20 Best Stops on the San Francisco to Seattle Drive - The World Was Here First

20 Best Stops on the San Francisco to Seattle Drive


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While the drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco is arguably the most famous road trip to take along the Pacific coast of the United States, many visitors the western USA are looking to venture further into the Pacific Northwest and are keen to continue their journey north all the way to the state of Washington’s largest city. But what are the best stops on the San Francisco to Seattle drive?

While you are sure to know of some of the greatest hits of a San Francisco to Seattle road trip — including the wineries of Napa Valley, California’s giant redwoods, and the hip vibes of Portland — there are so many places to stop on a road trip between these two great cities (or even on a San Francisco to Portland drive) that are very much worth exploring.

Though the distance from San Francisco to Seattle is about 800 miles when you don’t venture from the Interstate-5, there is a compelling argument to prolong your trip and do some epic sightseeing while on the way. Because of this, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the best stops on the Seattle to San Francisco drive with the help of some other travel writers.

Getting from San Francisco to Seattle

The distance on the drive from San Francisco to Seattle is about 808 miles (1300 kilometres) and takes around 12 hours and 45 minutes non-stop if travelling on the i5 Highway. However, if you’re planning on visiting many of the stops outlined on this San Francisco to Seattle road trip, you should expect to spend at least 5 to 7 days to see all the highlights.

Golden Gate Bridge: first stop on San Francisco to Seattle drive
The beautiful Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

20 Stops on the San Francisco to Seattle Drive

Like much of the United States, the west coast is best discovered by car, especially outside of the big cities. Whether you’re planning on driving from San Francisco to Seattle or the other way around, there are numerous places where you can rent a car in this area of the country.

If you need to hire a car, we recommend using RentalCars.com, which aggregates the best prices across most available brands. If you prefer an RV or campervan, we suggest using Outdoorsy which has a huge selection of options available.

We would also suggest taking out a policy with iCarHireInsurance which will cover you for any excess at a much-reduced rate compared to the rental company.

Make sure to also have a valid travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events. We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads 

Regardless if you rent a car, drive your own, or are going on a Seattle to San Francisco road trip just as a passenger, these are the best stops along the way:

Sausalito, California

Just across from Downtown San Francisco, connected by the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito is the logical first stop on the San Francisco to Seattle drive. It is a place well visiting, with a charming town centre and breathtaking surrounding nature where you can relax and explore.

Want to learn about the Bay Area’s natural habitat? Then don’t miss the Marine Mammal Center. This non-profit organization’s purpose is to rescue, rehabilitate, and release thousands of marine mammals who are in need. You can learn more about these creatures and the organization at the centre.

Both the Golden Gate National Recreational Area and the Point Reyes National Seashore are popular getaway spots for Bay Area residents to escape their busy urban lives. Both are part of the US National Parks System, where visitors are encouraged to hike, drive through many scenic routes, and visit some of the historical spots while learning about the preserved seashore and its native habitats.

Don’t miss the Cypress Tunnel, which is famous for its rows of cypress trees. This is one of the most popular “Instagrammable” spots in California. From here, you can continue on your journey to the Point Reyes Lighthouse and beyond.

Sausalito town centre has a lot of charm itself. If you are looking for somewhere to dine and drink, visit the cosy Barrel House Tavern or Scoma’s of Sausalito for their fresh seafood dishes. For accommodation, if you are up for a rustic, budget place to stay, Marin Headlands Hostel is a good option. It is the only hostel within the US National Parks System, and not too far from Sausalito’s town centre.

Halef, The Round The World Guys

Sausalito: Stop on the Seattle to SF drive
Sausalito, Credit: Halef – The Round The World Guys

Muir Woods, California

If you are going on a San Francisco to Seattle road trip, you must spend some time on the trails at Muir Woods National Monument.  Located just north of San Francisco, it is well known for its towering redwood trees and is part of California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The trees here are about 400 to 800 years old and tower over you at a height of up to 75 metres (250 feet). The trails that loop through the groves are flat and easy.  Many of the canyon floor trails are boardwalks and paved trails, making the paths wheelchair accessible. The forest floor is covered with ferns and redwood sorrel and many other trees like red alders, California big leaf maples, tanoaks, and Douglas fir.  You can even spot wildlife like owls and otters.

