General Considerations for Driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco
This road trip begins at the intersection of I-10 and I-405 in Los Angeles and ends at San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
If you have a choice, start in L.A. to avoid afternoon traffic. Going north to south, leave San Francisco early to avoid morning rush and have the best chance of getting to Los Angeles before backups begin.
If you want to get from place to place without driving, check our guide to travel by bus, train and air.
Driving Routes from Los Angeles to San FranciscoThere are many ways to go, with even more side routes. These are most popular:
- Los Angeles to San Francisco on US 101 (black route): About 430 miles and 1.5 hours longer than I-5, more interesting than I-5 and faster than CA 1, following the coast part way. Read the mile-by-mile guide to what to see and do along Highway 101, starting in Los Angeles or starting in San Francisco.
- Coastal Route (blue route): It's possible but difficult to take the coastal route in a day, leaving US 101 north of San Luis Obispo to follow CA 1 along the Pacific Coast. Only a few miles longer than 101, but taking 9 to 10 hours of driving, some of it on two-lane, winding roads. Read the mile-by-mile guide to discover what there is to see and do on the coastal route.
If this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and you'll never see the Big Sur coast if you don't do it now, get a good night's sleep, get up early and go for it. You will have little time for stops, but the landscape is beautiful. If you can find just one more day to make the trip, you'll be glad you did.
- Fastest Route (green route): If you just want to get there fast, use our guide to driving on I-5. This fastest route is the least interesting. It's 382 miles (city center to city center), about 6 hours.
- The Back Way: The most beautiful and interesting way to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco is too long for one day. Take I-405 north to CA 14, connect to US 395 north and follow it up the eastern side of the Sierras to Lee Vining and Mono Lake. When Tioga Pass is open, cross Yosemite National Park and head west to San Francisco. Allow at least two full days.
Daylight varies by season from 10 hours in December-January to 15 hours in June-July.
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