The long drive from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon can take you along the Pacific Highway, through ancient forests and along the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains – all amazing choices meaning you can take different routes on the way and when you come back.

The 635-mile road trip from San Francisco to Portland will take 10 hours to drive before taking stops into account. Longer routes along the Pacific Coast Highway or the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades are 900 and 820 miles long taking 17 to 18 hours.

Keep reading to learn all about the best routes, places to stop and things to see along the way.

How far is it from San Francisco to Portland and how long will the road trip take?

The direct route from San Francisco to Portland is approximately 635 miles and will take around ten hours to drive before accounting for rest, gas or overnight stops.

Given the distance involved, you probably don’t want to spend an entire day sat in a car so even if you’re picking the fastest route, allow at least 3 days to explore some of the National Parks and sights along the way.

If you have time on your hands, driving from San Francisco to Portland through the mountains will take 17 hours and following the Pacific Coast Highway will take a whopping 18 hours on the road.

Both have endless amazing places to stop and explore so you’d really want to allocate a minimum of 5 days if you’re taking one of the longer routes.

Panorama of Crater Lake National Park in Oregon at sunrise.

Driving through the Cascades might be slower, but you get to visit the stunning Crater Lake National Park.

Bill45/Shutterstock.com

Best road trip route from San Francisco to Portland

Although Google and your GPS will try to convince you otherwise, there are a few amazing alternative routes for driving from San Francisco to Portland.

Whether you want to hug the jagged coastline, spend time hiking in the forests among giant sequoias or explore the fresh mountain air of the Sierra Nevada, there is a route for you.

If you’re not doing a one-way drive, you may want to take different routes on the way up from San Francisco to Portland and a different one coming back to make the most of the amazing nature and sights along the way.

Note: these driving times do not include stops.
Route Distance Driving Time
Direct Route
(via I-5)
635 miles 10 hours
Pacific Coast Highway
(Highway 1 and US-101)
820 miles 18 hours
Mountain Route
(Sierra Nevada & Cascades)
900 miles 17 hours

If you’re wanting to get from San Francisco to Portland faster, but still want to hit the road rather than taking a flight, you may want to opt for the direct route along the I-5.

Take the I-80 out of San Francisco towards Sacramento and then the I-505 north to join the I-5. The rest of the route is very simple – follow the I-5 north for the next 8+ hours and eventually it’ll bring you right into the heart of Portland.

Much of this route through California will not be particularly pleasing on the eye but once you pass Redding, and when you enter Oregon, the scenery will definitely improve so you’ll still get to drive through some beautiful forests and mountains along the way.

Pilot Rock and surrounding forests in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon.

The hike up to Pilot Rock in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is right along the I-5 route up to Portland.

Ahturner/Shutterstock.com

Even though this is the faster route, you’ll still want to take time as it’s a lot of driving to do in one day.

I’d take at least 3 days to explore the nature as you head into Oregon as it would be a real shame to drive through so many amazing forests and past stunning mountains without donning the hiking boots for at least a few hours.

If you thought that the Pacific Coast Highway is the road that finishes in San Francisco after running up the Californian coastline, you are very much mistaken.

Southern California attracts huge numbers of visitors who want to explore the famous beaches, relax in San Diego and mingle in Los Angeles, but surprisingly few continue the coastline drive north from San Francisco.

Yet this might just be the best part of the whole route. After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge (no toll going north!), follow Highway 1 through Muir Woods towards Point Reyes.

Continuing along the coast, there are too many amazing sights to mention – you’ve got the Sonoma coastline, Gualala, Mendocino and the Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

A road through the giant sequoias in the Redwood National Park in northern California.

You can stop off the see the world’s tallest trees in California’s Redwood National Park.

pmphoto/Shutterstock.com

The redwood forests get seriously tall in Leggett and you can then see the tallest tree in the world in Redwood National Park further up the coast.

