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How to Plan an Amazing Portland to San Francisco Road Trip

Now, I’m almost certainly biased, but I think that this is the ULTIMATE west coast road trip! I’m a Portland local, but spent eight years living in California including a stint in Northern California where I went to school in the heart of the redwoods.

Always a fan of long drives with my buds, I’ve done a version of this Portland to San Francisco road trip more times than I can count, and I’m here today to share my experiences with you. I’d be hard pressed to think of a better road trip that gives you so many awesome cities, gorgeous coastlines, quirky pit stops, and of course, the REDWOODS! This road trip has it all!

In this guide, we’re going to go through everything you need to know to plan your road trip from Portland to San Francisco. We’ll include all the best stops to make, specific recommendations for hikes, places to eat and drink, and viewpoints, and the logistics that you’ll need to consider as you plan your trip.

Sound good? Let’s get into it!

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel and vacation rental links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would absolutely never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

Where to Start and End Your Portland to San Francisco Road Trip 

Because I live in Portland, I imagine this as a Portland to San Francisco road trip, but it really can be done either way, you’ll just have to figure out how to get back home. 

If flying is part of your itinerary you’ll have no problem with Portland International Airport (PDX), as it’s one of the BEST airports in the country. I’m not just playing favorites, PDX frequently earns the number one or two spot in national surveys

If you’re flying in or out of San Francisco you have your choice of airports. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is bigger and tends to have more direct and connecting flights. Oakland International Airport (OAK) is smaller and sometimes cheaper, but you won’t find as many direct flights – though it does serve the west coast well, especially if you’re on an airline like Southwest.

It also has the advantage of being more inland which means it’s not as susceptible to the famous SF fog which can cause flight delays in and out of SFO (I swear, like at least half the time I use SFO there’s some amount of time spent sitting on a tarmac waiting for the fog to lift). Scheduling an afternoon flight can help mitigate this.

There’s also another option—San Jose (SJC)—but I would steer clear if I were you.

SJC is about an hour and half south of SF, and unless you actually live there and want to fly up to or back from PDX, I wouldn’t recommend this airport to anyone. It’s not cheaper or closer or nicer and you’ll likely have to add a couple hours commuting time to get there. 

The Road Trip Route

We know not everyone is looking for a one-size-fits-all road trip, so I’ll give you tons of options in Oregon and California so you can customize your trip exactly how you like it.

We recommend hitting up the coastal route for at least some of your trip, but there’s so much to see and do inland as well you don’t want to discount those options.

In Oregon you can drive the whole way along the coast (though it takes a while), down the I-5 corridor, or make your way through central Oregon and the mountains (this will also require more time).

In California, you must experience the redwoods at some point, but there are plenty of options for that. Based on your time and interests, you can adjust as needed.

How Many Days Do You Need?

You could do this as a one-day drive, but it’s not very much fun (and trust me, I’ve done it a few times and it’s grueling). Ideally you have at least a week to do it, but we’ll offer options for a three and five day trip if you’re short on time.

Prioritize the places you want to stop first, then you can customize your road trip and decide how much time you want to spend at each stop.

The Best Stops to Make on a San Francisco to Portland Road Trip 

We’ll give you some sample itineraries at the end of this post, but because there are so many different routes, we’ve decided to give you a menu of options that you’ll find in each state.

Whether you’re driving from San Francisco to Portland or Portland to San Francisco you’re sure to find all the right stops to craft your perfect road trip.

Amazing Places to Stop in Oregon

Here are two sets of places to stop in Oregon between the city and the southern Oregon border. One set if you opt for the coastal route through Oregon (which really requires more time – at least 5 to 7 days), one stop if you opt for the I-5 corridor through Oregon.

Stops Along the I-5 Corridor

If you’re short on time and want to stay on I-5 the entire way through Oregon, here are some of the best stops to make.


If you’re starting in Portland you may choose to spend a day or two here. If it’s just a jumping off point, that’s cool too. I won’t get into the details about things to do and places to stay, because I’ve done so extensively here.

