SFO to Seattle drive by I-5

Old Dec 31st, 2021, 08:40 AM
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SFO to Seattle drive by I-5

Hi,
We are planning to drive from SFO to Seattle via I-5 tomorrow. What tips would you give? Where can I find the weather/snow/fog road blocks or closures. On the way to SFO we took the 101 so would love to take the shorter route back.
Or am I taking a huge risk in planning to drive I-5 tomorrow?

Thanks for all your inputs.
Stay safe and happy new year!
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Old Dec 31st, 2021, 08:51 AM
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You would use the Caltrans website for California and enter Hwy 5. Or call this number 1-800-427-7623

https://roads.dot.ca.gov/

I imagine the other states are similar.

I typically would look at weather.com or local news outlets for forecasts, especially TV stations.

San Francisco KRON4
Seattle KIRO7

It's at least a 12 hour drive, are you planning to stop along the way?
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Old Dec 31st, 2021, 08:58 AM
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Changed tag from Washington D.C. to Washington
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Old Dec 31st, 2021, 09:04 AM
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Here's Oregon's - Road & Weather Conditions Map | TripCheck - Oregon Traveler Information

and Washington's - Travel Center Map | WSDOT

The forecast for most of Washington (as of now) is for it to warm up a little (above freezing in most areas) but with a chance of rain. If there's any compact snow or ice on the roads (especially the off- and on-ramps) the rain will result in extremely slippery conditions. I would assume the same will apply in most of Oregon as well.

This morning's traffic cams over the Siskiyous (CA/OR border) show bare pavement, but black ice is a big risk, especially in the early morning or evenings (and overnight of course) so use extreme caution. If you get a very early start, you ought to hit the mountains in the middle of the day, so it ought to be okay.

However, with short daylight you're likely going to be leaving and/or arriving at night, which in the Seattle area can be pretty hazardous right now. Frankly if it was me I'd suck it up and return via the coast (around 4 hours longer usually) at least as far as SR 38 in Oregon (Reedsport > Drain) and plan on an overnight someplace. Aside from the freeways and major arterials, Seattle right now is an ice rink.
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Old Dec 31st, 2021, 09:10 AM
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You probably picked the best day for the drive. After today it isn't supposed to snow more until early Mon. I-5 is pretty clear BUT there is lots of ice. Over night temps in lots of areas will be in the teens/low 20's so even during the day there will still be ice and black ice.

In the current conditions plan on it taking at least 15-ish hours.
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Old Dec 31st, 2021, 09:13 AM
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Didn't see Gardyloo's post . . . I was delayed while checking web cams in Mt Shasta and places farther north. My comments were mostly re NorCal/Southern Oregon


I agree with him that if you have the time, I'd take the coast most of the way.
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Old Dec 31st, 2021, 09:59 AM
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Thank you all so much for all the info!
Looks like we will take a overnight break north of Eugene and start to Seattle Sunday morning. That might help.

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Old Dec 31st, 2021, 10:17 AM
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Note that there is a King Tide tomorrow at about 9:30am. I don't think if it will have any impact on you on the San Francisco side - but I'm not that familiar with low level spots in the East Bay .

https://www.sfchronicle.com/weather/...s-16738382.php

Stu Dudley
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Old Dec 31st, 2021, 08:56 PM
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I drove from Corvallis to Seattle on Monday and Tuesday this week. It was brutal (sorry to say). Normally only a 5-6 hour drive but I broke it up and overnighted in Kelso just because the driving was so bad. Today is better but be careful of ice. I would stick to I-5 not try to do the coastal route. Even be aware of rest areas as they have not all been cleared of the first two snow storms.
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Old Jan 1st, 2022, 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Driveyourlife View Post
Thank you all so much for all the info!
Looks like we will take a overnight break north of Eugene and start to Seattle Sunday morning. That might help.
Happy New Year! Please report on your yesterdays drive. If you made it anywhere north of Roseburg Oregon, you have gone past the worst of the trouble spots (Sis-Q Summit, Wolf Creek and Myrtle Creek).
I saw dash cam video of an ODot truck nearly getting hit by a falling tree along I-5 near Wolf Creek. They stopped and with the help of a logging crew stuck in the traffic behind them, cleared the fallen tree within 90 minutes.
Let us know when you reach Seattle safely. I do remember watching the Seahawks play on their field in downtown Seattle last week with snow on their field which is rare.
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Old Jan 1st, 2022, 08:12 AM
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Yesterday and today look the same on the streets here in Seattle. The temps have not warmed up but at least we didn't get any more snow overnight. Busier streets have been cleared, but not the side streets in neighborhoods; those are covered with packed snow and ice (around Capitol Hill and Roosevelt areas is where I've seen).

