Seattle vs. San Francisco

Tasty seafood, a well-renowned art scene, and endless scenic wonders are just a few things that San Francisco and Seattle have in common. And while their allures overlap, they offer these in different flavors. While you can't go wrong with both, one of these cities will suit you best.
Seattle vs. San Francisco

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Everyone loves to marvel at beautiful natural sights, and you’ll find no shortage in both cities. But Seattle and San Francisco are more than just their scenic beauty.

These two are cultural and culinary powerhouses. And while San Francisco’s a better place to experience history, Seattle offers a youthful vibe across its many draws.

If you’re still undecided on which city to pick, keep on reading. Below, you’ll find lists of what makes these two such a magnet for tourists!


Seattle is one of the most eclectic destinations you could visit in the US. It’s a full-on city with sleek skyscrapers, with the Olympic Mountains on the west and Lake Washington to the east. But its striking balance as a bustling city and a lush natural playground is just one aspect that makes it such a unique city.

The city’s playful attitude is evident in its vibrant art scene. Surrounded by water and with its strong multicultural influence, its food scene caters to every palate. Further indulging you is its strong coffee and craft beer culture, along with its famous cannabis tourism.

But there are only some of the things that tourists love about Seattle. Get to know the city more below and you may want to tick it off your travel bucket list soon!

What Makes Seattle Unique?

Stunning Natural Beauty

Known as the Emerald City, Seattle is always painted with all shades of green year-round. Despite being a large and bustling city, it has vast forests, lush landscapes, and diverse flora across the city and around it. The city is dense with evergreen trees, and this is what makes it such a scenic wonder.

Driving into Seattle both from the north and the south, you’ll find greenery-fringed trees leading up to the city. But even at the heart of the city, you’ll find no shortage of green-clad spots.

Seattle has over 6000 acres (2428 hectares) of land dedicated to its thriving flora. Some of which are full forests, such as the Washington Park Arboretum. Others boast a wide variety of plants, and they’re filled with flowers, shrubs, moss, and more, on every surface.

The city’s thriving flora is thanks to the great moisture in the soil as it constantly rains in Seattle. Due to its climate, Seattle is also called the Rain City!

With the perfect conditions for nature to flourish, there are countless scenic spots in Seattle. The city’s landscape isn’t limited to rainforests and farmlands too. It also has access to the ocean, mountains, deserts, and also a volcano!

Discovery Park is the largest park in Seattle, great for hiking and sightseeing. It’s also home to the city’s oldest lighthouse, dated back in 1881. And the park also overlooks another attraction, the Puget Sound.

Almost anywhere in Seattle, you can always find towering peaks looming over the city. There’s the Cascade Range, Olympic Mountain Range, and Mt. Rainier. And with them being so close, you’re always a stone’s throw away from immersing yourself in nature!

Quirky and Iconic Landmarks

The stunning sights of Seattle aren’t limited to its greenery-filled landscapes. Right within the city, you’ll find famous sites, quirky attractions, and no shortage of photo-worthy spots.

Looking at the city’s skyline of sleek skyscrapers, you’ll find one that stands out among the boxy structures. The Space Needle is the icon of Seattle, a 604-foot (194 meters) high tower that’s featured on the city’s postcards and posters. From the observation deck, you’ll get a breathtaking 360-view of the Seattle skyline.

A crucial part of any Seattle itinerary is the Pike Place Market. This busy market sits right at the stunning Elliot Bay waterfront, where a famous fish market is an attraction. Here, you can catch fish flying as fishmongers hurl their fresh catch into the air to amuse buyers.

While there are many things to see in the market, it hides one of the city’s most unusual attractions. Here, you can find Seattle’s Gum Wall, a peculiar piece of interactive art.

The Gum Wall started in 1993 when the Market Theater would ask visitors to leave their gum outside. Patrons would stick this to the wall, beginning a peculiar tourist attraction. The wall is now several inches thick, but you’re still welcome to add your own masterpiece to it!

