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Drive from Seattle to Whistler...how hard/easy is it?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Tried searching for this and did not find much. Going to W/BC in April and were originally going to fly into Vancouver but the reward flights were unavailable. Flights are available non-stop to Seattle and the drive looks to be about 5 hours and I know you bypass Vancouver on the route.

The flight to Vancouver was thru Seattle anyway (Turboprop from Sea-Vancouver: ) and the rental car from Seattle is $180 compared to about $200 for the round trip shuttle from Vancouver-Whistler.

So bottom line is the drive in early April an issue? The only downside is a long drive after a six hour flight I guess. Road conditions SHOULD be OK that time of year correct? Only downside I can see is that there is usually pay for parking in Whistler village.

Any advice on the drive? Should we go for it? Thanks.
post #2 of 26
I did it a few years back. I think we made it under 5 hours. The Sea to Ski highway from Vancouver to Whistler is an unbelievably scenic drive. Driving into Vancouver from Seattle is also very picturesque. Wouldn't want to encounter bad weather. There are gates on the road they close when the weather is bad. I would definitely make sure you are driving in daylight.
post #3 of 26
It's a very easy drive on the six-lane Interstate-5 from Seattle to Vancouver but at the border (take the "truck crossing" exit), you'll want to take the bypass via Hwy. 15 which links to Hwy. 1 to avoid the downtown Vancouver traffic. Once you pass by Horseshoe Bay, Hwy. 1 becomes Hwy. 99, and the drive gets very scenic, but there's about 20 miles of construction upgrade area to go through and it's a little curvy with no passing lanes. After that half-hour stretch, you're back onto a 4-lane highway for most of the way to Whistler. As for snow on the road - that rarely ever happens after mid-March. It's springtime at that elevation then, and the upper half of the ski area is where the fresh snow falls. The temperature difference between the top and bottom of WB in mid-April is usually about 20 degrees F.
By the way - if you've never been to Vancouver, it's also worth a few hours of sightseeing on the way back! It's not consistently rated the world's most liveable city for nothing.
post #4 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys. Was actually thinking of doing the VERY touristy thing and going up the Space Needle in Seattle with the daughter. I think she would get a kick out of it and seeing Mt. Ranier in the distance must be spectacular!!
post #5 of 26
gores95 -

I'm surprised this thread didn't get more play. I have made only two road trips to Whistler, so I was hoping others who have made more trips than that would reply. Three quick thoughts...

1 - If I'm not mistaken, you'll need a passport.

2 - The road from Vancouver to Whistler will have some hills, but nothing really bad. The Canadians take very good care of the road. I would get a car with front wheel drive at the minimum. I'm not sure if you would need chains or not - I was hoping other forum members with more experience would reply on this topic - but a set of chains would be a good insurance policy in case conditions are bad.

See: http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/popular-topi...ter/winrd1.htm

3 - Enjoy the Space Needle. I took my first trip up it in decades this last summer. The ticket for the ride up, steak & lobster, cheese cake, one large margarita, plus tip & tax set me back about $115. The ride up is just $14.

Dave
post #6 of 26
Road conditions - gores95 - sorry, I missed in your original post that you'll be driving in early April. (My comments regarding driving to Whistler assumed you would be traveling in a week or two.) Road conditions probably will be just fine by then, but I'll defer to forum members who know better.
post #7 of 26

(from a former Seattleite)

As others have noted the drive from Seattle to Whistler is beautiful yet the segment from North Vancouver to beyond Squamish where it turns inland can be awful in bad weather, especially at night (I once drove it in a snowstorm and it took 4 1/2 hours to Vancouver- terrifying, especially with the steep drop-off to the sea on the right). What we usually did, both to enjoy the views and to break up the trip was to leave Seattle in the evening, spend the night in Vancouver or N. Vancouver, and drive up to Whistler early in the morning.