Plan a visit during the autumn season for a special experience as the foliage turns to beautiful colours. There is limited parking available, so it might be better to visit during weekdays or take a shuttle if visiting during holidays and weekends.

On weekends, you can take the shuttles that run from the Marin City bus terminal and Sausalito Ferry terminal.  The entrance fee is $15 and mobile phone service can be pretty spotty. There is a visitor centre at the Muir Woods entrance that has exhibits and information on Muir Woods along with a small cafe and gift shop.

Priya, Outside Suburbia

Muir Woods, Credit: Priya – Outside Suburbia

Sonoma, California

Sonoma is Napa’s laidback little sister, a wine region just north of San Francisco, famed for its farm-to-table food and friendly wineries and an excellent stop on the San Francisco to Seattle drive.

The Sonoma region is made up of lots of little towns, the most picturesque of which is Healdsburg, a cute place filled with tasting rooms and the area’s finest restaurants. The Camellia Inn is a beautiful place to stay, offering the best in family hospitality.

One of the key things to do in Sonoma is to visit some of the wineries, including some of the small-scale hipster wineries, such as Medlock Ames, Scribe, and Red Car Winery. And don’t miss Korbel, which specialises in champagne.

Sonoma isn’t just about wine though, it’s also a popular spot to simply get away from it all in nature. Guerneville is a party town in the redwoods, while Forestville is a slightly quieter option. Both have a plethora of incredible cabins on offer, many complete with record players and hammocks, perfect for whiling away the day. And make sure to visit Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve for a walk among the giants.

Other top things to do in Sonoma County include: visiting arty Sebastapol; taking a trip to the Bodega Bay; trying the scones at Wildflower Bakery; and eating out at one of the many amazing restaurants, such as Backyard in Forestville.

Victoria, Bridges and Balloons

Sonoma: Stop on the San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip
Sonoma, Credit: Victoria – Bridges and Balloons

Napa Valley, California

Located a little over an hour outside of San Francisco and a fantastic stop if you’re going on a San Francisco to Seattle road trip, the Napa Valley is an excellent place to visit. Come for the wine and stay for the world-class cuisine.

Most know Napa for the wine and you will not be disappointed if you come to visit Napa just for a drop or two of the local vintages. Head to Domaine Chandon where you can taste some of the best sparkling wines in the US. After, you can do a cave tasting at Hall Rutherford. You will not be disappointed.

If you’re hungry a great (and affordable) spot is La Luna Market and Taqueria. where you will find the best burritos in the Napa Valley. Finally, end your day of wine tasting in a castle at Castello di Amorosa. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous but the wine is very good, as well.

If it’s within your budget, there are a number of world-class Michelin-starred restaurants in the Napa Valley. One of the most well-known is The French Laundry, run by world-famous chef Thomas Keller.  Be prepared to make reservations months in advance. However, you will not be disappointed.

Another Michelin-starred restaurant is Auberge Du Soleil. If you can’t get reservations to French Laundry then make sure to get a reservation here. You probably should try to eat at both is time and budget permits.

And if you are looking for something a little bit more casual and friendly to your wallet, then downtown Napa is the perfect place. With a number of wine tasting rooms, restaurants and lounges, there is plenty to do after a day of exploring. It is also very walkable, so you can skip the Ubers and spend the evening exploring downtown Napa.

Taima, Poor in a Private Plane

Napa
Napa, Credit: Taima – Poor in a Private Plane

Mendocino, California

A great stop about one-third of the way on the San Francisco to Seattle drive is in the rustic coastal town of Mendocino. It is also an excellent stop if you’re driving up the Highway 1 and 101 on a San Francisco to Portland road trip.

Mendocino seems to be built of weather-worn greyed wood, perhaps because much of it actually was built of redwood in the 1800s when it was a centre for redwood mills. It also is famous for its vintage water towers, some of which now serve as lodgings and restaurants. 

The town is inhabited by many artists and holds plenty of galleries — one is actually in a water tower — as well as plenty of unique shops.  While here, you’ll want to go beachcombing and take a walk through Mendocino Headlands State Park, where in the late-winter whale watching season, you might be able to spot one of the creatures breaching offshore. 

Take time to visit Mendocino Art Center and perhaps even participate in a workshop, and come back in the evening for a stage production in the adjacent theatre. 

