Skip Navigation

FAST route from San Diego to San Francisco

Travel Forums North America FAST route from San Diego to San Francisco

1. Posted by califor101 (Budding Member 3 posts) 8y

califor101 has indicated that this thread is about USA

Hey TPers,

I'm planning a road trip from San Diego to San Francisco, and while I seem to be able to find loads of scenic routes, I'm looking for the absolute speediest one. I'm hoping somebody here knows the best way to get around LA, because I would unfortunately be hitting that area around rush hour.

Then again, if rush hour isn't the hell that I imagine it to be, perhaps I don't need to avoid LA?

Opinions welcome!

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4892 posts) 8y

Rush hour in LA is the hell you're imagining it to be (at least based on my limited experience, getting from Pasadena to LAX), and as far as I'm aware (very much not a local), there's no way to avoid it. Your best bet (peering at google maps) might be going over the I-15, 215, 395 and 58 to Bakersfield, but that'd add fully an hour to the distance and would still take you through the outskirts of LA.
Still, since I assume it's morning rush hour that you're talking about, you can probably assume that it's worst going in to LA, and you basically have two options there from San Diego: I-5 or I-15. So I'd turn on the radio on the day in question and hear which is worse, then opt for the other - and hope that once you hit LA itself things won't be too gridlocked.

*plays around with google maps a bit*

here's the route which gives me the best estimated time "in traffic" (9:20 as opposed to 9:40 when going straight over I-5; my first suggestion of going via Bakersfield is estimated taking 10:20 "in traffic", so wasn't a particularly good one).

[ Edit: Edited on Jan 4, 2009, at 5:35 AM by Sander ]

3. Posted by gypsierose (Budding Member 26 posts) 8y

I would agree, try to leave very very early if possible from San Diego. Once you can get to I-5 then it shouldn't be too bad of a drive.

If you get a chance, one the way up to SF, there are some amazing places to stop and explore. Santa Barbara, Carmel, and monterey is the best. If you happen to do your trip where you land in Monterey on Sunday, the brunch at the biltmore can't be beat. I don't know how much it is now but back then it was around $25... but you definately get your money's worth and it's right on the water... just can't be beat.

Have a safe trip, try not to speed too much as the cops are very aware.

4. Posted by Kimee129 (Full Member 37 posts) 8y

I have travelled the route from San Diego to San Francisco many times. The quickest route would be I-5 straight up. If you are planning on going on a weekend the traffic isn't as horrific as a week day. However, the earlier the better!! Probably not the best advice, but I usually made great time speeding through the areas between San Fran and Bakersfield. There is a little kitchy town called Solvang that would be great to stop in for Lunch. The whole town is like a little Dutch town transported to the Valley of LA.

I know you are in a rush on the way up there, but I just can't imagine someone not taking Hwy 1/101 at least once. I have travelled extensively over the world, and this stretch of highway ranks in my top 10. The hostel at Pidgeon Point Light House in Atascadero is awesome. Speaking of Hostels. There are several great ones in and around San Francisco! If you want any further information on that I would be happy to supply it. Happy Travelling. You make me jealous!

5. Posted by califor101 (Budding Member 3 posts) 8y

You guys are great. I'm a native San Diegan and I did the PCH with my parents before, so I know what I'm missing out on. I would probably take more time, but my co-pilot had to cancel, so now that I don't have anybody to share the drive with I figured I just get to my destination (and friends). It's my first big solo trip, too. Normally there's a carful and I'm not the only driver.

Also, I have to leave when I do because of appointments that can't be shifted... I can either leave mid afternoon on a Monday or bright and early Tuesday.

6. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4892 posts) 8y

Quoting califor101

Also, I have to leave when I do because of appointments that can't be shifted... I can either leave mid afternoon on a Monday or bright and early Tuesday.

So totally leave mid afternoon on Monday and do the pacific coast highway. You should be able to pass through LA before rush hour starts (or at most catch the beginning of it just as you're exiting the city), and can stop for the night somewhere between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo (three to five hours away), depending on how tired you are. You then have a very relaxed drive ahead on Tuesday, where you can take your time seeing the coastline on your own, and/or stop for an hour or two in a place like Santa Cruz. (Travel by yourself always makes you look at things differently then when with family.)
I'd say that if you're not used to driving long distances by yourself, two half days of driving is better than one really long day, even if that long day would be faster in pure driving time.

[ Edit: Edited on Jan 4, 2009, at 8:16 AM by Sander ]

7. Posted by Calcruzer (Moderator 1992 posts) 8y

For the absolutely best route, take the following (I've done this often--and it will save you lots of time during rush hour)

Head north on I-15 and take this all the way to Hwy 91 near Corona (be sure not to get on I-215 when you are near Temecula/Murietta).

Go west/south on Hwy 91 towards Newport Beach/Anaheim, but take this road for only about 7 miles, getting on on Hwy 71 towards Pomona/Chino instead. When Hwy 71 ends, you will get on Highway 57 north. Highway 57 will end in about 3 miles. Then you get on I-210 towards Pasadena. Take this road (I-210) all the way to Sylmar where you will get on I-5 north. This gets you around the LA area easily. Now you will take I-5 north for about the next 300 miles.

Now get on I-580 west towards Livermore/Oakland. Take this road all the way to the San Francisco Bay Bridge (I-80). Take this bridge the 8 miles across the bay into the city of San Francisco.


8. Posted by califor101 (Budding Member 3 posts) 8y

Thank you everyone! I just got back yesterday. I ended up taking strictly the 5 up there. But I left at a ridiculous hour (1AM), but hey, I'm a teenager, so why not. And I obviously didn't hit any traffic on the 5 at that hour. I got up to Sacramento by 9, just in time to enjoy the rest of the day with my friends. Well, that and nap.

I took the five back down, and hit a teeny bit of traffic in LA around 2pm, but nothing to pull my hair out over...

Overall, I'm happy! Thank you for everybody's advice. I shall definitely try the 15 next time.