Please drive carefully. I lost count of how many semi-trucks were off the road in addition to a number of recent accidents. For my trip Oregon was OK but once into Washington was not. Hopefully things are much better by now then when I did it. Take care.

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Old Jan 2nd, 2022, 07:05 PM
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Thanks all, we reached today afternoon.
Came on I-5 throughout. Took an overnight break at Eugene. Started early 5:30 am both days which helped.The drive was fabulous through CA & OR and till we reached Seattle area. It was a bit tricky with the road still snowy around Seattle.No traffic or snow or road closures anywhere on I5. Fantastic route!
On the other hand, saw 2 large trucks overturned on the side of the road between Eugene and Portland. Hope everybody is safe.

Happy new year to all! Hope this year is safe for everyone.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2022, 08:03 PM
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I've never been so thankful to see rain as I was today -lol- it's raining and above freezing here in Seattle now, so things should clear up soon. Way better already!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2022, 08:47 AM
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We had a couple inches of snow here in our Seattle suburb overnight. A bus jackknifed at the bottom of our hill and more trees are down. It is snowing heavily at our house. We are only about 20 minutes from downtown.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2022, 02:40 PM
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Interesting how localized this is. Cleared up here in the city. Only saw a few stray flakes today. Thankfully.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2022, 03:36 PM
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Hey there Gardyloo - I've seen your input on many of similar questions and you seem to know quite a lot about this route. I'm looking for your expertise here too. I must drive my front-wheel vehicle from Bellevue WA to Phoenix with a stop in Watsonville CA the first week of February. I have chains and practiced putting them on...not too terrible in my nice, dry driveway. I have a go-bag packed with non perishable snacks, water, mylar blankets, hand warmers and a variety of emergency gadgets I thought might be helpful. I'll be traveling with three small, elderly dogs and several blankets and they are truly my biggest concern. I have zero experience driving in snow or ice, In fact, I get pretty darn nervous when it's raining hard. Short of missing my kiddo's graduation in Phoenix, I have no choice and am determined to make the trek.

I may have this thing built up way too dramatic in my mind but I am flat-out terrified to the point of not being able to make a decision as to which route to take! With dogs, I'd really like to have places lined up along the way to spend the night rather than hope to find one that will accept them on the fly, which means watching the weather and choosing my route according to that isn't my favourite option. I'd like to avoid the mountain passes between OR and CA but the more I read, the more I realize there are many treacherous stretches along I-5 - not just Siskiyou. If I take the 101 at Reedsport and head back inland towards Watsonville, I may run into heavy rains and landslides. If I brave it through the pass, I may get held up on I-5 if a storm blows through. And as I continue to head south towards Bakersfield/LA area, I'm likely to hit heavy fog and something called the "Grapevine". Between trying to consider trucks, ice, snow, rain, wind, fog, early onset of dark and travel times, I think I'm overwhelming myself with information. Can you help me sort out all this information and offer what route you'd take please?

I'm forever grateful!
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Old Jan 22nd, 2022, 05:17 PM
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Welcome to Fodors. You Probably should start a new thread of your own since your issues and questions are quite different than the OP. When you do post your thread include how long you have for the drive, and is Phoenix your final destination or is this a round trip journey back up to Bellingham??
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Old Jan 23rd, 2022, 06:51 AM
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Yes you might want to start a new thread as suggested, but I happened to see your post so thought I would chime in since we drive from Seattle to Palm Springs every winter and have taken most of the routes that you are suggesting multiple times. In general the drive will likely be best stayed on I-5 than trying to avoid the passes, but of course it will all really depend on the weather along the route on those dates. The best advice I can give you is to really watch the weather as you get closer and if you can, keep your dates as flexible as possible so that you can delay your departure by one or two days or move it it up a day or so to help yourself out on those routes. Generally just changing dates by 1-2 days can mean the difference between snow being rain on much of that route.