Beautiful State Parks and National Forests come one after another as you drive along US-101 until, ignoring signs for Portland, you come to the world famous Cannon Beach with its giant rocks standing just off the beach.

Portland is just over an hour’s drive inland from there.

The Mountain Route will take some time but it will follow the length of the Sierra Nevada mountain range through northern California before following the Cascades all the way to Portland.

If you love scenic roads, stunning National Parks and that unique feeling of exploring the mountains, this route is a phenomenal option – just remember that some of these roads close for the winter season, so this is definitely one for the summer months.

Yes – you’ll need a fair bit of time to do this drive. Account for at least 17 hours on the road before adding in any stops – if you want to see the sights along the way, do some hiking and relax, I’d recommend devoting at least 4 to 5 days for the journey.

Follow the I-80 out of San Francisco to Sacramento and then US-50 on from there through the Eldorado National Forest to Lake Tahoe.

Loop around the west shore of Lake Tahoe along Highway 89 and keep following it north to the I-80. After a couple of miles along the I-80 headed east, head back off the interstate back onto Highway 89 going north.

Paulina Creek Falls and forest in the Deschutes National Forest, Oregon.

Paulina Creek Falls in the Deschutes National Forest are just one of the many sights to see along the Cascades mountains.

Bandersnatch/Shutterstock.com

As you make your way up Sierra Nevada, Highway 89 will merge with Routes 70, 36 and 44, but keep following it as it becomes the Lassen Peak Highway passing right through the Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Keep following Highway 89 north through Lassen National Forest, then Highway 299 and Route 235 towards Modoc National Forest right at the northern tip of the Sierra Nevada.

Highways 139, 140 US-97 and 62 will take you through one of the most scenic parts of this drive – you’ll pass the Lava Bends National Monument, Tule Lake and cross into Oregon through Klamath heading up to Crater Lake National Park.

After exploring the stunning scenery, follow US-97 and US-26 through Bend, Oregon and right past Mount Hood as you approach Portland.

Best places to stop between San Francisco and Portland

Although there are endless amazing spots to stop on the road trip from San Francisco to Portland and even more options when you consider the 3 different routes, here are a few good places to stop for the night and break up your drive.

Unwind on the Sonoma Coast

If you decide to take the longest route along the Pacific Coast Highway, you will be driving the Sonoma Coast about 3 hours into your journey.

The Sonoma County stretches all the way from San Pablo Bay to Gualala and this is a perfect place to spend the first night once you’ve got out of San Francisco and made some ground on day 1 of the road trip.

A perfect spot to relax, try some amazing local wines and listen to waves breaking over the rocks below is in Timber Coast Resort.

The hotel offers luxurious rooms, endless hiking routes and perfect views of the ocean stretching towards the horizon.

This boutique resort is definitely on the expensive side, but you can spend a couple of nights here and feel a million dollars as you continue on your route north – a great way to start the road trip.

Bodega Bay along the Pacific Coast Highway in Sonoma County on a foggy morning.

Bodega Bay along the Sonoma coast is a perfect example of the beautiful scenery and perfect driving roads.

yhelfman/Shutterstock.com

Explore the outdoors near Bend, Oregon

For those heading up along the Cascade mountains the Deschutes National Forest as you approach Bend is a great place to spend some time.

Bend, Oregon is just a little further up the road and this area is becoming more popular with visitors looking for spending time hiking, skiing, mountain biking, fishing, playing golf or trying out pretty much any other outdoors activity possible.

Sunriver Resort is a luxurious hotel set along a river in the foothills of the Cascades. A perfect spa, great outdoor pool and a golf course with snow-capped mountains for a backdrop all make it the perfect place to stay.

Whether you want to ride horses through wild country, relax to the sound of a crackling log fire or just stroll through the local forests, there’s something for everyone.

Sunriver Resort in the Deschutes National Forest is a perfect place to relax on your road trip from San Francisco to Portland.

