Seattle to Northern California Road trip

Jun 11th, 2012, 08:09 AM
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Seattle to Northern California Road trip

Hello everyone. Please help me plan a road trip from Seattle to Northern California. I will be travelling with my wife and our 14 y/o son, and possibly a 10 y/o niece, leaving early on July 1st and back on July 7th. We will be spending a day checking out Stanford University; possibly spend a day with relatives in San Francisco and San Jose. Then possibly check out Carmel, Pebble Beach. Lastly, visit Yosemite (or maybe the Redwoods) for a day or two before heading back home. I'm trying to figure out how to schedule this itinerary, and also a hotel as a home base while there. Thanks a lot!
Guaping is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 08:20 AM
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Can you clarify - you are DRIVING from seattle to northern California, and want to do all that you mentioned in a total of 7 days including the R/T to and from Seattle? Frankly, this is not possible, even for road warriors. Its a 13-hour drive from Seattle to San Francisco without stops. And even if you took only one day in each direction to do that, you'd be left with just 5 days. It's possible to see San Francisco and the coast in 5 days, but not to include Yosemite too.
sf7307 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 08:25 AM
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if you're trying to leave on July 1st and be back on July 7th, you are packing waaaaay too much into this one trip. You will be doing very little, except driving and seeing the inside of your car.

It takes a minimum of 14-16 hours to drive straight from Seattle to San Francisco. If you and your wife share the driving and start out at 5am, you can speed down I-5 and reach San Francisco at night. I won't advise it, but it's your choice.

You can do the same one-day trip back to Seattle.

Can you cut something out? Like Yosemite? It'll certainly make your trip more enjoyable. Just a suggestion.
easytraveler is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 08:37 AM
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Thanks for the replies. Yes, we'll leave Seattle early on July 1st to get to San Jose/Palo Alto at night (and yes. I'll split driving with my wife); same thing on the trip back, but we can possibly just return on the 8th. I know, the Yosemite visit is really pushing it; would it be more feasible to visit redwoods instead?
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Jun 11th, 2012, 08:42 AM
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How about just visiting Muir Woods when you're in San Francisco? or Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz?
sf7307 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 08:48 AM
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How about this?

Day 1 - drive straight through to SF, stay in SF
Day 2 - SF, stay in SF
Day 3 - SF to Palo Alto for the morning (you don't need more than half a day to see the Stanford campus), then to Henry Cowell State Park in the afternoon, drive to Monterey to sleep
Day 4 - Monterey/Carmel (aquarium etc.)
Day 5 - drive down the coast toward Big Sur (see my link below), stay in Monterey
Day 6 - back to SF
Day 7 - drive home
sf7307 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 09:53 AM
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If you want to see redwoods, Muir Woods is a great suggestion.

If you're going to do that, then I'd suggest that you stop the night in Vallejo (I-5 to I-505 to I-80). There are plenty of mid-to-low end hotels and motels there. Try for the Best Western or the Courtyard, as these will put you on the correct road. Your kids are going to need the rest and Vallejo is small enough that you don't have to drive all over a strange part of town to find your hotel/motel.

You want to leave Vallejo via Route 37 for San Rafael and Highway 101. On Highway 101, it's about a 12 mile drive on 101 to Marin City where you'll see the signs for the turnoff for Muir Woods. Should take you about an hour or an hour and a half to get to Muir Woods from Vallejo. After your visit to Muir Woods, you can continue on to San Francisco. Try to get into San Francisco by 3pm. Don't know what part of SF you will be visiting, but rush hour traffic can get bad in some parts of SF.
easytraveler is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 08:57 PM
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Please keep the suggestions coming. I'm reviewing google maps for the locations, and I think Vallejo would be great for the rest stop on the 1st night. Then the next day, head east/south towards San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Jose area. Would San Jose be a good base to spend 2 days/nights in those aforementioned cities? Which means we'll spend the 4th of July in that area. Then afterwards, head further south to Carmel/Pebble Beach area and spend 1 day/night. Then travel northwards after that. Any other suggestions, and places to visit? I appreciate the help.
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Jun 11th, 2012, 09:33 PM
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After Vallejo, you want to be heading WEST towards the ocean, not east.

sf7307 has given you a very workable schedule. I'll come at it from the nighttime schedule, as I don't know if you are planning to stay with your friends/family in SF and San Jose nor how long you plan to visit with them.

With the time you have, try and keep going in one direction - south. Thus, it's not a good idea to stay in San Jose and then backtrack to go north to San Francisco.

Night one: in Vallejo

Night two: in San Francisco

Night three: in San Jose

Nights 4 and 5: in Monterey/Carmel

Night 6: in San Francisco

Day 4 will be a busy day in Monterey, as you will be visiting the Aquarium and possibly driving the 17 Mile Drive and visiting Carmel.

