Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > United States
Reload this Page > quickest route from San Diego to San Francisco

quickest route from San Diego to San Francisco


Jul 13th, 2004, 06:52 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 11
quickest route from San Diego to San Francisco

Hi! I'm new to this forum & have learned so much already! We are planning a trip to California with our two teen-age sons in a couple of weeks. Due to poor planning we need to get from San Diego to San Francisco quickly in the middle of our two week trip. Our last night in San Diego is a Friday and we need to be in SF in time for an afternoon baseball game on Sunday. Should we drive the entire distance on Saturday? (We are pretty used to long drives.) Or, if we stop somewhere, what would be interesting along the faster route? (We will have worked our way down the coast on Hwy 1 the week before.) And exactly what is the fastest route? Is is better to take I-15 out of San Diego? Then what do we do to get through LA?
Thanks for any help & suggestions anyone can give me.
nancy12345 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 13th, 2004, 08:05 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 193
It would be the 5 out of SD straight through LA. There is a 15 bypass route, but you shouldn't need it.

Get on the 5, work the carpool lanes through Orange County and you'll be fine.

If you left Sat morning, you'd have plenty of time. It's an 8 hour straight shot, and an incredibly dull one at that.

Did you plan on leaving SD friday night? That wouldn't be so bad, IMO. Leave SD after 6 or 7, which hopefully would get you through LA by 9 or 10, barring any traffic surprises. If you were to stick it out for a few hours and make into the San Joaquin, that might be your best bet. Someone could advise on a motel stop through there.

Be careful through the Grapevine, the windy road out of the mountains and into the valley, as it has been the scene of many a multiple car pile-up due to sudden fog.

BTW, it would be the 5, to the 580, to the 80 into SF.

Just burn through it, this route takes you right through California's armpit, but unfortunately is the only efficient route.
malvado is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 13th, 2004, 09:13 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 17,106
Malvado's idea of starting out Friday night is a good one.

Friday evening, you could get as far as Castaic (north of LA), which would place you just before the long haul over the Tehachapi Mountains (the "Grapevine"). There's a bunch of hotels and motels in the area, because of the Magic Mountain attraction.

Next morning, start out over the mountains, should take about an hour.

Then it's about two and a half hours through the boring part of Interstate 5.

After that, I'd suggest that you cut over on Highway 152, heading for Gilroy and San Jose. This is another stretch of mountains and should break up the monotony of driving on Interstate 5.

From 152, you get on Highway 101 northbound. This will take you through some parts of Silicon Valley, then on straight up to San Francisco.

If you wanted a bit more variety, you could branch onto Interstate 280 from Highway 101. 280 is a very scenic drive.

Both 280 and 101 lead into San Francisco.

Total drive time from Castaic to San Francisco would be about 7 hours, with pit stops and lunch stop.

Hope this helps!
easytraveler is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 13th, 2004, 09:44 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 11
Thank you very much for the advice. We can't really leave San Diego on Friday because we have already paid for our rooms on Priceline. But I am hoping that the traffic on Saturday through LA may be less than on a workday. We have been to San Diego once before & to SF many times before. We have never been to LA. When we booked the airfare in to & out of San Jose, we didn't know about the Giants/Cardinals game on Sunday. Since we are from St. Louis, we hate to miss the opportunity to see the Cards play & to visit the new stadium at the same time.
Again, thanks for all of the advice.
So, if you were me & you couldn't leave SD until Saturday morning, would you book a room in SF or would you plan to stop somewhere along the way? If we get all the way to SF then that would allow two (or maybe more) nights in the same place.
Thanks again!
nancy12345 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 13th, 2004, 09:49 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 162
Excellent advice on this post. The timing is perfect.
lahainaluna is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 13th, 2004, 10:48 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 17,106
OK, back to the old drawing board!

You COULD make it from San Diego to San Francisco in one day - 10 hours' drive with pit stops. You don't have to push it and get into San Francisco a bit earlier. Whatever for?