The best place in town for breakfast is the Goodlife Cafe & Bakery (don’t miss the oatmeal-chocolate chip Cowboy Cookies or a cup of the local favourite fair trade and organic Thanksgiving coffee).  For dinner head to the refined Cafe Beaujolais.  Though this town rolls up the sidewalk early, you can pop into Patterson’s traditional Irish pub for a nightcap

Carole, Berkeley and Beyond

Mendocino: Stop on the SF to Seattle Drive
Mendocino, Credit: Carole – Berkeley and Beyond

Fort Bragg, California

The sleepy coastal city of Fort Bragg is located along Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, in Northern California approximately 275 kilometres (170 miles) north of San Francisco. Fort Bragg is the perfect stop on the San Francisco to Seattle drive or a Portland to San Francisco road trip.

Fort Bragg is a beautiful city with gorgeous beaches and parks, but it’s most famous for its Glass Beach. The Glass Beach is so named because of the sea glass found all over the beach. Back in the early 20th century, citizens would dump their trash into the ocean, this included glass bottles that would then be broken and eroded by the waves to create the sea glass.

Glass Beach is located within the Noyo Headlands Park which has gorgeous coastal trails with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a great place to stretch your legs and see more of the northern California coast.

For an amazing breakfast, be sure to check out Eggheads Restaurant in the downtown area. It is a quirky “Wizard of Oz” themed restaurant with delicious eggs. Cowlick’s offers yummy local ice cream, including an ice cream made from a mushroom native to the area.

Fort Bragg is a great place to visit while on a San Francisco to Portland or Seattle road trip and it’s a cute city that allows you to get a taste of nature.

— Constance, The Adventures of Panda Bear

Fort Bragg. Stop from SF to Seattle
Fort Bragg, Credit: Constance – Adventures of Panda Bear

Shasta Lake, California

Located north of Redding along Interstate 5 in California, Lake Shasta is one of the most beautiful and popular places in the state. And it is a perfect attraction spot to visit on a San Francisco to Seattle road trip.

The Lake is huge and absolutely gorgeous. It was created by Shasta Dam and is shaped like an oddly fingered hand. It is surrounded by stunning mountains full of barren trees that create a bright contrast with the clear waters of the lake and the blue sky above.

Visiting the dam, which ranks as one of the largest concrete structures in the U.S., is an attraction itself. To visit it, travel 11 kilometres (7 miles) north of Redding and take an exit to Shasta Dam Blvd. This road will lead you to a panoramic view of the area. Take a tour to go inside the dam or visit one of the nearby caves. 

Besides the dam, summer activities include fishing, boating, camping, and water skiing. And for winter sports enthusiasts, there are ski resorts nearby, as well as many state and national parks offering areas for mountaineering, cross-country skiing, hunting and snowshoeing.

Don’t forget to pack some food to have a picnic in a shade in seclusion right by the water. Plenty of tables and picnic areas are available for visitors.

If you don’t have much time when passing by and don’t want to detour, there are plenty of spots along I-5 where to stop, contemplate the beauty of the lake and even take photos. 

— Anya, Road is Calling

Shasta Lake: Stop on the Seattle to SF drive
Shasta Lake, Credit: Anya – Road is Calling

Crescent City, California

The world’s tallest trees, the redwoods, grow along the coast from Big Sur to the Oregon border, but the best place to view them is Crescent City, California.

This town is the perfect base to visit Redwood National and State Parks, a string of protected forests showcasing these living monuments that can soar up to 370 feet high. It is also an excellent stop on the San Francisco to Portland drive or a San Francisco to Seattle road trip. Combined, the national and four state parks protect almost half of the remaining coastal redwoods.

You can even drive close to some of these behemoths on Howland Hill Road, a 10-mile winding dirt road through stands of magnificent old-growth woodland just northwest of the city. Along the way, there are several parking areas with a range of easy and challenging hikes.

The trees are not the only attraction to Crescent City, which is situated on the Pacific Ocean where old growth forests meet the sea. It is the perfect location to enjoy numerous activities including kayaking, exploring tidal pools, and nature watching (sea lions, harbour seals, and otters). 

