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Please HELP with Road Trip from Los Angeles to Vancouver

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Jun 12th, 2017, 03:22 PM
  #1
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Please HELP with Road Trip from Los Angeles to Vancouver

Ive been scouring the web and this site for ideas for my planned road trip with my kids from Los Angeles to Vancouver in August. I need help! So much to explore and see but I am desperate for someone's insight and knowledge of the trip to help me plan my itinerary. I have just about three weeks! And it is me with my kids who range in age from 2-15, but my emphasis is always on the older ones so dont mind the 2 year old in your suggestions! We made it to Utah last summer! My current plan is to leave on a Sunday morning and head to Sacramento. Haven't been there in decades but thought it would be nice to show the kids the capital! Not sure how many hours/days I need there. Now here's the first big question: I have to be in Portland by Wednesday night. I have already done the road trip up north with my kids - so we already did san francisco, hearst castle, carmel etc. So we dont need to go there. But we have NOT seen the redwoods and the oregon coast. I am trying to figure out how to do that and make it to Portland by Wednesday night (we are being met and must be there). So I REALLY need help. I have been reading over so many different routes and I am getting completely confused! Oregon Caves and the redwoods sound amazing as does the oregon coast! Crater Lake also sounds so fascinating but should I do that on my way back? That brings me to the next big question, HELP with my way back! the in between is taken care of as we will go from Portland to Seattle and then to Vancouver. We plan to leave Vancouver on a Tuesday and we must be home by Friday mid afternoon. Somebody who knows these routes PLEASE HELP ME with my going and coming! Im losing my mind here and must have an itenirary so I can book small (nee cheap!) accomodations! Hate to ask too much but I would LOVE suggestions of places to visit in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.
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Jun 12th, 2017, 03:39 PM
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Drive to Sacramento on Sunday -- straight up I-5 it will take about depending on where in the LA area you are starting it will take between 6 and 7.5 hours plus stops.

So leaving in the early AM you could be in Sacramento by early Sunday Afternoon. See the Capitol and maybe spend some time in Old Sacramento. Stay north of town near the airport or in Woodland -- to miss the REALLY nasty monday morning commute getting out of the city.

Mon morning head up I-5 as far as Red Bluff and take hwy 36 west to 101. That will put you in the middle of the redwood region and you have late Mon afternoon through Wed Evening to get to Portland. So stay somewhere just north of Eureka Mon night and Tues night in say Bandon or Coos Bay. Then on Wed drive from the coast to Portland (Coos Bay to Portland takes 4+ hours)
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Jun 12th, 2017, 03:42 PM
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ps: I'd normally recommend taking hwy 20 from I-5/Williams over to 101. And IF you had one more day that would be good. But the route above gets you farther north faster.
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Jun 12th, 2017, 04:03 PM
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Thank you janisj. This is EXACTLY the kind of help I need! I reserved at Extended Stay in Renton. Is that an OK area re traffic? If I spent Monday night in Sacramento so i could get a full Monday in - Sutters Fort, Capitol tour, Old Sacramento (whatever we didn't catch on the first day (I am just afraid that by the time we check in and get to these sites they will close soon thereafter (I am imagining these public places close at 5:00pm). Am I OK to leave Tuesday morning and head towards the redwoods on the I-5 as you suggested above? With this change, where would you suggest I stay on Tuesday night?
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Jun 12th, 2017, 04:11 PM
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Well let's focus first on the return route, as that's going to be the hardest part. Leaving Vancouver on a Tuesday and having to be back in LA by mid-day Friday means you're going to have to use I-5 with no options for detours beyond the minimum. From southern Oregon all the way to LA it's going to be hot and boring, potentially VERY hot both in the Rogue River Valley in Oregon (around Medford) and in the San Joaquin Valley before you climb the Grapevine back into LA.

Tuesday - Vancouver to Portland area, roughly six hours plus border time and any traffic delays in the Seattle area.

Wednesday - (Say) Portland to somewhere in northern California or southern Oregon. If you didn't mind a really long Thursday, you could spend the night in Ashland - Shakespeare festival, lots of nice restaurants. But Ashland tends to be pricey, so you might want to push on over the Siskiyous and spend the night around Dunsmuir or Weed CA.

Thursday - A long hot day through the central Valley, probably overnight somewhere around Bakersfield. Pick a motel with Antarctic air conditioning and a big pool.

Friday - Up and over the mountains into LA.

So that's the grim story on the return. Let's turn to the northbound/outbound trip.

