Drive from San Francisco to Seattle

Old Jan 9th, 2015, 03:03 AM
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Drive from San Francisco to Seattle

We are planning a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle in Sept 15. We live in a coastal resort in the UK and prefer to take a coastal route as much as possible.

I have had a look on Google maps and it looks like we can take the 101 up as far as Aberdeen before cutting across to Seattle.

Is this route recommended, how many days should we allow and where are the best recommendations for overnight stays?

We fly into SF on 6th Sept, plan 3 nights stay there so plan to drive between 9 and 12th so will be driving for 4 days.

Is there anything inland which we need to detour to and musn't miss?

Many thanks in anticipation.
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Old Jan 9th, 2015, 09:06 AM
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With four days you're going to have to make a couple of choices; this is such a marvelous part of the country that you could take twice that long and still not see all the sights that are conveniently nearby - the California wine country, for example - but not on the coast per se.

Two basic alternatives come to mind.

First, stick to the coast as much as possible, using California Hwy 1 north from the Golden Gate until it re-joins US 101 at the south end of the redwoods, then follow the Oregon coast all the way to Astoria, then into Seattle. This route is doable in four days, but a couple of them will be fairly long driving days (particularly by British standards - 5+ hours "wheels turning.")

Second, stick to the coast until the south-central part of the Oregon coast, then head inland to allow a chance to see some inland sights that (IMO) are well worth the detour away from the Pacific coast.

Option 1:

Day 1 - SF to Mendocino along California Hwy 1. This stretch of California coast is very beautiful but slow going. Mendocino is a very picturesque little town (featured in a few major films.)

Day 2 - Mendocino to Brookings, Oregon. This day will involve a transit of the redwoods. The several groups of British friends I've taken on this drive have all - to a person - declared the redwoods to be the high point of the trip.

Day 3 - Brookings to Astoria. This is a long day, featuring some gorgeous coastal scenery, but also involving some (frankly) boring bits along US 101 where it travels a mile or less inland from the actual coast, but from which you can't see the coast at all.

Day 4 - Cape Disappointment to Seattle. Cape Disappointment is a lovely and historic headland on the north shore of the (awesome) mouth of the Columbia River. From Cape Disappointment you can briefly visit the Long Beach peninsula and lovely Willapa Bay, a wildlife and bird sanctuary, before heading to Seattle. Note the southwest Washington coast is not particularly scenic until one gets to Olympic National Park, which is magnificent but out of your way.

Option 2:

Day 1 - SF to Ferndale, CA via US 101 and the Avenue of the Giants. This skips the Hwy 1 part of Option 1 and thud doesn't follow the coast; however it will give you more time later. The Avenue of the Giants byway off US 101 goes through the Humboldt redwoods and will allow you to spend more time in some of the amazing redwood groves, such as the Founders' Grove, that you might not be able to visit at leisure in the other option. Ferndale is a lovely little town with some terrific Victorian-era architecture; Ferndale is also close to where you could have a glimpse at the "Lost Coast," the last coastal wilderness area in California.

Day 2 - Ferndale to Bandon, Oregon. This will involve the rest of the redwoods (still awesome) and also the southern 70 miles of the Oregon coast, in my view (and many others') the most scenic portion of the Oregon coast. Bandon is the most attractive town on the southern Oregon coast, with some very nice lodgings and good seafood restaurants in the "old town."

Day 3 - Bandon to Troutdale, Oregon. Here's where this option swings inland. From Bandon, follow US 101 to Reedsport, then east on Oregon Hwy 38, a lovely road that follows the lower Umpqua River through a nice little canyon, then scenic farm country until it joins Interstate 5 at the southern end of the Willamette Valley. Follow I-5 north until the intersection with I-205 just south of Portland, then follow I-205 north around the east edge of the city to the Columbia River. Just east of Portland airport is the little town of Troutdale, Oregon. I'm recommending Troutdale because you could stay at McMenamin's Edgefield - http://www.mcmenamins.com/Edgefield - a marvelous little "resort" (converted poor farm with brewery, distillery, winery, cinema, umpteen bars and restaurants...) that would do nicely after quite a long day's drive.