Sunriver Resort is set along a calm river surrounded by forest with a snow-capped mountain backdrop.

Bob Pool/Shutterstock.com

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

The road trip route from San Francisco to Portland is jampacked with incredible sights and activities. You can easily add extra nights in the overnight stops to get even more out of this beautiful part of America. You can also opt to cut down the drive times by adding more overnight stops in between.

It would take me forever to list every individual stop, therefore I have created a list of the top ten things to do between San Francisco and Portland.

  1. San Francisco – Visit the iconic Lombard Street and Alcatraz, and be sure to walk across Golden Gate Bridge before you driver over.
  2. Point Reyes National Seashore – Barely outside San Francisco, this is a stunning coastline with jaw-dropping views.
  3. Sonoma and Napa Valleys – Very early on in the journey are two of America’s best known wine regions in neighbor valleys.
  4. Sacramento – The quaint capital of California has a huge collection of museums, bars and restaurants to check out.
  5. Lake Tahoe – Relax on the shores of the gorgeous Lake Tahoe, try out some paddle boarding or other water activities on the lake.
  6. Glass Beach – A small part of the beach near Fort Bragg where a large number of colorful pieces of glass washed up onshore.
  7. Lassen Volcanic National Park – the scenery and hiking are amazing and the Lassen Park Highway is one amazing driving road.
  8. Gualala – Relaxed coastal community with white sand beaches and dunes in Mendocino.
  9. Redwood National Park – Home of the world’s tallest trees along California’s northern coastline.
  10. Northern California National Forests – Six Rivers, Klamath, Shasta-Trinity, Modoc and Lassen sit at the juncture of the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades.
  11. Crater Lake The pristine Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the whole USA and is also in one of the most beautiful settings.
  12. Umpqua and Deschutes National Forests – mountains, forests, waterfalls, lava beds and caves to be discovered in Oregon.
  13. Eugene – Take a stroll around Fifth Street market to grab yourself a bargain or check out the boutique and charismatic cafes.
  14. Newport, Oregon – the charming town where life definitely happens in the slow lane is well worth a stop.
  15. Cannon Beach – This coastal city is home to sweeping views of the roaring Pacific Ocean. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the cute little Puffins.
  16. Portland – Take some relaxing time to explore the city’s gardens and public parks.

Lassen Peak and its reflection in Manzanita Lake in the Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen Volcanic National Park is northern California is a picture-perfect blend of mountains, lakes and forest.

H Peter Ji Photographer/Shutterstock.com

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

The best time to go on a road trip from San Francisco to Portland is from July to September. The weather is warm and pleasant, making for great hiking and exploration along the way and when you get to Portland itself.

The winter season gets cold and very wet in Portland with daily highs averaging in the mid-40s through December and January and if you’re wanting to explore some of the amazing nature along the way, the temperatures in the forests and mountains will drop below freezing.

Early Summer suffers from the May Gray and June Gloom effect of thick fog and mist descending onto coastal areas in the mornings. Although it will usually clear up by the afternoon, it would be a shame to not enjoy the great views if you’re driving along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Beware that if you’re planning to do the drive any time from late fall to spring, many of the roads through the mountains and some of the sights along the way will be closed and not accessible.

You can still make the trip along the I-5 or via the coast, but the conditions there won’t be great either.

If you want to avoid the summer crowds, going just after Labor Day will probably the absolute best option when the weather is still gorgeous, but the visitor numbers and prices drop.

Average temperature and rainfall in Portland, Oregon

If you’re planning to spend some time in Portland, the summer months are definitely the best time to go. The weather is warm and dry, making the conditions perfect for exploring the city. Check my in-depth guide for the best time to visit Portland for more details.

The long drive from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon, takes you along the Pacific Highway, through ancient forests and along the snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada – all great options, meaning you can choose different routes on the way and on the way back.