An enchanting attraction that you may miss in Seattle is the Fremont Troll. This is a massive sculpture carved out of stone just underneath a highway overpass. Adding to its quirk factor, in the hands of the troll is an actual Volkswagen Bug!

Eclectic Food Scene

Being in an agriculturally rich state, Seattle is overflowing with fresh produce. There are tons of vegetable farms, ranches, fruit orchards, and more, around. All these benefit the countless restaurants in the city, making Seattle a foodie’s paradise.

Seattle has an impressive mix of laid-back restaurants and upscale dining options. Seafood is the king here, but the city also has an impressive international cuisine scene. In particular, Seattle is well-renowned for its unbelievable Asian restaurants.

With an eclectic mix of foodie choices, Seattle’s restaurants have a few things in common. They serve the freshest ingredients around. And they’re fueled by forward-thinking chefs that serve innovative and delectable dishes day in, day out.

Flanked by waters on both sides, seafood reigns supreme in the city. You’ll get a plate of the freshest seafood-infused dishes in Seattle thanks to the daily catches from Puget Sound.

Oysters, salmon, or crabs, name your seafood of choice, and it’s better in the city. There’s no shortage of incredible seafood spots here, just pick a waterfront eatery! Whether you want smoked trout, grilled octopus, or rockfish ceviche, there’s always a spot nearby for your cravings.

Seattle is equally known for its impeccable Asian cuisine too. So you’ll get your share of tasty food from several Asian countries right within the city.

There’s a rich Japanese food scene in Seattle that takes advantage of the city’s fresh seafood. Seattle is the home of world-class sushi masters such as Shiro Kashiba and Taichi Kitamura. Locals are also crazy about teriyaki, and they cannot agree on the best restaurant for this in the city.

If you’ve got a hankering for Pho, Vietnamese restaurants are everywhere here. You’re also never too far from a Chinese restaurant that serves hearty hot pots. Seattle also has a blossoming Filipino food scene, with restaurants such as Musang leading the pack.

Rounding up Seattle’s food scene is cuisine from other parts of the world. Whether you want Caribbean, Italian, or Mediterranean dishes, the city has an answer for you.

Adult-Only Indulgences

Seattle’s tourism goes far beyond the usual attractions. The Emerald City lures tourists in for its bustling local booze scene. Not only that, but Seattle also welcomes adventurous tourists for its exciting weed tourism.

In Seattle, the locals pride themselves on doing things their own way, especially their booze. Washington state has a wealth of vineyards, wineries, and breweries. So there’s no shortage of locally made alcoholic drinks here that the city’s so proud of.

There are plenty of small brewers sprinkled across the city. Backed by innovative minds, each adds their twist to their blends of yeast, hops, malt, and water. Whether it’s an India Pale Ale, lager, or flavored ale, you’re never too far from an experimental blend in the city.

Right in Pike Place Market, you’ll find a few worthy local breweries to try. But if you want to go brewery-hopping, look no further than Ballard Way. This neighborhood is full of microbreweries!

Distilleries are aplenty in the city too, offering everything from gin to absinthe. And if you’d rather sip on some wine, why not go on a wine-tasting tour at a winery nearby? This way, you’ll get stunning views of the vineyards as you get a taste of the local flavor.

If alcohol isn’t your thing, you may want to try the city’s excellent weed tourism scene. Seattle is home to one of the country’s most bustling weed markets. And there are tons of dispensaries here in the city to choose from!

Seattle’s cannabis-friendly attitude is evident in the local culture.

Several hotels, Airbnbs, and other stay options allow cannabis users to enjoy this local product from their place. The city also has weed-friendly festivals, such as Northwest Folklife and Bumbershoot.

You can even go on a cannabis tour in Seattle for a great experience. Some of the popular ones include Herban Adventure, The Original Cannabus, and Seattle Green Adventures.

