The Ultimate Guide: Road Trip from Portland to San Francisco

It was yet another night of the day; Jason and I were discussing and planning something different for my birthday. 

I didn’t want to go to the office and celebrate my birthday with my colleagues.

Road Trip from Portland to San Francisco

This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, you won’t pay any extra penny, but I’ll get a small commission that encourages me to deliver more helpful content for you.

What to do? We’re quiet, looking at each other and looking back to the stars in the sky.

We didn’t have any plans; I knew I’ve to spend my birthday the same old way. 

I was sad! 

But, suddenly Jason held my hands tighter and looked into my eyes, and told let’s go for a road trip from Portland to San Francisco

And, that’s how we planned our first ever Portland to San Francisco road trip! 

I’m from San Francisco and I graduated from there and then I shifted to Portland to stay beside Jason. I have spent the initial 15 years of my life in San Francisco. 

I love that place! 

I’ve traveled from Portland, West Coast of the USA to San Francisco, California via flight but Portland to San Francisco road trip idea was different and sounded much more fun. 

We did it! 

Let me tell you, Portland to San Francisco road trip will offer you to explore many awesome dramatic hidden small towns, gorgeous coastline, quirky pit stops, dramatic snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains ranges, The Redwoods, and of course, at your own pace and there are no strike plans. 

And, I’m here today to share my ultimate guide road trip from Portland to San Francisco with you. I’ll tell you things like where to stop in Oregon Coast and Northern California and on the as well as the best places in both the happening cities.

Any question regarding Portland to San Francisco road trip distance? 

I’ll cover everything!

Even while writing and remembering the trip makes me so happy and eclectic. 

The ultimate Portland to San Francisco road trip itinerary is here! Let’s begin. 

How Long does it Take to Drive from Portland to San Francisco? 

The Portland to San Francisco drive takes 850 miles long if you’re taking the route along the Pacific Coast Highway or the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades. The continuous drive along Highway 101 from Portland to San Francisco will take 18 hours. 

If you’re planning to start from Cannon Beach, a road trip from Portland to San Francisco toward the south then it might take 20 hours. 

And, if you want to know the fastest Portland to San Francisco road trip then choose the I-5 route. The distance will be 635 miles and you’ll reach your destination within 10-12 hours. Through the I-5 route, you’ll come across small towns like Eugene, Redding, small quaint towns, national parks, and the beautiful wine country of Mother Nature. 

But, the highway and roads are well connected, well maintained, and have ample restaurants to have food so you won’t get back pain at the end of the road trip. 

Highway 101 Oregon

Let me warn you that in some of the places GPS navigation apps or Google Maps won’t work because of network problems so always remember to carry or download the offline map version. I will recommend downloading Portland to San Francisco California road trip map from Guides by Lonely Planet, one of the best travel apps that I’m using for the last 2 years.

How Many Days do You Need for a Road Trip from Portland to San Francisco?

You can cover the Portland to San Francisco road trip within a 1-day drive, but where’s the fun if your only criteria are reaching the destination and not enjoying it? 

READ NEXT:  9 Best Sunflower Fields in California to Entertain Your Mind

For me, reaching the destination was not the plan; I wanted to explore the areas and places in between.  

You can customize your trip as per your plan but I’ll share my trip plan and give you a vivid idea of how to plan Portland to San Francisco California road trip itinerary? 

Ideally, I would suggest that you should plan for 5 – 7 days whichever route you want to explore. You can go for a small hike, taste new food, spend a night at a local, explore an unexplored place and enjoy the small wins on the way. 

If you’ve time then you can extend the road trip to 10 days too. You can go for water sports activities like paddleboarding, and river tubing along the West Coast. The best thing about a road trip is freedom and flexibility in the journey.

No rushes just enjoy the air! 

Best Route for Portland to San Francisco Car Trip: 

There are three routes for San Francisco to Portland road trip or another way round. 

1. Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1 and US -101) 

2. Mountain Route ( along with the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades) 

3. Direct Route (I-5) – Oregon 

Road Trip from Portland to San Francisco
Road Trip from Portland to San Francisco

The Pacific Coast Highway offers beautiful sight and peace to your eyes. 

The California coastline, famous beaches, relaxation time in San Diego, might be a dinner date in Los Angeles or stop at Point Reyes National Seashore, explore small villages on the way, have local food at the fish village, and enjoy the time at your own pace. 

You might also choose the best route after crossing Golden Gate Bridge towards the north through Muir Woods towards Point Reyes. If you continue your journey you may come across Sonoma coastline, Gualala, Mendocino, and the Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

The redwood forests in Leggett are something you have always seen in videos – long tall trees, the quality air from old trees, and the Redwood National Park. You can go to Parks and drive along the US-101 until and reach Cannon Beach, which is famous for giant rocks.

If you drive inland then Portland is just over an hour’s drive.  

If scenic roads, beautiful lush forests, parks, and mountains are on your bucket list then choose the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades road. 

Warning: This road is open for the summer months only. 

Drive along Lake Tahoe, the Lassen Volcanic National Park, Lassen Peak Highway, Lava Beds National Monument, Tule Lake and cross into Oregon through Klamath heading up to Crater Lake National Park. 

The journey is worth the time and energy! 

Best Stops on Portland to San Francisco Road Trip:

My ultimate Pacific Coast Highway road trip from Portland to San Francisco includes the best places to explore. 

You can customize your trip as per your interest, but here comes my trip plan. 

You know I’m from Portland so exploring Portland was not on my list but if you’re new to this place then you can visit museums, zoos, and art galleries. Portland has a great nightlife with beautiful restaurants with a lot of food options to explore. I headed down south of Portland to Oregon, the famous place to hang out. 

The places I visited: 

McMinnville Town: 

Mcminnville Town is a small yet simple place for all wine lovers. This place is an hour south of Portland and is right in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. 

Silver Falls State Park: 

On the way south of Portland, there is a beautiful waterfall called Silver Falls State Park. You can soak yourself in the sun and enjoy a small walk around the park.

Silver Falls State Park
Silver Falls State Park

Ashland or Grants Pass: 

Are you up for an evening snack? Then stop at Martelli and have their famous Pizza and enjoy the vibrant nightlife. This place is famous for hosting Oregon’s Shakespeare Festival. 

Jacksonville: 

Jacksonville is in Apple Valley which is 15 minutes west of Medford. Skip Medford. Best Portland Oregon to San Francisco road trip – Stops to cherish for a lifetime! 

Mt Hood, Oregon:

Another scenic route from Portland to San Francisco is Mt Hood, the United States’ largest mountain which has been dormant for years now. This is 11,239 ft tall with the Columbia River at its base. 

This place is surrounded by green lush forest and snow-covered mountains and an ideal spot for all snow lovers. During the winter season, this place looks divinely white and it is best to sip a cup of hot tea and relax. 

You can hike along the trails of Salmon River or Mirror Lake for beautiful, stunning views. 

I would suggest carrying some huckleberry products and grilled salmon and just sit back and relax a bit and enjoy the beauty. People also sell tarts, berries, and a lot more things. 

Mt Hood | Portland to San Francisco road trip
Mt Hood

The Columbia River Gorge, Oregon: 

East of Portland seats this Columbia River National Scenic Area which provided calmness to the eye of the beholder. The scenario of the waterfall is mesmerizing and worth coming for.  

READ NEXT:  10 Most Beautiful Lighthouses in California

It flows from the Pacific Ocean into Oregon and through the Cascades and Eastern Washington into British Columbia and the Rocky mountains. 

Here, you will find the famous Multnomah Falls and Punchbowl Falls which are worth coming so far and clicking photos to make your friends a little jealous. 

Cannon Beach, Oregon:

Cannon Beach is the most explored place but is worth spending time at Haystack Rock, a 235ft sea stack that looks like a shark’s fin. It lies an hour-and-a-half northwest of Portland. 