Suffice it to say, Portland is rad.

McMinnville + Willamette Valley

For the wine lovers! Or just lovers of wine-country living. McMinnville is a super cute town about an hour south of Portland and is right in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine region.

Check out award-winning wineries like Stoller Family Estate, Willamette Valley Vineyards, or Domain Drouhin

Or you may just want to stroll down 3rd Street in McMinnville and pop your head in shops and restaurants or grab a beverage. Fave beer: Heater Allen, fave not-beer: Velvet Monkey Tea.

Silver Falls State Park

If you’re a waterfall junkie, you simply can’t miss Silver Falls State Park.

This is totally doable as a stopover on your way south from Portland, but you’ll want to leave early and plan on spending at least a few hours here.

That will not only let you find parking and wade through the crowds, but it will allow you to soak in most (or all if you’re fast) of the park’s ten falls on this hike.


Depending on how much time you’ve got on the road, you’ll love stopping in this charming, vibrant college town about two hours south of Portland.

This short hike up to Spencer’s Butte will give you great views of the valley, and bonus points if you can hit up the Saturday Farmers Market afterwards.

Ashland or Grants Pass

These two southern Oregon towns make great stopovers if you’re sticking to the 5. Ashland is known for hosting Oregon’s Shakespeare Festival which sees nearly 400,000 visitors each year.

Time your drive to take in a show and get pizza at Martolli’s. If you’re staying in Grants Pass try the unassuming, but delicious Ma Mosa’s Scratch Kitchen for brunch and bloody mary’s, or just get some In-N-Out!

Cave Junction

This spot is actually on Highway 199 which takes you from the 5 out to the California coast. You’ll pass through a bunch of little towns on this route, but you should plan a special lunch trip to Taylor’s Sausages.

It’s just a great spot to get a polish sausage and beer, plus you can pick up more to-go to grill over a campfire later.


The historic town of Jacksonville lies in the Apple Valley about 15 minutes west of Medford. Skip Medford and head right to Jacksonville to walk up and down the quaint main street of this historic gold rush town turned foodie/wine destination.

There are a number of little inns and hotels, but you may want to consider driving just a bit further south and camping around Applegate Lake or stay in the heart of the city just a block away from Britt Gardens at this historic cottage.

Honorable MentionEnchanted Forest amusement park. I’d take this place over Disneyland any day of the week.

Stops to Make on the Oregon Coast

PS: we’ve got an entire guide that’s perfect for you if you’re looking for the best stops to make when you’re driving the Oregon Coast. Plus, you’ll find a three day itinerary that would be perfect for making your way from Portland to San Francisco!


Since Astoria lies at the very tippy-top of the Oregon coast, it only makes sense to start here so you can say you’ve driven the whole state! Astoria has some of the best parks like the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park or Fort Stevens (which is also home to an excellent campground for you tent-dwellers).

It’s also teeming with great food and beer like Bowpicker Fish and Chips and the Buoy Beer Company located right on the water!

Cannon Beach

A favorite of locals and tourists alike, it’s hard to beat Cannon Beach for scenery, shops and restaurants, and that Oregon-coast feel.

Hike nearby Neahkahnie Mountain and spend time exploring Oswald West State Park. My favorite place to stay when I’m here is Webb’s Scenic Surf. Eat at the Lazy Susan Cafe!


Lots of cows! Go to the Tillamook Creamery if you’ve never been, or find more creamy cheese at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company. Also worth visiting is DeGarde Brewing (only open Thursday-Sunday), a must for sour beer lovers.

A great hike is this 7.5 mile Bayocean Loop. I also really love the Tillamook Air Museum, but I can be a nerd like that.


Newport is on the central coast right on Yaquina Bay and is an awesome spot for lunch (Pacific Kitchen or the Chowder Bowl), to stretch your legs (Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site or surfing and kayaking with Ossies Surf Shop), or to learn about our incredible ocean (Oregon Coast Aquarium).