Dazzling Art Scene

Seattle is best known as a scenic outdoor playground filled with evergreen trees. But it also has a reputation for being a cultural trendsetter, with a playful and fun art scene. A cradle for experimental art, Seattle has more than enough to soothe your art-loving heart.

The city is home to nearly 200 art galleries, 5 major art museums, and tons of public artworks sprinkled around the city.

The Seattle Art Museum is the heart of art in the Pacific Northwest. You get to wander through rooms devoted to art from cultures from around the world. This includes African, Native American, and even Aboriginal masterpieces from Australia.

At the Chihuly Garden and Glass, you’ll find a whimsical wonderland of artworks by Chihuly. You’ll find a gallery full of vibrantly colored handblown glass in all colors of the rainbow. With each room following a different theme, there are tons of masterpieces to marvel at here!

Seattle’s art scene isn’t restricted to the walls of buildings though. The Olympic Sculpture Park is a sprawling land filled with award-winning works for artists worldwide. It features 15 permanent sculptures along with rotating exhibitions to keep the park interesting.

It’s not all about visual arts in Seattle though. Music has had a hand in shaping Seattle’s culture and even fame. Seattle is the birthplace of grunge music, and it has produced famous musicians such as Nirvana.

Due to its reputation, Seattle is one of the top cities in the country for live music!

There are countless places in the city for live music, such as Tavern and Funhouse. But if you want a more unique experience, head over to Seattle Symphony. They’re famous for putting fun twists on famous soundtracks.

San Francisco

San Francisco is a compact enough city for you to get around town within the day. But it’s big enough that you may not have enough time to experience all it has to offer in one trip. And because it’s so dense with eclectic allures, you’re never going to run out of things to do here.

What Makes San Francisco Unique?

A City of Iconic Sites

When you’re in a famous city like San Francisco, you can expect equally popular landmarks too. San Francisco is home to one of the most photographed bridges in the world. But this isn’t the only famous spot in the city.

No other landmark in San Francisco is as famous as the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s the city’s icon! You’ll get stunning views of the bridge at Conzelman road. But nothing beats seeing it up close and personal.

The Golden Gate Bridge has a walkway, so you’re free to stroll or ride a bike here. But if that doesn’t cut it for you, there are walking tours of the bridge for free! As long as you come on a Thursday or a Sunday, an expert will be with you to tell you more about this iconic bridge.

Or you may want to tour the bridge more intimately. You can rent a bike from Wheel Fun Rentals as they have an audio-guided bike tour.

Right under the Golden Gate Bridge is a historical site that you can explore. Fort Point is a brick fort from the civil war era. If you’re a history buff, you can marvel at its well-preserved mason work and its impressive military architecture.

From the bridge, you can see one of the world’s most famous prisons, Alcatraz. This well-known federal prison is on a rocky island and was impossible to escape from during its time.

The prison has long closed down and it’s now one of the best attractions in San Francisco. You can tour around the prison, see the hole, which is an area for solitary confinement, and more.

Day tours of Alcatraz are popular. But for brave tourists, the night tour is more enticing and lasts longer. There’s also a Behind the Scenes Tour for a more intimate experience where you can get access to areas not open to the public!

A Renowned Art Hub

San Francisco is widely regarded as one of the most inspiring cities in the US. The city has had a long and lasting relationship with art and culture. And its thrilling art scene also shaped the city’s culture today.

Artists are everywhere in San Francisco. And they’ve been coming to the city for decades now. These creative minds from all around the world are at home to work with each other to fill San Francisco with creativity.

And being such a vibrant hotbed of artists, art is everywhere in San Francisco too. You’ll see it right when you arrive at the airport, where walls are full of artwork by local artists. The airport even has its museum, featuring art about aviation and the city’s lore.

But that’s only a taste of what artistic pursuits await you in the city. San Francisco is home to a few of the most important museums in the country. This includes the Legion of Honor, the Asian Art Museum, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).

SFMOMA is arguably the top museum in the city. It’s the first museum on the West Coast that focuses on modern and contemporary art.