During low tide, you can even walk to Battery Point Lighthouse, a registered California Historical Landmark. It is the state’s northernmost lighthouse and is perched on a tiny near-shore island. Afterwards be sure to enjoy fresh seafood at a locally owned small restaurant, Crescent Seafood, at the harbour. 

If you’re looking for a terrific place to sleep among the trees, check out the Redwoods Crescent City KOA. This campground offers cabins as well as RV and tent camping sites nestled among 10 acres of redwood forest. 

— Julie, Chickery’s Travels

Want a unique place to spend the night? Check out this converted glamping trailer nestled amongst the Redwoods!

Crescent City: Where to stop between SF and Seattle
Crescent City, Credit: Julie – Chickery’s Travels

Crater Lake, Oregon

A visit to Crater Lake National Park is the perfect stop while on a Seattle to San Francisco road trip. Known as the deepest lake in the United States, Crater Lake was formed when a supervolcano erupted 7,700 years ago. The rain and snowmelt have filled the basin of the volcano, creating a lake like no other. Because there is no inlet or outlet, the lake has very few impurities, giving the water a unique, deep blue colour.

Open all year round, this national park gets really popular during the summertime but is quite tranquil in the winter for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. There are plenty of hikes around the lake, like the Watchman’s Lookout. This 1.6-mile hike has a moderate ascent and takes about 1 hour. It’s great for the sunset!

One of the major things to do around Crater lake in the summertime is to take a boat the focal point of the lake, Wizard Island. The boat leaves twice a day and you’ll get to spend three hours on the island where you can hike 763 feet up to the summit of the cinder cone.

One of the major things to do around Crater lake in the summertime is to take a boat the focal point of the lake, Wizard Island. The boat leaves twice a day and you’ll get to spend three hours on the island where you can hike 763 feet up to the summit of the cinder cone.

Helpful Tip: The park’s headquarters is situated on the brim of the south side of the crater. This is where all the tour buses come and park and it can get really crowded during the summer. Instead, head out along the road the circles the brim to avoid the hordes and have a more peaceful experience while on the San Francisco to Seattle drive.

— Katie, Two Wandering Soles

Crater Lake
Crater Lake, Credit: Katie – Two Wandering Soles

Toketee Falls, Oregon

With apologies to some of its northern brethren, Toketee Falls is considered by many Southern Oregonians to be the most beautiful waterfall in the state and a gorgeous stop on the San Francisco to Portland drive.  While smaller in terms of drop, the scenery surrounding the falls is both incredibly photogenic and unique. 

You will find this hidden gem nestled in the Umpqua National Forest between Bend and Roseburg.

Parking at the falls is no problem and the carpark is discoverable in Google Maps. From the parking lot, a short trail leads you through thick, green forest following the North Umpqua River to your left, where you’ll see a couple of small tumbles of water along the way.  Continue on and you will arrive at the viewpoint overlooking Toketee Falls, from which you can marvel at the beauty of the thunderous waterfall. 

At first glance, many mistake the columnar basalt rock that Toketee spills through for ancient, fossilized trees.  The entire scene is decorated by the lush greenery for which Oregon is known.

As you plan your course, be prepared to stop frequently on your way both in and out, as there are many easily accessible and impressive waterfalls that line this scenic route.  Some impressive waterfalls in Oregon include Whitehorse, Watson, and Clearwater Falls. 

Of course, you cannot come this far without also scheduling time for Oregon’s pride and joy, Crater Lake National Park!  While it may be small by National Park standards, Crater Lake is one of the most beautiful individual sights in the USA.

If you’re in need of a hot meal, Beckie’s is just a short drive away from the South entrance of the park and is famous state-wide for its pies and comfort food. 

Be sure to check road conditions if planning a winter Seattle to San Francisco road trip, as this part of the state is subject to heavy snow and the roads are less maintained.

— Sophie, Travels of Sophie

Toketee Falls: Stop on the San Francisco to Seattle Drive
Toketee Falls, Credit: Sophie – Travels of Sophie

Eugene, Oregon

Located along the Willamette River, Eugene Oregon is a great city to explore while on the San Francisco to Seattle drive. Eugene is most famous for three things: being the home of The University of Oregon (Oregon Ducks), being TrackTown USA, and of course for being the birthplace of NIKE. And while these three main tourist attractions bring people to this small Oregonian city every track and American football season, there is so much more to the town.