The journey from San Francisco to Portland on the 635 mile expressway takes 10 hours, excluding stops. Longer stretches along the Pacific Coast Highway or the Sierra Nevada and Cascades are 900 and 820 miles long respectively and last 17 to 18 hours.

Read on to discover the best routes, accommodations and places of interest along the way.

What is the distance between San Francisco and Portland and how long does it take to get there?

The direct route from San Francisco to Portland is about 635 miles and takes about ten hours to cover stops, refueling or overnight stays.

Given the distance, you probably don’t want to drive all day, so even if you choose the fastest route, plan at least 3 days to explore some of the national parks and attractions along the way.

If you have the time, it’s a 17 hour drive from San Francisco to Portland through the mountains and 18 hours on the Pacific Coast Highway.

These two regions offer an infinite number of places to explore and stop. You should therefore take the into account for at least 5 days if you take one of the longer routes of the.

Panorama of Crater Lake National Park in Oregon at sunrise.

The route through the Cascades is slower, but you can visit the beautiful Crater Lake National Park.

Bill45/Shutterstock.com.

Best drive from San Francisco to Portland

Although Google and your GPS will try to convince you otherwise, there are some amazing alternative routes from San Francisco to Portland.

Whether you want to embrace the rugged coastline, walk through the woods among the redwoods or explore the fresh air of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, there is a route description available for you.

If you’re not going in one direction, you can choose different routes along the way from San Francisco to Portland to enjoy nature and amazing sights.

Pay attention: There are no stops included in this travel time.
Route Distance Travel duration
Direct route
(via I-5)
635 miles 10:00.
Pacific Coast Highway
(Highway 1 and US-101)
820 miles 6:00 p.m.
Mountain road
(Sierra Nevada and Cascades)
900 miles 5:00 p.m.

Direct channel (via I-5)

If you want to get from San Francisco to Portland faster, but still prefer to travel by road rather than air, take the direct route along the I-5.

Take the I-80 from San Francisco towards Sacramento, then take the I-505 north to the I-5. The rest of the route is very easy – follow the I-5 north for the next 8+ hours, and it will finally take you straight into the heart of Portland.

Most of this route through California won’t be a feast for the eyes, but once you leave Redding and enter Oregon, the scenery is sure to improve, so you can still drive through beautiful forests and mountains along the way.

Pilot Rock and the surrounding forests at the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon.

The walk to Pilot’s Rock at the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument leads directly to the I-5 in Portland.

Ahturner/Shutterstock.com

Even if the route is faster, be sure to take your time, because there is a lot to drive in one day.

It would take me at least three days to explore nature on my way to Oregon, because it would be a real shame to cross so many great forests and mountains without having to wear hiking boots for at least a couple of hours.

Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1 and US-101)

If you thought the Pacific Coast Highway was a road that led to San Francisco after you went up the coast of California, you were very wrong.

Southern California attracts a large number of visitors who want to explore its famous beaches, relax in San Diego and socialize in Los Angeles, but surprisingly few go farther north off the coast of San Francisco.

But that’s probably the best part of the route. After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge (no toll to the north!), follow Route 1 through Muir Woods towards Point Reyes.

There are too many great attractions along the coast to mention them all: Sonoma Coast, Gualala, Mendocino and Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

A road through giant redwoods in Redwood National Park in Northern California.

In Redwood National Park in California you can stop and see the tallest trees in the world.

pmphoto/Shutterstock.com

The redwood forests grow very high at Leggett, and further along the coast you can see the tallest tree in the world in Redwood National Park.

Beautiful state parks and national forests form the road to the famous Cannon Beach with its huge cliffs on the US-101, ignoring the signs for Portland.

Portland is just over an hour inland.

Mountain path (along the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades)

The mountain route will take some time, but will follow the entire length of the Sierra Nevada through Northern California and then through the Cascades to Portland.

If you love beautiful rides, breathtaking national parks and the unique feeling of exploring the mountains, then this route is a phenomenal option – don’t forget that some of these roads are closed for the winter season, so this is definitely one for the summer months.

