A panoramic view of downtown Seattle Skyline and the mountain at sunset on a fine day in Seattle, WA.

Road Trip From San Francisco To Seattle

Updated by Pat Dorri on January 16 2024

There are plenty of scenic drives you can take in the beautiful Pacific Northwest region, and this road trip from San Francisco to Seattle puts the spotlight on some of the most famous coastal cities and stunning national parks, blending glittering coastal views with majestic mountain peaks in the distance.

The 940-mile road trip from San Francisco to Seattle can be done in about 19 hours. The highlights are Point Arena, Mendocino, Eureka, Redwood National and State Parks, Siuslaw National Forest, Pacific City, Cannon Beach, Astoria and Olympia.

The list of beautiful stops is virtually endless on this San Francisco to Seattle road trip, so keep reading to make sure you don't miss a thing! Below you will find best route suggestions, amazing places to visit and things to see, as well as the ultimate time for this scenic road trip.

How to drive from San Francisco to Seattle

The map below shows two great route options for your San Francisco to Seattle road trip. Click on the star icons for headline details, and scroll down for more information below.

* Always remember that drive times can be impacted by traffic, closures, weather and other conditions. It's best to double-check while planning and before starting out on your trip.

RouteDistanceDriving Time
Portland Route850 miles14 hours
Pacific Coast Route940 miles19 hours 30 minutes

How far is Seattle from San Francisco and how long will the road trip take?

The trip from San Francisco to Seattle can span 850 to 940 miles depending on your route of choice. If you travel inland via the Portland Route, passing by Crater Lake National Park, you will spend 14 hours on the road driving nonstop, and cover 850 miles.

If you have more time, another scenic alternative is the Pacific Coast Route, which follows the ocean's coastline, and spans 940 miles. This route will take 19 hours and 30 minutes to drive, depending on the traffic conditions.

While it's possible to get to Seattle in two or three days along this route, we recommend taking 4-5 days for your road trip. With so many amazing places to see, rushing through this beautiful San Francisco to Seattle drive would be missing the point entirely.

Best road trip route from San Francisco to Seattle

If you're plotting a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle, you've got two fantastic options on the table: the Portland Route or the Pacific Coast Route. Each one has its own charm, so it really comes down to what kind of adventure you're in the mood for.

Heading up the Portland Route, you're in for a mix of city vibes and some seriously jaw-dropping nature. This path takes you through bustling cities and past natural wonders like majestic Mount Shasta and Crater Lake National Park, where the views are straight out of a postcard.

Cannon Beach in Oregon is one of the many stunning places to explore nature on the way up the Pacific Highway.
Cannon Beach is an amazing place to stop on your road trip from San Francisco to Seattle.
Sharon Eisenzopf/Shutterstock.com

Our alternative route is dotted with ocean views and quaint coastal towns, and if this is what you are looking for, the Pacific Coast Route will be right up your alley. It's a scenic drive that hugs the coastline, offering endless ocean vistas and stops at charming towns.

Plus, driving through the towering Redwood National and State Parks is an experience in itself. This route is a bit more laid-back, with winding roads that invite you to take your time and soak it all in.

If you're looking for a shorter drive with a mix of city lights and stunning natural sites, the Portland Route is calling your name. But if you're in the mood for a relaxed drive filled with stunning coastal views and beautiful stops along the way, then the Pacific Coast Route is your ticket to an amazing trip.

The Portland Route

Leaving San Francisco east along Interstate 80 (I-80), drive through Richmond and Fairfield, and stop in Sacramento if you'd like. Otherwise, take I-505 just past Vacaville and follow it to I-5, which you'll be staying on the rest of the way.

Past Sacramento, you'll start seeing lush forests on each side. You'll drive past Plumas, Lassen, and Klamath National Forests, among others, on top of cutting straight through Mount Shasta and Shasta-Trinity National Forest before leaving California.

The chain continues over into Oregon, with forests like Umpqua, Willamette, and Mt. Hood. Past Medford, you will dip further inland to visit Crater Lake National Park but if you are short on time, you can continue driving north on I-5 instead.

After passing through the city of Portland and past even more forests, drive through Olympia and Tacoma – it won't be long before you've reached Seattle.

The Pacific Coast Route

Take US-101 over Golden Gate Bridge, then join Pacific Coast Highway past the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, following it through Stinson Beach and Point Reyes. Not long after, you'll drive past Sonoma Coast and Salt Point State Parks.

Past the town of Mendocino (a great place to stop if you haven't already) and Jackson State Forest, briefly follow US-101 inland past Humboldt Redwoods State Park, then return to the coast past Arcata Bay and before Redwood National and State Parks.

