A trip from San Francisco to Seattle requires good planning – no matter which route you take, the journey will be quite long and you will stop quite often to explore all the beautiful places along the way.

A car trip from San Francisco to Seattle can be made non-stop in 12 hours. Visit Sacramento, Portland and a network of beautiful forests or drive along the Pacific coast to see beautiful seaside resorts and beaches on the west coast.

The list of beautiful stops is almost endless, so keep reading to make sure you don’t miss anything!

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

The journey from San Francisco to Seattle can be between 810 and 980 miles, depending on the route chosen. The fastest route can take about 12 hours without stops or heavy traffic, and although a scenic route is more difficult to predict, it can be estimated to take more than 20 hours.

Route Distance Driving time
Fastest route
(via I-5)
810 miles 12 hours
Pacific Highway
(via motorways 1 and 101)
940 miles. 20 hours 30 minutes

The journey will certainly take at least two days, regardless of the chosen route, but the I-5 via Sacramento and through Portland is by far the quickest way to get to Seattle.

Besides the fact that this road is faster, you will also pass through several beautiful forests. However, if you are only on the road for two days, you have to stay in a small town, because Sacramento and Portland are quite far from the middle of the road.

If you have a week or two, consider taking Highways 1 and 101 along the Pacific coast for one of the most beautiful trips of your life.

Although it takes two or three days to get to Seattle, the winding coastal roads can slow you down considerably due to the bad weather. Moreover, with so many amazing places to see, it would lose all its meaning.

Best route from San Francisco to Seattle

When driving from San Francisco to Seattle, the best route usually depends on the speed or ocean view you’re looking for. You can make this kind of trip in two days or study everything that happens along the way for a couple of weeks.

Cannon Beach, Oregon, is one of the many breathtaking places to explore nature on the Pacific Highway.
Cannon Beach is a wonderful place for your trip from San Francisco to Seattle.

Sharon Eisenzopf/Shutterstock.com

While many will say that it is not comparable to driving along the coast, the I-5 offers many great places to see. To see as many as possible, consider taking one route on the road to Seattle and the other on the way back.

Motorway (I-5)

Leave San Francisco east on the I-80, go through Richmond and Fairfield and stop in Sacramento if you like. Or take the I-505, pass Vacaville and follow the I-5, where you will stay the rest of your journey.

As you pass Sacramento, you’ll see lush forests on both sides. You’ll pass through Plama, Lassen, Clamate and other national forests and then cross the Shasta-Trinity National Forest before leaving California.

The chain continues in Oregon, with forests such as Umpkva, Williamette and Mount Hood. Drive through Portland and other forests, pass Olympia and Tacoma, and you’ll soon arrive in Seattle.

Pacific Highway (Roads 1 and 101)

Take Route 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge and connect to Route 1 at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area via Stinson Beach and Point Reyes. You’ll be passing Sonoma Beach and Salt Point soon.

Drive past Mendocino (a great place to stop if you haven’t already) and Jackson Forest, briefly follow Highway 101 inland past the Humboldt Redwoods and then return to the coast along Arcata Bay and for the Redwood State and National Parks. You will then pass through the Six Rivers, the Rog-Sisköu River and the national forests of Seislava.

In Astoria, take the USA 30 east along the Columbia River and follow the road to Washington – if you want to see Portland, this is a good time to go. Cross the Kaulitz and return to the I-5. The rest is the same as the shortest route to Washington, DC – via Olympia and Tacoma to Seattle.

Picturesque views of Battery Spencer's Golden Gate Bridge, the Golden Gate Recreation National Park with a beautiful yellow-orange sunrise under a clear blue sky.
The battery of the Golden Gate Bridge, powered by Spencer, the Golden Gate National Lounge.


Best ports of call between San Francisco and Seattle

On both routes you will practically have to spend at least one night. Fortunately, there is no shortage of good places to stay – here are some recommendations that offer comfortable stays and excellent connections to nearby attractions.

Take care of yourself at Best Western Horizon (Medford)

Medford is located in the heart of the I-5 and is an ideal place to stay. Surrounded by beautiful forests, if you have the time, you can spend a whole day with everyone and then relax in the city.

Although there are a few large hotels in the area, the best one should be the Best Western Horizon as it offers excellent facilities far beyond the price range.

In addition to spacious and comfortable rooms and a cosy pavilion, the hotel has a large outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi for your enjoyment. You can start your day with a continental breakfast and thanks to the free parking you can spend your days exploring the area without having to worry about paying extra costs.