The best time to visit is from June to August, during summer. If you enjoy being in nature you can find great hiking trails around the city including, Wild Iris Trail, Mount Pisca, and Spencer’s Butte. These trails are less than 10-15 minutes away from Downtown Eugene and free to the public.

Along with hiking, spending the afternoon floating the river or relaxing on the bank are both popular attractions. Many people pack a picnic and make a day of it. Cafe Yumm, Laughing Planet and 5th Street Market are great places to find a cheap and convenient lunch for the day.

In the evening, The Hult Center – a performing arts centre in Eugene — often has Broadway level plays and musicals showing for the theatre lovers reading.

Last but not least is where to eat. When visiting Eugene there are some restaurants you are not going to want to miss. Be sure to check out Sabai, a Thai restaurant located in Oakway Center, Beppe and Gianni’s, an upscale Italian Restaurant and McMenamins, an Oregonian burger joint located throughout the state. If there is still room after dinner the must-see desert places include Sweet Life and Prince Pucklers Ice Cream.

Overall, Eugene is a great destination for outdoor activities and family vacations and a must-stop on the San Francisco to Seattle drive.

— Hannah, Bold Destinations

Eugene
Eugene, Credit: Hannah – Bold Destinations

Bend, Oregon

Located three hours from Portland, Bend, Oregon is a favourite destination for travellers who enjoy spending time outdoors and indulging in a good pint (or several). No matter what time of year you visit, there is a heart-pumping activity for everyone, making it an excellent stop on a San Francisco to Seattle road trip.

During the summer months, rent a SUP board from Tumalo Creek and see the city from a different angle while you paddle along the Deschutes River. If you’re lucky, you can time your paddle with an outdoor concert at Les Schwab amphitheatre and pick up some free tunes.

Bend is also a hiking and trail running paradise with treks for all abilities. A few favourite jaunts include Tumalo Falls, Benham Falls, and Sparks Lake (arrive at sunrise for a magical morning!)

With 22 breweries in town, Bend has earned the right to claim the highest number of microbreweries per capita in the nation. For those looking for a place to meet a group of friends and relax in a backyard-style setting, both Crux Fermentation Project and GoodLife Brewing are the places to go. Bring the dogs, the kids, and a picnic blanket and sip beers and chow down on pub fare while watching the sun set over the city.

— Jen, Long Haul Trekkers

Bend: Stop on the SF to Portland Drive
Bend, Credit: Jen – Long Haul Trekkers

Willamette Valley, Oregon

When on the San Francisco to Portland drive, a stop in the Willamette Valley is a must! Oenophile or not, this is truly one of the gems of the Pacific Northwest, and it is far more affordable than the more “well-known” wine regions down in California.

Scattered throughout the Willamette Valley are more than 1,300 wineries and vineyards, and cute small town after small town. In addition to this, the valley is quickly becoming known for its culinary scene in addition to the wine.

When it comes to places to eat and drink retro diner WildWood Cafe in McMinnville is a must for breakfast, especially when it comes to their granola crusted French Toast. Red Hills Market in Dundee is also another must option for breakfast, but keep in mind this place is THE spot so undoubtedly it’s going to require you to get up early in order to beat the lines. Thistle, also in McMinnville, is a delicious place to grab dinner and/or cocktails. And for the best view in town, you must head to the rooftop of McMenamins Hotel Oregon Rooftop Bar, also in McMinnville.

Wine tasting is almost a must when making this stop on the Seattle to San Francisco drive, simply because this is what it is known for, especially it’s award-winning Pinot Noir. A must-visit handful of wineries in the valley include, Alloro Vineyard (for a taste of Tuscany), The Eyrie Vineyards (which is the place that made Pinot Noir so infamous it beat out French competition in Paris), and Durant Vineyards (also a part of Red Ridge Farm, and features the cutest rooms to spend the night in, and the Oregon Olive Mill).

Whether wine is or isn’t your thing the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum should definitely be added to your itinerary. This is where you can see The Spruce Goose up close and in person (which is the largest wooden aeroplane ever constructed by Howard Hughes, and flown only one time).

— Lindsey, Seven Day Weekender

Willamette Valley: Stop on the SF to Portland Drive
Willamette Valley, Credit: Lindsey – Seven Day Weekender

Lincoln City, Oregon

Lincoln City is a small beach town located on the Oregon coast. Lincoln City is located 90 miles southwest of Portland and 60 miles west of Salem. It is a great spot to stop at while travelling on Highway 101 on the San Francisco to Seattle drive.