Further on, you'll pass by Six Rivers, Rogue River–Siskiyou, and Siuslaw National Forests. From here on, the route will take you from one beautiful coastal town to another, such as Newport, Lincoln City and Cannon Beach.

At Astoria, take US-30 east along Columbia River, and then merge onto I-5. The rest is the same as the Washington stretch of the shorter route – drive through Olympia and Tacoma to reach Seattle.

A scenic view of Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Spencer, Golden Gate National Recreation Area with a beautiful hue of orange and yellow sunrise in a clear blue sky.
Admire the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Spencer, Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Best places to stop between San Francisco and Seattle

Along either route on the road trip from San Francisco to Seattle, you practically have to make at least one overnight stop. Thankfully, there's no shortage of great places to spend the night – here are some recommendations that offer a comfortable stay as well as great connectivity to nearby landmarks.

Enjoy city life in Portland

Portland, Oregon, a city celebrated for its eclectic charm and vibrant cultural scene, is an ideal destination if you are seeking a mix of urban excitement and natural beauty. This city is located about 3 hours from Seattle on the Portland Route, making it a convenient place to explore before the last leg of your road trip.

As you explore the city, you'll find yourself immersed in a world of lush parks, avant-garde art, and a bustling culinary scene. Wander through the streets and discover hidden gems, from quaint coffee shops to innovative art galleries.

Just steps away from the heart of this dynamic city is Hotel Lucia, a haven of warmth and elegance. The hotel's interior, with its inviting, warm colors and rich mahogany furnishings, offers a cozy retreat from bustling city life.

A flock of geese basking under the sun on a cloudy, sunny day at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon
You never know who you will run into at McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon!

Each room at Hotel Lucia is thoughtfully designed with guests' wellness in mind, featuring a unique wellness and fitness kit. This includes a yoga mat, resistance bands, weights, a core ball, and a tablet pre-loaded with fitness videos, allowing you to rejuvenate and stay active during your stay.

The hotel's location is a gateway to Portland's rich cultural offerings. It's conveniently situated less than half a mile from the Portland Art Museum, one of the city's premier art institutions. For a taste of local life, take a short walk to Pioneer Courthouse Square, affectionately known as "the city's living room."

Embrace the spirit of Portland with Hotel Lucia's nightly Craft Beer Hour, a celebration of the city's renowned craft beer scene. And when you're ready to explore further, the hotel's proximity to key attractions like the Pioneer Place shopping center and the Portland Saturday Market, both within a 10-minute walk, places you at the heart of it all.

Coastal views and majestic redwood forests around Eureka

On the Pacific Coast Route, consider a stopover in Eureka, a hidden gem located 7 hours and 40 minutes into the route. This charming city is a perfect blend of history, nature, and culture and Eureka is home to some must-visit attractions that showcase its unique character.

First on the list is the historic Old Town Eureka, a beautifully preserved area filled with Victorian architecture, quaint shops, and art galleries. Strolling through Old Town, you'll feel transported back in time, with its intricate building facades and cobblestone streets.

Another top destination is the Sequoia Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in California. Surrounded by ancient redwoods, it offers a cozy yet fascinating look at both local and exotic wildlife, making it a hit with families and nature enthusiasts alike.

Eureka, California at sunset with a yellow hue and the shoreline surrounded by rocks and trees.
Sunsets over the ocean in Eureka will take your breath away!
Virrage Images/Shutterstock.com

For your stay in Eureka, we highly recommend the Hydrangea Inn. Built in 1930, this charming bed and breakfast has remained in the same family for five generations. Crafted from local, old-growth redwood, the inn retains its original features and exudes a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

The inn boasts a beautiful garden filled with its namesake hydrangeas, perfect for a relaxing evening. You will also love the amazing, homemade breakfast, and the inn's proximity to local restaurants means you're never far from a delicious meal.

Located less than an hour's drive from the Redwood National Park and less than 30 minutes from the Victorian Village of Ferndale, Hydrangea Inn is ideally situated for exploring the best of Eureka and its surroundings.

Where to stay when you reach Seattle

Seattle is famous for its vibrant music scene, iconic landmarks, and rich history, Seattle offers endless opportunities for exploration and enjoyment. When it comes to experiencing the best of what Seattle has to offer, staying at the Arctic Club Hotel is an exceptional choice.

The hotel is renowned for its iconic architecture, including the famous Northern Lights Dome Room and the unique terra cotta walrus head sculptures that adorn its exterior. You can unwind in the hotel's popular bar and treat yourself to your favorite drink after a long drive.

