Seattle is 175 miles north of Portland along I-5, about 2.75 hours without traffic. Exit central Portland on I-405 north, which crosses the Willamette River over the arch of the Fremont Bridge. Join I-5 north, which runs through residential Portland before crossing the wide Columbia River and entering Washington.

The Fremont is an arch framed bridge crossing the Willamette.

The Fremont Bridge over the Willamette River. Photo © Jit Lim/123rf.

After traversing the city of Vancouver, Washington (not to be confused with Vancouver, British Columbia), I-5 runs north through rural farmland and along the Columbia River, past the small cities of Kelso, Longview, Chehalis, and Centralia.

The state capitol dome is visible from the freeway as I-5 turns northeast in Olympia; the scenic view of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge marks your last stretch of uninterrupted greenery.

Traffic can get thick through the Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the industrial city of Tacoma, 32 miles south of Seattle. As you follow I-5 north into downtown Seattle, the freeway narrows and passes through several short tunnels.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Pacific Northwest Road Trip.