San Francisco to Seattle Drive: Our Ten Year Anniversary Road Trip

One day, I would like to road trip across America. Our family has made a travel bucket list goal to visit all 50 states and document them on our travel photo map. We have been able to do this by flying to a destination and then road tripping from there. For our ten year wedding anniversary, my husband and I flew to San Francisco and drove up to Seattle in 13 days. We have visited the Pacific Northwest several times, yet our San Francisco to Seattle road trip has been one of my favorite U.S. road trips so far. Here are the highlights of what we did, where we stayed and what we ate.

Hiking Smith Rock State Park

Road Trip Itinerary

San Francisco to Seattle Itinerary

Click on the link above for a list of the itinerary. This was a 13 day road trip to the Pacific Northwest starting in San Francisco.

Viator

Day 1 ­- San Francisco to Mendocino

We had already been to San Francisco before on a separate trip, but used this as our starting off point since we had never explored northern California. We stopped in for lunch at a great oceanfront restaurant, Beach Chalet Brewery, and then headed for Golden Gate Park to take pictures with the Golden Gate bridge in the background.

Golden Gate Bridge

Besides our lunch and pictures at the Golden Gate Bridge, we did not allot time for much sightseeing. If you have not been to San Francisco, then I suggest staying at least 2 nights and explore the many sights. Check out some places to stay in San Francisco.

From San Francisco, we drove about 3 hours to Mendocino in Northern California. The drive up the Pacific Coast highway and into the Redwoods was spectacular, but be warned that for about an hour the road turns inland and has many twists and turns. We stopped along the way at Simi Winery for a tasting before heading to our hotel in Mendocino.

The bed and breakfast, Glendeven Inn, has been one of my favorite places to stay! The surroundings were beautiful, our room was well decorated with ocean and forest views, there was an on-site farm, and there was a hiking trail to the shore. We stayed at Glendeven Inn for two nights. Each morning we received a tasty breakfast delivered to our room, and afterwards we would hike 1/2 a mile on Cobbler’s Walk Trail to the Pacific Ocean. Each evening we enjoyed a free wine happy hour, and a delicious dinner in town. Although on the pricier side, I highly recommend staying at Glendeven Inn for a couples getaway.

Viator

Day 2 ­ – Mendocino and Fort Bragg

Today we kayaked. It was actually my first time kayaking, and I didn’t realize how much of a workout it would be. Our Kayak Mendocino Cave Tour ­was fantastic! Kids are more than welcome here, and there are other options of outdoor activities in Van Damme State Park in Little River.

After eating lunch, we decided to rent bikes and ride around the Mendocino Coast where the Little River meets the Pacific Ocean. The bike ride was gentle, yet challenging enough for us. We also took a nice stroll along the river bank.

We then drove up the Pacific Coast Highway for 5 minutes to Fort Bragg and walked on Glass Beach before sunset.

Day 3 ­- Mendocino, Arcata, Medford

After breakfast, we drove 3 hours to a little town called Arcata and ate lunch at Redwood Curtain Brewing. We then drove about another hour to Redwood Park do a short mile hike called the Lady Bird Trail.

Lady Bird Trail

We then drove 3 more hours to stay in Medford, OR and get ready for another busy day tomorrow. Because we had Marriott points, we were able to save money and get a free hotel stay.

Day 4 ­- Medford to Ashland

After a quick breakfast at Buttercloud Bakery, we drove 10 minutes to Central Point to do our day-long activity – a zip line, rafting and wine tour with the Rogue Rafting Company. You can customize the tour if you are traveling with your kids and skip the wine tour, but we opted for the whole day. It is called the Zip, Dip & Zip Tour.

After a thrilling, yet exhausting day, we drove 20 minutes to Ashland. Ashland is a quaint little town in Central Oregon, which is famous for a Shakespearean festival in the summer. We had dinner at Standing Stone Brewery and stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast – ­Chanticleer Inn.

Day 5 ­- Crater Lake and Bend

Today we headed for Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S. We drove 2 hours to get to Crater Lake and sadly it was raining. There were a few Oregon hiking trails located here that were in our plans, but the rain did not let up. The visibility was not great, so we decided to head to the Crater Lake Lodge, walk around a bit and take some pictures. Hopefully, we can visit Oregon again and see the famous blue water color of Crater Lake.

Camping is quite popular here, but there are also places to stay near Crater Lake. If we had more time, we would have enjoyed staying here and exploring more of the national park. Although there are plenty of Crater Lake hikes, there are also other things to do at Crater Lake.

Since we had some extra time, we drove along the Rogue River and stopped to take pictures on our way to Bend. The two hour drive through the Oregon forests were beautiful. South central Oregon is not as populated as the areas near Portland. Driving through the Oregon back roads and stopping along the way was quite nice.