Day 5 will also be a very busy day. I'd suggest that you drive down Highway 1 along the Big Sur Coast and go to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, which is inland and will have sunshine in the morning. You can hike around some more redwoods at that time. It's a great park and has cabins if you want to spend one night among the redwoods.

If the weather is good, then a couple of miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur is Nepenthe. The view is spectacular. You could stop there for lunch.

Then drive further south to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see McWay Falls, the only falls in California that empty into the Pacific Ocean.

From JPB, turn back and stop just before Carmel at Point Lobos State Reserve. Although Point Lobos isn't technically in Big Sur, it is possibly the most beautiful of the oceanside state parks in this area. Don't miss it.

I'm recommending that you do Point Lobos last because at this time of year we normally have some fog covering the coast in the morning. The fog will tend to dissipate by midmorning/noon. if, however, you find that it's a sunny morning, you can stop at Point Lobos first and then continue on down through Big Sur. Just see what the weather will allow you to do.

Day 6, take a leisurely drive along Highway 1 back to San Francisco. There are plenty of suggestions of what to do in San Francisco.

Day 7, drive back to Seattle.

Have a great trip and welcome to California!
easytraveler is offline  
Jun 12th, 2012, 08:49 PM
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Thanks easytraveler and sf7307; I appreciate your guidance.
Guaping is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 10:15 AM
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You need to use real dates and not "day one etc." This year the 4th of July is midweek, which makes your trip even more awkward, because many people will be taking either the 2nd and 3rd off work, or the 5th and 6th, making both weekends and the middle of the week potentially very congested. Add normal mid-summer crowds and hotel and road conditions will all be pretty packed.

If a one-way car trip is out of the question (are you using a rental? If so you could easily find out what the one-way drop charges would be) then I'd hurry in one direction and go slow on the other, and I would probably exchange the Oregon coast for the Big Sur/Carmel/Monterey option. Doing so would also allow you to visit the coast redwoods in the extreme NW of the state instead of the Muir Woods (which are nice but not the same as the big groves between Eureka and Crescent City.)

July 1 - Seattle to SF via I-5, around 13 hours. If you want to stop short of SF and finish the drive on the morning of the 2nd, then I'd do so around Vacaville rather than Vallejo, but it doesn't make too much difference. Prices will probably be cheaper the farther from SF you stay, and the next day won't be hard to get to the city as it will be the weekend.

July 2 - 5: SF Bay area - Stanford etc. Be sure things are open if you need them so - everything will be closed on the 4th of course.

July 6 (assuming arriving in Seattle on the 8th is okay, if not then July 5): SF to Crescent City via US 101, taking your time to visit the redwood groves between Eureka and Crescent City.

July 7 (or 6): Crescent City to Newport, Oregon. Stop at the various state park turnouts, walk along the beach and look at the rocks and lighthouses.

July 8/7: Newport to Seattle via US 20 and I-5. It's a long day (say 7 hrs.) but doable. Daylight is long in early July.

Of course this is doable in reverse, too.
Gardyloo is online now  
Jun 13th, 2012, 10:41 AM
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My son lives in Suisun City and is a biker, just as a frame of reference. He would choose Vacaville over Vallejo in a heartbeat...he spends as little time in Vallejo as possible.
Bobmrg is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 11:16 AM
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"He would choose Vacaville over Vallejo in a heartbeat.." . . . Or even Fairfield.

Visiting Muir Woods the week of the 4th may be very problematic. It is a small and just on normal, run-of-the-Mill summer weekends it totally fills up and there is no parking. That week I wouldn't touch it w/ a barge pole.

Try to visit the larger, better, less packed parks up north.
janisj is online now  
Jun 13th, 2012, 05:10 PM
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As with any city, there are good areas and bad.

Oakland is generally bad, but there are multi-million dollar homes in areas such as the Oakland hills.

Where I'm sending the OP is a relatively safe area. The worst area of Vallejo is the older parts, especially the downtown. The OP doesn't need to go there.

He's going to be near the Six Flags area where there are plenty of hotel rooms that are safe. It's also a relatively newer area of town and being close to Napa gets some of the spill over guests who want fairly good lodging (Courtyard) but not at high prices.

Nevertheless, guaping, if you want to, you can stay in Vacaville (not Fairfield) which will place you further away from Muir Woods. Also Vacaville isn't that safe. There are safe pockets and there are not so safe pockets.

If you start out early enough, you may just want to cross over Highway 37 and get to Highway 101 and stay somewhere there, like in Novato.
easytraveler is offline  

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