Routes to Drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco
The ways to drive between Los Angeles and San Francisco are almost endless, but these are the most common:
Daylight varies by season from 10 hours in December-January to 15 hours in June-July.
I-5 from Los Angeles to San Francisco
- Black route on the map
- 382 miles (city center to city center)
- Takes about 6 hours, using I-5 for most of the trip
- The fastest way to get there, but b-o-r-i-n-g.
- If you just want to get there fast, use the Guide to Driving on I-5.
US Hwy 101 from Los Angeles to San Francisco
- Purple route on the map
- 430 miles and follows the coast part way
- Takes about 1.5 hours longer than I-5
- More scenic and less stressful (fewer big trucks, less traffic)
- My readers choose it least often, but unless I'm in a hurry, I'll take it every time
- Read the mile-by-mile guide to what to see and do along Highway 101, starting in Los Angeles or starting in San Francisco
CA Hwy 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco
- Blue route that hugs the cost on the map
- Only a few miles longer than US Hwy 101, but taking 9 to 10 hours of driving, some of it on two-lane, winding roads
- Taking the coastal route is possible in a 9 to 10 hour day, if you don't stop much
- Even though it's long, it's the one that our readers choose most often
- If you want to try it, see the Guide to Driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco on Hwy 1
The Scenic Back Way from Los Angeles to San Francisco
- Green route on the map
- The most beautiful and interesting way to make the trip
- Takes 2 full days minimum
- A good option if you want to visit Yosemite on your trip, but only in summer when Tioga Pass is open
Leave Los Angeles on I-405 north to CA Hwy 14, then connect to US Hwy 395 north. 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. If Tioga Pass is closed, going north to Lake Tahoe and then to San Francisco on I-80 is an alternative.