Driving San Jose, CA to Medford, Or. Best, non-snow route?

In 2 weeks we need to drive from San Jose to Medford, Or. For many reasons, I want to avoid having to put on chains or driving any significant distance in snow.

What’s the best route from San Jose to Medford that avoids chains and snow?

I know I-5 is the quickest, but the mountain passes on that road often have chain controls (such as, right now. Yes, I know it will be different in 2 weeks).

How about taking 101 N. to Crescent City and then 199 from there to Medford? I’ve never been on 199. What’s it like in the winter? How long does it take to drive it? What’s the maximum elevation on 199? (Even though I-5 has chain controls right now, Caltrans is reporting that 199 has no restrictions, so I assume it is at a lower elevation than the passes on I-5.)

Is there a better way to go than 101 to 199?

Thanks for your advice,

One thing to definitely avoid is taking 97 north to Klamath Falls and then going west on 66, 140, or Dead Indian Memorial road. You’ll get to Klamath Falls just fine, but you’ll have a terrible time after that, comparable to the nasty I-5 pass just south of Ashland. The route you’ve suggested is pretty good, but there’s no such thing as a “non-snow” route; you do have to cross the Cascades, after all. You’re less likely to run into bad snow on 199, but if you do, you’ll be much further from help.

And don’t look at Caltrans for advice on 199; the high points on that road are all in Oregon.

Best of luck!

I drove 101-199-5 last summer. First off, 101 up to Crescent City routes you through the middle of various towns en route, so you’re going to lose some time there. And 199 to Medford? Google thinks you can make that 113 miles in 2 hours and 9 minutes. I doubt you can average 55mph on that road. It’s two lanes and pretty windy for most of that distance. If the weather is decent, it’s a nice scenic drive, but not a route you’ll make time on.

Take I-5. I’ve done 199 in all kinds of weather, and if there is any risk of snow, you do not want to try it.It is two lanes, but there are cliffs on each side and a lot of slide risk. Beautiful, gorgeous drive. Not good in snow/ice.

No flights, ferries, train or car-train? Rent a vehicle when you get there. Probably way off base on those but why does it have to be driving? Not enough information.

Just suggesting - if out of line just ignore.

What’s the highest altitude on 199? I’ve only been able to find something called Hayes Hill Summit, but that’s only 1640 feet. Is there something higher than that between Crescent City and Medford? At that low of an altitude I would think snow and ice wouldn’t be common. Am I wrong?


I don’t know how common snow on 199 is, but I bet it’s not plowed as promptly or as often as I-5.

Hayes Hill Summit currently has 3" of roadside snow. They’re expecting several inches of snow by tomorrow night in th Siskiyou’s and Southern Oregon Cascades. You might check back tomorrow to see how much they get at Hayes Hill Summit.

Not sure how much this will help, but…

I drove from Portland to Sacramento two days before Christmas, when we were in the middle of our winter storm and the roads were totally fucked up. It took me two hours just to get to Salem, which is about 35 miles away.

All the traffic reports said chains were required going over Siskiyou Pass, so I was prepared to put them on again when I got there. But I never had to - the road was plowed, it was smooth sailin’.

The point is, when chains are required, a good deal of the time that simply means you need to have them with you, just in case.