Yeah, it’s gonna take you a long time to make this trip. Plan at least 17 hours of travel time to make stops – if you want to see sights, hike and relax along the way, I recommend you plan at least 4 to 5 days before your trip.

Follow the I-80 from San Francisco to Sacramento, then the US-50 from there through the El Dorado National Forest to Lake Tahoe.

Stop on the western shore of Lake Tahoe at Route 89 and follow I-80 to the north. After a few kilometres on the I-80 in an easterly direction you return to Highway 89 in a northerly direction.

Paulina Creek Falls and Deschutes National Forest, Oregon.

Paulina Creek Falls, in the Deschutes National Forest, is just one of the many attractions in the Cascade Mountains.

Bandersnatch/Shutterstock.com

On the way to the Sierra Nevada, route 89 joins routes 70, 36 and 44. However, keep following it until it turns into Lassen Peak and passes through Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Take Route 89 to the north through the Lassen National Forest, then take Route 299 and Route 235 to the Modoc National Forest on the right at the northern end of the Sierra Nevada.

Highways 139, 140 US-97 and 62 take you through one of the most beautiful parts of this journey – you pass the Lava Bends National Monument, Tooele Lake and enter Oregon via Klamath to Crater Lake National Park.

Explore the breathtaking scenery, follow routes US-97 and US-26 through Bend, Oregon and just past Mount Hood as you approach Portland.

Best locations for a stopover between San Francisco and Portland

While there are plenty of great places to stay on the road from San Francisco to Portland, and even more options if you’re considering 3 different routes, here are some great places to stay to interrupt your trip.

Relaxation in the direction of the Sonoma coast

If you take the longest route on the Pacific Coast Highway, you will drive along the coast of Sonoma for about 3 hours.

Sonoma County, which stretches from San Pablo Bay to Gualala, is the perfect place to spend your first night as you leave San Francisco and have time to land on the first day of your trip.

The Timber Coast Resort is the perfect place to relax, sample amazing local wines and listen to the waves crashing over the cliffs below.

The hotel offers luxurious accommodations, endless hiking trails and stunning views of the ocean to the horizon.

This luxury resort is certainly very expensive, but you can spend a few nights here and you’ll feel like a million dollars as you continue your journey north – a great way to start your journey.

Bodega Bay along the Pacific Coast Highway in Sonoma County on a foggy morning.

Bodega Bay, on the coast of Sonoma, is a wonderful example of beautiful landscapes and roads to travel.

yhelfman/Shutterstock.com

Explore the roads at Bend, Oregon.

For those on their way to the Cascade Mountains, as they approach Bend, Deschutes National Forest is an ideal place to spend some time.

Bend, Oregon, is a little further away and the area is becoming increasingly popular with walkers who want to spend time hiking, skiing, mountain biking, fishing, golfing or other outdoor activities.

The Sunriver Resort is a luxury hotel situated on the river, at the foot of the Cascades. The perfect spa, the large outdoor pool and the snow-covered golf course make it an ideal place to stay.

Whether you want to take a horse ride through the wilderness, relax with the crackling of a wood fire or just stroll through the local forests, there is something for everyone.

The Sunriver Resort in Deschutes National Forest is the perfect base on the way from San Francisco to Portland.

Sunriver Resort is situated on a quiet river, surrounded by forests and with snowy mountains as a backdrop.

Bob Pool/Shutterstock.com

Things to see on a trip from San Francisco to Portland

The route from San Francisco to Portland is filled with incredible sights and activities. You can easily add extra nights to discover even more of this beautiful part of America. You can also shorten the travel time by adding extra night stops in between.

It would take forever to list each stop, so I made a list of the top ten things to do between San Francisco and Portland.

