Driving from Seattle to Vancouver takes three to three and a half hours under normal conditions in reasonable traffic and no excessive lineups at the border.
Border crossing times are generally shorter heading north from Seattle to Vancouver, so the trip north often is shorter than the one from Vancouver to Seattle. Crossing into the U.S. is a more time-consuming process.
What's the Drive like between Seattle and Vancouver?
The drive is a pleasant one.
The most direct route is on the I-5 North; however, consider expanding the drive to include some additional highlights along the way. Chuckanut Drive is an old two-lane highway that runs from Interstate 5 just north of Mt. Vernon (60 miles from Seattle) that will only take an extra half hour or so but will reward you with stunning vistas of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands.
Crossing the U.S./Canada Border
There are four border crossing options when driving between Seattle, WA, to Vancouver, B.C. They are from west to east: Peace Arch; the Pacific Highway, or "Truck Crossing" as it's commonly known; Lynden/Aldergrove and Sumas/Abbotsford.
The first bit of advice is to check Northbound Border Wait Times to see current waits at each crossing. Also, tune your radio to AM730 to hear traffic updates.
Although the northbound wait is generally less than that of the southbound, there is still a pattern of less traffic in the morning, with traffic peaking mid-day and remaining heavier till around 6 pm.
Northbound traffic at the border on weekends tends to peak later and be busiest between 6 pm and 10 pm.
Which is Border Crossing the Best One?
The border crossing that is best for you depends on whether your priority is just to make the crossing as quickly as possible or if duty-free shopping is also important.
The Peace Arch crossing is the main crossing and tends to be the busiest (it is, in fact, the third most active U.S./Canada border crossing, averaging about 4,000 cars per day). Not only is Peace Arch busy, it lacks duty-free shopping (duty-free shopping is available southbound only). The adjacent Pacific Highway (the Truck Crossing) is open to non-commercial traffic, is generally faster than Peace Arch and has duty free shopping.
Peace Arch traffic congestion peaks at 3 to 4 pm. NEXUS lanes are available northbound and southbound.
Two other border crossing options, slightly farther east are the Lynden/Aldergrove and Sumas/Abbotsford crossings. Both have duty free shopping.
The Lynden/Aldergrove crossing is accessed to Canada by Guide Meridian coming from Lynden Washington (follow signs for Lynden). When entering Canada you will end up on 264 Street, if you carry on 264th it will take you to Hwy 1, head west to Vancouver about 45 minutes to downtown. This crossing is 35 mi/59 km east of Vancouver. However, if you're traveling to the North Shore or to the east side of Vancouver, this crossing is worth considering. The wait is usually less than 5 minutes. Note that it is not open 24 hrs a day.
The Abbotsford/Sumas crossing enters Canada from Washington State by Easterbrook Road turning into Sumas Way and ending up in Abbotsford BC. It is open 24 hours but is 43 mi or 72 km east of Vancouver, which adds on travel time, even if saving on border wait time. However, if you get off the I-5 at Bellingham and drive to Mt. Baker and onto Sumas, you'll see some gorgeous scenery.
This border crossing has NEXUS-dedicated lanes bound in both directions.