt Hood, Multnomah Falls, Hood River, Willamette Valley wine tasting, Columbia River Gorge Waterfall)
(My husband needs to leave on 28th leaving just the girls and I.)
Day 8 - Mt Ranier
Day 9 - Seattle
Day 10-Olympic National Park
(The last 3 days could be extended by a day or moved around)

Ultimately we would love to change hotels, air bnb, etc. as few times as possible, but don't want to spend all our time driving either. I did look up length of days this time of year for this area and we have about 15 hours. Yay!!
We would be traveling over Memorial Day Weekend, so not sure if that will effect some things.
Thanks in advance for any and all help.

Last edited by mgerard; Mar 3rd, 2019 at 04:14 PM.
mgerard is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2019, 08:31 PM
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Mar 3rd, 2019, 10:55 PM
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Well, it feels a bit rushed to me. And I say that because you mention that: you don't want to change rooms as much. With the plan as you have it now, I would like to see you have more days on the coast, whether in Oregon or Northern California.

I think it would be a lot of driving to come up the California Coast and then go clear inland to Crater Lake and then back out to Coos Bay. And I do like Crater Lake. But in mid-May there will be snow, and there's a question which roads would be open. If you can go at all, you probably won't be able to drive all the way around.

Many would say to give up Crater Lake entirely. It depends on how much you want to see it. I would say to plan a night somewhere a bit closer to Crater Lake, like Grants Pass, and if it doesn't work out to go to Crater Lake, you could spend the day in charming Ashland with its world famous Shakespeare festival, or take a jetboat or rafting tour from Grants Pass on the Rogue River. Not a bad plan B.


This is just one example of the trips offered. They do start in May. I am guessing you could reserve very close to if not the day of in May.

If you are going to Crater Lake, I don't think I'd go back to Coos Bay. I think I would take the ease of I-5 and go over to Florence on 126 or even go all the way up to Corvallis on I-5 and take 20 over to Newport.

My reasoning: Coos Bay itself is not a highlight. And then going north, 101 cuts inland on the stretch above Reedsport to Florence. Some are obsessed with the South Coast, but they generally mean down around Bandon or so. I like the Three Capes (yes by Tillamook) and the North Coast as well, so that is my bias.

Some other general reactions:
You could theoretically do a day trip of Mount Rainier from Portland and fly out of PDX. Just as a thought. It's a long day. Or you could overnight at the lodge one night.

It's a lot of driving to do the Olympic National Park. If you really want to do the Olympic National Park, I would fly up to Seattle and just do a trip of Washington state. There's a lot to do there. You wouldn't have a dropoff fee on your rental car which would make the airline tickets more of a wash. Alaska is a great airline for West coast flights, by the way.
5alive is offline  
Mar 4th, 2019, 05:23 AM
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Thank you. I wasn't really sure how to post.
mgerard is offline  
Mar 4th, 2019, 06:02 AM
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Welcome to Fodor's!

This has been a pretty snowy winter (and continues to be) so your access to Crater Lake and Mount Rainier is going to be severely limited. In addition to roads being still closed by snow (a good part of the Crater Lake rim, for example) May is still deep in the cloud and rain season in the mountains, so long drives there are often rewarded with invisible scenery. Honestly, on this route and with this timing, I'd just plan around any high altitude areas.

I'm going to show a map I'd recommend for this route at pretty much any time of year, but especially in the spring. Google the places shown. https://goo.gl/maps/gFpHJUwZjF72

What this does: It includes the CA 1 coast up to Mendocino, then stays on US 101 all the way to Reedsport and OR Hwy 38 back to the Willamette Valley. The southern 70 or 80 miles of the Oregon coast (California state line to Bandon) is the most scenic part of the coast, and OR 38 is the most scenic and quickest route from the coast to I-5. Doing a giant, time consuming zigzag into Crater Lake is (in my view) rather pointless in mid-May.

The route would take you through Portland to the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River and Mount Hood. In May the many waterfalls along the Gorge walls will be at their best, full of water from melting mountain snow, and the Hood River Valley will still have spring bloom in the orchards and vineyards. If the weather allows, visit Timberline Lodge on the side of Mt. Hood, where they might still be skiing (or will certainly have access to the snow fields at upper elevations.) Google McMenamins hotels - places like the Kennedy School in Portland, the fabulous Edgefield at the western mouth of the Gorge, and other places throughout the Pacific Northwest, might be a useful resource on this trip.

Head east from Hood River to the funky Maryhill Museum (Rodin in the sagebrush) and replica of Stonehenge overlooking the Columbia, then travel to Seattle via US 97 to Yakima, then I-82 and I-90 over the Cascades into the city. This will send you through terrific "old west" scenery and the Yakama reservation, then into the city. Stop at Snoqualmie Falls near the town of Snoqualmie as you descend from the mountains into the Puget Sound country.