This museum celebrates art and all its forms. So you won’t just see masterpieces from painting and sculpture. SFMOMA also focuses on media arts, photography, architecture, and design.

Displaying the city’s playful attitude, San Francisco is also home to fun and unique museums. Right at Pier 39, there’s the Museum of 3D Illusions, Cartoon Art Museum, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum.

Art in the city comes in the form of marvelous architecture too.

You’ll find impressive European-style architecture at the Palace of Fine Arts. With its Greco-Roman rotunda, well-manicured landscape, and thriving wildlife, it’s a picture-perfect wonder.

Another popular spot is the Painted Ladies. This line of colorful Victorian homes is an unmissable attraction in the city. There’s a park in front of it from where you can marvel at this architectural marvel.

A Celebrated Culinary Powerhouse

San Francisco is a heaven for foodies, and its food scene excels both in quantity and quality. Multicultural, innovative, and made with masterful hands, the city only gets better dish after dish.

San Francisco has perfected all the facets that make up its well-renowned food scene.

For one, fresh and natural ingredients are always within the city’s reach. Surrounding the city are lush vineyards, fertile soil, and seas thriving with life. With these locally sourced goods, only the best ingredients make it to your plate.

These bountiful harvests are what passionate local chefs use to tickle the tastebuds of the foodies. Not only that, but it also attracted talented chefs from around the world to further elevate the city’s food scene.

San Francisco’s culinary landscape thrives on innovation. And with the city’s multicultural influences, you’ll find every type of cuisine you can think of here. From succulent burritos to creative vegetarian dishes to wild ice cream flavors.

With the local’s refined taste and masterful skills, the city’s food scene has a global reputation as a foodie paradise. San Francisco is home to over 40 Michelin-starred restaurants. A few of them already have three stars!

It’s not all about upscale dining in San Francisco though. There are thousands of restaurants in the city to choose from. So no matter what palate or budget you have, San Francisco doesn’t let you go hungry.

Endless Nightlife Allures

The fun doesn’t stop in San Francisco when the sun goes down. To some, this is when it begins.

San Francisco has an incredibly varied night scene. While they’re certainly a wealth of bars and clubs in the city, no matter your choice of drink, this isn’t the only way to have fun at night here. From live music to night museums to other fun activities, San Francisco has a nightlife that suits everyone.

To many people, there’s nothing like capping off the day with a drink in hand. And in San Francisco, you’re spoiled for choices. The city has just about every type of bar there is!

From European-style wine bars to vibrant gay bars with drag shows, you name it, San Francisco has it. If you want to go bar-hopping, the top neighborhoods are Mission, Hayes Valley, North Beach, and Mission. Each neighborhood has a unique vibe, so take your pick!

Would you rather dance the night away? The neighborhood of SoMa has tons of dance clubs! Whether you want to flaunt your salsa moves or dance to DJ spins, you’ll find a spot here.

For live music enthusiasts, you’ll find no shortage of venues in the city. Head out for some blues music at The Saloon, or check out the innovative shows at Bottom of the Hill. If you love cabaret-style shows, there’s Feinstein’s at the Nikko.

Maybe you’d rather have a blast at comedy clubs. There’s The Masonic, which hosts famous comedians, such as Ali Wong and John Oliver. But there are tons more in the city that have an intimate vibe, such as Cobb’s Comedy Club.

There is still more nighttime fun that San Francisco has to offer!

If a night tour of Alcatraz is too spooky for you, go roller skating at Church of 8 Wheels. You can go golfing at Urban Putt, or sing your heart out at Karaoke bars such as The Mint. If you want to play games, head to Gamescape for a fun game night or to the Emporium Arcade bar for some retro arcade games.

And for a more refined way to end your day, you can visit some museums at night. This includes the California Academy of Sciences’ Nightlife. They feature a new theme every Thursday, bringing you something fresh every week!

Countless Postcard-Worthy Sights

Strolling around San Francisco, you’ll find yourself coming across tons of picturesque sights. The city blends stunning city views with lush and colorful green pockets. With this winning combination, San Francisco dazzles you with its scenic beauty.