As well as being close to Wolf Creek Park, Rogue Siskew National Forest and Medford Bear Creek itself, you can also get off the beaten track and see the incredible Crater Lake National Park, adding to your already huge list of attractions.

Enjoy the view of Duniway Portland

No matter which route you take, Portland is a great place to book a hotel. Although it’s not far from Seattle, it will take you some time to explore the immense forests to the east, and only the city can offer you shelter for a few days.

There are many great places to stay in Portland, but one of the best is definitely Hilton’s Duniway Portland.

The rooms are not only very comfortable, but also offer a beautiful view of the city – above this hotel it is much better. To prepare meals you can call room service or go to the local bar or restaurant for lunch and a drink in style. It also has an indoor swimming pool and a fitness centre.

The highlight of the Duniway should be a great roof terrace – here you can do yoga and listen to music. This room is heated so you can enjoy the wonderful atmosphere all year round.

A flock of geese on a cloudy and sunny day at Tom McCall Athefront Park in Portland, Oregon
A flock of geese at McCall Athefront Park in Portland, Oregon


The hotel is centrally located in the centre of Portland, so great places like Tom McCall Water Park and the Portland Museum of Art are within walking distance. For a very reasonable price you will get the best accommodation, service and location that Portland has to offer.

What to see on a trip from San Francisco to Seattle

The two routes from San Francisco to Seattle total about 1,800 miles, and most are mysterious and picturesque. If you can, it’ll take you two or three weeks to learn everything, if not more. Here is a list of places you should definitely visit.

  1. Sacramento is the capital of California and one of the most diverse cities in America. It has numerous museums, cities and a beautiful historic quarter in old Sacramento.
  2. California National Forest Chain – A long line of beautiful Sacramento forests leading to Oregon, with lush greenery, lakes and numerous hiking trails.
  3. Umpkva National Forest (and Crater Lake) – A million acres of beautiful forest leading to Crater Lake, the deepest and perhaps most picturesque lake in America.
  4. Williamette Descue and National Forests – with Cascade Ridge, several lakes and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument these forests are perfect for outdoor activities.
  5. Portland – The largest city in Oregon enjoys a pleasant climate all year round, several national forests in the east and lots of entertainment.
  6. Cannon Beach – Find this unique beach with mountains rising from the coastline and the famous Heistek Rock rising from the water.
  7. National ParkMount Rainier – Nicknamed Mount Rainier, it is surrounded by beautiful meadows, waterfalls and forests – hiking on the Wonderland Trail is a must!
  8. Olympic National Parkand Forest – This park combines beautiful forests and rich fauna with the Pacific coast for a unique experience.
  9. Tamalpis Mountain State Park – From the top of Mount Tamalpis you can often see all the way to Sierra Nevada.
  10. Point Reyes – offers an incredible coastline with breathtaking views, similar to Big Sur.
  11. Doran Regional Park – This park is a popular campsite with a beautiful 3 km long beach near Bodega Bay.
  12. Sonoma Beach State Park – famous for its sandy but rocky coastline and the Bodega Head Peninsula.
  13. Mendocino – This coastal town is popular with tourists for its picturesque surroundings and plays an important role in the wine region of California.
  14. Humboldt Redwood State Park is home to Rockefeller Forest, the largest pristine Redwood forest in the world.
  15. Redwood National Park and State Park – These northern California forests have the tallest trees in the world.
  16. Capitol State Forest – This forest has special Mima formations and is ideal for hiking, mountain biking and various other activities.

Best time to travel from San Francisco to Seattle

While there isn’t a bad season to travel from San Francisco to Seattle (especially considering the abundance of events throughout the year), there are certainly weather factors to consider.

Clear Highway 1 in good weather with stunning views of the ocean on the Pacific coast, California
Enjoy this spectacular view of Highway 1 on the Pacific coast, California on the road from San Francisco to Seattle.


If you’re planning to travel in the Pacific, it’s best to avoid travelling on hot summer mornings – this will lead to coastal fog that could hamper traffic on the already zigzagging roads. But that doesn’t necessarily have to break the agreement, because this fog usually disappears around noon.

Besides Sacramento and Portland, the main attractions of the route are the many forests. They are breathtaking in all seasons, but you can expect some roads to be closed during a particularly harsh and snowy winter.

As far as Seattle itself is concerned, the rainy season from November to January has an average of 18 rainy days per month. If this is not what you are used to, it can be difficult to study the city.

Because of all the rain in the coldest months, the weather in Seattle is actually very pleasant – from mid-spring to early autumn – summer temperatures rarely exceed the average of the 1970s, and May and September are also close by.

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