Travel Guides

California to Canada Road Trip

Two things you should know about me…

  1. I love a good road trip!
  2. I love planning (my dream job would be event planning)

So imagine how much I love planning a road trip…probably almost as much as I love cupcakes!  When I set out to plan this trip from California to Canada via I-5 I reached out to bloggers, asked for advice on Twitter and Facebook, and talked with friends and family and once I compiled it all, I realized this is a really awesome trip!

Photo from Google Images
Photo from Google Images

Let’s hit the road! (Disclaimer: I’m going to be really honest here, I love California, but if you’re going to drive on I-5, you need to know there isn’t a lot to do between SoCal and Sacramento…lots of farmland but not a lot of places to stop.  So if you live on the stretch of I-5 between SoCal and Sacramento and know of something interesting to do, PLEASE let me know so I can update this post!)

Sacramento, CA Despite the fact that people probably assume the capital of California is Los Angeles or San Francisco, it is actually Sacramento!

  1. If you are in Sacramento on a Wednesday you’ll want to check out the November Project in Sacramento for a great FREE workout!
  2. The #1 suggestion I got from people if you are going to visit is Old Sacramento.  Old Sacramento features history attractions, dining, shopping and entertainment.  I would love to plan a trip over Labor Day so I could head to Old Sacramento for the Gold Rush Days when the area is transformed to the 1850’s!
  3. If you like art, I’d suggest heading to the Crocker Art Museum…the first public art museum in the Western United States! Be sure to check the calendar for special events, movies, music, poetry and more.
  4. For kids and adults alike the California State Railroad Museum is a must see!  You can take train rides, explore exhibits that bring railroading to life, and learn about the history of railroading in California.

Shasta County, CA

  1. As you head north from Sacramento the next place you’ll want to stop is Shasta Caverns.  Situated in the limestone beds of Shasta County, CA the caverns allow you to explore via a catamaran, bus and a hike as you learn about the history of the caverns.
  2. Hiking to Mt Shasta promises gorgeous views!   There are a lot of trail options so be sure to check out this site for more information

Ashland, OR Voted one of Fodor’s top small towns in America you don’t want to miss Ashland!  Home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, close to some excellent rafting and more, Ashland is a place you definitely need to stop on your way north on I-5

Crater Lake, OR You’re going to need to veer a little off I-5, but Crater Lake is touted as one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon, so you don’t want to miss out!  Crater Lake is the deepest lake in America and the views are simply breathtaking!

Heading to Portland, OR Two stops on your way to Portland after you leave Crater Lake are definitely worth making… 1. A visit to Silver Falls State Park, the largest state park in Oregon, offers you the opportunity to hike to some beautiful waterfalls!  Silver Falls State Park is located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and while the waterfalls are probably the biggest draw, there are a number of other recreational activities as well! 2. The chance to see the world’s largest airplane in McMinnville, OR at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.  Not only is the Spruce Goose the world’s largest airplane, but it is built entirely out of wood and was only flown one time!

Portland, OR Before you head to Washington you’ll want to leave some time to explore Portland or at least eat your way through the city!  Here are some restaurants to check out…

  1. Little Big Burger
  2. Ken’s Artisan Pizza
  3. Pine State Biscuits

And if you’re looking for something a little more casual, here are food cart pods you can check out…

  1. Cartopia – But head there soon because it will be closing around October 2014!
  2. Cartlandia – A “food cart super pod”

Not sure if you want to spend all of your time in Portland eating?!?  Scott over at Portland Travel Tips shares these 5 Alternative Tourist Attractions including donuts you absolutely have to try!

Olympia, WA Get ready to explore the capital of Washington!

  1. Stop by Tolmie State Park which offers beach activities, a saltwater marsh, hiking, boating and more!
  2. Enjoy brunch at Tugboat Annie’s
  3. Hike through Priest Point Park
  4. Need more suggestions, here is a list of things to do in Oly WA, as locals call it!

Seattle, WA Of course you’ll need to have coffee when you go through Seattle, but there are also a lot of other great things to do!

  1. Head to the top of the Space Needle for views of Seattle and beyond from 605 feet in the air!
  2. Don’t like being 605 feet up in the air?  Then head down to Underground Seattle to explore the streets and stores of the old downtown Seattle.
  3. A trip to Seattle isn’t really complete until you’ve visited Pike Place Market.  But don’t just stop to see the flying fish, make sure you leave a piece of your gum on the Post Alley Gum Wall!

Vancouver, Canada Time to grab your passport and visit our neighbors to the north in Vancouver!  You’ll want to make sure you don’t miss…

  1. Walk the Suspension Bridge at Lynn Canyon Park, but don’t look down!
  2. Queen Elizabeth Park is the highest point in Vancouver and offers not only spectacular views of the city, but outstanding floral displays!
  3. Stop by the Vancouver Aquarium to explore Canada’s largest aquarium!

