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Portland to LA Road Trip

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Portland to LA Road Trip

Looking to travel with a few friends (we're all from the East Coast), flying into Portland and then renting a car and driving to LA. We'd like to have a decently scenic drive, but we also only want to rent the car for one day. Any suggestions for the best route to maximize sights but also keep travel time low?


Anaheim, California
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1. Re: Portland to LA Road Trip

Google Maps shows the drive at 963 miles, and about 16 hours if you take the NON-Scenic Route, which is pretty much straight down Interstate 5.

You might want to rethink your plans, even with a 2 day drive, you won't get to do much sightseeing, even if you switch off drivers.

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2. Re: Portland to LA Road Trip

I see your point, but the thing is, we're three young people more interested in saving money than stopping to rest. And the point is to have a drive that's scenic, not to stop and get out to trek through tourist destinations. We WILL make it in a day. There's $100 at stake (the price of another day's car rental)

Sydney, Australia
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3. Re: Portland to LA Road Trip

ouch, that's a lot of driving! but if you are determined ...

you will have to take highway 5 for most of the trip. the part I dread most is the southernmost, south of Sacramento, it is incredibly boring. if you could substitute that with 101 you would add probably a couple of hours, but 101 is quite pleasant. the problem is that depending on when you leave Portland you would end up doing that at night.

I did 5 recently from Grant Pass to Red Bluff and I must say that THAT section is very enjoyable.

maybe an alternative is to go onto 101 soon after leaving portland and rejoin 5 taking 42 just south of Coos Bay. then you would do 5 all the way to LA, and if you do the last part at night it does not really make a difference. 101 in oregon is certainly spectacular, but I am afraid it may add too much to the trip. just be careful ...

Washington State
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4. Re: Portland to LA Road Trip

You definitely CAN make it in a day. And you will see views out your window that range from Willamette Valley farmland, Siskiyous Mountains, Mt Shasta, Shasta Lake, and the agricultural flatland of California. The route is I-5 and is about 16 hours, as Darkbeer pointed out.

You will NOT be able to drive & sightsee along the scenic Oregon coast, through Northern California Redwood forests, along lovely Hwy 1 & the California coast, through San Francisco, continuing down Hwy 1 through Big Sur, and into Los Angeles. This route is I-5 > 18 > 101 > 1 > 101 and the estimated time is 25 hours. If you took this route the scenery would be passed by in the dark.

Los Angeles
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5. Re: Portland to LA Road Trip

In this case, scenic and fast are mutually exclusive. Take I-5 as stated but especially in central and southern California it will be dull.

How are you planning to handle the inevitable one way drop fee? I wonder even with three of you if it would be cheaper to fly? Have you tried checking on www.kayak.com or www.southwest.com for cheap airfares? Remember we have 5 airports in LA so you may be able to find better deals to one vs the other from Portland (LAX, BUR, LGB, SNA and ONT).

Los Angeles, CA
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6. Re: Portland to LA Road Trip

Here's an alternative scenic route. I don't know how much longer it is. Maybe 3 or 4 hours longer, I figure, but much more scenic than taking I-5 all the way. This way has rivers, mountains, redwoods and the ocean.

Take I-5 south to Grants Pass, Oregon. Get onto Hwy. 199 which will take you into California, along the Smith River, through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and end at Crescent City where you'll hook up with Hwy. 101.

Take 101 south and within a short time you'll have the Pacific Ocean on your right. You'll drive through Redwood National Park and Prairie Creek State Park, past a few lagoons, a few small towns and on into the Humboldt Bay region (McKinleyville, Arcata, Eureka and Fortuna). Arcata has a university so it may be a good food stop.

You'll drive along scenic Humboldt Bay between Arcata and Eureka. You may hit a bit of traffic in Eureka because there's no freeway bypass. About 10 miles south of Eureka, the highway turns inland and you won't see the ocean after this along 101 for several hundred miles.

About 30 miles south of Eureka, you'll see signs for Avenue of the Giants. This is the old 101 before the freeway bypass was built. It's two lanes but you get a good close up of some giant old-growth redwoods (meaning they weren't logged). This section is in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. You'll also be going along the Eel River. Just stay on one or two sections of the Avenue to get a feel for it and get back on the freeway to speed up your trip. I like the sections around Dyerville and Weott.

Stay on 101 through Mendocino County. There's no freeway bypass in Willits but traffic moves steadily, especially southbound. About 10 miles past Willits you will enter Wine Country and you'll see lots of vineyards. You'll stay in Wine Country through Sonoma County.

In San Rafael in Marin County, take I-580 to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. You'll pass over the northern section of the San Francisco Bay and see the San Francisco skyline to your right (this route avoids going over the Golden Gate Bridge and through San Francisco). If you look back and to the right as you're getting on the bridge you'll see San Quentin Prison.

On the other side of the bridge you'll merge with I-80 and just past Berkeley, merge with 580 again. Take 580 through Oakland, over the Altamont Pass (windmills) and get on I-5. Take I-5 through the San Joaquin Valley (agricultural) for several hours all the way to L.A.

Manhattan Beach...
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7. Re: Portland to LA Road Trip

We are flying r/t to Portland, OR in a couple weeks, for a long weekend. Jet Blue out of Long Beach has $69 one way flights at certain times. Can't beat their prices!

Oregon Coast
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8. Re: Portland to LA Road Trip

Hi bmumper15 and welcome to TripAdvisor. In reading your post, all I could think of is "why"?

Yes, you'll see some fairly nice scenery in Oregon and northern Calif on I-5. As you rush past at 70 MPH. But to each his own, I guess ;-)

The route suggested by bigdog is more scenic to be sure, but if you guys are in a hurry, you will get VERY frustrated along much of Hwys 199 and 101 north of around Eureka. It is two lanes and there will be slow RV traffic, slow tourist traffic, slow trucks.

If you do opt for that route, skip the Avenue of the Giants. You'll see zillions of huge redwood trees right alongside the highway both north and south of Crescent City. Also skip Newton Drury scenic route as it will be too slow for you.

I think we're all assuming this trip will be soon? Not in the middle of winter? We get snow out here in winter....

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9. Re: Portland to LA Road Trip

I can't imagine doing it in a day if bigdog's route is taken. I have driven those roads to the coast and you cannot travel that fast on them. I live in S. Oregon, and we used to drive to San Luis Obispo while my daughter was in school there and it was an approximately 9 hour drive (depending on traffic) We took I-5 to 505, then I-80 to 680 to 101, which is a much more interesting drive than I-5 all the way. If you figure another 4.5 hours from Portland to Medford, and another 3 - 4 hours between SLO and L.A., it is probably doable and would be quite a bit more scenic than I-5 the whole way. I would stay off the 2 lane highways and stick to the Freeways. Of course I would personally split it into 2 days and spend the night around Vacaville/Fairfield.

Portland, Oregon
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10. Re: Portland to LA Road Trip

If you only want to rent a car for one day, take I-5. Enjoy the views of the Siskiyous, Oregon farmland. Mt Shasta, etc., and remember to take your favorite CDs when you run out of things to talk about.