Driving down the i5 in Winter

I am planning on a little roadtrip starting from Seattle down to San Francisco next week (Dec 22 - 29). What can I expect in terms of the road conditions for the i5? I plan on a two day trip. What is a good midpoint? Any recommendations on sites to visit?

It’s ‘the 5’, not ‘the I5’. :wink:

IME conditions shouldn’t be too bad. You’ll probably hit snow over Mt. Ashland (Oregon/California border), and in the Siskiyous. If you’re not used to driving in snow, that might be disconcerting. The times I’ve driven through in the Winter, I’ve been in a Jeep Cherokee. No problem with 4WD, and chains were not required. But you can never count on that. Better to have chains with you.

My driving has always been between L.A. and Bellingham. I’ve driven straight through as often as I’ve stopped. Takes about 19 hours in the Summer. For the L.A.-to-Bellingham trips when I’ve stopped, I stopped in Anderson, about 8 miles south of Redding. Best Western Knight’s Inn. I liked it because they have coffee in the rooms. If you are planning on a two-day trip, it’s about 8 to 10 hours from Seattle to Anderson. San Francisco is closer than L.A., so you can get a later start the following morning or still have time to go out in the evening.

They call it “I-5” in Seattle and “the 5” in California, so I think since he’ll be driving between the two “the I-5” seems appropriate.

I’ve driven SF to Portland and back a number of times.

For Seattle to SF, I’d overnight around Roseburg or not too far south of that. That way you can drive over the Siskiyous and Mt Ashland in the daylight and when you’re fresh, instead of after 8-10 hours of driving after it’s probably dark. Those areas are the toughest, especially if there’s snow or ice.

After Redding, everything is flat and easy (boring) the rest of the way south to SF. The last 50 miles or so, Vacaville to SF, will be busy traffic but nothing too difficult.

There are some nice viewpoints that I never bothered to stop at, except for the last one (just north of Vallejo, I think) that was a rest stop, and that was closed the last two times I went by.

Have fun,

That’s a good point. On my northbound Winter trips I’d definitely stop in Anderson, so as to tackle the snowy Siskiyous fresh and in daylight. It’s not as much fun at night when it’s snowing.

Good call stopping early in Oregon, if you’re not into long hauls. (I tend to like to get as far as I can as soon as I can.)

FWIW, driving from Birch Bay to Coos Bay for Christmas last year, the worst driving was in Northern Oregon. Snowing like anything, and south of Portland ODOT only plowed the lanes – not between the lanes. So I was basically stuck for a while. I finally just gripped the wheel (4WD engaged, of course) and bounced over the snow barriers between the lanes. (It was either that, or run out of gas.) Getting toward Salem I thought I’d have to pull over and wait the snow out. Couldn’t see anything ahead, and 20 mph seemed way too fast.

Of course if you decide to stop in Eugene, you can shoot a Tommy gun. :wink:

Like most interstate highways, I-5 is mostly devoid of interest. I’ve driven that corridor on several occasions and can’t recall much of anything worth stopping for. The area around Mt. Shasta is scenic, but once you are over the Siskiyou Mountains, it’s just a long slog to SFO.

Grass Pants (Grant’s Pass) is a good place to stop. Lot’s of motels. Try and hit the CA/OR border in daylight rather than night as it might be icy.