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Cambria to San Francisco: which way and how much time?

Cambria to San Francisco: which way and how much time?

Mar 27th, 2006, 05:44 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 298
Cambria to San Francisco: which way and how much time?

Hi - We are heading to central California in three weeks. We have all our rooms reserved and tentative plans. Trying to firm things up now. We are spending our last two days in San Francisco and will be driving from Cambria/Morro Bay area on Wednesday to check into our Cow Hollow Suites reservation in San Francisco that night. Question one: as we are driving into San Francisco - what can we expect for traffic? Will it matter a great deal what time of day we do this - any suggestions? We would like to spend the morning in either Morro Bay or Montana de Oro and then drive, but I don't want to land us in a mess so am open to ideas! Secondly: I see that we can go back up retracing our steps up coastal route 1, or 101 or route 5. Is 101 scenic at all or should be just go for 5? Big difference in time for these 3 routes?

Thanks for any input. Mapquest just won't tell me what to expect for traffic and lights and scenic views so I really appreciate this forum!

sueoz is offline  
Mar 27th, 2006, 06:08 AM
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I personally would try to get into SF before 2pm if it's a weekday. If you are taking Hwy 1 you should leave early (8 am). If 101, no later than 10 am would be okay. Hwy 5 is way out of the way.
What day of the week would you be travelling? If it's the weekend, maybe you can do the Montana de Oro morning visit.
Mar 27th, 2006, 06:31 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 1,151
I'll be doing a similar drive in a few weeks. I guess my feeling is I am not going to waste a hundred miles of gorgeous route, worrying about traffic at the end of the trip. Go up highway 1 and take plenty of breaks and stops to take photos and enjoy the view. We'll either be stopping for lunch at Nepenthe or Rocky Point and visit Carmel Mission and take a quick drive through Cannery Row (my passenger is a Steinbeck fan). Then we'll head for Salinas and try to make a quick stop at the Steinbeck museum, heading north on 101.

Traffic will be heavy on 101 between just south of San Jose most of the way to San Francisco from 4 pm until 7 pm (or later). If there are more than one you can take the HOV lane. In your case, since you don't need to hit Salinas you could take 280 which might be slightly less crowded and is certainly more scenic. Traffic will be what it will be. Don't worry about missing it.

For your return, I hate Highway 5 although it is quicker. I usually take 101 instead.
Catbert is offline  
Mar 27th, 2006, 08:22 AM
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hi again - thanks for the answers so far. We are doing this on a Wednesday. We are flying into San Francisco on the previous Friday and driving to Carmel. We plan a day kayaking and exploring monterey peninsula, a day at Point Lobos State Park and then on Monday heading down Big Sur. Plan to sleep at Fogcatcher Inn Mon and Tuesday. Will do a Hearst Castle tour (not sure which yet?), kayak in Morro Bay (we hope), hike a little at Montana de Oro and generally enjoy the area before we head up to San Francisco on Wednesday. Still wondering if 101 is scenic at all or if we should redo coastal 1 back up the other way again? My husband (the driver) is a zombie in traffic which is why I try to plan well!!! Maybe I'll make our friend drive and that will take care of the problem! When you talk about traffic going into San Francisco - are we talking parking lot traffic or just slow moving? Thanks. sue
sueoz is offline  
Mar 27th, 2006, 08:59 AM
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If it's between 3 and 6:30 p.m., I think sections are parking lot ish. That being said, if you can use car pool lanes (on 101 part of the way they have them), you may be okay. Catbert's suggestion is good to go Hwy One part way to Monterey, then cut over to Salinas and 101. The Salinas to San Jose will be mostly reverse commute.
I was thinking Hwy 1 all the way, which is very slow.
Mar 27th, 2006, 10:02 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,108
Going back, I would take Hwy 101 rather than I5. 101 is more scenic and it is freeway so the drive goes fast. Actually from SF to Cambria, it would probably take longer on I5 than 101 because you would have to go so far inland to pick up I5 and then come back out to the coast. We go from SJ to San Luis Obispo on a fairly regular basis and that drive is a standard 3 hours on 101. I wouldn't even consider going inland to I5. Hwy 1 is slow going because of all the curves.
J_Correa is offline  
Mar 27th, 2006, 10:10 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
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101 isn't really what I would call scenic, but you get a true sense of the agricultural part of California when you drive it. My husband and I enjoy it. I would suggest a side trip to the Mission San Antonio de Padua. It is off 101 on Jolon Road, south of King City. It is a bit of a detour, but the road is good and the mission is very interesting and peaceful.

We recently visited the Steinbeck Center and were a little disappointed. I expected something else, I'm not sure what. It seemed a bit commercial to me, but I wouldn't want to discourage any Steinbeck afficianados from visiting.

I would definately stay away from 5 unless your only goal is to get to San Francisco in good time. It is boring.