Day 4 - Troutdale to Seattle via the Columbia Gorge, Maryhill, Satus Pass, the Yakama reservation and the Yakima Valley wine country, then across the Cascades via Snoqualmie Pass. This is nothing short of a stunning day, involving the incredible Columbia River Gorge with its vistas and waterfalls, then into great "old west" country to Maryhill, WA (site of a great little museum - Rodin in the sagebrush - plus a strange Stonehenge "replica.") Then north on US 97 through more beautiful country to Yakima, then I-82 to I-90 across the Cascade mountains into Seattle. This is also a longish day's drive, but the diversity and spectacular scenery you'll see en route is mind-blowing.

So your choice. For me, Option 2 is preferable because it gives you so much more variety, but Option 1 gives you coast, coast, coast.
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Old Jan 9th, 2015, 10:05 AM
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4 days will be a VERY rushed trip. The coast is just chockablock w/ amazing scenery but you will be mainly just driving through.

Either of gardyloo's itineraries would work -- but I'd want at least two more days to do them.
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Old Jan 9th, 2015, 10:13 AM
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One of the most beautiful parts of the Oregon coast is between Florence and Lincoln City- many scenic views and places to stop and explore. I would hate to see you just doing a drive by and not having time to stop and enjoy this beautiful part of the country.

Both of Gardyloo's itineraries are great- can't go wrong- just need more time to do it in my opinion.
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Old Jan 9th, 2015, 10:48 AM
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My only comment is that the southwest coast of Washington is not scenic enough to spend valuable time on. From Astoria, drive over the bridge to the Washington side and then east on WA-4 to Longview, where you will pick up the freeway to complete your trip to Seattle.
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Old Jan 10th, 2015, 01:36 PM
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if you decide to come in through Aberdeen, go through Shelton to Bremerton and take the beautiful ferry ride to Seattle.
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Old Jan 12th, 2015, 12:49 AM
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Many thanks for your helpful replies. I'm now going into replanning phase.

We arrive in San Francisco on 6 September and fly back to the UK on 21st. We have booked a cruise from Vancouver which sails back to San Francisco on 16/9 calling at Victoria, Seattle and Astoria.

To get the best out of this trip we probably need to limit our stops in SF and Vancouver to 2 nights each which will give us longer time to spread the road trip ie go from a 4 day to a 6 day trip.

We also plan to drop the car in Seattle on 13/9 and take the 07.45 Amtrak into Vancouver the following day.

Back to the drawing board.
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Old Jan 12th, 2015, 07:32 AM
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Presumably you'll be arriving in SF in the early to mid-afternoon on the 6th, which, by the way, is the middle of the Labor Day weekend, the national holiday that signals the end of summer. Kids return to school that week (in some cases the week before) but it's always a VERY busy weekend for anything having to do with travel and tourism.

After a 10-hour flight and an 8-hour time change, I probably would be hesitant to jump right in a car the next day or the day after, but it's your call.

Just as a thought experiment, try this idea.

Three nights SF, including the arrival night.

Three nights on the road, ending in Portland, Oregon. Stop at Ferndale, CA, Bandon OR and Portland.

One day exploring the Columbia Gorge and Mount Hood, drop the car in Portland and take an evening train to Seattle.

Day exploring Seattle, evening train to Vancouver.

Two full days exploring Vancouver.

Cruise to SF, depart the day you arrive.

Here's the logic: The car will be cheaper by dropping it in Portland, and since the drive between Portland and Seattle is pretty boring, you're not losing anything in the process. The train is cheap and reasonably scenic.

Plus, if you want to take the morning train from Seattle to Vancouver, getting rid of the car and arranging hotel accommodations in Seattle is really a nuisance, especially if you arrive in Seattle on a Sunday with most of the downtown car agencies closed. You'd have to leave the car at the airport, then you'd either have to get to downtown Seattle (with bags etc.) and stay in an expensive hotel (all very pricey during cruise season, which lasts through the middle of September) OR stay in an airport-area hotel and get up with the chickens in order to be at the train station by 6:45 AM for the morning Vancouver train.

Instead, by dropping the car in Portland and using the train for Portland - Seattle - Vancouver, you'd have time to spend in the marvelous country just east of Portland, plus a full day in Seattle. There are a couple of evening trains between Portland and Seattle, and any downtown hotel will be a cheap cab ride from the King Street station. (They also have luggage storage at King Street, in case you wanted to consolidate your bags and pick them up the next evening before heading to Vancouver.)