To get a panoramic view of this vibrant city, hike up to Twin Peaks. In the foreground, you’ll find the charming residential neighborhood. But look further and you’ll find the city’s skyscrapers, along with the vast sea in the background.

From here, you can see some of the city’s famous landmarks too. Twin Peaks is even prettier during sunset when the sun casts an amber hue across San Francisco.

Marvel at San Francisco from a different perspective and go on a cruise on the bay. This takes you to the famous Alcatraz island, and you’ll also pass under the stunning Golden Gate Bridge.

A famous site that’s been heavily featured in film and TV shows, among others, is the charming Alamo Square Park. Go on a picnic here and you’ll find rows of pastel-colored Victorian houses. The tall and sleek skyscrapers are just behind these houses so it’s easy to take a picture of them in one frame.

At the Golden Gate Bridge lies a historic Dutch Windmill surrounded by all types of lush greenery. If you’re visiting during the summer, stop by the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden. This is when the sprawling land is full of all colors of the rainbow, thanks to the blossoming Tulips.

Is Seattle Better Than San Francisco?

Both cities have their strengths so they edge out the other in certain factors. But deciding which of the two is the better city depends on what you need on your trip.

Seattle is better for budget travelers, as it’s a cheaper city. It’s also a better city if you’re a music lover as it has an incredible music scene, being the birthplace of grunge music.

But if you’re a night owl, San Francisco is better for you as it has a more vibrant nightlife than Seattle. Other than that, San Francisco has a better transportation system too.

You have tons of transportation options here, from trolleys to cable cars, and more. San Francisco is also a highly walkable and bikeable city.

When it comes to food and things to do, you can’t go wrong with either city. Seafood is sublime in both. They’re filled with all sorts of attractions, too, for every preference.


Seattle vs. San Francisco Weather

Comparing the two cities, San Francisco has a better, milder climate. That’s because Seattle is one of the rainiest cities in the US.

Summers in San Francisco are long and comfortable. The city’s average daily high is over 69 F (20.5 C). And the hottest month is September, with an average high of 72 F (22.2 C) and a low of 58 F (14.4 C).

Winters here are short, wet, and cold. The average daily high is under 59 F (15 C). And the coldest month is January, with an average high of 57 F (13.9 C) and a low of 46 F (7.8 C).

Seattle’s summers are short, dry, and warm. The average daily high during the warm season is over 72 F (22.2 C). Its coldest month is August, with an average high of 77 F (25 C) and low of 58 F (14.4 C).

Seattle’s winters are quite cold and wet. The average daily high during its cool season is under 53 F (11.7 C). Its coldest month is December, with an average high of 47 F (8.3 C) and a low of 38 F (3.3 C).

Is San Francisco Bigger Than Seattle?

Seattle is a bigger city than San Francisco based on land area. Its land mass is about 84 square miles (217 square km). Meanwhile, San Francisco is 47 square miles (121.4 square km).

Seattle to San Francisco Distance, km

The straight line distance between Seattle and San Francisco is around 679 miles (1093 km). The driving distance is longer due to the road curvature. And while it depends on the route you take, the shortest route has a distance of 808 miles (1300 km).

Sleeper Train From San Francisco to Seattle

The only train operator on this route is Amtrak. And they offer sleeper trains so you can travel from San Francisco to Seattle in a private room. This also includes free meals and bags, among others, so you’re saving on accommodation costs.

You can choose a roomette, which is a private sleeper than can accommodate two passengers. During the day, you’ll get comfy chairs and a fold-out table. But at night, you can convert the chairs into a bunk bed–style bed.

Your roomette will have a door with locks, and a window covering. This option has three meals per day and nonalcoholic drinks. But there’s also a cafe here where you can buy extra food.

The downside to a roomette is that there are no bathrooms in the cabin. Instead, there is a shared bathroom in each car.