  1. San Francisco – Visit the famous Lombard Street and Alcatraz, and make sure you cross the Golden Gate Bridge before driving.
  2. Point Reyes National Seashore – Just outside San Francisco this is a beautiful stretch of coastline with breathtaking views.
  3. Sonoma and Napa Valleys – Very early in the journey, two of America’s most famous wine regions in the nearby valleys.
  4. Sacramento – The picturesque capital of California has a large choice of museums, bars and restaurants.
  5. Lake Tahoe – Relax on the shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe, try paddleboarding or other water activities on the lake.
  6. Glass Beach – A small beach near Fort Bragg where a large number of coloured glass fragments have been thrown away.
  7. Volcanic National ParkLassen – the scenery and hiking is great, and the Lassen Park Road is a great road to drive.
  8. Gualala – Relaxed coastal community with white sand beaches and dunes in Mendocino.
  9. Redwood National Park is home to the world’s tallest trees on the north coast of California.
  10. Northern California National Forests – Six Rivers, Klamath, Shasta Trinity, Modoc and Lassen are located at the intersection of the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades.
  11. Crater Lake – Pristine Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and is also located in one of the most beautiful locations.
  12. Umpqua and Deschutes National Forests Oregon Mountains, Forests, Waterfalls, Lava and Caves
  13. Eugene – Walk the Fifth Street Market for a bargain or browse the charismatic shops and cafes.
  14. Newport, Oregon is a charming city where life is certainly slow and worth a stop.
  15. Cannon Beach – This coastal town offers breathtaking views of the roaring Pacific Ocean. Don’t forget to watch out for cute little puffins.
  16. Portland – Relax as you explore the city’s public gardens and parks.

Lassen Peak and his reflection in Lake Manzanita in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California.

Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California is a picturesque combination of mountains, lakes and forests.

H Peter Ji Photographer/Shutterstock.com

Best time to travel San Francisco – Portland

The best time to travel from San Francisco to Portland is from July to September. The warm and pleasant weather invites you to hike and discover along the way and in Portland itself.

In winter Portland is cold and very humid, with average daily peaks in the mid-1940s in December and January. If you want to discover the beautiful nature along the route, temperatures in the forests and mountains drop below freezing.

The beginning of summer is influenced by the desolation of May and the darkness of June, when morning fog and heavy fog descends over the coastal areas. Even though you usually see it around noon, it would be a shame not to enjoy the beautiful view when driving along the Pacific coast on the highway.

Note that if you want to drive between late autumn and spring, many mountain roads and some roadside attractions are closed and inaccessible.

You can still make the trip on the I-5 or on the other side of the coast, but the conditions won’t be very good either.

If you want to avoid the summer hustle and bustle, it is probably best to go just after Labor Day, if the weather is still nice, but the turnout and prices are falling.

Average temperature and precipitation in Portland, Oregon

If you’re planning on spending some time in Portland, the summer months are definitely the best time to do so. The weather is warm and dry, creating the ideal conditions to explore the city. For more information, check out my extensive guide to the best time to visit Portland.

Data for the average maximum temperature and precipitation
are from the US NOAA climate data.
Month Temperature Precipitation
January 46.9 °F / 8.3 °C 6.14 inch / 156 mm
February 50.8 °F / 10.4 °C 4.63 in / 118 mm
Mars 56.0 °F / 13.3 °C 4.50 inch / 114 mm
April 60.8 °F / 16.0 °C 3.40 inch / 86 mm
May 67.4 °F / 19.7 °C 2.55 inches / 65 mm
June 72.9 °F / 22.7 °C 1.69 inch / 43 mm
July 79.6 °F / 26.4 °C 0.59 inch / 15 mm
August 80.1 °F / 26.7 °C 0.71 inch / 18 mm
September 74.6 °F / 23.7 °C 1.54 inch / 39 mm
October 62.9 °F / 17.2 °C 3.42 inch / 87 mm
November 52.0 °F / 11.1 °C 6.74 inch / 171 mm
December 45.1 °F / 7.3 °C 6.94 inch / 176 mm

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