Start out early from San Diego. By the time you get over the Tehachapi Mountains, it'll be about four hours. If you start out at 7 am, this means that you are driving the desert/semi-desert portion of Interetate 5 about 11am-1:30pm. Thus, the earlier you start out, the less desert heat you will suffer. I wouldn't start out later than 7am, if at all possible.

I'd still suggest going by way of Highway 152, which will take about an hour.

Once you join up with Highway 101 from 152, you are about 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours from San Francisco. Thus, if you start out at 7 am from San Diego you should be in San Francisco by 5 pm.

The additional 2 hours you spend on the road will be well worth the lesser stress and strain as compared with a mad dash of 8 hours.

BTW, on Highway 5, you can break for lunch at the junction of Interstate 5 and Highway 58, at a place called "Buttonwillow". There are a bunch of fast food places and a number of gas stations there. Gas is relatively cheaper at Buttonwillow than elsewhere along Interstate 5. In addition, if you gas up at Buttonwillow, you should have enough gas to get you as far as San Jose, and perhaps all the way to San Francisco. Cuts down on the worry of where to find the next gas station.

About an hour later, still on Interstate 5, you'll come to the Harris Ranch, another good place to stop. It's near Coalinga and is at the junction of Interstate 5 and Highway 198 (I believe). Great place for a pit stop. Lots of beef dishes, if you wanted to eat there.

If you don't stop at the Harris Ranch, make sure you have your car windows closed and maybe your A/C off. This last weekend as I was whizzing by, I counted 50,000 heads of cattle - yep, counted every single one of them! If the wind is blowing your way...arghhhhh!

Do you know where you are going to be staying in San Francisco? Parking can be expensive. Let us know, because we can help you get to the ball game via public transportation.

Enjoy the game! It's a beautiful stadium.
easytraveler is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 14th, 2004, 07:35 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,466
unfortunatly, i have found traffic in la worse on a saturday then some weekdays. but, maybe i just hit bad days.
because i can't stand being stuck in la traffic, i'd be up early and leave by 6:00 a.m. the boys could just roll out of the hotel and go back to sleep in the car. it would get you out of la before most people are on the road and you'd get into san fran at a nice time to enjoy the evening.
ltt is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 14th, 2004, 08:03 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,366
ltt: Saturday traffic in the LA basin is generally much less than on a weekday. However, if there are any accidents, the rule goes out the window. I-5 north of Orange County through LA County is relatively narrow and messy compared to other freeways, and delays are common.

nancy, it really is a good idea to get up and north of LA as early as possible. Get on the road no later than 7 AM. It IS a long drive, so be prepared.
rjw_lgb_ca is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 14th, 2004, 09:07 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 11
Easytraveler & everyone else,
Thanks for all the detailed advice. We will definitely head out early for SD.
I don't know where we are staying in SF on this second leg of the trip. That is what I am working on now. I made some Priceline reservations before I discovered this site (& thus the bidding for travel reccomendation). I think I did OK in SF--got the Villa Florence--2 rooms for 1 night (a Saturday) for $66.00/room.
I now know that I probably over-bid when I reserved the Hyatt Regency Monterey @ $71.00/room....Oh well, live & learn. I just hope the place is not as bad as the reviews say it will be. I didn't really know what I was doing at that time.
Then we will be in LA at the Luxe Summit Hotel Bel Aire for 2 nights ($85/room--may also be an overbid). Does anyone know anything about that hotel & area? Then I booked 1 room in Anaheim because we are planning to see a baseball game there & I thought that would be better to stay there & head on to SD the next day. I probably overpaid there, also, but not by too much ($50/room at the Radisson Hotel Maingate.) This Priceline thing is a real science if you have the time to research it.
Then we go to San Diego for 2 nights at the Radisson Harbor View ($61/room for 2 nights.)
When we began planning the trip we didn't know about the Cardinals game in SF, but did know that we wanted to see some baseball. I would love advice about public transportation. I will probably try Priceline again & try for Union Square or the Embarcadaro. I hope I haven't waited too long. I have been waiting partly because we aren't certain we want to lock ourselves into the non-refundable deal of Priceline. I may start working on some cancelable reservations for the second week. The advice I've read here has been very helpful. Thanks again to everyone!
nancy12345 is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:03 PM.