I know you might argue that this place lies north of Portland but our ultimate destination is toward the south. Then why should we even visit this place?

Well, it’s up to you but when you are this close to this place then I would highly recommend you to come to this wonderful beach. 

It has beautiful stunning sandy beaches along the shoreline. This place is home to tufted puffins and myriad creatures. 

Other tourist attraction spots: Ecola State Park, Clark’s viewpoint, Hug point state recreation site, and Arcadia Beach. 

Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach

Tillamook Cheese Factory:

Yes, please come to this place because they produce amazing cheese and have great ice cream. 

The Tillamook Cheese Factory has a name in history for producing world classy signature cheese and also allows tourists to get inside the industry. Even they serve delicious sample cheese to taste. 

The local Oregon flavor ice cream is my favorite!

Related Post: 10 Best Swiss Cheese You Must Try

Pacific City: 

Along with the Portland to San Francisco road trip, you will come across a small place with an incredibly clean beach called Pacific city. 

This beach has massive dunes and if you hike a little up then you can see a majestical view of the city and I can guarantee you’ll forget all your small challenges while traveling and will be happy to make the decision.

Bend, Oregon:

Bring your travel router and travel laptop because you’ve got a long way to go! 

Bend, Oregon is famous for its Bend Ale Trail and craft breweries, Crux Fermentation Project and Deschutes Brewing. 

This destination sits at the outskirts of Cascades and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna that attracts a large number of wildlife enthusiasts and is a dream destination for nature lovers.

The Mountain Air Trampoline Park, Paulina Lake Hot Springs, and Tumalo Creek Park have elegant natural beauty and forested areas.

Farewell Bend State Recreational Area
Farewell Bend State Recreational Area

Eugene, Oregon:

Eugene is one of the most affordable romantic getaways in the USA with elegant few sparkling streams meandering through them. 

It is an educational hub and students all over the world take admission to the University of Oregon. 

It is more of a hippie’s place with a little Portland touch! It is also called “TrackTown USA”. 

You can come here and spend your time hiking along the natural trails and stop by Hendricks Park to see a broad array of the Pacific Northwest’s most gorgeous plants.

You can also visit the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art by slowing your pace of the journey. 

Crater Lake, Oregon 

One of the deep lakes is surrounded by a lava cliff and reflects that ruins are a road of transformation. 

You can also drive along with the Rim Driver and enjoy the peaceful environment which once was so dangerous and violent. 

Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake

Redwood National and State Parks, California:

You might have seen hundreds of photos on Instagram about this place but I can bet you that camera lenses cannot capture the beauty of this place.

Wondering about any redwoods near San Francisco? Welcome to this world. 

It sits on the west coast and the magical aura of this place is something you can never forget. I think this is the best spot to explore from Portland to San Francisco by car. 

Redwood National Forest covers 139,000-acre of land with stunning views and landscapes you can imagine. This delightful place has a plethora of birds and you can have a spectacular view of the river flowing by and birds chirping. 

This place was home to sea lions, and northern owls. 

This place has the tallest trees you can imagine! You can hike along the big tree trail and walk along the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. 

It feels so good to get lost sometimes! Just kidding, don’t get lost, grab a brochure, and explore the place to your fullest. 

Scenic Drive through the Redwoods
Scenic Drive through the Redwoods – PC: Flickr

Fort Bragg, California:

I know you’ve been driving from Portland to San Francisco along the coast and now you want to enjoy coastal air and breeze so let’s go to Fort Bragg California’s beautiful and divine shores – Mendocino Coast.

READ NEXT:  10 Best California Ski Resorts You Must Visit This Winter

Here, you can walk along with the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens which is home to many birds and plants. You can also read about other popular botanical gardens in California.

Click perfect beach photos with colorful glass stones and enjoy the beauty of golden hours. 

Wine Country, California:

I’m sure you are well aware of these famous places in California which are also one of the famous tourist attraction spots in California

Spend a day in Napa Valley which is famous for producing grape varieties and signature wine called Cabernet Sauvignon. 