It tends to be pretty windy in Lincoln City, so visitors to the area should be sure to purchase a kite at one of the numerous kite stores in town and head down to the beach with the kite(s) in hand! In fact, flying kites is such a popular Lincoln City activity that they host two kite festivals each year – one in June and the other in October.

Between the ocean, shopping, movie theatre and it’s proximity to the Tillamook Creamery (think amazing ice cream and cheese!), Lincoln City is a great destination to take kids. 

There is a variety of restaurants in Lincoln City, with a lot of great choices for seafood. For a fun family-friendly experience, Mo’s is a popular restaurant in Lincoln City but be prepared for a long wait (it’s worth it!). For a classier oceanfront dining experience, at affordable prices, Kyllos is a favourite for visitors to Lincoln City. And for those looking for premium craft beer, McMenamins Lighthouse Brewpub features their own microbrews and great bites. 

— Andrea, One Savvy Wanderer

Lincoln City
Coastline near Lincoln City

Tillamook, Oregon

Tillamook, Oregon sits on the Highway 101, a few miles inland from the sea. It is about a 90-minute drive west of Portland and an excellent stop on the Seattle to San Francisco drive.

For travellers and road trippers checking out the Pacific Northwest, Tillamook is a popular stopping point. The city is most well-known for its eponymous cheese. Tillamook cheese and ice cream are sold across the United States, and it all comes from this small Oregon city.

The biggest draw for visitors to Tillamook is obviously the aforementioned cheese and ice cream. The Tillamook Creamery is open to visitors and is a fun, unique look at the dairy process and manufacturing of these delectable treats. Admission to the creamery is free. There is a large gift shop, a restaurant and an ice cream shop on the ground floor. After the tour, it’s definitely worth a stop at the restaurant for a cheesy treat followed by a scoop of ice cream straight from the source.

After getting your fill of dairy, Tillamook is the perfect place to spend some time on the Oregon Coast. Oceanside Beach is just outside of town and a short drive from the creamery. The beach is rarely busy even on warm, sunny days. The area is also a prime spot for wildlife viewing, home to various seabirds and sea lions.

If you’re in need of a good Oregon craft beer, Pelican Brewing has a pub and brewery on the edge of Downtown Tillamook.

With delicious cheese and ice cream from the source, and the beautiful Oregon Coast nearby, Tillamook is a great place to visit in Northwest Oregon.

— John Paul, The Hangry Backpacker

Tillamook: Stop on SF to Seattle Drive
Tillamook, Credit: John Paul – The Hangry Backpacker

Portland, Oregon

Portland is a must-see destination for hikers, nature lovers, and foodies. With majestic Mount Hood providing a scenic backdrop to the city and waterfalls galore in the nearby Columbia Gorge, Portland is a jewel of the Pacific Northwest. There are so many cheap things to do in Portland for road trippers on a budget, too.

The city’s open-air Saturday Market celebrates all things local from inspired ethnic food and music to handmade soap and jewellery. Powell’s City of Books is the world’s largest independent bookstore with several floors and many rooms of everything from rare books to staff favourites on current best-sellers on offer.

Portland is also heaven for cyclists. It’s easy to rent a bike through Biketown—Portland’ bicycle sharing system—to ogle the Victorian architecture in Northwest Portland or the vibrant murals and sculptures that dot the city.

Top tip for food: Check out the food cart scene. There’s more than 500 of them around the city, conveniently located in pods to make choosing so much more difficult. Visitors will find an emphasis on organic fare and Northwest ingredients, although inspired ethnic fare is found here too.

And finally, for a truly local experience, swing by the Goose Hollow Inn for a drink or a snack. This cosy spot is owned by Portland’s beloved former mayor, Bud Clark, known as “the people’s mayor.” It’s a tavern to take you back in time.

Portland is absolutely a must-stop place on the San Francisco to Seattle drive.

— Chris, Explore Now or Never

Want a unique place to spend the night? Check out this urban treehouse in a quiet Portland neighbourhood!

