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PNW Road Trip: Driving from Vancouver to Seattle

Take an easy road trip from Vancouver, BC to Seattle, including an optional stop in Bow, with this route advice, plus border crossing & traffic tips.

The drive from Vancouver to Seattle is 141 miles and takes about 2.5 hours, though border delays can vary.

Leave downtown Vancouver by taking Granville Street south over Granville Bridge. Continue south on Highway 99 through the residential neighborhoods of greater Vancouver. Despite the frequent stoplights, traffic moves quickly outside of rush hours.

Follow Highway 99 south as it turns left on Park Drive and then south on Oak Street. Highway 99 crosses the Oak Street Bridge to become the Vancouver-Blaine Highway through the Richmond suburbs. Speeds slow at the Canada-U.S. border and cars are directed into waiting lanes to be questioned by border control agents. Once clear of customs, pass the massive white Peace Arch monument, which claims to be the first monument built and dedicated to world peace.

The route is now called I-5, a freeway that runs from the Canadian border to Tijuana, Mexico. Follow I-5 south through the town of Bellingham, Washington and the expansive Skagit Valley, home of a spring tulip festival. Freeway traffic may start to slow around Everett, an industrial hub 30 miles north of Seattle and home to some of Boeing’s largest airplane factories and runways.

Express lanes, which change direction depending on time of day, may be open about 8 miles north of downtown Seattle. They are often faster than the freeway, but offer fewer off-ramps. The multilane I-5 narrows as it enters downtown Seattle, where the freeway darts through tunnels and under buildings, with exits springing both left and right.

A barn in a field of pink tulips in Skagit Valley Washington.
Tulips in Skagit Valley, Washington. Photo © Lijuan Guo/123rf.

Stopping in Bow

Leave I-5 at Bow Hill Road for a detour to the towns of Bow and Edison; both are located off scenic Chuckanut Drive/Highway 11 which connects to I-5 in Burlington. Each tiny town boasts bakeries, cheesemongers, and cafés. Ask for a local pint at the Edison Inn (5829 Cains Ct., Bow, 360/766-6266, 11:30am-11pm Sun.-Thurs., 11:30am-midnight Fri.-Sat.). Then follow Chuckanut Drive north to find fried oysters and a Samish Bay view at Taylor Shellfish Farms (2182 Chuckanut Dr., Bow, 360/766-6002, 9am-6pm daily Apr.-Sept., 9am-5pm daily Oct.-Mar.) before returning to I-5 at Burlington.

Color map of Downtown Vancouver, BC
Downtown Vancouver
Maps - Washington 10e - Washington
Travel map of Seattle

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