Other great views of Rainier (if it is out) can also be had for free from the top of Queen Anne Hill, from Volunteer Park acroos from the museum, from both the top of Denny Blaine and the little beach at the bottom of the hill on Lake Washington Blvd, from the lake shore at Leschi, and (one of my favorites) for a few dollars from the Bremerton ferry.
post #8 of 26

No problem

The road is being prepped for the olympics - wide and gaper proof. Any storms are plowed and taken care of on a regular basis. In April, just keep track of the weather forecast. We drove up with in April with the tail end of the best snow they had all season in '05. Avoid crossing at Blaine on I-5, unless you can find data on the crossing times available on the way up(see links). Kind of depends if you're going to Vancouver or not. If not, I'd advise truck crossing at Blaine (not on I-5) or crossing at Lynden. You'll need to do a little map work ahead of time to get the correct exit in Bellingham for Lynden.
There is no Freeway through Vancouver, so if you go through Lynden and north to Trans-Canada 1 you can bypass the city on the North side and it is Highway-Freeway all the way with only a short strech (45 minutes-hour) between I-5 and TC 1 while you cross the border.
Don't forget to plan a few minuteds at the duty-free store on the way up!

Have fun, W-B will blow you away!

Border crossing wait times:
http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/border/
http://www.cbsa.gc.ca/

Hours:
Blaine, Washington - between Peace Arch Park and Douglas, British Columbia - open 24 hours a day.
Blaine Truck Crossing - Blaine, Washington - open 24 hours a day.
Lynden, Washington, to Aldergrove, British Columbia - open 8 a.m. to midnight.
Sumas, Washington, to Abbotsford-Huntington, British Columbia - open 24 hours a day.
post #9 of 26
I was just on Hwy 99 a few days ago, from vancouver to whistler. the road is probably about half done for the olympic games improvements. there is major construction going on and possible delays but the sections that are finished are super easy to drive, comparable to the trans canada around banff. There was no weather on my trip, but if it was snowing you could expect it to be pretty hairy. Mainly because most of the folks coming up form vancouver havent got snow tires.
post #10 of 26
Seattle to Whistler is not a bad drive and, as said, quite pretty. Vancouver is a great city and staying a night would break up the drive a bit.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought you couldn't take rental cars across the border.
post #11 of 26
What ski-2-fly said is great advice....I make the Seattle Whistler trip at least twice a month, sometimes much more often. I always tune 1130AM on the radio once in Bellingham, every ten minutes you (typically) get a traffic / border report. I try to avoid Vancouver like the plague (a great city, I am just in a hurry to get to Whistler).

Generally I recommend truck customs (BC 15) and drive straight to Trans-Canada one which will lead you straight into Whistler. I will warn you there is a bit on construction currently between I-5 and Truck Customs.

I will also warn you that TC-1 can get jammed up east of Richmond in the afternoon where it is two lanes.

Another great route once in Canada (though a bit convoluted) is Highway 99 to BC 91a, cross the Anaciss (sp!) bridge, then grab Marine Drive westbound when entering New West. Then I grab Boundry Road northbound which will put you on to TC1 at Grandview. This is my personal favorite, and the fastest by at least 7 minutes (all things being equal).

The Sea to Sky highway is very good these days, my only compliant at this time is that some of the passing lanes have been done away with during the construction.

I drive downtown Seattle to Whistler Village typically under four hours IF the border is quick and I do not have to make unnecessary stops.

Rental cars can go across the border.

Have Fun.
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by flaviaman View Post
I drive downtown Seattle to Whistler Village typically under four hours...
Wow! You must FLY up I-5. Please warn me when you're coming through so I can vacate.
post #13 of 26
Just out of curiousity any idea how much would it cut down (time, miles) by flying into Bellingham?
post #14 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the input guys! Yes Enterprise allows its SEA rental cars to travel to BC and I believe passports will not be required since we are travelling by land (via air they are required). I also know about the alternate route thru the Canadian border and bypassing Vancouver. Since we only have five days and want to ski all of them, we are skipping Vancouver this time.

One other question...friend suggested stopping by the Boeing plant in Everett for a quick tour. He mentioned it being worth it. Anyone taken this tour?

Thanks again.
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by ct55 View Post
Just out of curiousity any idea how much would it cut down (time, miles) by flying into Bellingham?
SeaTac airport is south of Seattle, so you have to fight your way through city traffic. Everett is really bad now because of the construction on the freeway. I would guess that it would take you about 1 3/4 hours to get to Bellingham from Seattle (the airport) depending on how the traffic goes; could be more, could be less. It's about 85 miles from Seattle to Bellingham, so I'll guess it's about 100 from the airport.

