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What is the best driving route from California to New York?

June 25th, 2018 - 1:46 PM

Road tripping from California to New York

Which option sounds more appealing: entering Point A and Point B into your GPS and driving wherever it says, or mapping out a specific route to see sights, visit friends or make unique stops? For a long drive from California to New York, the options for routes are almost endless, so why not make the most of the trip? If you’re ready to start planning, take a look at the overall route and then find the best option for your journey.

graphic showing route from California to New York

Breaking down the drive 

The details will depend on the specifics of your origin and destination, but here’s how the big picture looks:

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. 

How much time will it take? 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. 

Will there be any toll roads? 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 the trip 

There are so many things to consider when planning a California to New York road trip: weather concerns, how fast you need to get there, whether you want to sightsee along the way, if there are friends or family to visit in certain locations, etc. All of these will determine the ideal route. 

As you plan, make sure to read through this ultimate guide for road trip planning for even more tips. 
route from california to new york by season

If the season isn’t a big concern, one of the following routes might be best! 

The most direct routes

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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

Planning a road trip in conjunction with 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.  

How does U-Pack work?  

  • We’ll deliver a moving trailer or ReloCube® to your home in California
  • You pack and load
  • We’ll drive your belongings direct to your new home in New York
  • You unload
  • We pick up the empty equipment

U-Pack rates are comparable to truck rental, especially for a long-distance move where fuel costs can really add up.

Compare costs with a free moving quote, or by calling 800-413-4799