Rogue River

We arrived in Bend around dinner time and decided to walk to a neighborhood restaurant, Jackson’s Corner. After our fantastic meal, we walked back to our boutique bed and breakfast, The Mill Inn. If you are visiting Bend, be sure to stay in downtown Bend, as everything is within walking distance.

Day 6 – Bend

We started the day with a short 10 minute drive to Sun River, Oregon to do some mountain biking and sliding down waterfalls. Well, that was the intention at least. The tour was called The Paulina Plunge, and it involved riding a bike through some narrow trails and stopping along the way to slide down natural rock waterfalls. The problem was that when we woke up it was 65 degrees and rainy. Needless to say, the water was frigid and I was not going all the way in! The mountain biking part was quite fun. I had never ridden a bike at such inclines nor through trees. I was mentally drained from trying to stay focused on the trail and not cause a bike jam with the people following me. Overall, I highly recommend this tour; however, hopefully when you go it will be a hot, sunny day!

We loved our stay in Bend. The downtown was filled with breweries, local shops, great restaurants, and an overall positive vibe. Again, we walked to dinner (this time at Drake) from our inn. Since the restaurant was a little farther, we were able to see more of the city. We walked through beautiful river neighborhoods, a couple of parks and the historic area. Bend is a great home base for many outdoor activities, both in the winter and summer. We cannot wait to go back, bring the kids, and explore some areas again.

Day 7 -­ Bend

Today we drove about 40 minutes to Smith Rock State Park. ­This was one of our favorite parts of the Oregon vacation. This Pacific Northwest road trip was filled with plenty of outdoor activities, yet the scenery at Smith Rock State Park was unlike anything I had seen before. Since this area is known as the high desert, the topography is more arid and rocky.

Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock State Park is known for its rock climbing paths, yet has plenty of hiking trails. Originally we had planned to do the scenic river loop, which was a gentle 3 mile path around the Crooked River. We changed plans and decided to challenge ourselves on the most strenuous hike at Smith Rock, Misery Ridge. Aptly named, Misery Ridge Trail has been the most difficult hike of my life.

We have done family hikes in Acadia, Yellowstone, Glacier, the Smoky Mountains, Grand Teton, northern Georgia, South Carolina, northern California, but nothing as physically demanding as this hike. It is a 4 mile loop hike with steep inclines, beautiful views, and a 1,000 foot elevation gain.

After that exhausting hike, we rewarded ourselves with some lunch at ­Wild Ride Brewery in Redmond. After a much needed shower and some rest, we walked to dinner at Barrio, and enjoyed our last evening in Bend.

Day 8 ­- Drive to Eugene

Today was a much slower day. We had a 4 hour drive to Eugene and decided to break it up by stopping along the way at various trailheads along the McKenzie River Trail. We did short hikes to Sahalie, Koosah, and Proxy Falls.

Since my husband is a huge college football fan, we went to visit the University of Oregon campus. We explored the city of Eugene and picked up some famous Voodoo Doughnuts for snacking. Tonight’s accommodations at the Residence Inn were also booked with hotel reward points.

Oregon Campus

Day 9 ­- Eugene to the Coast

This morning we did a beautiful hike on the way to the Oregon coast. The Sweet Creek Trail is a gentle 3 mile hike with plenty of small waterfalls, creeks and rivers. Since we arrived early, we had the trail mostly to ourselves. It was such a nice, peaceful stroll in the forest. On the way back, we saw a few children wading in the cool water, and it reminded us of how much our kids would have enjoyed this little hike.

We arrived in Florence on the Oregon coast. After a delicious Hawaiian food truck lunch and a beer at Homegrown Public House, we were ready for our ATV ride on the Oregon sand dunes. Our Sandland dune buggy tour was a blast! It was a small group tour of about 6-8 people with a guide. You are provided goggles and a helmet if you choose. We had read that you should wear a jacket with a hood so that you are covering your neck and hair from the sand particles. They were not kidding! I had sand in my mouth, my hair, and my neck. Next time, I will bring a bandana to cover my face.

This ATV tour on the sand dunes was so much fun. Our guide did tricks and drove us around the dunes for half an hour. I think anymore time than that would be too long. There are other options along the coast where you can rent smaller ones and drive on your own; however, since we were rookies, we choose the safer guided version.

Sandland Tours

We then drove 30 minutes to do a short hike at Cape Perpetua Park in Yachats. The landscape on this Oregon coast hike was beautiful. Being from Miami, I am accustomed to flat, white sand beaches. The Oregon beaches are nothing like that. The beauty of the Oregon coast cliffs and dark blue water amaze me. We found an access point called Hobbit Beach Trail and walked on the beach for a while before checking in to our hotel for the evening.