I would look at overnights en route at Mendocino, Ferndale or Trinidad (near Eureka) then in Bandon, at the Edgefield, and in Hood River. If you want to add a visit to Olympic NP at the end, it needs a minimum of three days/two nights from Seattle.
Gardyloo is online now  
Mar 4th, 2019, 06:13 AM
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If you really want to see Crater Lake NP, fly to Sacramento (SMF) early in the day. It has easy access to I-5 and you could be to either Medford, Prospect or maybe Crater Lake lodge by sundown. The rental car should be a little cheaper from SMF and it is a lot easier than driving through San Francisco to get to I-5 or across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The problem with visiting Crater Lake in May is that there still may be a lot of snow in the park. I have seen years when the north entrance to Crater lake opens on July 1.
From Crater Lake get back to I-5 and head for Portland. Spend your 2 days in Portland and visit the Columbia Gorge east of the city as a day trip.
Leaving Portland, see Mt. Rainier on the way to Seattle. See Olympic NP and then head south over the big bridge into Astoria Oregon. Drive the entire Oregon coast going southbound. It is more enjoyable and safer driving southbound IMO. Currently US 101 is closed about 12 miles north of Brookings at MP 344 but it should be fixed by mid May.
In northern California along 101, stop to see the "Trees of Mystery" to get a good dose of seeing Coast Redwoods up close. Also see the Avenue of the Giants if you have not seen enough of the Redwoods.
Drive Rt. 1 south from Leggett to get to Fort Bragg. If you have seen enough of the coast, take Rt. 20 east all the way to Williams on I-5. Return the car at SMF and fly home from there.
If you want to skip Crater Lake, fly to Portland (PDX) and rent your car there.
tomfuller is offline  
Mar 4th, 2019, 09:37 AM
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I can only speak to a tiny piece of this, the last 3 days. Mt Rainier, the city of Seattle, Olympic National Park is too much to see (to large an area) when you have only allowed 3 days time total for all three. ~suze
suze is offline  
Mar 7th, 2019, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
travel to Seattle via US 97 to Yakima, then I-82 and I-90

And I wish to speak to an even tinier piece of this.

Unless you are a star-gazer, and have plans to stop to look at stars from the viewpoint up above Ellensburg at night, (if going through during daylight hours) opt instead for route #821 along the Yakima River for travel between Yakima and Ellensburg, as that path is much more scenic and peaceful. The most daytime excitement you find on I-82 between Yakima and Ellensburg is a "Military Firing Range".
NorthwestMale is offline  
Mar 8th, 2019, 05:32 AM
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NorthwestMale--I agree. When I lived in Yakima that is where we used to float the river.
mms is offline  
Mar 8th, 2019, 06:13 AM
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I think that you will want to skip Crater Lake. Only the south entrance off Rt. 62 will be open in May (possibly later). My best suggestion is to fly to PDX and rent your car there. There may still be too much snow to see much of Mt. Ranier NP. The waterfalls between PDX and Hood River in the Columbia Gorge will be great.
You could turn in the car you rent in Portland or at PDX and take one of the Amtrak Cascades trains from downtown Portland to downtown Seattle and then rent another car when you leave Seattle to go see Olympic NP. How far south you go on the Oregon coast is up to you. Coos Bay is not that great but i do like staying at a yurt at Sunset Bay State Park. If you want to be close to the Oregon Dunes, you can stay at William Tugman SP in one of their yurts.
US 101 north of Bandon will reopen next week as a one lane gravel road with flaggers at each end of the area being repaired. Expect the highway to be repaired to like new condition in mid May.
Come back east to I-5 and head back to Portland or Seattle to finish your trip.
The new visitor center at the Tillamook Cheese factory should be great. (I haven't been back yet).
This was a good snow year for the Cascades. Some of the ski resorts have over 90" of base. I stomped a path around my home on snowshoes and took snow off the roof of my shed yesterday.
tomfuller is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 07:28 AM
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I flew into the oakland airport when I wanted to go north of san Francisco and this was very convenient. The Mendocino area is lots of fun. I have done the drive you are considering, and there is not much to see between Mendocino and the border. Southern Oregon Cost is beautiful.
youngtom2910 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 11:18 AM
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>>and there is not much to see between Mendocino and the border<<

Huh? The Redwoods (LOTS of them), Ferndale, and much more.
janisj is online now  
Mar 24th, 2019, 01:53 PM
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janisj, Avenue of the Giants IS a pretty spectacular drive lol.
curiousgeo is offline  
Mar 24th, 2019, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by curiousgeo View Post
janisj, Avenue of the Giants IS a pretty spectacular drive lol.

Apparently youngtom missed that bit
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