The Ultimate San Francisco To Seattle Road Trip (2023 Guide)

Looking for the best things to see and do on a San Francisco to Seattle road trip? Our epic guide includes all the highlights of the stunning Pacific Northwest coastline!

An incredible way to experience the Pacific Northwest is on a San Francisco to Seattle road trip.

Two of the most visited cities in the United States, San Francisco and Seattle are both top travel destinations for their world-class entertainment, iconic landmarks, and alluring ambiance that continues to pull in visitors from across the globe.

From the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the Space Needle in Seattle, there are many out-of-this-world opportunities to be experienced in these cities. And on a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle, the doors are opened wide for more thrilling adventures at your fingertips. 

Walk amongst giant ancient redwoods, test your endurance on various hiking trails in all the best national parks and state parks, and soak in the beauty of the Oregon coast.

This San Francisco to Seattle road trip is perfect for nature lovers and those who want to experience the culture and history of the magical Pacific Northwest!

Planning Your San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip

Setting your route for your San Francisco to Seattle road trip is crucial to ensure you hit the best attractions and stops. This carefully curated itinerary includes popular activities and secret hidden gems along the way for the ultimate road trip you’ll never forget! 

Where To Start Your San Francisco To Seattle Road Trip

For this San Francisco to Seattle drive and road trip, we’ll begin the itinerary in San Francisco, then hop over to the nearby Muir Woods National Monument.

Here you’ll see one of the last remaining ancient redwood forests as these skyscraping trees tower above you in this enriching park.

Then you’ll continue up the Pacific Coast Highway in Northern California. Continue north to the Oregon coast, pass into Washington, and end up in the mighty city of Seattle!

If you have extra time before you begin, be sure to consider these great day trips from San Francisco to get your feet wet!

Read Next: Tack on a few extra days with a Northern California road trip!

Best Time of Year For the San Francisco to Seattle Drive

Summer and fall is the best time to drive from San Francisco to Seattle for ideal weather for outdoor exploration. The temperatures are more comfortable around these seasons, with less chance of rain to ruin any outdoor plans. 

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.

How Long Is This Road Trip?

The San Francisco to Seattle drive time, without stops, takes about 13 hours. The drive time, including the stops on this itinerary, is slightly over 27 hours.

Setting aside a week to genuinely experience these points of interest is heavily recommended, so you’re not rushing to get from one point to another. 

This itinerary is customizable, so if a week is too long or you want to spend more time in one place, the trip can be adjusted by removing as many stops as needed. 

San Francisco
Your first stop is the mighty city of San Francisco!

San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip Itinerary

San Francisco

In “The City by the Bay,” there are myriad world-class attractions and entertainment to choose from. Fly into San Francisco International Airport and begin your trip!

The bayside setting of San Francisco intertwines the modern city with the picturesque beauty of San Francisco Bay – the infamous Alcatraz Island looming in the distance. The iconic Golden Gate Bridge, believed to be one of the world’s most stunning bridges, makes an eye-catching sight as it stretches across the bay.

And for anyone looking to get an up-close look, this boat tour takes passengers across the waters to see the splendor of the Golden Gate Bridge up close and personal while learning about the history of San Francisco and the imposing landmark. 

The host of many unique and boisterous festivals, such as the Chinese New Year Festival and North Beach Festival, San Francisco is full of life, excitement, and celebration.

The city’s nightlife is widely known to be enigmatic, with frequent live music performances booming out from restaurants, dive bars, and clubs. 

For the art connoisseur and history buff, San Francisco is rich with reputable museums and art galleries, like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, exhibiting stunning displays showcasing art and sharing local and world history. 

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Golden Gate Park
  • Union Square
  • Alcatraz Island
  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Take a day trip to Napa Valley for wine tasting

Find even more activities on our list of the 21 Best Things To Do In San Francisco!

Muir Woods National Monument

Preserving one of the area’s few remaining ancient redwood forests, the Muir Woods National Monument is the first recommended stop from San Francisco. 

The tallest tree in Muir Woods National Monument spans around 258 feet. Compared to the State of Liberty, which stands at 305 feet with the pedestal, this makes a jaw-dropping impression of the enormity of these ancient redwood trees.

The oldest coastal redwood tree in the area is estimated to be around 1,200 years old. It may be the oldest in the area, but it has plenty of room to grow and age, as these trees are known to live 2,200 years.

The natural beauty of Muir Woods caught the attention of several movie directors. It was the filming location of big-time movies, including Jurassic Park and Rise of the Planet of The Apes.

Many choose to visit the Muir Woods to embrace solitude within the dense forest where river otters have returned to play, thanks to conservation efforts, and numerous bird species frolic and sing. 

