WA -> CA driving advice

My wife and I are driving from central Washington State to San Francisco this weekend (Friday & Saturday). Under normal circumstances, we’d go through Yakima to Seattle, then straight down the coast on I-5. However, with the closure of parts of I-5 until Saturday, we have to plan an alternate route. As it stands, we’re planning on simply staying on route 97 all the way from Yakima to northern CA (looks like we can get on I-5 in Weed, not too far from Mount Shasta).

Does anyone know what route 97 is like through Oregon? Is there a better route we can take?

Thanks in advance for any information…

I can only speak for the section of 97 south from Bend down to northern CA, and it is fine. Not sure what kind of information you’re looking for. But the road is fairly straight and you should make good time. 97 seems to run on the east side of the mountains, so it is less affected by the weather. It was only when you get close to Mt. Shasta you need to worry about the weather/road conditions (I’ve only been on 97 for ski trips to Mt. Bachelor).

Hope this helps.

Thanks, cormac262. Any info helps.

Mostly, I’m looking for the best route (where I suppose “best” equates to fastest and safest) that avoids the I-5 closures. And, I guess, the resultant increased traffic elsewhere from those closures. I tried to find some suggested alternate routes, but my google-fu seems to be failing me. Best I found was on a Portland news website that listed closed roads…except that I have no idea where the mentioned roads are or whether we’d be affected by them.

We’ve never made this trip before; although 97 is very pleasant here in Washington (beautiful, arcing drive), I know that isn’t necessarily true in other areas. Also, we’re hoping to make this a one-shot deal, switching off and sleeping, so traffic flow, speed limit, and places to stop (e.g., gas stations, rest stops, restaurants, etc.) are a bit of a concern.

At any rate, thanks again…

Do you want to take your time and risk adverse driving conditions or do you want to get there in relative comfort and ease? Take 97 for the first option. I have driven the stretch of 97 between I-84 to Bend and it is a narrow twisting 2 lane road through the east side of the Cascades. The likelyhood if hitting snow is pretty good this time of year. I would take 97 to I-84 then west to Portland then south on I-5. This would be the route I would take even if I-5 was open in the Centralia area. It would add at least 4 hours to your trip to drive from Yakima to Seattle just to hit I-5, even if you use Highway 18 to cut off about an hour of drive time. Yakima to Portland via 97 and I-84 will take about 3 hours, Yakima to Seattle to Portland (I-82 to I-90 to Highway 18 to I-5) will take about 7 hours.

In the past 40 years, I’ve made a similar trip more times than I can recall. Past Biggs Junction, US-97 to I-5 at Weed is the fastest and easiest. The problem for severe weather is primarily south of Klamath Falls to Weed. This time of year I prefer to drive that in the daylight. What hasn’t already been mentioned is that it’s a major truck route, inspite of being mostly two-lane highway. That can be a problem at night, especially if there’s fresh snow. The Oregon DOT website is kept up to date with road conditions, but I’m afraid I don’t have a link handy.


97 is a good route and weather for this weekend looks very favorable. You should note that, because of the I-5 closure, (not expected to open until sat.) traffic is severly increased on 97, especially in Wa. state.
For that same reason I-84 will also be more congested.
If it were me, I think I would stay on 97 to Weed, pickup I-5 to I-505 south of Dunnigan to I-80 west to S.F.

I regularly drive most of the length of Oregon on 97 to and from college at breaks Be warned- even though 97 isn’t closed for the weather, it will probably be affected by it, and with the increased traffic from I-5, it may not be a pleasant drive. Still, it’s pretty straight, and if the roads are snow-free (or close to it) you should be fine. Good weather or no, get an early start- it’s not a freeway and so it’s poorly lit, so you’ll make much better time during daylight, which ends between 4 and 4:30 at this latitude lately. If you make reasonable time, the length of Oregon should take you something under 7 hours, though I can’t speak for the rest.

Going through Yakima is a good idea- if the Columbia Gorge gets a storm, you don’t want to be driving on it this weekend.

Also, there’s a fair number of nice restaurants in Bend, if you’re looking for a place for lunch/dinner/break or whatever.

EDIT: I’ve never done it, but I believe some kind of highway traces the Oregon coast, which might or might not be a viable option.

I’d try to avoid Oregon entirely.

Hey, thanks for the additional input, everyone! It’s really helpful.

Since we’re coming from north of the Chelan area, we’re pretty used to driving in rural areas under not-so-good conditions. Also, as it turns out, wife would now prefer to get a hotel room later tonight, so that makes the trip prospects a lot nicer. And she’s pretty stoked that we’ll be (sort of) going past Crater Lake National Park; she’s a geologist, you see, and a quick stop might be in order, circumventing Klamath Lake and heading West to Medford to connect to I-5.

As a matter of fact, we’re going to SF because she is attending the AGU conference next week. If any Dopers will be there and are interested, she’s presenting a poster concerning lunar geology (not put together yet, but about determining the surface composition under the regolith). Stop by and say “Hi!”

Driver’s Purgatory.

Well, purgatory is OK with me, so long as the topology changes. There’s no way it’s worse than driving in the mid-West. Speaking as someone who spent the last 6 years in Indiana, flatness, winter weather, and fairly well-patrolled interstates combine to make for a really crappy long distance drive.

“Look at the cows!” and “Watch out for that speed trap!” (about the only things that interrupt the snow-blown cornfields) gets real old after…umm…twice. :slight_smile:

That would be US 101, which continues into California and goes straight into San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge. Coming from central WA it might be easiest to take I-5 and cut over to Oregon at Longview, WA (over the Lewis and Clark Bridge) and take 30 west, then meet up with 101 in Astoria.
This would certainly be the scenic route, but scenic it certainly is.

There was a humor book called Orygone III that advocated re-routing I-5 through Nevada and Idaho with a single exit leading directly to Sunriver.

You should have chains onboard, especially if you’re anticipating a side trip to Crater Lake.

I don’t know if you can even get up to Crater Lake at this time of year- that pass from 97 over to Medford is on my route home, and it’s often very snowy at this time of year. Be careful, and don’t be surprised/do your research about if Crater Lake is accessible at this time of year. I know that the rim road is closed, but the lodge might be open.

According to ODOT’s web site the roads to Crater Lake are open, the weather is clear and sunny for sat. and sun., but you will encounter some packed snow. Chains are required to be carried, but should not be needed.
From here: http://www.tripcheck.com/Pages/RCMap.asp?mainNav=RoadConditions&curRegion=7

Another huge thumb’s up for 97–it does get weather but north of K-Falls it’s flat, wide, and has about a million miles of cleared shoulder on either side of the road. Lots of trucks take it so if it gets to snowing they keep it really clear for cars just from tire action. I’m a very good driver and nothing much befronts me, but I-5 from Ashland to Weed is teh suxxorz even in the nicest summer weather and in winter it’s just effin’ horrifying.

I-5 from Weed south is okay, generally speaking. I still don’t like it much in winter, but it’s probably just my antipathy to being anywhere in Cali that colors my perception.

Route aside, in addition to chains I’d make sure you have a good emergency kit and that your phones etc are charged. Maps are good.

I still get twitchy thinking about the family that got stranded in the snow in a park last year and the dad tried to hike out for help. :frowning:

The News is reporting that I-5 was due to open all lanes at noon Today (friday)

The route thru Longview (with this closure being discussed ) would not do much good as you would have to still get through Centrailla/Cehallis and the 20 mile Interstate Closure.

Here is a link from WADOT