Travel & Day Trips

How Far is San Francisco from LA? The Details

If you’re visiting San Francisco, California and considering a quick trip down to Los Angeles, California, you might be wondering how far San Francisco is from LA.

The simple answer is that San Francisco is about 380 miles away from Los Angeles. Traveling those miles takes widely varying times depending on your form of transit, though.

If you’re from outside the United States, you might not be familiar with these kinds of distances. California is a big state, and LA and SF are far away!

That said, traveling between the two cities is quite reasonable. I travel from San Francisco to LA at least three times per year. Here’s the details to know.

By Air: The Quick and Efficient Way

LAX airport
LAX airport

Flying to Los Angeles from San Francisco is often the easiest way to make the trek. You can fly on a cheap flight from SFO, Oakland International or SJC.

That said, you might consider driving instead of flying if you need to have a car once you’re in LA, or you’re traveling with kids or lots of luggage. Sometimes driving is easier than flying, since you can take everything you need along in the car.

Here’s the details RE flying to LA from SF.

  • Distance: Approximately 380 miles (612 kilometers)
  • Flight Duration: Roughly 1.5 hours


  • Speed: It’s the quickest way to travel between the two cities.
  • Frequency: Multiple daily flights with several airlines.
  • Flexibility: Choose from a variety of departure times. The flights are often cheap and easy to get last minute.


  • Check-in and security checks can add time to your journey.
  • Airfare costs and potential delays.
  • If you’re traveling with kids or lots of luggage, driving can actually be easier.

By Car: The Scenic Route

Driving to Los Angeles from San Francisco is a classic American road trip. Sometimes it’s the easiest way to get between the two cities.

Scene along the I5
Scene along the I5

Just make sure to leave at a time that misses the legendary San Francisco traffic and LA traffic, or you might add an extra 2+ hours to the travel time.

My dog at Andersen's Pea Soup, a classic stop along the I5
My dog at Andersen’s Pea Soup, a classic stop along the I5

I usually take I-5, since it’s the fastest route. But you can also take the 101, or the (much longer) PCH for a truly scenic drive.

  • Distance: Roughly 382 to 500 miles, depending on the route taken.
  • Driving Duration: Approximately 6 to 9 hours, contingent upon route and traffic.

Routes to Consider:

  • I-5 (fastest): About 382 miles and can be covered in 6-7 hours.
  • Highway 101 (scenic coastal drive): Approximately 440 miles and about 8-9 hours.
  • Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) or Highway 1: The most scenic, stretching around 500 miles and taking about 9-10 hours.


  • Flexibility: Travel at your own pace and make spontaneous stops.
  • Scenery: Experience the diversity of California’s landscapes.
  • Family Friendly: It’s a super easy drive with kids. Flying with kids can be tough.


  • Gas and potential overnight accommodation costs.
  • Traffic, especially around big cities and popular tourist spots.

By Train: A Relaxed Perspective

Amtrak’s Surfliner service goes to Los Angeles from San Francisco, with many beautiful stops along the way.

  • Distance: Similar to driving, but routes can vary.
  • Train Duration: About 12 hours


  • Scenic views, especially along the coastline.
  • Comfort: Spacious seating and amenities such as Wi-Fi.


  • Longer travel time compared to flying or driving.
  • Scheduling might not be as flexible.

Distance Comparison Table

Mode of TravelDistance (Miles)Duration
Air~3801.5 hours
Car (I-5)~3826-7 hours
Car (Highway 101)~4408-9 hours
Car (PCH)~5009-10 hours
TrainVaries~12 hours


The distance from San Francisco to Los Angeles can vary based on the mode of travel and the specific route taken. Whether you prioritize speed, scenic beauty, or a relaxed journey, there’s an option that will meet your needs. Choose wisely, and happy travels!

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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