Best Trails To Hike:

  • Muir Main Trail
  • Bootjack Trail Loop
  • Cardiac Hill via Dipsea Trail
  • Hillside Trail

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Muir Beach Overlook
  • Mount Tamalpais State Park
  • Throckmorton Theater
  • Tennessee Valley Trailhead

Read next: The Perfect 3 Days In San Francisco Itinerary

Point Reyes National Seashore

On the drive from San Francisco to Seattle, you need to stop at Point Reyes National Seashore to experience the breathtaking beauty of the northern California coast.

The first European explorer landed in Point Reyes in 1579, and since its founding, 120 village sites have been discovered across the park. In the Point Reyes National Seashore Museum, visitors can peer into the impressive collection that shares the area’s history. 

Point Reyes National Seashore is a rejuvenating activity for nature and outdoor enthusiasts. Plenty of hiking trails offer rewardingly scenic opportunities to bask in the exceptional coastal sights within the park.

Wildlife viewing is a popular activity in Point Reyes National Seashore, focusing on whale-watching in December, January, April, and May to see these enormous creatures migrate back and forth into the nearby waters. 

Best Trails To Hike:

  • Tomales Point Trail
  • Coast Trail
  • Bear Valley Trail
  • Mount Wittenberg Trail

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Bear Valley Visitor Center
  • Tomales Bay State Park
  • Point Reyes Lighthouse
  • Point Reyes Shipwrecks
Point Reyes National Seashore
Experience the rugged beauty of northern California’s coastline!

Fort Bragg

Located on the Mendocino Coast of California, Fort Bragg is a coastal city home to the fort of its namesake.

Fort Bragg, the historical landmark, was constructed before the American Civil War and was named after a Union Army Officer, Captain Braxton Bragg, who had gained fame from the Mexican War.

The whole city, not just the fort of which it was named after, is listed as a California Historical Landmark because of its extensive military past that has played a significant role in history.

When driving from San Francisco to Seattle, stopping in Fort Bragg should be a necessity. The city has world-famous attractions such as the stunning Glass Beach and “Skunk Train”.

Fort Bragg has numerous attractions that satisfy various tastes, from a pottery class, art murals, and shopping downtown to a hike along the coastline or a rail biking adventure through the redwood forest!  

Related: Another great road trip from San Francisco is the drive from San Francisco to Las Vegas!

Best Trails To Hike:

  • Ka Kahleh Trail
  • Laguna Point Boardwalk Loop
  • Gravel Pit Road
  • MacKerricher Beach

Other top things to do in the area:

  • MacKerricher State Park
  • Pomo Bluffs Park
  • Glass Beach
  • The Skunk Train & Rail Bikes

Find more incredible things to do in Northern California here!

Redwood National Park 

The home of the world’s tallest trees, Redwood National Park leaves an impression on all who enter the park’s grounds to behold these glorious natural skyscrapers.

The park is often referred to as a combination of parks referred to as Redwood National and State Parks. These include Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.

Together these parks have been labeled an International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site because of their importance in protecting and preserving almost half the world’s population of old-growth redwoods. 

Out of all of these parks, Redwood National Park is the largest of the parks. It also features the tallest tree in the world, Hyperion, a coastal redwood that spans 380 feet in height.

Access to the park is free for visitors, so along this west coast road trip from San Francisco to Seattle, you can hop out of the car and start adventuring the park at your leisure amongst these giant ancient redwood trees.

Best Trails To Hike:

  • Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail
  • Tall Trees Grove Loop Trail
  • Trillium Falls Trail
  • Redwood Creek Trail

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Sue-Meg State Park
  • Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
  • Humboldt Lagoons State Park
  • Crescent Beach Overlook
Redwood Forest
The Redwood forests are a must-see on any San Francisco to Seattle road trip!

Prairie Creeks State Park 

Named after the prairies of which herds of Roosevelt elk graze, Prairie Creeks State Park is a place of enrichment, nature, and life.

A hike through the park features fern-covered canyons, towering coastal redwoods, wildflower-speckled meadows, and long stretches of sandy beaches. 

Fern Canyon, the ferns growing along the expanse of the 50-foot walls, is one of the biggest stars of Prairie Creek State Park.

The walls of Fern Canyon are covered in seven different species of ferns that grow lusciously without care as they drape over the canyon’s walls. The canyon was used as a filming location and backdrop for Jurassic Park.

Best Trails To Hike:

  • Fern Canyon Loop Trail
  • James Irvine Trail
  • Cathedral Trees Trail
  • Clintonia Trail Loop

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway
  • Prairie Creek Visitor Center
  • Big Tree Wayside
  • Klamath River Overlook

Read next: The 25 Best Things To Do In California

Crater Lake National Park 

Next on your San Francisco to Seattle road trip, head north towards the southern Oregon coast and continue exploring the Pacific Northwest.

