While California has countless gorgeous vacation destinations across the state, for this next family trip, you want to do something a little different. You want to go way out of state to Portland, Oregon.
What do you need to know when road-tripping from Sacramento to Portland?
Driving from Sacramento to Portland requires crossing only through California and Oregon. You’ll see several great stops in both states along the way as you drive for approximately nine hours across 580 miles. You can divide this trip into at least two days.
If you’re eager to get started budgeting, planning, and packing, I’ll tell you everything you need to know for your road trip to Portland. I’ll present a route from Sacramento, elaborate further on how long you’ll be in the car, and recommend stops for your itinerary.
The best route from Sacramento to Portland, Oregon
As mentioned, the drive from Sacramento to Portland only requires you to drive through California into Oregon.
Although that sounds rather easy, and the drive is indeed a straight shot, it’s a long trip that should be divided into at least two nights of lodging in a hotel, resort, or Airbnb.
Let’s get right into your route so you can see where your journey will take you and the kids!
Sacramento to Williams
Once the car is packed and the gas tank is full, it’s time to depart from your home in Sacramento and drive to your first Cali stop, Williams.
You’ll need to drive northward to reach Portland, so it’s a straight shot north between Sacramento and Williams. Without traffic, this part of the drive should take just shy of an hour.
If you’ve never been, Williams is a city prized for its fishing and hunting. This Colusa County town has many foothills for hunters and is near the Sacramento River.
You and the children can enjoy the various wildlife refuges here as well as the museums and the hot springs.
Williams to Red Bluff
Continuing your California tour, when you leave Williams, you’ll drive to Red Bluff, which is a straight drive north.
This is another short part of your trip and only takes an hour if you don’t get stuck in traffic.
Red Bluff is already 131 miles from Sacramento, so by the time you reach this city, you can be proud of the progress you’ve made.
There are such gorgeous sights awaiting you here, from Central Valley to Red Bluff River Park and Dog Island Park.
You’ll see California through whole new eyes if you spend enough time in Red Bluff.
Red Bluff to Mount Shasta
Next, you’ll drive up from Red Bluff to Mount Shasta. This is the longest part of your route yet, requiring an hour and a half if you can skip most of the traffic.
The beautiful city of Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County is named after the eponymous mountain, which is one of the most magnificent landmarks in all of California.
The mountain is part volcano as well but safe enough considering the city is not even nine miles away.
You should be able to enjoy stunning views of the 3,600-foot mountain no matter where you are within the city limits.
You and the children can get back to nature in a big way here, visiting Shastice Park, Mount Shasta City Park, or the Spring Hill Trail.
I do recommend parking the car and finding a place to rest before you continue your drive. You’ll be leaving California next, so you might as well get a good night’s sleep. The kids will appreciate the break as well.
Mount Shasta to Ashland
In the morning, with the stunning peaks of Mount Shasta in your rearview, you’ll leave California behind and cross state lines into Oregon.
Your first stop is Ashland, which is about an hour and a half from Mount Shasta forbidding heavy traffic.
As you have the entire time, you’ll drive north to get here.
Ashland is in the southern part of Oregon, as you’ll enter the state from the south and then spend the rest of your drive cross northward.
More natural beauty awaits you here, from North Mountain Park to Ashland Creek and Lithia Park.
You might be fortunate to visit during the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which Ashland is known for.
You and the kids can also find museums and other entertainment here for when you stop.
Ashland to Wildlife Safari
While you could just drive from Ashland to Winston, that’s kind of boring, right? At least it is when you could just take a trip straight to the Wildlife Safari.
You’re only an hour and a half away from Ashland when you drive north, so why not?
The Wildlife Safari is a drive-through safari that will delight the kids to no end.
Roll down those windows and let the animals get close, although you obviously are prohibited from allowing them in your car.
If you want to get even closer still, animal encounters are available at Wildlife Safari.
The encounters change by the day but might include feeding red pandas, tiger training, taking photos with cheetahs, feeding giraffes, and feeding bears. It’s sure to be a great time no matter what!