If you need a bit more room, you can opt for a bedroom instead. It’s twice the size of the roomette, with a private bathroom in the cabin. Despite the larger size, you’ll still have the upper and lower bed for sleeping.

Other than that, the meals and other inclusions are similar too.

Scenic Train From San Francisco to Seattle

Coast Starlight is widely considered to be the most scenic train ride in the US. While this ride is between Seattle and Los Angeles, it passes through San Francisco too.

On this trip, you’ll pass through the lush Washington state landscape, head to Oregon, and then to the stunning coastline of California. With this, you’ll get picturesque scenery throughout your journey.

To take advantage of the breathtaking sights, hang out at the sightseeing lounge.

Once you make your way out of Seattle, you’ll find the towering silhouette of Mt. Rainier in the distance. Then there are the lush forests and evergreen trees that the city is famous for.

And once you’re well into your journey, you’ll get a glimpse of various landscapes along the route.

You’ll find massive fields covered with orange pumpkins. But it’s not all natural sights here, as you’ll also pass through small, charming towns.

San Francisco to Seattle Drive

If you’re driving from San Francisco to Seattle, you have two route options. Between the two, you can choose based on the speed of travel or the beautiful ocean scenery. But no matter which route you choose, this trip is hard to squeeze within a day.

For those who just want to get to Seattle right away, go choose the I-5 route. This is the most direct option, with a distance of 810 miles (1304 km), and takes around 12 hours to complete.

The downside to this option is that you won’t get varied sceneries. You’ll find endless lines of gorgeous, dense forests here. But there is very little else to marvel at.

While you can get to Seattle within a day on this route, this is a hard task. This route’s winding roads will slow you down, especially in bad weather.

If you don’t mind taking your time to see some stunning views, choose the Pacific Highway Route. This route has a distance of 940 miles (1513 km) and takes around 20 hours and 30 minutes to complete.

Some top attractions on this route include the cities of Sacramento and Portland, and parks like Mount Tamalpais State Park.

San Francisco to Seattle via Highway 1

Highway 1 is a popular route to combine with the Pacific Highway Route. This is because they overlap at several points. So when choosing to go through this route, you’ll also get stunning views along the way!

One of the popular stops along Highway 1 is Point Reyes. This is a big peninsula facing the Pacific Ocean, separated from the mainland by Tomales Bay. Two exciting spots to explore here are the peninsula and the town!

There’s also the quaint coastal town called Mendocino. This rustic town, built fully with redwood in the 1800s, seems like it’s frozen in time.

More than that, it’s a real treat for art lovers as several artists live here. You’ll find impressive art galleries here, one of which is in a water tower.

Though a sleepy city, the coastal town of Fort Bragg is a popular stop on this trip. The city is full of pristine beaches and incredible parks. Though the star attraction here is Glass Beach.

These are only some of the many stops you can make along the way. And you’ll find no shortage of interesting spots along Highway 1!

San Francisco to Seattle Drive via 101

Driving from San Francisco to Seattle via Highway 101, though long, rewards you with marvelous scenic views. Along this route is a diverse mix of sceneries, and it’s not only the coast and small towns that you’re going to see. There are also small beach towns, farms, wineries, mountains, and much more!

If you do decide to go with this route, you’re pretty much going to have to slow down. And it’s not just because there are tons of beautiful routes that urge you to make stops along the way. The route is also quite curvy and includes tons of mountain driving.

From San Francisco, you’ll find breathtaking views of the California coast. On highway 101 here, you’ll drive through what seems like endless miles of lush, Redwood trees.

Continuing the drive, the trees become more scarce. But you’ll then get sweeping views of the verdant rolling hills of wineries.

This is only a glimpse of what you can expect on Highway 101. Keep in mind that this route joins with the Pacific Highway Coast, and Highway 1 is also a part of this.

How Far Is Seattle From San Francisco by Car?

The driving distance between Seattle and San Francisco depends on the route you take.