Named after the deepest lake in the United States, the park’s biggest draw, Crater Lake National Park, is the sixth established park in the nation. 

Crater Lake was created from a cataclysmic volcanic eruption, a natural wonder that continues to stun generations. Estimated to be around 7,700 years ago, the volcano Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed to create Crater Lake.

The volcano was a prominent symbol for the native Makalak people that lived in the area and who witnessed the fall of the sacred Mount Mazama. 

The lake’s water is a rich blue color. It’s sourced from rain and snowfall without mineral deposits or sediment affecting its translucence.

Of course, it helps that Crater Lake is one of the snowiest places in the nation. How Crater Lake sources its water makes it one of the clearest and cleanest lakes on the planet. 

Take a trip around Rim Road for 30+ scenic overlook opportunities or hike and swim to the lake to witness the majesty of Crater Lake on this ultimate San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip. 

Best Trails To Hike:

  • Cleetwood Cove Trail
  • Garfield Peak Trail
  • Discovery Point Trail
  • The Watchman Peak Trail

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Wizard Island
  • Pinnacles Overlook
  • Joseph Steward County Park
  • Sinnott Memorial Observation Station
Crater Lakes National Park
No matter what the weather or season, this national park is stunning.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

The Newberry National Volcanic Monument protects the Newberry Crater, a caldera that competes in size with the state of Rhode Island.

The monument itself was established within Deschutes National Forest. Unfortunately, many unknowingly drive past this not-so-hidden gem, not realizing what they’re missing out on!

The main big lakes, Paulina Lake and East Lake, were established through volcanic activity.

People flock to these lakes for water-based recreational activities such as kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding while surrounded by the vibrant greenery of the forest and mountain backdrops. 

Spelunking is a prevalent activity here because of the volcanic activity that formed the numerous caves in the area. Some of the most popular are Boyd Cave, Hidden Forest Cave, Lava River Cave, and Skeleton Caves. 

Best Trails To Hike:

  • Pauline Lakeshore Loop
  • Trail of The Molten Land
  • Big Obsidian Flow Trail
  • Paulina Peak Trail

Other top things to do in the area:

  • High Desert Museum
  • Lava Lands Visitor Center
  • Lava River Cave
  • Oregon Observatory

Have time to stop in Portland? Check out our ultimate 3 day itinerary for when you get there!

Mount Hood National Forest

Home to Mount Hood, the highest mountain in Oregon, Mount Hood National Forest attracts experienced mountaineers from all over the world looking to take on the challenge of the mountain’s 11,240-foot elevation. 

The famous American explorers Lewis and Clark were the first Americans to document the sighting of Mount Hood.

The area surrounding Mount Hood was home to numerous tribes, including Northern Paiute, Chinookan Clackamas, Molalas, Kalapuyans, Chinookan Wascos, and Sahaptin-speaking peoples who referred to Mount Hood as Wy’East. 

Mount Hood National Forest is one of the most visited national forests, welcoming millions of visitors annually. Timberline Lodge, a National Historic Landmark, was established on Mount Hood in 1937 and is one of Oregon’s most popular attractions.

The running ski lodge retreat is considered an architectural wonder and continues to lure millions of visitors each year to take on the slopes of Mount Hood. And Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful place for sightseeing as there are many canyons, waterfalls, and forests.

Get the best views of this magical area with a scenic flight so you can admire this lush area from the sky!

Best Trails To Hike:

  • Mirror Lake Loop Trail
  • Tamanawas Falls Trail
  • Trillium Lake Loop Trail
  • McNeil Point Trail

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Mount Talbert Nature Park
  • Timothy Lake
  • Bagby Hot Springs
  • Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Mount Hood
Oregon’s Mount Hood is a majestic sight!

Washington Park

Named after President George Washington, Washington Park was previously used as the Washington Military Parade Ground before transitioning into a public park. 

On the north side of the park’s square, distinguished families at the time moved to the area. They built stunning Greek Revival mansions, which have been painstakingly preserved to be admired today so that the families could escape the heavy congestion of downtown Manhattan. 

Washington Park features some of the most beautiful and quality attractions, including two museums, the Oregon Zoo, the Portland Japanese Garden, and the International Rose Test Garden.

This stop along this San Francisco to Seattle road trip is rewarding and has many opportunities and attractions to explore.

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Portland Art Museum
  • Pittock Mansion
  • Hoyt Arboretum
  • Powell’s City of Books

Read next: 21 Best Things To Do In Portland, Oregon

Cannon Beach 

A charming town on the Oregon coast, Cannon Beach is widely recognized as one of the top art towns in America and for having the best overall beach in Oregon.

Located on Oregon’s coast, the seaside town of Cannon Beach was named after a naval cannon that had washed ashore from a shipwreck in the 1840s. The town is abundant with upscale restaurants, boutique shops, trendy cafes, and established art galleries.