As for the coastal part of the drive, you'd basically follow days 1-3 in my "option 2" above. Since your cruise stops in Astoria, seeing the scenic northern part of the Oregon coast, or - much more satisfying from my point of view - Cape Disappointment on the Washington side of the river - could be done relatively easily by just booking a car for the day in Astoria (which will be much cheaper than any of the cruise line's excursions.) Drive yourselves over the river to Cape Disappointment, or down to Cannon Beach... easy.

Have a look at this idea on a calendar. I think it might make the trip a bit easier and less hectic. Being able to allocate an "easy" day around the Columbia Gorge and Mount Hood would be a real plus.

http://www.amtrakcascades.com/Schedules.htm
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Old Jan 12th, 2015, 08:49 AM
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Gardyloo has worked out a marvelous solution to your too short time for the coast/drive and semi-complicated connections at the Seattle end.
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Old Mar 4th, 2015, 03:39 AM
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Hi Gardyloo I'm back. Just returned from a trip to Las Vegas and cruise to Hawaii.

Following your thoughtful suggestions I've pretty much nailed our itinerary for our September trip up the West Coast.

I'd be grateful if you can cast your gimlet eye over it and see if it looks feasible and doable following the changes you suggested.

6/9 Sunday Arrive San Francisco from Dublin 3 night stay, Napa Valley wine tour on 8/9.
9/9 Pick up hire car, drive to Ferndale via Redwoods.
10/9 Drive up coast to Bandon
11/9 Drive to Columbia Gorge (Overnight in that area
12/9 am Explore Mount Hood pm drive into Portland catch evening 6.50pm Cascades train to Seattle
13/9 Day in Seattle, catch 6.50pm evening Cascades train to Vancouver 3 night stay
16/9 pick up cruise ship at Canada Place
21/9 Arrive back in San Francisco for flight home.

Couple of logistical questions
How long should I allow (with a bit of contingency) for the drive from Mount Hood to Portland to drop off hire car and get to the Amtrak Station for evening train?
Think I read somewhere that Carhire3000 waive one way hire fees.

Any further suggestions much appreciated.
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Old Mar 4th, 2015, 07:57 AM
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I think your itinerary is doable if rather rushed. On the 12th, however, I'd spend a day in the Gorge and at Mount Hood, but then I'd drive to Seattle via US 97 rather than heading back into Portland and going through all the logistics of dropping the car, packing suitcases to the train station, etc. I looked at Carhire3000's website and dropping the car in Seattle instead of Portland doesn't cost any more, and the drive from the Gorge to Seattle via Maryhill and Yakima is really quite lovely. The overall time penalty will be nil, or actually quicker than the drive from Mt. Hood to Portland, then the train ride to Seattle. From Hood River (the logical place to stay in the Gorge) to Seattle via US 97 takes around 4 1/2 hours, vs. around 3 3/4 hrs. via Portland, but that extra 45 minutes is oh so worth it - far less boring, great "old west" country...

The train from Portland to Seattle is okay, but some of the few scenic parts (along Puget Sound) will be in the dark anyway, and with the car you could stop and see more, still in daylight for the most part.

Drop the rental car and spend the night of the 12th near the Seattle airport (much cheaper than downtown) then on the 13th take a taxi to the Seattle train station, leave your bags with the left luggage people, then have the day to explore the city before the evening train.

This would give you more time to enjoy the Gorge/Mt. Hood area, and the drive to Seattle via Hwy 97 will expose you to an entirely different set of landscapes than you'll have seen before. It will also save money (taxi fares, train fare, high hotel prices in downtown Seattle.)
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Old Mar 4th, 2015, 09:21 AM
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I agree with Gardyloo. Keep the rental car until you get to Seattle. The Seattle train station does have luggage storage with a small fee.
The late train gets into Vancouver rather late. You might want to take one of the earlier buses.
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Old Mar 4th, 2015, 03:19 PM
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Okay points noted, many thanks for your prompt response. I'll plough on and get the accommodation, car hire and train tickets booked.
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Old Mar 4th, 2015, 04:13 PM
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My only comment is that I would never want to stay near Sea-Tac Airport if I could stay downtown, unless your budget is really tight. You could still drop your car at the airport and taxi to downtown Seattle to a hotel for the night. In downtown Seattle, you can walk to any number of nice restaurants for dinner. In Sea-Tac, there is not the same situation.
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Old Mar 4th, 2015, 05:22 PM
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My only comment is that I would never want to stay near Sea-Tac Airport if I could stay downtown, unless your budget is really tight. You could still drop your car at the airport and taxi to downtown Seattle to a hotel for the night. In downtown Seattle, you can walk to any number of nice restaurants for dinner. In Sea-Tac, there is not the same situation.