Wanna stay the night? Rent a yurt at South Beach State Park.

Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

Pretty much as far south on the Oregon coast as you can get before reaching California, but it’s so cool! The Secret Beach trail is a must as is the China Beach trail.

I always love camping at the coast and Harris Beach State Park is in an ideal location about five minutes south of Samuel H. Boardman. If you want something a little more luxurious, try the Tu Tu Tun Lodge in Gold Beach. 

Honorable Mention: The Sea lion caves in Florence. 

Stops in California

Here are two sets of places to stop between the border of California and Oregon and San Francisco. One set of stops along the northern California coastline, and one group of stops that are closer to the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Northern California Redwood Coast

Here are the best stops to make along the northern California coast, roughly between the Oregon/California border, and Mendocino.

Redwood National and State Parks

Seeing the redwoods in all their glory is probably the best part about traveling to Northern California, so you’ll want to get in as much time as you possibly can in this complex of parks.

If you’re coming down from Portland, you first hit Jedediah Smith State Park where two essential hikes are the Stout Memorial Grove trail and the Boy Scout Tree trail.

Drury Scenic Parkway on a foggy winter day

Keep heading south and drive through the Drury Scenic Parkway, a ten-mile alternative route that runs parallel to the 101. Keep an eye out for elk herds—they’re everywhere around here.

After this you’ll pop back on the 101 for a few miles, before turning off again and heading north along a bumpy, unpaved road to the spectacular Fern Canyon.

Fern Canyon!

Further down on the 101 you’ll have yet another opportunity to veer off the main road and drive the 31-mile long Avenue of the Giants which is thought to be the best collection of redwood groves on the whole coast.

Trees of Mystery

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped at the Trees of Mystery—by myself, with my kid, with friends. I LOVE IT. The gift shop is great, the Skytrail gondola rides are kinda pricey but totally worth it, and it’s a convenient spot for a bathroom break.

Did I mention there’s a 50 foot Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statue and Paul actually talks to you!?!? This is the kind of place road trips were made for.


A college town full of hippies (even more than Eugene!) and home to Humboldt State University (my alma mater! Go Lumberjacks! Wait . . . did we even have a sports team?)

Some notable things to do/see/eat that I haven’t mentioned in the below itineraries:

Hiking in the Arcata Marsh or the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, drinking beer and eating food at Redwood Curtain Brewing, or renting a hot tub or sauna at Cafe Mokka (they also have tasty drinks).

The Lost Coast

I know few of you will have time for this, but one of my favorite places to backpack EVER is the Lost Coast.

It can be done as a thru hike along the beach with a car drop off (or hitchhiking), or as a loop incorporating the mountains (which I prefer because hiking for miles on a sandy, rocky beach is more taxing than you’d think, but many disagree with me).

If you decide to venture out here make sure you hit up No Brand Burger Stand in Ferndale (I’ve actually only known this place as “Grandma Burger” because this nice old lady cooks and serves for you).

If you don’t have multiple days to backpack, you can get a taste of the Lost Coast on the Punta Gorda Lighthouse Trail south of Ferndale.


The 101 south takes you past a bunch of little towns and there are many worthwhile stops: Woodrose Cafe in Garberville, the fantastic Book Juggler in Willits, and Ukiah has this place called the City of 10,000 Buddhas which is just a really chill place to wander around and see peacocks.

Also worth noting is Orr Hotsprings about 30 minutes west of Ukiah.

The Mendocino Headlands

Mendocino, or “Mendo” as the locals call it, is known for its redwood forests, beautiful beaches, and chill coastal living, and there’s plenty to do here.

Take this outstanding hike up the Russian Gulch, or rent a kayak at Kayak Mendicino and check out the sea caves at Van Damme State Park (I know I recommend kayaking a lot but second to riding a bike through a new city, it’s simply the best way to explore a new area!).

