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Los Angeles to San Francisco on Highway One

Traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles on Coastal Highway One

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This route begins at San Luis Obispo and follows CA Hwy 1 from US Hwy 101 along the coast to San Francisco. Next Going North: What's Between San Luis Obispo and Hearst Castle
Los Angeles to San Francisco on Highway One

Traveling Between San Francisco and Los Angeles on California Highway One

©2014 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Distance: 270 miles (San Luis Obispo to San Francisco)
Driving Time: All day or longer. Average speed: 30 to 40 miles per hour

Between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo, California Hwy 1 merges with US 101 or becomes an uninteresting side road. Most people take US Hwy 101 instead. This trip planner describes the drive from San Luis Obispo through Big Sur to San Francisco, the most popular part of California Hwy 1.

If have a choice when driving between Los Angeles to San Francisco, start in LA to avoid afternoon traffic. Going south, leave San Francisco early to have the best chance of getting to LA before backups begin.

If you plan to make the trip in one day, driving this section of Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and San Francisco, it will take 9 to 10 hours with no stops. Available daylight varies from 10 hours in December-January to almost 15 hours in June-July.

Getting Started

If you start from Los Angeles, you can take US Hwy 101 to San Luis Obispo or follow California Hwy 1 through Malibu to Ventura, then follow US Hwy 101 to San Luis Obispo.

The 183-mile drive from I-405 at US Hwy 101 in Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo and takes 3 hours.

If you're starting from the north, discover options for getting out of San Francisco and follow the links going south.

What You Need to Know About Driving on California Highway 1

  • Views will be clearer if you make this drive from south to north - and you'll be driving on the inside of the curves.
  • Mudslides can close the highway and repairs can take months. Call CalTrans at 800-427-ROAD or check their website before you go to be sure it's open.
  • In April, the Big Sur Marathon closes a section of highway for a few hours in the morning.
  • You may want to take your time, but others may not. According to California state law: "If you are driving slowly on a two-lane highway or road where passing is unsafe, and five or more vehicles are following you, drive into the turnout areas or lanes to let the vehicles pass."
  • This highway has lots of curves. If you or anyone in your party suffer from motion sickness, bring your favorite remedies.

Other Routes from Los Angeles to San Francisco

  • Fastest Route: Take I-5 through the central valley. The 382-mile trip takes about 6 hours.
  • US Highway 101: More scenic than I-5,it takes about 7.5 hours.
  • The Back Way: Too far to drive in a single day, it's the most interesting route. Take I-405 north to CA 14, connect to US 395 north and travel up the eastern side of the mountains. When Tioga Pass is open, cross Yosemite and head west to San Francisco. For optimum enjoyment, allow two full days.

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