Portland: Stop from San Francisco to Seattle
Portland, Credit: Chris – Explore Now or Never

Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Northeast of Portland, Oregon, less than an hour’s drive from the city, is the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, offering miles of scenic drives and hiking trails, and straddling both Oregon and Washington. As one of the most popular places to visit in the Pacific Norwest, the Columbia River Gorge is a must-stop on a Seattle to San Francisco drive.

One of the favourite activities within the gorge is waterfall viewing. That’s no surprise when you consider there are 75 waterfalls in this area!  Some of the larger waterfalls are visible from the main road, but many require a hike. The most famous amongst the falls is Multnomah. This 611-foot tall waterfall can be seen from the road, and with a short walk, visitors can get up close.

For locals, the most popular activity here is hiking. Once the weather improves city dwellers from Portland, desperate for some fresh air and sunshine, head to the gorge to hike on one of the 54 trails. Come during the spring and you’ll enjoy seeing thousands of wild flowers.

Another popular activity is heading to the Crown Point Scenic Overlook and the Vista House. This spot offers an expansive view of the gorge and the river. Inside Vista House are displays about this historic building which recently celebrated its 100 year anniversary.   

For anyone wanting to spend more time in the Columbia Gorge area, there are both campgrounds and hotels available.

Wendy, Empty Nesters Hit the Road

Colombia River Gorge: Stop on the San Francisco to Seattle Drive
Columbia River Gorge, Credit: Wendy – Empty Nesters Hit The Road

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, located west of Portland in Oregon, is the perfect stop on a drive from Seattle to San Francisco. The small town is a great destination to visit during the summer. 

The main attraction of this beautiful place is, of course, the beach. Cannon Beach has gorgeous views of stunning sea stack called Haystack Rock. This formation has been photographed countless times, and it is a perfect spot to enjoy the sunset. Many people go surfing, have bonfires, check out the tide pools, or create sand castles. The waters are cold even in the middle of the summer, but that doesn’t stop most people from enjoying their day.

Cannon Beach also has some great spots to dine. One of the best places is the Lazy Susan Cafe for breakfast. The fresh fruit and baked goods were tasty. For a nice dinner, The Irish Table is a great choice. The warm, homey feel with the yummy food makes this a perfect spot to enjoy the night. 

— Michelle, The Wandering Queen

Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach, Oregon

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park lies 85 miles southeast of Seattle, in the heart of the Cascade Mountains. Towering over the surrounding landscape, the 14,410-foot peak is the tallest in the Pacific Northwest. Known locally as ‘The Mountain’, Mount Rainier is Washington State’s most iconic landmark and most recognizable geographic feature. 

Mount Rainier is an active volcano that last erupted in 1894. It is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, containing 25 glaciers that cover nearly ten per cent of the park’s total area. 

Sunrise and Paradise are the two main areas to visit within Mount Rainier National Park. Most hiking trails begin at Paradise, home to the historic Paradise Inn. 

Mount Rainier’s forest-covered foothills are a wonderland for hikers and nature-lovers. Its numerous hiking trails showcase flower-carpeted meadows, alpine forests and thundering waterfalls. 

For those seeking a mid-length backpacking trip, the famous Wonderland Trail is a 93-mile multi-day hike around the base of the mountain. In addition, experienced climbers can attempt to summit Rainier’s formidable and beguiling peak.

Whether a hiker, a photographer or simply a lover of the great outdoors, a visit to Washington State’s most beloved mountain is a highlight on any San Francisco to Seattle road trip. 

Erika, Erika’s Travels

Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier, Credit: Erika – Erika’s Travels

Gig Harbor, Washington

Located just about an hour south from downtown Seattle is this charming little town called Gig Harbor.  While some people may call it “sleepy” or joke about it being a “retirement destination”, it’s truly a stunning place, and would be a fantastic place to spend a few days! 

Whether you want to rent a boat and sail through the harbour, go fishing, or explore the nearby national parks, it’s a perfect little town for outdoor enthusiasts.  The main downtown area in Gig Harbor is gorgeous, and it’s recommended to watch the sunset while enjoying happy hour and burgers at the famous eatery Tides Tavern, which has a really great patio area! 

You’ll love the small town local vibe, and hey, might even find yourself retiring there one day.  It’ll be a fantastic final spot (combined with Tacoma) on the San Francisco to Seattle drive, or a chilled out beginning to your Seattle to San Francisco road trip!  