There are now direct flights to Bellingham from Salt Lake, so that might be a good option. It'll take you around 3 hours from Bellingham to get to Whistler. There is not much option for speeding things up because traffic is pretty thick as soon as you cross into Canada.
post #16 of 26
OK thanks - I was actually looking at fares and Seattle is really cheap - almost like flying into Denver. But a flight to Bellingham is about the same as Vancouver it turns out. Sounds like it's an alternative which cuts down on time, for instance if you have a comp ticket using miles and the like.

It's the closest to Baker also which gets a ton of pow.
post #17 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by ct55 View Post
It's the closest to Baker also which gets a ton of pow.
If you have interest in a side trip to Baker I would be glad to show you around if I can arrange my schedule.
post #18 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by dp View Post
As others have noted the drive from Seattle to Whistler is beautiful yet the segment from North Vancouver to beyond Squamish where it turns inland can be awful in bad weather, especially at night (I once drove it in a snowstorm and it took 4 1/2 hours to Vancouver- terrifying, especially with the steep drop-off to the sea on the right).
As a reminder, you'll be travelling in early April, when it rarely ever snows with below-freezing temps on the highway that time of year. So don't worry about snowstorms at the highway elevation (below 2000 feet a.s.l.).
post #19 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post
If you have interest in a side trip to Baker I would be glad to show you around if I can arrange my schedule.
Thanks alot I appreciate that. Dunno any plans yet, just seeking all the alternatives. Whistler and/or Baker would be great from what I've seen so far.
post #20 of 26
Just to clarify, NO PASSPORT is needed for land travel. I'm back & forth between Bellingham & Vancouver every 1-2weeks and can verify that.
post #21 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard View Post
Just to clarify, NO PASSPORT is needed for land travel. I'm back & forth between Bellingham & Vancouver every 1-2weeks and can verify that.
You will still need ID and ORIGINAL or certified (notorized) birth certificates or passports for minors to get back into the US.
post #22 of 26

take a passport to Whistler

Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard View Post
Just to clarify, NO PASSPORT is needed for land travel. I'm back & forth between Bellingham & Vancouver every 1-2weeks and can verify that.
I drove into Canada from Washington (via I-5) on January 21st and the Canadians at the border wanted either a passport or a birth certificate. Fortunately, I had my passport with me and was able to continue on my trip to Whistler.

When I returned to the U.S. (today, January 30th), I handed the border guard (customs or what ever they're called) both my driver's license and passport as I.D. The guard immediately handed back to me my driver's license without looking at it and studied my passport.

Given my first hand experiences the last 1.5 weeks, I'm completely convinced you need a passport to travel to Whistler from the U.S. via automobile.
post #23 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave86 View Post
Given my first hand experiences the last 1.5 weeks, I'm completely convinced you need a passport to travel to Whistler from the U.S. via automobile.
I cross the border fairly often, twice this season and once more this weekend, and I have never had a problem with using a driver's license and birth certificate. You need both, but you can still use them instead of a passport until next year.
post #24 of 26
I travel to Canada on business about every other week. Always have my passport and it's a smooth process. But you do not need a Passport at this time to get back to the States from Canada when traveling by car.

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html
post #25 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadman View Post
I travel to Canada on business about every other week. Always have my passport and it's a smooth process. But you do not need a Passport at this time to get back to the States from Canada when traveling by car.

http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html
True for adults with DL. With the kids you really only have the choice of a passport or original or certified (notorized) copy.
post #26 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by gores95 View Post

One other question...friend suggested stopping by the Boeing plant in Everett for a quick tour. He mentioned it being worth it. Anyone taken this tour?

Thanks again.
I did the plant tour last fall at Everett, based out of the new Future of Flight Aviation Center, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The formal tour---you are taken by Boeing bus from the Future of Flight Center to the huge production line building---takes a little over an hour. It costs about $15, and you may wish to get a reservation in advance at the website: http://www.futureofflight.org

The Boeing production building in Everett covers almost 100 acres. This is where the new 787 "Dreamliner" is being designed and manufactured.

You are not allowed to take a camera, cell phone or binoculars on the tour. Leave those locked in your car at the Aviation Center parking lot.

I was visiting Seattle, did the plant tour the first thing in the morning, and made it to Mt Baker for skiing the afternoon.

Bob
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Drive from Seattle to Whistler...how hard/easy is it?