Wildlife Safari to Eugene
When you and the kids are exhausted but happy, you’ll leave the Wildlife Safari and drive deeper into Oregon.
Next on your route is Eugene, which is another hour and a half from the safari without traffic.
If you’re feeling tired, you can always stay overnight in Eugene, as you still have a few more hours left to go on your route. You can also continue driving and should be fine.
Eugene is a city on the Willamette River that offers enchanting activities through and through.
Explore more nature at Hendricks Park or Alton Baker Park, take a walk with the kids through the Fifth Street Public Park, or enjoy a cultural experience at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
Eugene to Salem
The next part of your trip sees you journeying into Salem, which is closer still to your destination.
The route north between Eugene and Salem takes about an hour, so at least you shouldn’t be in the car for long.
Salem is Oregon’s capital city, and it will not disappoint.
The city is esteemed for its art museums featuring works by local residents, the Willamette Heritage Center, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, and the Bush House Museum.
Gardens and greenery aplenty are present as well which are sure to induce a tranquil mood.
Salem to Portland
There’s only about an hour’s worth of driving from Salem until you reach Portland, the biggest city in the entire state. Pat yourself on the back, as you made it!
How long will it take to drive to Portland, Oregon from Sacramento?
Is the open road calling your name? Before you set out on your road trip, let’s talk drivetimes a little bit.
It will take you approximately nine hours and four minutes to drive to Oregon from Sacramento. The drive is 580 miles in total.
This drivetime doesn’t include traffic. You can do your best to weave away from traffic and drive outside of rush hours, but avoiding all traffic is not going to happen.
I would factor in at least an additional hour for traffic.
Great family attractions on the drive to Portland, Oregon
Since the drive to Oregon is so short anyway, you might as well enjoy some sights while you’re at it. Here are some I personally recommend!
- Delevan Wildlife Refuge
As part of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Delevan Wildlife Refuge offers limited spots for viewing and photographing the wildlife that calls this place home.
It’s a nice little place to stretch your legs and see a new side of the state you live in.
- Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area
In nearby Colusa, the Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area is another relaxing refuge.
You’ll find picnic sites along the waters that house striped bass, rainbow trout, steelhead, and king salmon. Due to the exceptional fish variety here, it’s not uncommon to spot anglers.
When birds follow the Pacific flyaway, they usually migrate right over this recreation area. You could get to witness all sorts of fun and unique bird species!
- Wilbur Hot Springs
Let your stresses melt completely away at the Wilbur Hot Springs, which is part nature preserve, part geothermal springs, and part health sanctuary.
If you want to make a long-term stay out of it, the hot springs do feature an onsite resort with cabins, cabin suites, historic hotels, or solar lodge private rooms. You can also camp out of a trailer or RV.
Did all that pampering and relaxation make you hungry? The hot springs’ Community Kitchen is a commercial kitchen that you can use communally to whip up a homecooked meal for the kiddos.
- Sacramento Valley Museum
Appreciate your home of Sacramento all the more after spending a few hours with the children at the Sacramento Valley Museum.
The museum details the history of this part of California as it was between the 19th and 20th centuries.
Documents, textiles, and artifacts have been meticulously preserved over time to display to today’s visitors.
Even the museum is on a piece of history, as it was once a school building between 1911 and 1956 but has since been lovingly converted into a history museum.
The Sacramento Valley Museum is open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Red Bluff Destinations
- Red Bluff River Park
A small but beautiful park, Red Bluff River Park has river views, large stones, and grassy knolls with walking paths.
A kids’ playground with bright, tri-color play equipment is sure to keep the young ones entertained.
- William B. Ide Adobe State Park
If you crave more nature still, the William B. Ide Adobe State Park in Red Bluff is just what you and your family need.
As a California State Historic Park, the state park overlooks the Sacramento River from the west side.
The park is named in honor of William Brown Ide, who was the first (and only) California Republic president and the Bear Flag Revolt captain.
An adobe is still on the grounds that was erected in 1852 by A.M. Dibble. Up to 20 people lived in the adobe at various times until 1942.
