If you’ve ever thought of road tripping from Phoenix to San Francisco for the very first time, you’re not alone. When we started planning our road trip, we had no idea what to expect. Although there are not many reviews of people like us who are trying to figure out how to start a road trip, we used TripAdvisor’s travel forum to get advice from other travelers who have traveled the same route. Although we sometimes had a hard time deciphering the opinions of complete strangers, the advice we received was incredibly helpful and ultimately helped us plan our trip.
It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. My posts used to be a bit more frequent, but my life took a turn for the better, and I simply had less time. The good news is that now I’ve come back to my roots, and I feel the blog posts are coming back.The breathtaking drive from Phoenix to San Francisco takes you through endless deserts, majestic mountains and dense forests before you reach the city of Golden Gate. If you fly, it won’t be quite the same, as you’ll be missing out on one of the most geologically diverse routes the United States has to offer.
The journey from Phoenix to San Francisco takes 12 hours over a scenic route. Along the way you can visit the Angeles, Sequoia and Stanislaus National Forests, explore Los Angeles and San Jose, visit Joshua Tree National Park or even Yosemite.
Few American road trips are comparable, so read on to find out what to expect.
How far is it from San Francisco to Phoenix and how long is the trip?
A road trip from Phoenix to San Francisco involves 750 miles on the faster Interstate 5. Keep in mind that many of California’s best attractions are not accessible via this route, so take the freeway if you don’t feel like exploring.
If you want to make the most of your trip, Highway 99, which runs past California’s iconic parks and forests, is your best bet. It only adds about 25 miles to the main trail, but the temptation to take a scenic detour here is more or less constant.
A short detour on a scenic road brings you to beautiful Yosemite National Park.
If you choose this route, it’s best to take at least a week to make as many memorable stops as possible – just make sure you take advantage of the many towns along the way to refuel.
Whichever route you choose, you should expect a fair amount of traffic, as many tourists travel between the major cities, especially during the summer holidays. Make sure you download the traffic app and plan your stops based on traffic.
Best route for a road trip from Phoenix to San Francisco
The best route for a road trip from Phoenix to San Francisco would be Highway 99 – it offers more attractions and stops and is only slightly longer than the highway. If you study it carefully, you can take the freeway to San Francisco and the freeway back.
Insertion lane (Interstate 5)
Leave Phoenix on Interstate 10 and follow it past Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and Joshua Tree National Park. After driving through Palm Springs, take Interstate 210 through Los Angeles and get on Highway 5 east of the Los Padres National Forest. From here, we go straight to the highway.
The only real attraction here is Henry W. Coe State Park near San Jose. Just past this park, take Interstate 580 and follow it west to Oakland, passing through Pleasanton and Anthony Chabot Regional Park. From Oakland, take the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to San Francisco.
Both routes start the same way, but once you pass the Los Padres National Forest, turn onto Highway 99 and drive through Bakersfield. Follow the highway through Fresno and Modesto. Along the way, you’ll pass Sequoia and Kings National Parks, then Sierra National Forest and the legendary Yosemite National Park.
Leaving Modesto, turn east on State Route 120 and head onto Interstate 205 through the city of Tracy. Once you’re out of town, head west and take Interstate 580 – these two highways meet just east of Pleasanton.
Best places to stop between Phoenix and San Francisco
If you don’t share your road trip from Phoenix to San Francisco for at least a week, you’re missing out on an incredible experience. Here are some of the best places to stop during your trip:
Luxury living in Palm Springs
Palm Springs has become the summer vacation destination for many celebrities, and for good reason: there’s everything from scenic zip lines to historic art museums, there really is something for everyone.
There’s also no shortage of hotels in town, and the best of them is probably the L’Horizon Resort & Spa.
The first thing to notice is the beautiful outdoor space, which includes a first-class pool and a cozy campfire to meet other travelers. After a delicious meal at the accommodation you can relax in the beautiful spa.
The rooms overlook the grounds and are superior to most other rooms in town. After relaxing, you can rent a bike from the hotel and explore the sights of Palm Springs.
Considering the quality of the hotel, the prices are certainly high, but those who can afford it should do themselves a favor and spend a weekend here.
If you’re lucky, you can meet your favorite Hollywood star on the streets of Palm Springs.