You can also visit Sonoma County which is 3 hours south of Fort Bragg and one of the famous among tourists. Spend the evening there with wine tasting and enjoy the Coppola Winery and the vibe of the new place. 

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

The last and the most beautiful coastal place in Marin County is this place called Point Reyes. It is famous for the National Seashore and Point Reyes Lighthouse.

Enjoy the stunning views and here you can go for outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking. Click stunning photos along the sea cliffs and observe elk and deer in their natural habitat at the nearby Tule Elk Reserve.

 Point Reyes Lighthouse 
Point Reyes Lighthouse 

Where to Stay when Driving from Portland to San Francisco?

If you’re planning to extend your Portland to San Francisco road trip then you’ve to spend nights at hostels or hotels. Here, are my recommendations:

Bend, Oregon:

Bunk+ Brew Historic Lucas House: This property is 0.6 Km away from the center and 2.5 blocks from downtown Bend, the Lucas House (1910) is also Bend’s first and oldest brick building. It has earned 9 stars on hostelworld.com 

Waypoint Hotel: This property is 1.3 Km away from Hollinshead Park, 1.5 Km away from Drake Park. It has earned 8.1 stars from booking.com 

Crescent City, California

Lakeside Hostel and Guest House: This property is perfect if you are searching for a peaceful environment and like-minded people to go around. It has earned 8.4 stars on booking.com

Bayview InnBayview Inn is located 985 feet from Crescent City Harbor Beach. At the hotel, the rooms include air conditioning. It also has earned good reviews. 

San Francisco, California:

HI San Francisco – Downtown: HI, San Francisco Downtown is the most famous hostel that offers a first-rate location and top-notch amenities at reasonable prices! It has earned 9.2stars on hostelworld.com

Portland to San Francisco Road Trip Packing List: 

A road trip can be daunting if you don’t pack wisely. Therefore, I’m listing down a road trip packing list that will help you to pack your bags better. 

They are as follows:

  • You’re traveling from Portland to San Francisco by car so don’t forget to take all the important documents like passport size photos, driving license, and registration. 
  • There is frequent Portland to San Francisco road trip stops but remember to carry your umbrella, raincoat, flashlights. If there is a storm or rain you can protect yourself. 
  • You never know when a road emergency may occur. Therefore to stay on the safe side, carry a roadside emergency kit.
  • Carry two pairs of shoes, one hiking boots, and flip-flops for a comfortable walk. 
  • Carry enough travel clothes, a laundry bag, and a day bag to keep your clothes organized. 

Apart from these above places, there are so many other places in Portland to San Francisco to explore. Take your time and explore new places and enjoy all these places at your own pace.

Recommended Read:

FAQ on Road Trip from Portland to San Francisco

1. How long a drive is it from San Francisco to Portland? 

A: To reach as soon as possible you’ve to take the direct route which connects these two places. It is approximately 635 miles away and will take you around 10hours to reach without any mid-way rest and stops. 

2. What is halfway between San Francisco and Portland? 

A: As per Google Map, the exact halfway point between San Francisco and Portland comes to Jims Camp, California. Its latitude and longitude coordinates are 41° 48′ 2″ N and 122° 34′ 55″ W.

3. What is the best time of year to drive the Pacific Coast Highway?

A: The best time to enjoy the Road Trip from Portland to San Francisco via Pacific Coast Highway is from late spring through summer, to early fall. In July and August, the weather is perfect to enjoy the adventurous ride.

Similar Posts

5 Comments

  1. I have taken this trip. We extended up to Vancouver, BC, Canada. This is a gorgeous route. Highly recommended. Wish we had this guide back then. It’s been a few years.

  2. What a gorgeous trip! I loved the pic of Mt. Hood and the red woods. My husband and I have never been to the west side of the US except by plane so thank you for captioning it all for us..I will have to put this on our bucket list!

  3. Komal Singh says:

    The pictures of your road trip are gorgeous! Also, I love how descriptive you were- thanks for sharing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *