Planning a California to New York Road Trip
How do you choose the best route for a trip from California to New York (or vice versa)? Think about what you’re looking to get out of the drive! Is there somewhere you’ve always wanted to see, like the Grand Canyon or the St. Louis arch? Or are you trying to get to your destination as fast and hassle-free as possible? We’ve designed some itineraries based on different travel goals. Take a look and choose the best route for you with the tips and info below.
Things to know about driving from CA to NY
Overall miles and distance: From the heart of Los Angeles to New York City, you’re looking at around 2,800 miles. San Francisco to New York is approximately 3,000 miles. San Diego to New York is in between, covering 2,900 miles.
Drive time: Expect to drive between 42 and 45 hours, no matter which route you take. If you’re headed somewhere in northern New York, it could add up to five more hours of driving.
Tolls: As you cross the United States, it’s likely you’ll encounter some toll roads. Depending on your route, you might go through these states that have toll roads: California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia.
Mapping out your trip
There are so many things to consider when picking a route: weather concerns, how fast you need to get there, if you want to sightsee along the way, if you need to stop to visit friends or family, etc. All of these will determine the best route to take.
As you plan, make sure to read through this ultimate guide for road trip planning for even more tips.
When you make the drive can play a big role in which route to take. Want to see colorful trees in the fall? A route through the middle of the U.S. is best for that! Concerned about driving through snow in winter? Take a southern route for milder temperatures!
How fast you need to get there
Direct route 1: Los Angeles to New York City
The fastest, most direct route is taking Interstate 40 and Interstate 70. While sometimes different interstates merge with I-40 (like I-35 in Kansas and I-44 in Missouri), the route is mostly I-40 to the Mississippi River outside of St. Louis, and then it’s I-70 all the way into Pennsylvania, where you’ll travel up to New York via I-78.
You’ll pass through the big cities of Albuquerque, NM, St. Louis, MO, and Columbus, OH. This route includes some of the original Route 66, known as the Main Street of America. And while this is the most direct route, if you have time for sight-seeing, take a slight detour to the Grand Canyon, which is a must-see. Our scenic route below can help you plan for that trip.
Direct route 2: San Francisco to New York City
For cities in northern California like San Jose, San Francisco or Sacramento, hit Interstate 80 all the way to New York. It’s a straight shot, passing through Salt Lake City, UT, Cheyenne, WY, Des Moines, IA, Chicago, IL and Cleveland, OH. Or you could take a more scenic route and patch together a few different highways and interstates in the middle — stopping at Idaho Falls, ID to see Yellowstone National Park and Rapid City, SD to see Mount Rushmore — and then head back to Interstate 80 for the remainder of the trip.
Direct route 3: San Diego to New York City
For a southern California road trip, drive Interstate 8 to Phoenix, AZ, and then take the same route as Los Angeles. Or for not much time difference (maybe an extra hour in total), you could travel a little farther south on Interstates 10 and 40, going through Tucson, AZ, Dallas, TX, Little Rock, AR, Nashville, TN, Roanoke, VA, and Harrisburg, PA.
The scenic route
If the journey is more important than the destination, take the scenic route. Below you’ll find our favorite schedule, including some fun things to see over 7 days and 6 nights:
- Day 1: Los Angeles to Las Vegas, NV. Of course, you’ll experience the Las Vegas strip, but we also suggest seeing Red Rock Canyon, where the 13-mile scenic loop provides fantastic views of the unique landscape.
- Day 2: Las Vegas to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Explore and spend the night either in the park or in Williams, AZ.
- Day 3: Williams, AZ to Albuquerque, NM. Stop in the Petrified Forest National Park and stretch your legs on a hike.
- Day 4: Albuquerque, NM to Oklahoma City, OK. Eat at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo to see if you can tackle the giant 72 oz. steak, and explore the Bricktown entertainment district in OKC upon arrival.
- Day 5: Oklahoma City, OK to St. Louis, MO. See the Golden Driller statue in Tulsa (a 75-foot tall tribute to the oil workers of the area), stop at the Route 66 Museum in Lebanon, MO, and end with the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
- Day 6: St. Louis, MO to Columbus, OH. Get a quick photo at the Kaskaskia Dragon in Vandalia, IL, then keep driving to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is a site to behold whether or not a race is happening. Keep driving to the Model T Museum in Richmond, IN, where you can explore the history of the automobile. And make sure to walk around the campus of Ohio State University when arriving in Columbus.
- Day 7: Columbus, OH to New York, NY. Stop in Hershey, PA where you can either ride roller coasters at Hersheypark or explore Hershey’s Chocolate World. For a historical stop, see Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, which is not only a battlefield park but is also home to the Eisenhower National Historic Site.
Planning additional stops
If you need to make an extra stop to visit family, check out a unique roadside attraction or visit a state you’ve never been to before, you can easily add it in! Just choose one of these route options, find the location closest to where you need to go and use your phone or computer to map the best route to your added stop. You can then choose to go back to the spot you were at before or pick up these routes at the next itinerary point.
Driving from New York to California?
For trips going east to west coast, take the same paths, just in reverse. Interstate 80 is ideal for northern California cities, while I-70 and I-40 are best for southern California locations.
Making the drive during a move?
For a move across the country, it’s easier and more comfortable to drive in your own vehicle. Attempting the trip in a bulky, unfamiliar rental truck will take longer (since you can’t drive as fast as in a personal car) and will cost more (fuel efficiency is lower in a rental truck). Instead, let U-Pack® handle the move while you travel in your own car. You do the packing and loading, and we do all the driving — coast to coast. Learn more about how the service works.
U-Pack rates are comparable to truck rental, especially for a long-distance move where fuel costs can really add up.
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