If you want the fastest route between the two cities, go through the I-5. This route has a distance of 810 miles (1304 km). And it takes around 12 hours of travel time.

If you don’t mind the travel time and want to view breathtaking sceneries, choose the Pacific Coast Highway. This route has a distance of 940 miles (1513 km), and the road is very curvy. And on this route, you can expect a travel time of around 20 hours and 30 minutes.

San Francisco to Seattle Drive Time

Your drive time from San Francisco to Seattle depends on your chosen route. If you take the most direct one, the I-5, then you can expect a travel time of around 12 hours. But if you take the popular and scenic Pacific Highway Coast, you’ll have a journey of around 20 hours and 30 minutes.

Keep in mind that these estimated travel times assume that you won’t make stops along the way. So if you intend to stop, expect a much longer journey.

Driving From Seattle to San Francisco in One Day

No matter which route you choose on your trip, it’ll take around 2 days to drive from Seattle to San Francisco, on average. But if you’re pressed for time, it’s best if you take the most direct and fastest route, I-5.

The I-5 covers a distance of 810 miles (1304 km). If you’re going through this route, you can reach your destination in around 13 hours. But this is only if you don’t make any long stops along the way.

This route is straightforward and doesn’t have the curvy roads that the Pacific Coast Highway has. So you can travel at a fast, constant speed along the way to make your trip faster.

Driving From Seattle to San Francisco in Winter

Driving from Seattle to San Francisco in the winter is tricky due to the weather. Road closures are not uncommon as they’re covered in a deep layer of snow. This includes the central route through Oregon, even the road on the way to Mount Rainier if you’re planning to make a stop there. This doesn’t apply to winter only as you may also find this issue during spring!

So if you want to drive from Seattle to San Francisco during the winter, it’s best if you take the coastal route the entire way. Keep in mind that it can still be stormy. But you’re going to get incredible views during your whole drive.

No matter what route you choose, make sure to stay updated with weather advisories.

Seattle to San Francisco Scenic Drive

If you want to get the best views on your drive from Seattle to San Francisco, choose the Pacific Coast Highway. This also goes through Highways 1 and 101, so you’ll have endless sightseeing options!

This route covers a distance of 940 miles (1513 km) and it takes around 20 hours and 30 minutes to complete if you don’t make stops along the way.

The Pacific Coast Highway is among the most beautiful routes in the country. It features a mix of ocean views and goes through some of the most impressive parks and forests in the US.

Some top spots along the way include charming cities like Sacramento and Portland. But it also includes parks such as Siuslaw National Forests and Redwood National and State Parks.

Seattle to San Francisco Road Trip

Both the routes of I-5 and Pacific Coast Highway are great choices for a road trip between both cities. The I-5 is faster but has fewer attractions along the way. Meanwhile, the Pacific Coast Highway is a more scenic choice, but it’s a much longer route.

If you’re going on a shorter road trip, then go through I-5. This is a shorter route, being only 810 miles (1304 km). And although it’s considered to be less scenic, there are still several scenic spots along the way.

If you’re planning a much longer road trip, the best choice is the Pacific Highway Coast. This route also overlaps Highway 1 and Highway 101 along the way. Other than stunning views of the coast, you’ll also get views of lush forests on this trip.

Seattle to San Francisco Road Trip, 2 Days

No matter which route you take, it’ll take at least two days to drive from Seattle to San Francisco. And if you can only afford to spend two days on the road, the best option is taking the I-5.

This is the quickest route between the two cities. But it still offers scenic views, such as lush, dense forests, along the way. This includes Willamette National Forest and an optional trip to Lassen National Forest.

You can stop by the charming cities of Sacramento or Portland for an overnight stay. But make sure to plan ahead as these two cities are far from the midpoint. Sacramento is too close to San Francisco, while Seattle is quite near Portland.

Seattle to San Francisco Road Trip, 3 Days

You can choose between the I-5 and Pacific Coast Highway as your route if you’re planning for a 3-day road trip. But the Pacific Coast Highway may be a better option.