You can’t go in the adobe, and no one lives there today, but you can witness and enjoy its presence.
Mount Shasta Destinations
- Mount Shasta City Park
Once you arrive at Mount Shasta, take a load off at the urban park known as Mount Shasta City Park.
Across 26 acres, you and the kids can engage in activities like cycling, picnicking, or hiking. You can also spot some of the Upper Sacramento River’s head.
Beyond those activities, you can also stroll across Headwaters Bridge, walk along trails and view nature, sit at a bench and sightsee, or let the kids have a blast on the playground equipment.
Events occur on the park grounds throughout the year. The Dance Hall is a frequent site for dances and weddings while the Rod and Gun Building, a historic establishment, is rentable between the spring and autumn.
- Lake Siskiyou
The peaceful reservoir that is Lake Siskiyou formed from the Box Canyon Dam, a part of the Sacramento River.
The lake is a lovely spot to sit and ponder, breathe in the spring or summer weather, or appreciate the crispness of a fall afternoon in California.
- Mt. Shasta Sisson Museum
Do you want to learn more about the wonders of Mount Shasta (the mountain, not the city)? Then make a beeline for the Mt. Shasta Sisson Museum.
The exhibits are fascinating glimpses into history, with exhibits available on Native American basketry, the Mount Shasta railroad, the volcano, its lenticular clouds, and more.
If the kids are getting a little antsy, there’s an Activity Room with learning activities, toys, and books. They can also interact with the railroad diorama and pretend to drive a real train!
Don’t miss the lava tube tunnel that recreates what life was like inside Mount Shasta but in a fun, kid-friendly fashion.
- Mount Shasta Ski Park
Mount Shasta Ski Park is open both in the winter and summer but offers very different activities depending on when you come.
In the warmer months, you and the kids can partake in disc golf, mountain biking, or an elegant chairlift ride with scenic views.
When the weather turns as cold as Cali weather gets, the kids will adore going tubing, snowboarding, or skiing. Equipment rentals are available onsite, and you can all take some lessons here as well.
- ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum
Has science ever been so fun than when visiting the ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum in Ashland? That’s for your little ones to decide.
The museum was established in 2002 and regularly attracts more than a million visitors per year, most of them of the K-12 age.
Come see what all the fuss is about and let your kids get as touchy as they’d like. It’s encouraged here!
- Lithia Park
Referred to as the crown jewel of Ashland, Lithia Park in the downtown area is 100 acres full of family fun.
There’s a playground, breathtaking landscaping, picnic areas aplenty, a Swim Reservoir, a sand-pit volleyball pit, pickleball courts, and pristine green lawns.
Do not miss the Butler-Perozzi Fountain, one of the park’s trademark attractions.
- Ashland Creek
The Bear Creek tributary known as Ashland Creek is 5.4 miles.
Its main stem is Reeder Reservoir, which is 20 acres, then it branches off into two forks or tributaries, the 5.3-mile West Fork Ashland Creek and the 5.8-mile East Fork Ashland Creek.
There’s a canyon under the reservoir, although I’d recommend just marveling at it rather than trying to visit it.
- Eugene Science Center
For the science lovers in your household, a trip to the Eugene Science Center is a must, especially if you’ve missed the other museums and science centers on the list thus far.
In the Main Hall are exhibits centered on nanotechnology, water quality, biology, optics, mechanics, and astronomy.
The kids can learn what it takes to engineer a wind turbine, create a working watershed, or build a structure that resists earthquakes.
The Discovery Room has its own engineering station and a wall of artifacts sure to get curious minds pondering.
For your little ones, the Tot Spot is a hands-on area with a puppet theater, light table, bead mazes, and building blocks. Kids up to age five can play and explore here.
- Cascades Raptor Center
Eugene’s wildlife hospital and nature center Cascades Raptor Center is all about the birds.
Over 20 bird species are represented here, many of which have been personally rehabbed at the center.
The resident birds all have names and run the gamut from owls to falcons and turkey vultures. Try to see as many as you can!
