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driving from san francisco to los angeles

Travel Forums North America driving from san francisco to los angeles


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1. Posted by hendrix147 (Full Member 44 posts) 12y

We are planning to drive from san fran to la in a hire car, but only have four days to do it in. I was just wondering if anyone had done this drive before and if four days is realistic without having to drive constantly.
Any advice/tips gratefully recieved.

2. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 12y

San Francisco to L.A. should take at most 8 hours with traffic, so 4 days will provide you with a ton of time to stop and check out the sites along the way.


3. Posted by hendrix147 (Full Member 44 posts) 12y

Thanks Greg thats very helpful, its very hard to judge how long a drive will take when youve never been there. cheers

Any must see places along the way that anyone recomends would be gratefully recieved.:)

4. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4925 posts) 12y

Do not take the direct highway. You'll want the Pacific Coast Highway. (Highway 1) Four days should be a perfect time for that. Nice and slow, giving yourself time to properly explore everything there's to see on that drive, and that's a lot.
Plan your first stop for Santa Cruz. You can easily spend a day there. Watch sunset over the ocean, eat some Clam Chowder. Then south from there, beyond Monterey, you'll be heading to Big Sur. Make sure you know where to spend the night in advance, as there's not much civilization thereabouts, but the scenery... it's glorious. Totally remote, and you wonder how this most beautiful drive in the USA can be _that_ empty. Don't all the Californians know what they're missing as they're zooming down over the 101, or even worse, the 5? The roads winds its way right alongside the ocean, giving access to tons of sheltered little beaches (in between all the steep cliffs). On a cloudy day, late afternoon light here is amazing.

After making the bend east beyond Santa Maria, Santa Barbara makes a worthwhile stop, if just for a few hours.
LA is boring and gray, so if you find you have several hours left and are almost there already, make a detour north from here, into the Los Padres National "Forest". Doesn't look like any forest I've ever seen, but the beauty in this stark and inhospitable landscape is undeniable.

Google map for the road around Big Sur - drag around to explore

Finally, I envy you. :)

5. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4925 posts) 12y

Hrm, for some reason that link doesn't want to work the second time around. Sorry, try this link to the google map instead

6. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4925 posts) 12y

Oh, gaah. It's being url-encoded once too often. Oi, Peter, this needs fixing. (I think.)

In which case *makes a tinyurl* - use this link. *crosses fingers that it'll work now*

7. Posted by vagabond (Full Member 104 posts) 12y

Totally agree with Sander, US 101 is beautiful. Places to check out on the way (apart from lookout points all along the way) are Santa Barbara, Monterey-Carmel and the 17 mile drive, Big Sur etc. You'll love the drive.

Actully, US 101 is an awesome drive all the way till Washington state.

8. Posted by hendrix147 (Full Member 44 posts) 12y

Thanks for all the advise, i have certainly took it all on board.Just dying to get going now, but still got 3 months to go.
Does anyone know roughly how much it would cost for car hire and fuel on this journey(standard car)? cheers:)

9. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4925 posts) 12y

Oh, or alternatively: drive east to Yosemite National Park (0.5 day). Stay in Yosemite. (2.5 days). Drive South to LA (1 day).
Optionally, you can drive south by route of Kings Kanyon and Sequoia National Park, which'll cost you half a day, to be taken from the time in Yosemite.

I think this might be even better than the Pacific Coast Highway, though it'd be a very tough choice.

The drive to Yosemite is nothing special, and the drive from Yosemite to LA is really long and boring, but Yosemite itself is absolutely awesome, and two days there would make the drive totally worth it.

10. Posted by vagabond (Full Member 104 posts) 12y

Oh just an idea, if you want you can go further south from LA. Joshua Tree National park or san diego