If you’re taking the I-5, you’ll need to deviate from the route a bit to make the most out of your trip. And three days would not be enough for this.

But the Pacific Coast Highway has tons of worthy stops along the way. This route also goes through Highways 1 and 101. And you don’t have to stray too far from these to visit beautiful stops.

You’ll get stunning views of the California coastline throughout your trip. But not only that, but it’s also easy to visit forests like the Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Seattle to San Francisco Road Trip, 4 Days

A 4-day road trip is still not enough time for you to make the most out of the I-5 route as you have to deviate from it a bit for the top attractions. It’s best to take the Pacific Coast Highway instead. You’ll have more than enough time to see the beauty of the west coast this way.

With an eclectic mix of stops along the way, you’re spoiled for options here. You can alter your road trip to see some popular spots or some lesser-known ones. This includes the famous Yosemite National Park, the charming coastal town of Mendocino, and Lake Tahoe.

Seattle to San Francisco Road Trip, 5 Days

With 5 days on the road, you have enough time to deviate a bit from the I-5. While this may not be the most scenic route, you can take advantage of the scenic stops nearby.

Go on I-5 out of Seattle and then drive to Portland. You’ll pass by Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument here, so make a stop here.

From there, go south and you’ll reach the national forests of Willamette and Umpqua. After your stops, you can make your way to Medford.

From Medford, you can still visit more lush forests. This includes national forests like Klamath and Shasta-Trinity. Then make a detour to Lassen National forest.

Continue to Dunnigan and drive through I-505. From here, you can either go south to Vacaville or go to Sacramento.

But from Vacaville, you still have tons of scenic stops to visit. Go through I-80 via Fairfield, and from there you can go to the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge. You’ll also pass by the Wildcat Canyon Regional Park from there.

Now that you’re done, you can make your way to your final destination, San Francisco!

San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip, 7 Days

If you have 7 days to spare on a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle, you can make stops at popular attractions on the route. To do this, drive on Interstate 5 North and drive all the way to Seattle. But don’t forget to make detours along the way from this route! Deviating from the route a bit takes you to beautiful landscapes that North California and the Pacific Northwest have.

Around 20 minutes away from San Francisco, you can stop at the Marin Headlands. It’s easy to find as you cross the Golden Gate Bride. This is a great place to hike and immerse yourself in nature.

From Marin, you can visit Muir Woods, a land filled with redwood trees. From here, you can pass by Mount Tamalpais and drive on Highway 1 to Point Reyes. Now you can head to the stunning seaside town of Mendocino.

Then drive north on Highway 1 and meet Highway 101 to Leggett, where you’ll find the Avenue of Giants. From here you can visit a prettier redwood forest, than Muir, the Redwood National Park.

These are only some of the great stops you can go to on your long trip through!

Road Trip From San Francisco to Seattle in December

The weather conditions are your main concern when going on a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle in December. Some routes may be inaccessible during this cold month as they’re covered with snow. This is especially true for the routes through Oregon, including the way to Mount Rainier.

With this, the best route during the month of December is the coastal route. The coastline views during December may not be as pretty compared to its summertime views. Not only that, but you may also have limited access to popular landmarks on this route.

Still, the scenery it offers is incredible. And it’s less prone to road closures as well.

San Francisco to Seattle Road Trip Distance

The distance you’ll cover on your road trip from San Francisco to Seattle will depend on your chosen route. If you’re taking the I-5, you’ll have a distance of 810 miles (1304 km). But if you’re taking the Pacific Highway Route, you’ll cover a distance of 940 miles (1513 km).

Seattle to San Francisco Road Trip Time

Your road trip time from Seattle to San Francisco will largely depend on how many stops you take and how long you’ll spend in each of them. But below is an estimated travel time assuming you’re not making stops along the way.

Traveling via I-5, you can expect a travel time of around 12 hours. And if you choose the longer Pacific Highway Route, the average travel time is around 20 hours and 30 minutes.