Sunday - LA to Sacramento via I-5. Nothing to it, just a hot drive through the valley. Be careful on I-5 on the west side of the valley; it tends to be a big rig race track. Leave early enough in the morning and you can take some time to see the sights in downtown Sacramento - Capitol, Old Town etc.

Monday - North on I-5 to CA Hwy 20, then west past Clear Lake to US 101 north of Ukiah, then north on US 101 toward Eureka. Take the time to drive the Avenue of the Giants byway, which parallels 101 south of Eureka. Overnight in Eureka or Arcata, dinner at the very fun Samoa Cookhouse in Samoa - former lumber mill mess hall with family-style food served by grannies with attitude.

Tuesday - North on 101 through more redwoods then the beautiful southern Oregon coast to Bandon. Take time for plenty of stops along the southern 60 or 70 miles of the Oregon coast, the most scenic part. Bandon is the nicest town on the southern coast, with good food in the cute "old town" waterfront area.

Wednesday - North from Bandon on US 101 to Reedsport, then east on Oregon 38 to I-5, then north into Portland. OR 38 is a lovely road; keep your eyes peeled for numerous Roosevelt elk in a roadside refuge just east of Reedsport.

Now, for the bits between Portland and Vancouver, you need to say how many days you have before you head south. Are you arriving in Portland on Wednesday and leaving Vancouver the following Tuesday, i.e. with just six days for everything in between? Or do you have 13 days? Makes a huge difference.

One other thing is that lodging in Seattle in the summer is VERY expensive - pressure from cruise passengers and general tourism.

Here's a map with the basics, not counting any side trips or excursions around Portland, Seattle or Vancouver. https://goo.gl/maps/pnAaa3Amfiq .

I'll just say as an editorial comment, this is a pretty grueling north-south itinerary and I would be sorely tempted if I were you to think about adjusting your time in the Pacific NW to permit more time on the road, especially on the return. But of course it's your party.
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Jun 12th, 2017, 04:16 PM
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Janis' suggestion about CA 36 over CA 20 is legit; I normally use SR 20 as I try to include the Avenue of the Giants.

The tiny town of Trinidad is north of Eureka but it's very wee and has very limited accommodations. And between there and Crescent City the lodging pickings are slim to none, and Crescent City is pretty bleak, so I'd stick with Eureka/Arcata even though they aren't going to win any beauty contests.
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Jun 12th, 2017, 04:28 PM
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When in August? The total solar eclipse will be going across Oregon on the morning of Monday August 21. We are expecting about a million visitors during the 4 days before and the 3 days after.
Why not go north first and travel southbound on the Oregon coast and down into California as far as the Redwoods?
Come back north on US 199 and see the Oregon Caves and then see Crater Lake if the weather is good.
See Sacramento on the last day of your trip before driving home.
Sunday night north of Sacramento (Williams?) Monday night Bend Oregon. Tuesday night Hood River or Portland.
Spend Wednesday with your friend in the Portland area.
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Jun 12th, 2017, 04:58 PM
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I live in Sacramento -- and would love to tell you to stay the two nights (there really is plenty to fill 2 or 3 days) but in your situation I'd just do the one night. The trip through the redwoods and up the OR coast isn't fast (and even it it was you'd want to slow down and explore the redwoods/coast). So no, I'd just spend Sunday afternoon in Sacramento.

>> so you might want to push on over the Siskiyous and spend the night around Dunsmuir or Weed CA.<<

I'd stay in Mt Shasta (or possibly Dunsmuir - where I was born -- 'nuff of a reason to visit ) Asland is terrific but VERY pricey.
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Jun 12th, 2017, 08:13 PM
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My kids didn't appreciate Ashland and the prices are high and the hotels aren't all that. If you're on the 5, either north or south, take some time for the Shasta Caverns. It was a highlight for my kids and ten years later they still talk about it!

Its right off the 5 and is a fantastic way to spend a few hours, gets you out of the car to stretch your legs, great history, a boat ride and the cool caverns!
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Jun 12th, 2017, 11:02 PM
  #10
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Wow! I am so grateful to you wonderful people! This is exactly the type of information I am craving. It gets very difficult scouring the web and not having clear mental images of where it is you're going and what you are going to do! I have spent months on and off trying to plan this out. OK, let me respond one by one and hopefully I will get more guidance!
1. Gardyloo: thank you so so much for all the tips. You are an AMAZING resource!!!! And I beyond appreciate the time you took to help me. Do you disagree with tomfuller that I can have a scenic route on my way home? Another idea for the return was Vancouver to Salem; Salem to Redding; and then Redding to Los Angeles. Any way for me to fit in Crater Lake (which sounds fascinating per the descriptions) in?
2. Re time spent in the other cities. Fortunately -- or unfortunately - those dates are pretty stuck since my husband will be flying in to meet me for a few days in Portland and a few days in Vancouver. Tickets have been purchased so those dates cannot be changed. So: we will have from Wednesday (eve presumably) to Sunday in Portland. Then I planned to drive to Seattle on Sunday and be there till Wednesday; and then drive to Vancouver on Wednesday and stay till the following Tuesday at which point we head back to Los Angeles as I described above.
3. janisj: thank you so much for your help! Gosh now I am so so tempted to stay that extra day in Sacramento. I am a history buff and absolutely love showing my kids stuff like the stuff I found online. SUtters Fort looks amazing as dos the history museum. Do you need a tour scheduled with capitol? Do they even allow tourists? Or is it just a driveby? I am worried that if we leave Los Angeles by 8:00am (I cant imagine herding up the troops and loading up the car any earlier!), we wont arrive till at least 2;30/3:00pm if we allow for bathroom breaks and then I am worried about what will still be open! I guess we can go straight to the places but is that enough time? Does everything close early?
4. Is there any way I can squeeze in crater lake here? Is it a major "must see"? I keep seeing it posted as a site to see. Mount St. Helen? Lassen Volcanic? Mount Hood?
5. Any recommendations for extended stay type places on the route to Portland?
Again, a MILLION thanks to any and all who are helping me so so much here!
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Jun 12th, 2017, 11:04 PM
  #11
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Oh! and at janisj: I meant to stay I reserved at Hawthorne Suites in Downtown. Will that be awful getting out of Sacramento?
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Jun 13th, 2017, 05:58 AM
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Can you see other things on the way north or south, such as Crater Lake or Lassen? In my view, no, unless you're willing to put in a couple of 12 hour days, something I wouldn't do with a 2-yo.

Imagine three corridors between California and Portland/Seattle/Vancouver. The first is along US 101 on the coast, and includes the redwoods, Oregon coast, and ultimately Olympic National Park (US 101 loops the Olympic Peninsula.)

Inland around 60-100 miles (more or less) is the I-5 corridor, the "spine" that that runs from LA to Sacramento, up through the Siskiyou mountains into southern Oregon, then north through the Willamette Valley to Portland, and finally north through western Washington to Puget Sound, Seattle and Vancouver.

Farther inland, usually 100 miles or more from I-5, is the "eastern" corridor, mostly involving US 97, which you can take to visit Lassen, Crater Lake, then areas in central Oregon and Washington such as Bend, the Yakima Valley, and up to the red-rock orchard country near Chelan and Omak before ending at the Canadian border.

The problem is, routes between these corridors are relatively few, and VERY few of them are especially fast or scenic. The Coast mountains between US 101 and I-5 is fairly pretty, and the Cascades between I-5 and US 97 much more so, but the passes over the mountains are not very quick, with a few exceptions such as I-84 from Portland through the Gorge, and I-90 east from Seattle.

Because of these mountain ranges, drives that include all three zones - coast, middle, east - by necessity end up zigzagging, which is fine if you have plenty of time, but very hard to manage if you're on a tight schedule.

By the same token, places like Mt. St. Helens or Crater Lake take hours just to access from the main north-south routes; in the case of Mt. St. Helens, for example, a visit to the Johnston Ridge observatory adds 3+ hours to the 3+ hours already needed to drive from Seattle to Portland in the first place. Add some time actually seeing things when you get there, and you've turned a half-day drive into a full one.

So that's a long way of saying no, you don't have time to add those detours unless you're willing to drop something else or revise your schedule top to bottom.

However with your schedule IN the three cities, you've got ample time to see some things as day trips rather than trying to squeeze them in during the longhaul drives. From Portland you can visit Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge as day trips, or even (long day but not terrible) head out to the coast - Cape Disappointment, Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park - and back.

From Seattle you can take day trips to Mount Rainier or to Whidbey Island, ride ferries, etc. And from Vancouver you can even travel to Whistler as a long day trip or (even better) as an overnight; there are lots of teen- and kid-friendly activities around Whistler. Or you can take a night and spend it on the BC Sunshine Coast, with its very laid-back vibe, art galleries and farmers markets, and beaches and coves ideal for wading, tide pool inspections, etc.