Flowers bloom on Pier 55 in Seattle, Washington, on a sunny day
Spend some time at Pier 55 and admire the views in Seattle.

Located at the corner of Third Avenue and Cherry Street, the Arctic Club Hotel offers central access to downtown Seattle's main attractions. Just a short walk away, you can explore the wonders of marine life at the Seattle Aquarium.

If you are looking for stunning panoramic views of the city, the Space Needle is nearby, offering the chance to ascend this iconic structure for breathtaking panoramic views of Seattle's skyline and its natural surroundings.

Things to see on a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle

The two routes from San Francisco to Seattle cover quite a bit of mileage, and most of it is riddled with amazing scenery. ,Here's a list of some of the places you should definitely check out:

The Portland Route

  1. Sundial Bridge - This architectural marvel in Redding, California, is not only a functional bridge over the Sacramento River but also a giant working sundial, offering picturesque views and a unique experience for visitors.
  2. Shasta Lake - As California's largest reservoir, Shasta Lake is a recreational paradise, offering water sports, fishing, and scenic vistas of the surrounding mountains and forests.
  3. Shasta-Trinity National Forest - This expansive forest area is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, featuring majestic mountains, pristine lakes, and a variety of wildlife, providing ample opportunities for hiking, camping, and exploration.
  4. Mount Shasta Sisson Museum - Located at the base of Mount Shasta, this museum offers insights into the natural and cultural history of the area, including exhibits on local geology, ecology, and the history of Mount Shasta.
  5. Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument - Known for its biological diversity, this monument encompasses a range of ecosystems where the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyou regions converge, offering a unique landscape for hiking and nature study.
  6. Crater Rock Museum - Situated in Central Point, Oregon, this museum showcases a vast collection of rocks, minerals, and gems from around the world, including local specimens, making it a fascinating stop for geology enthusiasts.
  7. Pearsony Falls - Nestled in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Pearsony Falls is a serene and picturesque waterfall that offers a peaceful retreat and an easy hike for visitors of all ages.
  8. Crater Lake National Park - Famous for its deep blue color and water clarity, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, formed by a collapsed volcano, offering breathtaking views and hiking trails around its rim.
  9. Mount Pisgah Arboretum - Located near Eugene, Oregon, this living tree museum is crisscrossed with trails that lead visitors through diverse ecosystems, showcasing native plants and providing a tranquil natural escape.
  10. Owen Rose Garden - This beautiful garden in Eugene, Oregon, features over 4,500 roses of more than 400 varieties, offering a stunning display of colors and fragrances from spring through fall.
  11. Oregon State Capitol - Located in Salem, this art deco building is not only the center of the state's government but also offers tours and exhibits on Oregon's history, featuring a distinctive gold-leafed pioneer statue atop its dome.
  12. Portland Art Museum - As the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest, it houses a vast collection of art pieces ranging from Native American artifacts to contemporary works, making it a cultural hub in downtown Portland.
  13. Voodoo Doughnut - A Portland culinary icon, known for its quirky and inventive doughnuts, such as the bacon maple bar and the namesake Voodoo Doll doughnut, drawing locals and visitors alike for a taste of its unique flavors.
Views across the woodlands and expansive Crater Lake, Oregon
One of the highlights of the Portland Route is the stunning Crater Lake National Park.