- Museum of Natural and Cultural History
Known as the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History or UO Natural History Museum for short, this university-supported museum welcomes you to learn more about Oregon history and beyond.
Exhibits on fast animal species, birds’ eggs, and Medieval European history are unique displays that make this place such the mainstay it is.
- The Oregon Garden
A close trip from Salem into Silverton is worth it when you can see The Oregon Garden with your own two eyes.
This botanical garden is 80 acres of lush, landscaped greenery.
More than 20 of the gardens are specialty gardens, including the A-Mazing Water Garden, the Children’s Garden, the Home Demonstration Garden, the Conifer Garden, the Medicinal Garden, and the Honor Garden.
The Children’s Garden especially is full of fun, as it features a real-deal Hobbit House and affords kids the chance to dig for dinosaur bones at the Dinosaur Dig.
- Gilbert House Children’s Museum
The Gilbert House Children’s Museum will become your kids’ new favorite place!
This kids’ museum in Salem is broken up into several outdoor and indoor areas.
Outside, kids can play at the Outdoor Discovery Area & Campground, climb and hang in the open-air Nature’s Workshop, or make bubbles at Bill’s Bubble Factory.
The rest of the exhibits are indoors, such as those at the Gilbert House. The exhibits are:
- Eye Euphoria, an oversized kaleidoscope
- Up, Up and Away
- Farm to Table
- All About Me, a medical-themed room
- Lights! Camera! Action!
- Grandma’s Clubhouse with giant blue building blocks
- Vet Clinic
- U.S.S. Gilbert, a faux submarine
- Tinker Tracks
In the Parish House are the Gilbert Engineering Studio and The Creative Space while the Rockenfield House features an oversized Main Street, Salem Station, and the Forest Friends Toddler Room.
- Riverfront City Park
Right beside the Willamette River is Riverfront Park.
The expansive park is 23 acres yet crams so much fun in, including an outdoor sculpture and community art project, an Eco-Earth Globe, an amphitheater, A. C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village, and the Riverfront Carousel.
The park also offers all the standard amenities like grassy fields, picnic tables and shelters, play equipment, a splash pad in the summer, and paved walking paths.
What to do with the family in Portland, Oregon
You and the kids have made it at last to beautiful Portland. There’s probably so much you want to see and do, but there’s always room for a little bit more, I like to say.
Here are some entertainment options of all kinds to entertain the whole family.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)
As one of the leading science museums in the country, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is worth the afternoon you’ll take to visit.
Inside the esteemed halls of OMSI are an ever-changing roster of museum exhibits.
The museum also has a movie house called the Empirical Theater that showcases documentaries, blockbusters, and sci-fi films.
A mere two miles from downtown Portland, the 64-acre Oregon Zoo was opened in 1888, so it’s quite the historical place.
Across habitats such as Black Bear Ridge, Africa Rainforest, Cascade Crest, Eagle Canyon, and the Discovery Plaza, you and the kids can witness a variety of animals in the flesh!
Oaks Amusement Park
The fun never has to stop at Oaks Amusement Park, a Portland amusement park with attractions for kids and adults of all ages.
The kiddie rides are safe attractions for your little ones such as a carousel or the Frog Hopper.
The park also features classics such as the Big Pink Slide, a Ferris wheel, the Scrambler, go-karts, and the Tilt-A-Whirl.
Don’t worry, your older kids will be plenty entertained by thrill rides such as Disk’O, AtmosFEAR, and Adrenaline Peak.
When you’re done riding everything in the park, be sure to unwind with a game of mini golf, some fun roller skating, or an array of arcade games.
Glowing Greens PDX
Whether by day or night, Glowing Greens PDX comes alive with its glow-in-the-dark mini golf!
Besides the Glowing Greens, you and the kids can also experience the challenge of trying to get out of the Mental Trap escape room. Axe-throwing is available for older kids as well.
If you’re thinking of taking a road trip from Sacramento to Portland, Oregon, I couldn’t recommend this enough.
You and your kids will have a blast experiencing new parts of California and Oregon on the way until you eventually arrive in Portland. Have fun!