We stayed at the Overleaf Lodge B&B, in a room overlooking the Pacific Ocean. What a delight it was to have my morning coffee on my ocean view balcony. The inn had nice ocean walking trails, and a spa I would have liked to take advantage of. I wish we would have stayed here an extra night.

We chose this location because it was on our planned route, and we wanted to stay oceanfront. We also looked at a few Oregon coast rentals on Airbnb. Since it was only the two of us, it wasn’t worthwhile. If you are traveling with a larger group, often times renting a house is more economical and convenient. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, sign up here and get $40 off your first booked rental. There are many Oregon beach rentals along the coast. Further up, Cannon Beach, is one of the best beaches in Oregon and a fantastic stop on an Oregon coast road trip. It was a little too north for us this trip, but is a great Portland day trip option.

Oregon Coast

Day 10 – ­Oregon Coast to Wine Country

Today we were headed to the Willamette Valley, Oregon wine country. We both love Oregon pinot noir. So whenever we venture out here, we make sure to take a day to taste wine. After a 2 hour drive from the coast, we headed towards Newberg. We went to my favorite winery, Patricia Green Cellars, for a barrel tasting and then to Penner Ash and Adelsheim Vineyards.

Barrel Tasting at Patricia Green Cellars

Lunch at Red Hills Market was another favorite. It was followed by some more wine tasting at Stoller Family Estate. There are over 500 Oregon wineries located in this area of the Pacific Northwest. Willamette Valley wineries offer a variety of tasting options and there are plenty of Oregon wine tours in the area.

We then drove towards downtown McMinnville and walked into the Elizabeth Chambers and Eyrie Tasting Rooms. We checked into our gorgeous bed and breakfast, A’Tuscan Estate, and walked to dinner ­at Thistle. Check out other places to stay in the Willamette Valley.

Stoller Vineyards View

Day 11 – Columbia Gorge and Portland

After a day of wine tasting, a hike was in order. We drove north towards the Columbia River Gorge to take in some natural beauty. The first stop was at Multnomah Falls, just off the highway. You can take a 5 minute walk to see the splendor of this 611 foot waterfall from the viewpoint or bridge.

Our next stop was a hike I had been looking forward to, Oneonta Gorge. A good part of this hike was walking through the water in between a narrow canyon. The first part of the hike was a bit of a challenge. We had to scramble up logs and watch our footing very carefully.

Oneonta Gorge log jam

Once we conquered the log jam, the walk through the water was breathtaking. I could not stop taking pictures. I wish we had been better prepared, but we carried our backpack with us and did not bring a waterproof bag. We ventured almost to the end of the trail where the waterfall was but had to turn back once the water depth reached 2 feet.

It was a fantastic hike, nonetheless! We dried off and headed into Portland to have lunch from the food trucks. We drove around and toured parts of the city and went shopping at the Columbia Sportswear headquarters downtown. After picking up some Blue Star donuts, sipping some Cacao drinking chocolate and having a drink at the SE Wine Collective, we checked into our Marriott Fairfield Inn hotel (for another free night). If you haven’t visited before, I do recommend staying at a downtown Portland hotel.

We had visited the city before, so we were not in a rush to visit all of the Portland attractions. Most of the things to do in Portland are located downtown. If you have never been to Portland, you may want to check out some of Viator’s tours. Portland is known for its’ food and beer scene, so you will find many of those types of tours offered.

Day 12 -­ Portland to Seattle

Onto our last day of the trip, we visited the Portland Rose Garden and ate a fantastic lunch at Pine State Biscuits. Luckily, we knew someone who worked at Nike and were able to get friends/family access to their employee store. After a couple of hours in Nike heaven, we began our 2 hour drive north towards Seattle.

We made it in time to explore some of the Seattle downtown area. Naturally we stopped at Pike Place Market to have some chowder and seafood. We saw the Space Needle and Rode the Ducks on Lake Union to get a unique city tour. If you are planning to be in Seattle for more than a day, I would advise on purchasing the Seattle City Pass to save on entrance fees to many attractions.

Since we had a very early flight the next day, we stayed right by SeaTac airport at TownePlace Suites Seattle South/Renton (again for free with points). To check out popular things to do in Seattle, click Viator’s link below.

As wonderful as our road trip from San Francisco to Seattle was, it was limited by time. We were fortunate enough to have our parents stay with our kids while we took this anniversary trip, but as always, we wish we had more time to explore. We love visiting small towns and enjoying the outdoors, so the Pacific Northwest was perfect for us. Since we had already visited the major cities of San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, we only spent one night in each of those cites. For people visiting the Pacific Northwest for the first time, the itinerary may be different. Click here to check out our 2 other Pacific Northwest road trip itineraries.

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