Also, think about your where you will stop overnight so that you can make the drive as relaxed as possible and won't have to drive snow either early morning or late at night. Also be aware that in the winter you can get some fog in low lying areas, so we actually don't start at the crack of dawn since the driving will generally be much better by 9 or 10 AM if it is foggy. And especially if you are not a confident winter driver, give yourself enough days for the drive to make it relaxed. In the winter when the sun sets early, we pretty much only plan on 4-5 hours driving with an additional one hour meal, gas, walking-around break, so we generally are on the road around 9AM but try to be checked into a hotel by 5PM so we can relax and have a nice meal. We have adapted our route so that we drive from Seattle only as far as Portland the first night and then to the Ashland area the second night so that we drive the pass from Ashland the next morning. From that area we generally stop overnight in Redding just after you get over the pass. That way you only have about a four and a half hour drive to Watsonville.

From Watsonville, we much prefer to take I-99 versus I-5 south toward the LA area. It has less trucks and is less desolate-more to see and better places to stop for meals etc. and that road has been widened and improved over the years so much of it now is three lanes which is so much easier than similar stretches of I-5. Bakersfield makes a good stop in southern California because similar to Ashland, it is just before you have to cross the mountain passes at the grapevine. And it you are heading to Phoenix and don't need to stop in the LA area, you can have a much nicer and relaxed drive by taking the alternate route over to the I-10 that takes you through Tehachapi to the 14 down through Lancaster and Palmdale. We drive this route every year and it is scenic and much more tranquil than grapevine which tends to be filled with LA drivers all trying to get home faster than the next guy If you stay overnight in the Palms Spring area it is a short drive from Bakersfield and then you only have about a 4 hour drive over to Phoenix from there.

I hope this helps-feel free to reach out with specific questions. We drive this route at least twice a year, sometimes more, and have lived in the NW, Bay area and LA area so we know most of those freeways pretty well by now. Don't worry too much-usually by early Feb the weather IME it is mostly rain in the NW and nice sunshine by the time you get to northern CA. And if the weather does look bad the best thing you can do is give yourself some extra time so you can adjust when and where you start and stop your drive.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2022, 07:32 AM
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Thank you for that advice. I'll start a new thread. (I'm new to posting messages online overall. Is it pretty obvious?)
And thank you for the response! I am so grateful for it.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2022, 07:53 AM
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jpie Thank you SO much for the detailed response. Exactly what I needed to help me make decisions. I was so focused on snow/ice I hadn't even considered my second biggest fear - driving in FOG! Great tip on leaving later in the morning! I've given myself four days to get to Phoenix ,including picking up a friend in Watsonville and with the intention of giving the dogs a whole day's rest from the car ride in between. They're good in the car but in my mind, I'd be driving 8+ hours a day with only brief bathroom breaks. Figured chasing a ball in her yard might do them good, although they're all old enough to just enjoy watching the ball roll past them, followed by me retrieving it for them. I think my mind got wrapped up in 'how do I make reservations for places to stay along the road if I don't know what route the weather will take me?'. Here was my tentative itinerary:
-Begin from my sister's home in Bellevue, driving as far as Eugene OR via I-5 (about 5 hours). Sis is arriving from a trip that morning so I'd pick her up from the airport before hitting the road myself.
=stay the night in Eugene and head out as early as possible to get over the passes on I-5 (weather permitting), straight through to Watsonville - about a 9 to 10 hour drive.
-Stay two nights, then from Watsonville, drive south on I-5 to Needles (around 8 hours) and stay the night there. Not many lodging options in Needles however.
-Starting early, get to Phoenix from Needles hopefully by 2pm.

It sounds like I should break that trip up a bit more, maybe sacrifice the one extra day in Watsonville. Do you think it's feasible to make it all the way to Ashland from Bellevue in one trip if I hit the road by noon? Probably pushing it, eh? And also break up the Watsonville to Needles leg so that I can leave a bit later in the morning and avoid the fog.

I'll get to the map and start planning the route based on this wonderful advice - I'll start a new thread when I have more questions. Thank you SO SO SO much!
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