Stay in the funky and eclectic Andiron Seaside Inn & Cabins. Eat at the Trillium Cafe. Drink at the Anderson Valley Brewery (technically in Boonville, but their Boont Amber makes it worth the drive!).

Places to Stop in the San Francisco Bay Area

As you get into the Bay Area, you’ll be within a few hours of San Francisco. But there are plenty of great stops to make before you make your way into the city, the final destination for this road trip!

Napa and Sonoma County

WINE! When heading south to San Francisco from Mendocino, you can always take the 128 to the 101 (or continue on the 128, dubbed “the wine road”) and spend a little time in California’s most famous wine country.

On your way to the valley, pop into the Philo Apple Farm for fresh cider and apple tasting. Now onto the main course: wine.

In no particular order try these amazing spots: Saintsbury Winery in Napa, Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa, Lola Wines in Calistoga, Frog’s Leap Winery in Rutherford, and Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma.

Of course, you can’t drink the whole time you’re down here (or can you?), so to move your body, try biking the 12.5 mile Napa Valley Vine Trail, or get more of your redwood fix at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Preserve (try this awesome 6 mile loop).

Point Reyes/Muir Woods
Point Reyes and its neverending coastline

The entire stretch of Highway 1 from Mendo to San Francisco is spectacular, but these two spots really shouldn’t be missed.

You could spend an entire day at Point Reyes (or more!) but some standout day excursions include the Tomales Point Trail, canoeing or kayaking in the Tomales Bay (try Blue Waters Kayaking to get hooked up), or relaxing on Drake’s Beach.

A bit further south is the historic Muir Woods National Monument, home to ancient redwoods nearly 1,000 years old! I like the short Bohemian Grove trail for a great bang for your buck, but also right next door is Mount Tamalpais State Park and this 7.5 mile loop is lovely and takes you past two waterfalls and so many redwoods!

A hike through the redwoods in Muir Woods
San Francisco

It seems unfair to the City by the Bay to include just a few-sentence blurb about “what to do.” After all, this might just be the greatest city in the world!

But here I go anyway: Food (like, a billion) but I’ll say Sushi Ran or Molinari’s Deli; Coffee (like, a million) but I’ll say Saint Frank or Farley’s.

Things to do!?!? Geez, well I love spending a day in Golden Gate Park and I always love a visit to the California Academy of Sciences. Try to get a hike in on the Mount Sutro loop for a great view of the city, and no trip would be complete without a visit to City Lights bookstore.

Also across the Golden Gate bridge are the Marin Headlands for your postcard view of the city and great hiking. 

Itinerary Ideas for a Portland to San Francisco Road Trip: 3,5, and 7 Day Options

Below, you’ll find three itinerary examples for three, five, and seven days. We’ve taken the stops above and put them together to create three great itinerary options, depending on how much time you’ve got. Of course, you could do this road trip differently, which is why we’ve given you the menu of stops above to help you figure out the best route for you.

7 Day Itinerary: Coast all the Way!

This 7 day coastal tour will take you from the tip of the Oregon coast all the way into San Francisco via the Golden Gate bridge.

This route definitely makes for a long drive from Portland to San Francisco, but we’re guessing you’re not taking this road trip to clock the fastest time. So sit back and relax along the 101 and see all the beauty the west coast has to offer!

  • Day 1: Astoria + Manzanita + Sleep in Lincoln City
  • Day 2: Newport + Oregon Dunes + Sleep in Gold Beach
  • Day 3: Samuel H Boardman + Jedidiah Smith SP + Sleep in Trinidad
  • Day 4: Redwood Parks + Fern Canyon + Sleep in Trinidad again
  • Day 5: Trinidad + Mendocino
  • Day 6: Mendocino + Point Reyes
  • Day 7: Point Reyes + Marin Headlands + SF

Day 1: Grab coffee and first breakfast (yes, I work on hobbit time) in Portland then drive two hours west to Astoria. First things first: get more coffee and second breakfast at Blue Scorcher Bakery then drive or walk a mile-ish up to the Astoria Column and climb it; send an airplane down from the top. Onwards to Manzanita! (Yes, I’m skipping over the delightful Cannon Beach and taking you a bit further south). Enjoy the beach and try your best to make it to Yolk for lunch before they close at 2pm, or go to the always great MacGregor’s Whiskey Bar. Continue your journey to Lincoln City where you’ll stay for the night. Stay fancy: Coho Oceanfront Lodge. Not fancy: Devil’s Lake for camping or yurts!