I agree with trippinkpj regarding timing the San Francisco traffic on the freeway. However, off the freeway and actually IN San Francisco, the traffic is always somewhat crazy (like most cities, I guess)!!! Lots of one way streets. Have a good map handy.
nevermind is offline  
Mar 27th, 2006, 05:12 PM
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I-5 will not be faster, in fact it is your longest option; it will take about 2 hours just to get to it from the coast! It's only faster if you're starting in LA. 101 will be slightly faster but far less scenic than Hwy One. The thing about Hwy One is that you don't want to drive it as fast as you could, you want to stop and see the scenery, linger after eating, etc. You say it will be backtracking for you, so you can decide whether you want to go back. 101 will be pretty hillsides and flat farmland, much better than 5 but still nothing compared to Hwy One.
sequoia370 is offline  
Mar 27th, 2006, 05:23 PM
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You're right, sequoia370 -- I 5 would be slower to SF, and still boring. I was actually thinking about going inland. Sorry for implying it might be the fastest route!
nevermind is offline  
Mar 28th, 2006, 03:43 AM
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Thank you all for the great information. Basically from what you've all said I am between 1 and 101. We like farmland, etc. so would probably enjoy 101, but how much faster is it than 1? Are we talking an hour or more? Four hours to San Francisco?? Any preferred way in once we get close to the city (going to Cow Hollow)? thanks again. sue
sueoz is offline  
Mar 28th, 2006, 06:05 AM
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If you take 101 all the way, in a non-commute time it would be 4 to 4 1/2. Hwy 1 at least 6, and in that afternoon/ early evening commute time that you're going to hit if you don't leave till noon, I'd add an hour to each. I'd personally leave the Morro Bay area by 10 am.
Mar 28th, 2006, 03:48 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 1,149
Since you will already have been to Carmel, etc. and done Big Sur I would not drive north on it from Cambria. Do take 101 and look at all of the vineyards they have begun planting. I-5 makes no sense at all. It is fast, but ugly and out of your way.

To avoid traffic getting into San Francisco on 101, at about Mountain View take Hwy 85 over to Hwy 280, touted as the "most beautiful freeway in the world" and come into San Francsico that way. It is 8 lanes divided, goes in back of Stanford University property, through some gorgeous scenery, and the hills will still be emerald green in three weeks. It is raining all this week.

You will pass the Crystal Springs reservoir where SF water is pumped from the Hetch-Hetchy dam near Yosemite.

We live in Santa Cruz, go into the city regularly, and we have never run into traffic on this road.

To get to Cow Hollow Suites,just follow the signs to the Golden Gate Bridge. You will drive through part of the Sunset (a residential district) on 19th Avenue...(lights are timed)then through Golden Gate Park and Park Presidio Blvd. After the tunnel, take the right hand exit to 101 and you will be led to Lombard St. where your motel is.

Have a great trip.
jtrandolph is offline  
Mar 28th, 2006, 04:15 PM
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Since you are driving south on Highway 1, I second the vote for going back on 101 with the crossover to 280. I take that freeway (280) whenever I am down that way, and am amazed at how uncrowded it remains. The only congested part might be right in San Jose, but you should be early enough in the day avoid that. As for scenery along 101, it may not be as scenic as the incomparable Highway 1, but it is still pretty nice. There's a lot of California history along that route, El Camino Real (the "King's Highway") which linked the early California missions.
enzian is offline  
Mar 28th, 2006, 04:22 PM
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I would second jrandolph's suggestion of taking I280. it really is a beautiful route.

Then I would cut over to Highway 1 via Highway 84.

Go up along Highway 1 to San Francisco.

Highway 1 becomes 19 Avenue in the City, but it is a relatively fast drive (probably 20 minutes end to end in the city). From 19 avenue, take a right on Geary, left on Presidio, right on Lombard. Lombard Street will place you close to the Cow Hollow Suites.

You don't need to follow I280 all the way into the City, in fact, for where you are going, it would be best to avoid I280 as you get closer to SF. Traffic problems.

Another really scenie route is to drive along I280 until Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35). Go all along Highway 35 which curves into the city and joins Highway 1. Left turn onto Highway 1 and follow the above route.

(I'd suggest getting a map of SF for the city driving portion.)

Either way, I'd suggest avoiding getting into SF on the freeways, unless it's during a relatively traffic-free time of the day.
easytraveler is offline  
Mar 28th, 2006, 05:00 PM
Join Date: May 2005
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ERASE my suggestion on how to get to Hwy 280. Instead, as you are coming up Hwy 101, just south of San Jose, there will be an exit for 280 north. Near there is also an exit for 680, or 580, I forget. Take 280 north, then you don't have to deal with 85 at all.

My suggestion to stay on that still stands. Just watch, when you are entering San Francisco, that you don't stay in the right hand lanes. I was easily whisked off one day to another downtown route, because 280 peels off here, because I wasn't paying attention.

Follow the "yellow brick road" <g>. In other words the asphalt road to the Golden Gate Bridge. Watch signs for that.

Just make sure you turn right after the tunnel on Park Presidio.

I think the reason easytraveler and I have some disagreement is that he/she thought I was directing you to downtown because of the peel-off of 280 in that direction. No need to do anything except stay on course. 280 to 19th Ave. to Park Presidio Drive to 101 south to Lombard Street and Cow Hollow Suites.

Happy traveling.
jtrandolph is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 03:39 AM
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You all are great! Thanks so much. I find having this kind of direction to get in and out of a city makes all the difference in my "driver's" mentality and the enjoyment of the trip! Thanks again for taking the time to answer. sue
sueoz is offline  
Mar 29th, 2006, 10:50 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 34
Sueoz - thanks for asking that question. I too was wondering how to get back to SF from Cambria. And I will be doing it on a Wednesday like you. In fact, my itinerary is almost the same as yours. Carmel 2 nights, Cambria 2 nights, and SF 3 nights. I think we might be a week apart. I'll be there April 22 -29. Thanks to all the replies. They help immensely.
RickyB is offline  

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