Driving from Seattle to SoCal - how is it?

I mentioned in another thread that my grandmother (who lived in SoCal) passed away this week. At any rate, it doesn’t look like there will be any service until next month and while I could jet down and back, I’m thinking about possibly driving instead as I’ve never driven further south then the northwestern Oregon (i.e. Portland and the coast) area. From a mileage standpoint it seems like it would be possible at 950 miles or so.

Anyone ever done that drive? Is it worth the scenery?

It sucks /shrug

I’ve done prolly 10 times but once you get past like Sacramento its pretty boring. I also do no suggest doing it all at once. I’ve done that a few times as well and it sucks too. The drive down the 5 isn’t that exciting.

That being said if you have never done it you prolly should.

You couldn’t pay me to make that drive down the 5. I hate it.

There really is no scenery once you’re past Sacto, (and actually probably quite a bit earlier than that) like Marcus said.

It’s boring boring boring. There is about 100 miles of good scenery on the border of California/Oregon (when you’re climbing and descending the Syskiyou Mtn’s. near Mt. Shasta and a couple other distinct volcanoes), but once you get past those mountains you’re in for one long cotton/grape field that goes on for hundreds of miles. Everything leading up to the Siskiyou’s (from the north) is pretty much the same shit you saw from Seattle to the Oregon coast, except flatter for 100 miles till you start climbing hills south of Eugene.

Depending on the logistics you might consider taking the US-101 instead of Interstate five, better scenery, but slow, slow going (because of stuff like traffic lights in certain areas) when compared to the interstate.

Hwy 101 is a lot more interesting out of SF but it’s also a lot longer and not recommended at night.

I’ve done the Los Angeles to Oregon drive. It goes something like this: First you do a long drive to the Bay Area. Then you think, “Okay, I should be hitting Oregon any moment, since it’s the next state over”. Then California refuses to freakin’ end. Good lord, who put all that filler in there?


Pot farmers did.

I was looking at that momentarily for my move to San Fran but yeah it looks completely boring south of Sacramento. I’m sure I’ll be driving it one of these days, but I have an alternate plan that I hope will work out and I can knock off a few birds with one stone.

— Alan

The Seattle to SF drive on I-5 is one of my favorites. I’ve probably driven it at least once a year since I was 17. The SF to SoCal leg can be really really boring until you reach the Grapevine but after that it gets a bit more interesting.

If you have the time and are taking a couple days for travel either way, I’d recommend the 101 as well for the scenery. It’s beautiful. The Oregon coast and the NW Californian coast are amazing (plus! THE GIANT REDWOODS!!!) but expect the trip to take twice as long.

Also remember to roll your windows up and do a minimum of outside air in the stretch before you hit the LA valley, because that’s cow country up there, and MAN does it stink.

I’ve made this drive a couple of times, and I agree with most of the above posters. The scenery along I-5 is pretty boring most of the way, with the exception of some areas in Northern California and Oregon. But most of the drive is a big bore. Not Kansas boring, but definitely boring compared to most of the drives I’ve taken around this beautiful country.

nixon66’s alternate route sounds like a much better route, though I bet it will take a lot longer. Sticking to the highways it took us 22-24 hours going from LA to Seattle.

The word you’re searching for is Coalinga.

If you don’t mind an additional couple of hours: take I5 south until you hit I-505, then head south to I-80 and on to San Francisco. Then take 101 the rest of the way. It’s much more tolerable than driving I5 through the central valley.

If you don’t want to do it both ways, then do it one direction. It’s a nice drive, as drives go.

When I was going to UC Santa Barbara, I’d drive straight through to my parent’s house (just south of Seattle), up 101, through SF and on to Washington. That was about a 20 hour drive. (That was in the 55mph era.)

The 5 is a horrible, horrible and boring stretch of highway. Once you leave the LA basin, you enter a flat nightmare where your only entertainment is wondering why five miles of highway are coned off for construction with no construction workers in sight, or cursing at the truckers blocking traffic for miles as one tries to set up for a pass against another on an uphill portion, only to complete the pass five minutes later at the bottom of the downhill.

Yep, pretty dull driving on the 5 in CA, but it’s faster than any other route and I have always enjoyed the scenery at the CA/OR border. If you have the time, I recommend what others have said about ducking down to the 101 in California one way, at least.

Man, that’s a depressing stretch where you pass by hundreds of cows standing in what looks to be mud and/or their own feces.


Soft cow patties piled on about 3 feet of hard cow patties that now pass for “soil”.

Industrial agriculture makes baby Jesus sad.

Take the coast route. It is a lot lot lot lot lot longer, but beautiful. We have done the I5 route from San Fran to Seattle in 13 hours. The ocean route took us 3 days.

I would still take the ocean route. At least take it one leg. Just one heads up, every little town along the way closes at 5pm.

I just did this a couple of weeks ago. Because we had our kids with us, we broke the drive into two days:

Day 1: Olympia to Redding (about 8 hours including a 45 minute lunch stop)
Day 2: Redding to LA (about 8 hours with only brief bathroom/gas station/road food stops)

Our saving grace was the excellent unabridged audiobooks of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Rings that we brought. Rob Inglis does a fantastic job of creating voices for each of the characters. Very, very high quality work and it definitely helped me survive the San Joaquin Valley: The Most Boring Drive In The World.

Highway 1: Glorious, takes forever.
101: Much nicer than 5, but takes longer.
5: fastest, most godawful boring route. Yes, roll up the windows and shut off the vents at Coaling Station A (Coalinga). You’ll swear off hamburger.
99: A little more interesting than the 5 - lots of flat farmland, but not the megawide supersprint route. Least out of the way secondary route. Front entrance to Yosemite. Caught a jumpjet hovering alongside the highway once, and a b52 high overhead (only time I’ve seen one of those).
395: Way out of the way, all sorts of interesting stuff along the way, especially if you can stop and explore. While the actual Owens Valley can be something of a wasteland itself, you’re between the towering Sierra Nevada and White Mountain ranges. Hot Spring, Cinder Cones, Mt Whitney, Mono Lake, Devil’s Postpile, back entrance to Yosemite. Lorini is out at Mammoth right now.