Day 2: From Lincoln City take the short drive down to Newport and get coffee and breakfast at the Coffee House then see the sites along Newport’s Historic Bayfront. Pack back in the car and continue south to the magical Oregon Dunes. I highly recommend you rent a dune buggy at Spinreel so you can have THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE, then brush off as much sand as you can and head down to Gold Beach. If you’ve still got time left in your day, hit up the Prehistoric Gardens. Stay fancy: This cottage with killer views and a hot tub! Not fancy: Indian Creek Campground.

The magical Oregon Dunes

Day 3 and 4: Both nights 3 and 4 will be spent in Trinidad where we recommend the Emerald Forest Cabins or the View Crest Lodge. On your way down your first stop will be the Samuel H Boardman Scenic Area where you must visit Secret Beach. You’ll then head down into California to Jedediah Smith State Park for some INCREDIBLE redwood forest time. I recommend the easy 5 mile Boy Scout Tree Trail. If you don’t want to let go of the Redwoods just yet, the Jedediah Smith Campground makes for a great place to sleep. 

The rugged Oregon Coast along Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor

The next day rise and shine for more redwood shenanigans, this time in Fern Canyon. Fern Canyon takes a while to get to (the road is kinda rough so if you’re in an RV or a low-clearance car, it’s not gonna work) but it’s so worth it if you can make it. If you feel like splurging later, eat at the Larrupin Cafe in Trinidad (and pick up a jar or two of their house-made Larrupin mustard sauce). Other great places to eat in nearby Arcata are Renata’s Creperie for brunch, or Slice of Humboldt Pie for dinner.

Trinidad State Beach at sunset

Day 5: You’ll make your way south to Mendocino today. First get coffee and bagels in Arcata at Los Bagels (a mere block from my old house!). The coolest redwood experience you get today is on the Avenue of the Giants, a 31 mile route that runs parallel to the 101. Hop on just south of Scotia and then pop out at Garberville. It’s here that you’ll experience the drive-through tree (for $10). You guys, they’re just SO BIG! (that’s what she said). Before you continue south on the 1, stop for a burger at The Peg House. When you get to Mendocino try the Fog Eater Cafe for vegan food (even if you’re not vegan, the mac and cheese is dreamy). Fancy stays include the Beachcomber Motel and Noyo Harbor Inn in Fort Bragg, or the Blue Door Inns in Mendo. Not fancy: Van Damme State Park.

A short hike along the Avenue of the Giants

Day 6:  There are a few stops you should make today, but make sure you set aside enough time in Point Reyes—you’ll want it. One must-see attraction is the Point Arena Lighthouse and surrounding area (also keep an eye out for whales!), then keep heading south and get oysters at the Hog Shack in Marshall. Once in Point Reyes there’s no end to the great things to do and see, but hiking must be part of your agenda. First you should drive to the elephant seal lookout or try to catch a glance on Drake Beach. Out of the dozens of hikes available it can be hard to pick just one, but you can’t go wrong with the 9.4 mile Tomales Point Trail. Stay fancy: Olema House, less fancy: Smiley’s Saloon (actually in Bolinas, this bar/hotel/live music venue was founded in 1851 and could be the oldest continually running saloon on the west coast!). Not fancy: Samuel P. Taylor Campground.

Elk along the Tomales Point Trail

Day 7: Your final day on the road and into San Francisco. Taking the 1 the whole way will take about two hours depending on traffic, and you should definitely stop and explore Muir Beach Overlook on the way. If it’s your first time to the city (and even if it’s not) stop at the Marin Headlands for an iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re headed straight for the airport, bon voyage! If you need a place to stay I recommend the Ocean Park Motel.

5 Day Itinerary: Central Oregon + the Northern California Coast

Five days isn’t a lot, but it’s not nothing! To make the most of your time without sacrificing the scenic driving, we’ll take you on I-5 down through Oregon, then cut over to the coast in California.

This five day road trip from Portland to San Francisco will give you incredible scenery, great hikes, and lets you see some awesome cities along the way!

Here’s a quick summary of the five day itinerary you’ll find written out below.

  • Day 1: Portland + Silver Falls SP + Eugene
  • Day 2: Eugene + Redwoods Parks (North)
  • Day 3: Redwood Parks (South) + Arcata
  • Day 4: Arcata + Mendocino
  • Day 5: Mendocino + Point Reyes + Marin Headlands + San Francisco

Day 1: Grub up in Portland and head south on the 5 to Silver Falls State Park. Unless you’re really rushed for time (and you shouldn’t be since you just started!), do the 8 mile Trail of Ten Waterfalls hike. It’s longer but not too hard and you’ll see—you guessed it—ten waterfalls! After you’ve had your fill, continue south to Eugene where you’ll have dinner at Fisherman’s Market and stay for the night. Stay fancy: Inn at the Fifth. Not fancy: Armitage Park Campground.

One of numerous waterfalls in Silver Falls State Park

Day 2: You’ve got about five hours of driving ahead of you so grab coffee at Wandering Goat and head out! I suggest making it to Grants Pass in one go (a little over two hours) since there isn’t much to see along the way. For lunch, pop into Ma Mosa’s Scratch Kitchen (and maybe get a bloody mary?). Then get on Highway 199 and you’ll soon find yourself wending through windy roads past the Smith River (there are a number of great spots to turn out and take a dip). Right as you begin to smell the sea air, you’ll be at your destination for the night, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The campground here is phenomenal, but if you’d prefer to stay fancy at least hike the Boy Scout Tree Trail first. For the non-campers head a bit further south to the historic Requa Inn in Klamath. Eat in Crescent City at SeaQuake Brewing or the tiny shack full of deliciousness, Arts BBQ.

Day 3: More Redwoods! Tonight you’ll stay in Arcata which is only about 1.5 hours south of Crescent City, but there’s a lot to do. Stop by the Trees of Mystery and say hello to Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, then drive a little further to Patrick’s Point State Park for some coastal redwood action (try this 4 mile loop hike). After you’ve got your exercise in, head down to Arcata for lunch and lodging. I recommend putzing around town first (start at the Arcata Plaza) and getting a quick and delicious lunch at Japhy’s then pop next door for frozen yogurt at Redwood Yogurt. A very cool place to stay (that’s actually in Samoa) is the Humboldt Bay Social Club.

Day 4: Take a morning stroll in the outstanding Arcata Community Forest before heading out of town, OR try the brand new Redwood Sky Walk in Eureka. It just opened so I haven’t been there personally but it looks SO COOL. On your way south to Mendocino drive through the Avenue of the Giants to really get a sense of your own insignificance. Then you’ll head down to Mendo where you should spend some time relaxing and exploring the Mendocino Headlands State Park and end your day with dinner at Luna Trattoria. Lodging options include this fancy-ish, unique, tower-like-home centrally located in downtown Mendo, glamping at Mendocino Grove, or not fancy camping at Russian Gulch State Park.

The beautiful California Coast in Mendocino

Day 5: By taking the 128 to the 101 down to San Francisco, you’ll get to experience a little of wine country in Napa or the Sonoma valley before making a final pit stop at Point Reyes and saying goodbye to your life on the road. A great place to take in a taste of the valley is Healdsburg. Walk around the town and pop into Williamson Wines and then to Journeyman Meat Co. for as much salami as you can comfortably eat. Hop back in the car and head to Point Reyes where a good shorter trail that still lets you take it all the beauty around you is Chimney Rock. Keep heading south into SF on the 101 and stop at Marin Headlands, which is the best way to see the city (especially for the first time!). 