So my focus would be on getting to places fast and then planning day trips while you're there, and not try to fit in drive-bys of attractions off your main route on your way.
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Jun 13th, 2017, 06:53 AM
  #13
 
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Do you live in LA? If so what I'd consider is maximizing your time in the redwoods/coast/Portland and hold off on spending time in Sacramento. There is a lot to see and do in this area that are great for kids -- besides some of the places you've already looked up -- there is the AMAZING State Railroad Museum, the gold rush country, Sutter's Mill etc. Sacramento is 7 hours from LA give or take so you can plan a 2 or 3 night trip up here sometime - say over one of the kids 3 day weekends in the Fall. Taking 2 nights out for Sacramento this trip just takes too much time from the bits farther north.

The Hawthorn Suites would be OK -- it is right off of I-5 and you would be going against the major commute direction Monday morning. There will be heavy-ish traffic for about 4 or 5 miles (or as far as the airport) but not stop and go
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Jun 13th, 2017, 06:59 AM
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In your first post you mentioned Extended Stay Renton and then said nothing further about the Seattle area. This map will help you visualize its location:

https://goo.gl/maps/BM8grvQYXpD2

It is not really close to anything, but the parking is free and there is little traffic.
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Jun 13th, 2017, 01:15 PM
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Can you leave Los Angeles on Saturday night and get some of the driving out of the way? Visalia is under 3 hours and the motel 6 there is fine. (But in regards to lodging...how many kids do you have and what do you need for beds? Motel 6 generally are 4 person max).

Anyway, on Sunday you'd get to Sacramento earlier and then could continue up to Redding or Shasta Lake for the night.

Shasta Lake to Salem Oregon is 6 hours. The Best Western north of Salem towards Portland has large rooms with 2 queens and room for a rollaway, breakfast included.
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Jun 13th, 2017, 01:27 PM
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I also now live in Sacramento, formerly the LA area, and wonder if you could leave on Saturday, even late in the day, and thus arrive in Sacramento Saturday evening. That would give you a full day, Sunday, for seeing some of this fine city. As Janis says, the State Railroad Museum is amazing, and you would have some real time for the Capitol, Sutter's Fort, the historic riverfront, etc. And leaving Monday morning you are going against traffic so yes, once past the airport, you should be fine.

I actively dislike the big rig traffic on I5; we often take Highway 99, not much longer and usually far gentler. More options for stopping too.
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Jun 13th, 2017, 03:11 PM
  #17
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Wow! So many great ideas. I am completely using these ideas in planning my trip! SO many people to thank here. I have now changed my outbound itinerary. I wish I could leave Saturday... I cannot leave until late is the problem. And that would be touch with transporting the kids into a motel. And more than 4 kids !!!! Hmmm.. Though that option is super tempting as I am dying to do all the Sacramento sites! Otherwise, will try and leave as early as possible, though because of the 6 + hours it still eats up the day. I was thinking the following day - Monday - I would do as many sites as you recommend and then leave in the evening towards the coast of Oregon. Thoughts? And thoughts of the best way to maximize the day on Monday (and Sunday late afternoon). I was going to head to Eureka. Found a comfort inn there and then head up north to Oregon as suggested above. But now I found an amazing
inexpensive lodging in Florence which seems to have lots to do and am thinking to go from Sacramento straight to Florence on Monday afternoon/eve. Id arrive late which is fine. But then I would have all of Tuesday and Wednesday to spend in that area before heading to Portland on Wednesday night. Am I missing something if I go straight from Sacramento to Florence spending two nights there? Or should I do the one night in Eureka and one night in Florence? Thank you so much! For my return I am wondering if I should follow debbiedoesdulles recommendation. Thank you all so very much. This is SO SO SO helpful! Please keep the suggestions coming. For my return, I will have from a Tuesday leaving Vancouver and MUST be in Los Angeles by Friday afternoon. Thank you thank you thank you!
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Jun 13th, 2017, 03:16 PM
  #18
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So sorry! I just brain froze! Got so excited about Florence which looks so gorgeous that I realized that if I go straight I will miss the redwoods, right! Oops!
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Jun 13th, 2017, 03:49 PM
  #19
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Gardyloo: Why does the return have to be so grim? Can't I take the 5 and stop at interesting spots? Those that are off of the I-5 and not like the ones you described? I am SO grateful that you explained the three routes. With all my googling it seemed to me that Crater Lake was right on my way up to Portland off of the I-5!
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Jun 13th, 2017, 04:49 PM
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>>Can't I take the 5 and stop at interesting spots? <<

There aren't many

A bit of pretty scenery in OR and VERY northern CA buy after Shasta Lake it is pretty grim all the way to LA.
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