Sure, or arrange to drop the car at a downtown branch of the car rental company the following morning. Even if you have to pay for parking that night, it would be cheaper than a cab ride from the airport, and you wouldn't have to pay for bag storage at the train station; you could just leave them with the hotel until it's time to go.
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Old Mar 5th, 2015, 10:12 AM
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I've booked us into the Mayflower Park in Downtown Seattle for the Saturday night. As the downtown car hire depots appear to close at 16.00 on a Saturday we will have to drop the car at the airport and get a shuttle/taxi into town.

Been looking today at Sonoma/Napa Valley wine tours, all seem much of a muchness with stops at 3 or 4 wineries.

Anyone recommend one that they've used and had a great day?
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Old Mar 5th, 2015, 10:48 AM
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I"m guessing that you could check into the Mayflower Park with your luggage and then one of you take the car back to the SEA airport to turn it in and then ride the light rail back to downtown.
http://www.soundtransit.org/Schedule...il?dir=inbound
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Old Mar 5th, 2015, 11:37 AM
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Have you booked your car yet? Almost all the downtown car offices are open on Sundays, particularly during cruise season. From the Mayflower, there are Avis, Hertz, Dollar, Budget, Thrifty and National/Alamo offices within a few blocks' walk. Parking at the Mayflower is $35 per night, but cheaper at lots and garages within a block or two, so the scrum at the airport (which is really time-consuming as the car return building is a shuttle bus ride from the terminal, which is a long walk to the light rail station) would be unnecessary.

Just thinking out loud, and not trying to hijack your plans, but I thought I'd mention that there are lovely vineyard areas all along your trip, from the Sonoma valley en route to the Redwoods (right along US 101) to the marvelous vineyards in the northern Willamette Valley (45 min. south of Portland) to some really excellent vineyards in the eastern part of the Columbia Gorge.

In your time frame, the Napa Valley is likely to be pretty crowded and almost certainly very hot (often September is the hottest time of the year there) and spending 9 hours in a minibus is not my idea of much fun, when the same 9 hours could be spent traveling from SF to the Redwoods with 4 hours to spare for vineyard visits. Obviously somebody would have to be careful behind the wheel, but you might be able to squeeze an extra day out of your northbound itinerary, which you could definitely use.

http://www.wineroad.com/maps/7
http://willamettewines.com/
http://www.columbiagorgewine.com/
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Old Mar 5th, 2015, 09:56 PM
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I think you were right to stay downtown, but I'd hate to check into a hotel there, drive back to SeaTac, and then take light rail downtown. If you can drop the car off downtown, do that - otherwise, drop it off at the airport and take a cab downtown. The Mayflower Park is very near the Dahlia Lounge, by the way, which would be a great place to have a Seattle dinner.
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Old Mar 20th, 2015, 03:38 AM
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Gardyloo bit more advice if you don't mind.

On September 11th we travel from Newport (our overnight stop) to Columbia River Gorge (Hood River).

Is it worth sacrificing the drive on HWAY84 along the Columbia River and take HWAY26 past Mount Hood then HWAY35 upto the Gorge.

The reason I ask is otherwise on the 12th if we want to see Mount Hood we will have to double back quite a distance to see Mt Hood then return to pick up HWAY97 to Yakima as we continue onto Seattle.

Also on the car hire front we've mentioned earlier CARHIRE3000 are now part of rental cars so I will get stung for a $300 one way hire fee unless I can get ALAMO to find me a car on their lot with Washington plates that needs to go back North. Car hire is only cheap if you return the car to where you picked it up. Guess they've got us there, just have to bite the bullet.

Margo, I've looked at the Seattle downtown map, the one way system looks a challenge to drop my wife at suitcases at our desired hotel and get out again to dump the car at SeaTac. I'll need a cool glass of wine once I've achieved accomplished that task.
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