There are impeccable views of the Pacific Ocean throughout Cannon Beach and plenty of outdoor recreational activities to partake in, such as hiking in the forest or along the coast to see the tide pools, picnicking while basking in the views, kayaking the waters or sand castle building on the beach.  

Fun Fact – Every year, Cannon Beach hosts its annual sandcastle-building competition for a unique and exciting display of skills.

One of Oregon’s most famous landmarks is Haystack Rock, found in Cannon Beach is a 235-foot tall sea stack. It is the third tallest in the world!

Located in the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Haystack Rock is accessible by foot during low tide. It is an icon of Oregon, formed an estimated 17 million years ago. 

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Cannon Beach History Center & Museum
  • Bruce’s Candy Kitchen
  • Oswald West State Park
  • Hug Point State Recreation Site
  • Haystack Rock
Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach is one of Oregon’s most famous locations.

Mount Rainier National Park 

America’s fifth national park, Mount Rainier National Park, is overflowing with history and natural wonders, a perfect stop for this San Francisco to Seattle road trip itinerary.

The park preserves the world’s largest volcanic glacier cave system and the nation’s, not including Alaska, largest alpine glacial system. Its namesake, Mount Rainier, was named after a Royal Navy officer, Peter Rainier, who served in the Revolutionary War. 

Mount Rainier National Park is a sight to behold, from its snow-capped mountain peaks to its wildflower-speckled valleys.

There are 25 named glaciers on Mount Rainier, more than any other mountain in the continental U.S. One of these is Emmons Glacier, which covers the largest area of any other in the contiguous United States. 

A trip to Mount Rainier National Park grants breathtaking vistas with numerous scenic hikes to journey throughout the park to witness these impressive feats firsthand. 

Best Trails To Hike:

  • Skyline Trail Loop
  • Panorama Point via Skyline Trail
  • Tolmie Peak Trail
  • Burroughs Mountain Loop Trail

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Myrtle Falls
  • Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • Naches Peak Loop Trailhead
  • Crystal Mountain

Read next: 21 Best Things To Do In Seattle, Washington

Olympic National Park 

Famous for its diverse ecosystems, Olympic National Park homes a temperate rainforest, one of the wettest areas in the continental United States, a Pacific coastline, an old-growth forest, and glacier-decked mountain peaks. 

It’s easily one of the most beautiful national parks in the country!

There’s so much waiting to be experienced in Olympic National Park. From sightings of whales swimming along the coast to mountain goats trekking across rocky climbs, Olympic National Park is prosperous with natural wonders that leave a lifelong impression.

At low tide, visitors can sift through the thriving ecosystems of the tidepools for glimpses of starfish and anemones.

Or hiking through the Hoh Rain Forest for sightings of 10-inch slugs crawling a slimy path, elk grazing on grass in the meadows, and birds flitting from tree to tree. 

Best Trails To Hike:

  • Mount Storm King
  • Marymere Falls Trail
  • Hall of Mosses Trail
  • Sol Duc Falls Train

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Rialto Beach
  • Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center
  • Ruby Beach
  • Salt Creek Recreation Area
Olympic National Park
See the mysterious beauty of Washington in Olympic National Park!

Seattle

Widely known as “Emerald City” and for being the home base of the first-ever Starbucks, Seattle is full of world-class entertainment and activities. End your Seattle road trip itinerary in the city and spend a few days exploring downtown Seattle.

Hitch a ride up to the top of the iconic landmark, the Space Needle, an observation deck and rotating restaurant that stretches 605 feet into the sky.

The Space Needle is one of Seattle’s most visited attractions, its view from above clearing up panoramas of the city and the Cascade Mountains beyond.

Fine dining restaurants, reputable museums, and boisterous nightclubs are not hard to find in Seattle. The same goes for fresh farmers markets, cozy coffee shops, and outdoor recreational opportunities in the city’s surrounding areas, from kayaking to hiking.

This Pike Place Market takes you on a chef-guided food tour with stops and tastings at nine artisanal vendors while learning about local production and Northwest flavors. 

Other top things to do in the area:

  • Seattle Art Museum
  • Seattle Aquarium
  • Museum of Pop Culture
  • Pike Place Market

READ NEXT: Check out our post on all the best things to do in Seattle!

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About the Author - Gabby Boucher

After four years of working in hospitality, volunteering abroad and travelling for fun, Gabby has developed a knack for budget travel and admiration for different cultures. Her travels have taken her through the cloud forests of Ecuador, into the villages of eastern Europe, across the islands of Thailand, and to the beaches of New South Wales, Australia, where she is currently living with a working holiday visa. She plans to continue her adventures around the world for as long as possible. Follow her on her blog, and on Instagram.

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