The Pacific Coast Route

  1. Point Reyes National Seashore - A stunning expanse of protected coastline in Northern California, offering breathtaking vistas, diverse wildlife, and a variety of hiking trails through scenic landscapes and historic sites.
  2. Timber Cove - Known for its rugged coastline and the iconic Timber Cove Resort, this area along the Sonoma Coast provides dramatic sea views and a tranquil retreat amidst natural beauty.
  3. Mendocino Headlands State Park - Surrounds the quaint village of Mendocino, featuring rugged cliffs, hidden coves, and sweeping ocean views, perfect for hiking, photography, and whale watching.
  4. Guest House Museum, Fort Bragg - Housed in a historic 1890s redwood mansion, this museum tells the rich history of Fort Bragg and the Mendocino Coast's lumber and logging industries.
  5. Humboldt Redwoods State Park - Home to the world's largest remaining stand of old-growth redwood forests, providing visitors with awe-inspiring scenery and miles of trails for hiking and exploration.
  6. Morris Graves Museum of Art - Located in Eureka, this museum showcases the works of Morris Graves and other Pacific Northwest artists, housed in a beautifully restored 1904 Carnegie Library building.
  7. Sue-Meg State Park - Formerly known as Patrick's Point State Park, this area offers rugged coastlines, dense forests, and cultural sites of the Yurok Tribe, along with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
  8. Redwood National and State Parks - An expansive network of parks protecting vast tracts of pristine redwood forests, where visitors can experience the majesty of some of the tallest trees on earth.
  9. Battery Point Lighthouse and Museum - Situated in Crescent City, this working lighthouse and museum is accessible at low tide and offers historical exhibits and panoramic views of the Pacific Coast.
  10. Humbug Mountain State Park - Featuring a prominent mountain rising directly from the sea, this park offers a peaceful retreat with hiking trails, camping facilities, and beach access.
  11. Coos Bay - The largest city on the Oregon Coast, Coos Bay charms visitors with its scenic beauty, maritime heritage, and access to outdoor adventures like dune buggy rides and deep-sea fishing.
  12. Oregon Coast Aquarium - Located in Newport, this acclaimed aquarium provides up-close encounters with marine life from the Oregon coast and beyond, including interactive exhibits and educational programs.
  13. Cannon Beach - Check out this unique beach with mountains rising from the coastline and the infamous Haystack Rock protruding from the water.
  14. Ecola State Park - Offering some of the most breathtaking views of the Oregon Coast, this park features miles of hiking trails through coastal rainforest, leading to viewpoints over secluded coves and beaches.
  15. Flavel House Museum - A beautifully preserved Queen Anne-style mansion in Astoria, Oregon, offering a glimpse into the life of a wealthy seafaring family from the late 19th century, with period furnishings and gardens.
Majestic redwood trees in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California, under a canopy of green leaves
The Pacific Coast Route isn't only about ocean views; you will also be able to admire towering redwood forests if you follow this option.
Stephen Moehle/Shutterstock.com

Both routes

  1. Mount St. Helens Visitor Center - This visitor center offers educational exhibits on the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, providing insights into the volcano's history and recovery.
  2. Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve - A geological mystery, this preserve in Washington showcases unique, naturally occurring mounds, with walking trails offering views of this unusual landscape.
  3. Monarch Sculpture Park - An outdoor art gallery near Olympia, Washington, Monarch Sculpture Park displays a variety of sculptures in a natural setting, encouraging exploration and interaction.
  4. Percival Landing Park - A waterfront park in Olympia, Washington, known for its boardwalk, public art installations, and views of the marina and Puget Sound.
  5. Downtown Historic District, Olympia - This area combines historic charm with modern life, featuring restored buildings, unique shops, and a variety of dining options.
  6. Museum of Glass - Dedicated to the medium of glass, this museum in Tacoma features contemporary works, live glassblowing demonstrations, and the iconic Chihuly Bridge of Glass.
  7. Point Defiance Park - One of the largest urban parks in the US, offering miles of trails, stunning views of Puget Sound, a zoo and aquarium, and beautiful gardens.

Best time to go on a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle

Although there's no ‘wrong' season to travel from San Francisco to Seattle (especially considering the abundance of year-round events), there are definitely some weather-related factors to consider.

An empty highway 1 on good weather with a beautiful view of the ocean on the Pacific Coast, California
Enjoy this scenic view on the Pacific Coast Highway, California on your way to Seattle from San Francisco

If you plan on driving along the Pacific, you're better off avoiding traveling on hot summer mornings - this is when coastal fog tends to set in, potentially making the already-zigzaggy roads harder to traverse.

This isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, though, as this fog usually clears up by midday and you can enjoy the many beaches on this route the best in summer if you don't mind the crowds. If traveling in late summer or early fall, you will be able to enjoy PAX West in Seattle.

Besides stunning Crater Lake National Park and the cityscape of Portland, the Portland Route's main draws are its many forests. These look amazing no matter the season, but you can expect certain roads to be closed during particularly harsh, snowy winters.

As you can imagine, the many forests create magnificent scenery on either of the routes in the fall, with fiery foliage displays. If you are traveling on the Pacific Coast Route in October, you can also enjoy sampling some local wine at the Wine By The Sea event near Eureka.

Alternatively, if you'd like to try something more outdoorsy, you can bring your bike and enjoy Ride the Rim Oregon at Crater Lake National Park in September. Keep in mind that you might need to register for this event and check the official website before visiting.

As for Seattle itself, the city averages around 18 rainy days a month thanks to its ‘rain season', from November to January. If this isn't something you're accustomed to, it can make exploring the city more difficult than it has to be.

Because of all the rain in the colder months, Seattle's weather is actually very pleasant from mid-spring to early fall – temperatures in the summer seldom exceed the low-to-mid 70s, and the months of May and September aren't far off either.