3 Day Itinerary: Moving Fast

With only three days you know you’re in for some longer drives, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the trip!

The real bummer about having such a short time is you don’t have the leisure of taking the windy, scenic coastal routes (though you will have some great coast time on day 2). But you know what, the rest of Oregon and California deserve some love too!

Here’s a summary of the itinerary below.

  • Day 1: Portland, Silver Falls State Park, and Ashland
  • Day 2: Ashland + Arcata
  • Day 3: Arcata + SF

Day 1: Start out early because you have about 4.5 hours of driving ahead of you. Take your first pit stop at Silver Falls for one of Oregon’s finest state parks that’s chock full of waterfalls including the spectacular 177 foot South Falls that you can actually walk behind! It’s so cool. If you can carve out the time, take the Trail of Ten Falls hike, or if you’re short on time take this shorter loop hike that still takes you past South Falls. Your destination for the night is Ashland, but I’m a sucker for a factory tour and you can take one in Medford at the locally famous Harry and David bakery and gift-packing facilities. Then make your way to Ashland where you should stretch your legs and take a stroll through the beautiful Lithia Park where they often have live music and fairs on the weekend. Stay fancy: Ashland Springs Hotel. Not fancy: Mt. Ashland Campground (note these are primitive sites with no water or garbage service).

Day 2: Today you’ll head west into the unimaginably beautiful redwoods. Load up with delicious breakfast at the Morning Glory Cafe, then head out of town. You’ll start by backtracking just a bit up the 5 to Grants Pass, then get on the 199. Arcata is your final destination, but of course, you’ve got stops to make. Cave Junction is the biggest town you’ll pass on the 199 and if you’re ready for lunch I have two great recommendations: Trillium Bakery (if they have chicken pot pies, get one!) or Taylor’s Sausages just a few doors down. Jump back on the road and you’ll quickly be in the Smith River Recreational area, driving past the windy Smith River. This makes for some gorgeous driving but eventually turns into Jedediah Smith State Park where you need to get out and explore Stout Grove. It’s not the biggest stand of redwoods, but it is one of the most impressive. If you can tear yourself away from these towering trees, make your way into Arcata where you’ll stay for the night. Enjoy the coastal drive along this stretch of the 101 because you’ll be slightly inland tomorrow. Stay fancy: Front Porch Inn (they have an incredible outdoor spa too!). Not fancy: Gold Bluff Beach Campground

Day 3: Today you’ll get even more redwoods and make your final drive into San Francisco. The route I’ll suggest is along the 101 which takes about five hours. You can jump over to the coast but it will add at least two more hours to your drive time. Your first detour will be to the Avenue of the Giants where you should pony up the ten bucks for the drive-through-tree. Keep heading south to Willits and grab lunch at the Loose Caboose Cafe then go right next door into one of the cutest used-bookstores ever, The Book Juggler. I recommend one last stop in Healdsburg before you get to Santa Rosa (here traffic can start getting rough). Walk up and down the main drag (Healdsburg Avenue) and you should probably do some wine tasting at Siduri. Continue south into San Francisco through the Robin Williams rainbow tunnel. See the Golden Gate Bridge shining in front of you like a beacon to a utopian land. If you’ve got the time, chill out at the Marin Headlands until you have to hop on a plane or get back to real life.

The Best Time to Do the Road Trip  

Well, it’s kind of a no-brainer, but summer is probably best for this trip, especially if you’ll be sticking mainly to the coast.

That said, late spring and early fall can be fantastic choices as well. You’ll likely see more rain, but the bonus is you’ll be sharing the road with fewer tourists.

And, if you’ve got the right gear and the right attitude a little rain shouldn’t stop you from having a great time.

Plus, on any drive from San Francisco to Portland you know you’re going to see some fog and clouds anyway, so gear up and get out there!

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