— Dave, Jones Around the World

Gig Harbour, stop from seattle to San francisco
Gig Harbor, Credit: Dave – Jones Around The World

Where to Stay on the San Francisco to Seattle Drive

We suggest spending at a few nights on your San Francisco to Seattle road trip, making sure that you can make as many stops as possible and not spend too much time trapped in the car.

Apart from San Francisco and Seattle, we recommend finding a great place to rest your head near Crescent City, California and Portland, Oregon if you want to logically break up the journey. While you could do this drive in as little as two or three days, it would be much more enjoyable if you could devote five days to one week to exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

While hotels and hostels are great options when driving from Seattle to San Francisco, Airbnb can also be a great option. There are an infinite amount of properties available on the platform for all budgets and personalities – you can even stay in an urban treehouse in Portland! Click here to see the best Airbnbs in California.

San Francisco

Orchard Hotel —  This boutique hotel located in downtown SF has a number of clean and comfortable rooms available along with breakfast included in the nightly rate. Click here to see their latest prices

Found San Francisco — This highly-rated hostel is ideal for budget travellers. They have both private and dorm rooms available and a great atmosphere for meeting other travellers. Click here to see their latest prices

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in San Francisco!

Crescent City

Lighthouse Inn — A small hotel with large rooms, this is a great place to base yourself for a night or two in Crescent City. They have a number of clean and spacious rooms available and a basic continental breakfast available. Click here to see their latest prices

Travelodge Crescent City — Another great option for a small hotel, they also have a wide selection of clean and comfortable rooms and a great breakfast option for the morning. Click here to see their latest prices

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Crescent City!

Portland

The Society Hotel — Located within easy walking distance of all of Portland’s attractions, this hotel has a number of great room options available, a great on-site restaurant, and ample parking. Click here to see their latest prices

Travelers House — This locally-run hostel is an excellent place for budget and solo travellers in Portland. They offer both private and dorm rooms, have great common areas, and offer a kitchen to cook your own meals. Click here to see their latest prices

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Portland!

Seattle

The Mediterranean Inn — Located within easy walking distance of the Space Needle, this is an excellent hotel to stay in Seattle. They have numerous clean and comfortable rooms available and a small kitchenette in each room. Click here to see their latest prices

HotelHotel Hostel — This small hostel is an excellent choice for the solo and budget travellers on a Seattle to San Francisco road trip. With both private and dorm rooms available, they have a helpful staff and great common areas to meet other travellers. Click here to see their latest prices

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Seattle!

The San Francisco to Seattle drive may be a long one, but it is filled with dynamic cities, stunning natural scenery, and gorgeous coastline. While it might not be as famous of a road trip as California’s PCH, a Seattle to San Francisco road trip is an excellent way to see the Pacific Northwest.

Are you planning to drive from San Francisco to Seattle? Have you been? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When she’s not dreaming of far-away lands, Maggie enjoys drinking copious amounts of coffee, Harry Potter, and coaxing stray cats into her home.

Comments

  1. Great article – wonderful sites to visit! I’d not want to miss EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School. The Dinner Show is absolutely INCREDIBLE – there’s nothing else like it!

    Reply
  2. Hi, my husband and I are wanting to do a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle in 2020. Did you just wing it or did you have actual reservations for every where you slept?

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    • Hi Rhonda, you will certainly have more options available to you and probably save some money if you book accommodation in advance, however, I see no reason why you couldn’t wing it if you’re not picky about where you end up sleeping. This may prove more difficult if you’re travelling in the summer months, though.

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  3. Thank you for all the tips. My husband and I are planning a trip in the fall 2020 to San Fransisco. We want to rent a car and drive up to Seattle. You have helped a lot!

    Reply
  4. We’re in the process of planning this very same trip for June/July 2020. Your article is just what I needed. What’s the time frame needed for this? We’re thinking 7 days give or take because of work schedules. Thanks so much!

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    • Hi Susan, thanks for your comment and kind words! I think 7 days should be sufficient to do this drive and make a good portion of the stops. Hope you have a great trip!

      Reply
  5. Great Article! Thank you! Did you have a particular map you followed or did you just create your own with Google Maps? Wasn’t sure if there was a good map already out there that you suggest using. Thanks again!

    Reply

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