San Francisco to Vancouver in three weeks

Old Feb 7th, 2020, 12:02 PM
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San Francisco to Vancouver in three weeks

Hi there,

We have three weeks for a trip in early-July, flying in to San Francisco and out of Vancouver. We were thinking of having three nights in San Francisco at the start of the trip, and three nights in Vancouver at the end. This leaves us with around 15 days to rent a car and road trip between the two cities, although we would probably leave the car in Seattle and get the train to Vancouver. We would like to see Seattle (is two/three nights enough to get a bit of a flavour of the place?), and Portland (again thinking a couple of nights here). We would like to see some of the National Parks as well as drive some of the coast road, but we're by no means extreme hikers. My tentative itinerary looks something like:
  1. SF
  2. Napa
  3. Mendocino
  4. Redwood NP
  5. McMinnville
  6. Portland
  7. Mt Rainier NP
  8. Seattle
  9. Vancouver

We want to avoid spending too many hours driving on consecutive days, and actually want to get out and sightsee. We love eating and drinking most of all. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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Old Feb 7th, 2020, 12:30 PM
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Yes I think 2-3 nights is enough to get the flavor of Seattle. Do spring for a downtown hotel with such a short stay (they do not come cheap in the summertime, be ready for sticker shock here).

suze, in seattle
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Old Feb 7th, 2020, 03:28 PM
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Is there a reason to stop in McMinnvile? It’s an easy drive to Portland from there. Perhaps somewhere along the coast to break the drive from the redwoods.
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Old Feb 8th, 2020, 06:21 AM
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Welcome to Fodor's!

Not trying to pry, but where's home? Your spelling of "favourite" indicates it's from someplace where the British, rather than US, spelling of the word is used. My reason for asking is twofold. First, if it's from a long way away, jetlag and dealing with time change can be an issue. And second, even with 15 days available, you're still going to have to make some difficult choices. The Pacific coast and interior of northern California, Oregon, Washington, and BC for that matter, offer so many incredible options and destinations that, silly as it may seem, you might need to eliminate (or reduce time in) some places where similar landscapes, environments, or activities can be had closer to home.

Take the famous (and rightly so) Oregon coast for example. It's magnificent, but it's not hugely different from coastal areas one can visit in the UK - Cornwall, parts of the Scottish Highlands, etc. Or the Napa and Willamette Valley vineyards in California and Oregon respectively: while it's not a case of "seen one, seen 'em all" regarding wine districts, if you're familiar with wine regions in Australia, New Zealand, or, hell, France, for that matter, you're not going to see something especially unique. The point being, if you skip or minimize the time in those areas, you can reallocate those days to places or experiences you CAN'T have easily closer to home. For example, how many active or (hopefully) dormant volcanoes can you visit in Australia or the UK? Or mile-wide rivers bracketed by numerous waterfalls? Or a vast inland sea full of islands?

I don't want to over-complicate things by saying this, just to suggest that a driving route might be modified to include some areas that might not leap to mind. For example, I'm going to link to one map that includes some places you might research (just Google the entries) to see if this looks like it's something you might be interested in, vs. worth skipping for other places. Here's map one - . Compare it to map two - .

The first map swings all the way from the scenic south coast over the Cascade mountains to central Oregon, with stops at Crater Lake and remarkable Smith Rock State Park. It then stops at Timberline Lodge on the side of Mount Hood, then west through the Columbia River Gorge and all the way out to the northern Oregon coast. It then heads north and loops the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park before ending in Seattle. In lieu of the Willamette Valley vineyards you could visit those in the Hood River Valley. It would include three national parks - Redwood, Crater Lake and Olympic, but also several state parks (such as the Humboldt Redwoods in California, Smith Rock in Oregon, and Cape Disappointment in Washington) which are (in my view) the equals of any national parks, albeit smaller.

The second map includes the Wilamette Valley, then heads east through the Columbia Gorge to Maryhill (fun art museum and weird copy of Stonehenge) then north through terrific "old west" scenery and the Yakama Indian reservation to Mount Rainier National Park. Unlike the first route, this does not loop the Olympic Peninsula, but instead continues to Victoria on Vancouver Island, then stops in one of the idyllic Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland. The BC Gulf Islands, like their American counterparts, the San Juan Islands, are part of a glorious archipelago within the Salish Sea, well worth some "kick back" time.

These two routes are just examples of a vast number of possibilities, depending on your priorities and interests. From south to north, and from east to west, this region offers a bewildering range of environments, communities, cultural activities and scenic wonders. You can't see it all in 15 days or 15 years, so it becomes a case of picking and choosing. If you're like most first-time visitors to this area, you'll be planning your return trip before you've filled the tank a second time. Fair warning.

And again, welcome!

Last edited by Gardyloo; Feb 8th, 2020 at 06:23 AM.
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Old Feb 9th, 2020, 06:55 AM
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Wow, thank you for such a comprehensive answer! Your powers of analysis are dead on, and we are from the UK. We'll definitely be taking your suggestions on board.
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Old Feb 9th, 2020, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by curiousgeo View Post
Is there a reason to stop in McMinnvile? Itís an easy drive to Portland from there. Perhaps somewhere along the coast to break the drive from the redwoods.
The most notable attraction in McMinnville is the Evergreen Aviation and Space museum which has the "Spruce Goose".
The museum is nice but you should consider going to Crater Lake NP instead.
About 5 miles east of Reedsport, is the Dean's Creek Elk viewing area along Rt. 38. I've seen as many as 40 Roosevelt Elk at a time.
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Old Feb 10th, 2020, 11:20 AM
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Skip Napa. Sonoma has also interesting wines and more interesting sights: Around the square of the town itself and the Jack London State Historic Park. Going to Mendocino you will drive through the Anderson Valley (CA128) which also has excellent wine producers.

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