    Photos from Google Images
    California to Canada Road Trip | Girl on the Move Blog (Photos from Google Images)

A HUGE thank you to everyone that responded with suggestions of what should be included on an I-5 trip from California to Canada!  You may have noticed that I didn’t include any cupcake shops along the way and there is a reason for that…this post would have been WAY too long if I included all those shops…that is another post for another day!  Is there anything else I should have included on this itinerary?  Are there any other road trip itineraries you want me to explore?



      After making the drive from California to Philadelphia twice, all other road trips seem short lol…but you’re right, the stops make it enjoyable!

  • Jenny

    Sounds like an amazing trip. I’m an East Coast gal but we honeymooned in CA and drove from San Francisco to Carmel. Such a beautiful drive. Hope we get to go back there some day!

  • Kelly

    This sounds like so much fun! Vancouver is a beautiful city! We went on a cruise to Alaska and that is where we left…I wish we would have have more time to explore. We are driving to Texas in a few weeks, but it’s going to be non-stop driving to get to the beach, haha 🙂


      We left out of Seattle for our Alaskan cruise and I wish we could have made a quick trip up to Vancouver to explore! The non-stop driving will be worth it when you get to the beach!

  • Madaline

    What an awesome road trip! When I use to live in SoCal I use to go to Sequoia as often as I could! It wasn’t really on your driving route but it wasn’t too far either!

  • Shelly @ Behind Blue Eyes

    These are some great suggestions. I lived in Seattle for 3 1/2 years so I ventured the Pacific Northwest and Canada quite frequently. Some other suggestions I have are:

    -Lan Su Chinese Garden – absolutely beautiful
    -Voodoo Donuts – the name says it all
    -Portland Saturday Market – the go-to spot for creative crafts, handmade art and jewelry
    -Tax free shopping – Oregan has no sales tax!!!!

    -Experience the Music Project Museum – the architecture of the building alone lures you in
    -Fremont Troll – remember the movie 10 Things I Hate About You
    -Chihuly Garden and Glass – Dale Chihuly’s blown glass pieces of art are absolutely breathtaking.
    -The Seawall – you get some of the best views of the city as well as the water
    *I highly recommend taking the ferry across to Victoria, Canada*
    -Craigdarroch Castle – Climb the 87 steps for the best views in Victoria
    -Butterfly Gardens – a beautiful indoor rainforest
    -Miniature World – tiny treasures for all to see

  • Lisa

    I LOVE road trips! In lil’ ol’ New Zealand it all feels like a short hop out rather than anything very epic. My fave hols are just chucking all the kids in the people mover, shoving bags everywhere and hitting the road. We take our time and stop whenever anyone feels like it. The trip you went on sounds fantastic and just my cup of tea!


      There are sooo many great things to do on this route! I could take like three road trips and not get to it all lol!

  • Cierra

    Hi, loved reading all your great advice. I’m starting from scratch to plan a road trip from San Francisco up to Canada this June. If you could can you directly email me? I hope to get any additional advice or tips I can get from you. Thanks!

  • Yessica

    How many days to really enjoy this trip. And how much would you estimate I save for a road trip from california to Canada?

    • Julie - "Girl on the Move"

      A would use about a week for this trip and as for the amount of money I think it really depends on what type of accommodations you like…camping, staying at Airbnb’s, hotels, luxury hotels…all make for a different amount of money needed!

    • Julie - "Girl on the Move"

      It really varies based on how often you want to stop. You could do the drive in 2 days up and then 2 days back but you wouldn’t get to see much on the way

  • Zoe

    I am looking into doing a road trip involving Canada and California could you email me directly so I could get some advise from you?

  • David

    From So Cal to Sacramento, I’d suggest taking the 99 instead of the I-5. Both run parallel to each other but on the 99 you’ll run into Bakersfield, Tulare, Visalia, Fresno, Merced and Modesto and other small cities. By Sacramento you’ll run into the I-5. Distance wise not much of a difference but now you have options to explore central California.

  • Rhoda

    We love road trips. Planning one this June. From the bayarea to Canada. I would like some extra tips on taking the ferry to Victoria.

  • Nila

    We are planning on taking the same road trip to Canada from Central California in an RV. Any campground recommendations? We do not mind boondocking to save some money. We are a family of 5, kids ages 14, 12, 8. Last summer, we did a 3 weeks road trip to mighty 5 of Utah, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton with our brand new travel trailer. It was an awesome trip! You can email the information directly to me. Thanks.

    • Julie - "Girl on the Move"

      Thank you for your comment on the California to Canada Road Trip post! I typically don’t do a lot of camping so I don’t have many recommendations but I have often had great success with staying at KOA’s (Kampground of America) and state parks.

    • Julie - "Girl on the Move"

      If you wanted to be quick about this trip it can be done in 3 days, but if you are renting an RV and okay with taking your time, I’d recommend 7-10 days.

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