Living the dream in Yosemite National Park
Although it’s technically a small detour, Yosemite National Park is a must if you take the scenic route. You won’t want to miss the chance to see the state’s most majestic valleys and granite formations, so book a room at the amazing Tenaya Lodge.
The hotel is only 2 miles from Yosemite. Tenaya Lodge on Fish Lake offers luxurious accommodation all year round. Whether you’re braving the heat in the pool or relaxing in the spa, your batteries will be recharged when you hit the road.
Sports enthusiasts can have fun at the on-site climbing wall and in winter you can ski on one of the best slopes in the region.
The rooms are just what you need if you’re traveling with your partner, and the overall decor of the resort is pleasing to the eye. This place isn’t cheap, but it offers the best value you’ll find in the park, and that’s saying something.
Things to see on your journey from Phoenix to San Francisco
When you’re traversing such diverse terrain, there’s no shortage of things to do on your way from Phoenix to San Francisco. Here’s a list of activities you should make time for during your trip!
- White Tank Mountain Regional Park: This 30,000-acre park is the largest in Maricopa County and offers areas for hiking, horseback riding, biking and camping.
- Kofa National Wildlife Refuge: A 665,000-acre sanctuary that is home to bighorn sheep and a variety of other wildlife.
- Quartz site: If you like small, picturesque towns with a rich history, this is the place to visit. Bonus points if you visit this small town in January or February to attend the annual gemstone exhibition.
- Joshua Tree National Park: This beautiful national park is home to the rustic Joshua trees that adorn the beautiful hiking trails.
- Coachella Valley Preserve: Even if you can’t attend the world-famous music festival, you can take breathtaking hikes along scenic trails in the Coachella Valley.
- San Bernardino National Forest: It’s a great welcome to Los Angeles and a great change from the desert climate of Arizona.
- Los Angeles: Since you’re passing through anyway, stop to visit the famous Hollywood sign and learn more about Los Angeles’ rich film and music history.
- Bakersfield: Bakersfield, north of Los Angeles, has more museums and river walks than you can imagine.
- Henry W. Coe State Park: Explore the rugged forests of this state park and spend time hiking, camping or fishing. There are several places to fish here, and you can even try your luck at geocaching!
- Sequoia National Park: Mount Whitney and the legendary General Sherman Tree are located here.
- Sierra National Forest: The Sierra NF, one of California’s oldest national forests, is one of the region’s major centers for active recreation.
- Yosemite National Park: Yosemite is a microcosm of what makes California’s topography so spectacular, with breathtaking waterfalls, giant sequoias and the legendary Yosemite Valley.
- San Jose: The heart of Silicon Valley is an optional, but highly recommended excursion on the last leg of your trip.
The eponymous trees in Joshua Tree National Park make a car ride even more enjoyable.
Best time to go from Phoenix to San Francisco
A road trip from Phoenix to San Francisco will take you through every type of terrain imaginable, and how much you enjoy each attraction largely depends on the time of year you arrive.
The first thing to consider when planning your trip is the temperatures. If you drive through Arizona in the middle of summer, chances are you’ll encounter triple-digit temperatures, and in California the south can be almost as brutal.
If you want to explore California’s deserts, forests and parks without fear of heat stroke, spring and fall are probably the best seasons for this trip.
If you are more concerned about how you will feel in San Francisco, spring and fall are the best times to go. The city is beautiful in spring, thanks to mild temperatures and colorful events like the San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival.
As for the case. Apart from the fact that there are fewer tourists than in June-August, the temperatures in September-October are similar to summer temperatures, usually reaching a pleasant 70 degrees.
You can also travel in the winter, when prices in San Francisco skyrocket and places like Yosemite open their ski resorts.
Winter temperatures in SF usually stay in the 50s, and in general Northern California is far from the sweltering heat of the South for most of the year. If you decide to visit the city in the winter, keep in mind that this is the peak of the rainy season in San Francisco.
Frequently Asked Questions
How far of a drive is it from Phoenix to San Francisco?
It is a 5 hour drive from Phoenix to San Francisco.
Is it safe to drive to San Francisco?
It is safe to drive to San Francisco.
Are Phoenix and San Francisco in the same time zone?
Phoenix is in the Mountain Time Zone, while San Francisco is in the Pacific Time Zone.
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