There's nothing quite like a Californian road trip adventure, and we've got two options for you to discover the best of what this state has to offer on this road trip from Anaheim to the beautiful city of San Francisco. Featuring iconic national forests and stunning coastal beach towns, this beautiful trip is not one to miss!
The 500-mile road trip from Anaheim to San Francisco will take about 10 hours to drive. You will get to visit Santa Barbara, Solvang, Big Sur, Camel-By-The-Sea, Monterey, Los Angeles, Sierra Nevada Mountains as well as Sequioa and Yosemite National Parks.
Keep reading to discover all that awaits you on this stunning trip from Anaheim to San Francisco.
How far is San Francisco from Anaheim, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Pacific Coast Highway Route
|10 hours 30 minutes
|The Yosemite Route
|11 hours 30 minutes
The road trip from Anaheim to San Francisco via our Pacific Coast Highway Route will take you about 10 hours and 30 minutes, crossing just under 500 miles in the process.
Our second route, the Yosemite Route, will take you just a little longer at 11 hours and 30 minutes and will involve traversing about 600 miles.
While you could absolutely make this trip in a couple of days, we recommend taking at least four days to take either route—this way, you can get the most of out the experience and truly take in all the attractions you'll be visiting.
Best road trip route from Anaheim to San Francisco
We can offer you two different routes to get from Anaheim to San Francisco, each with its own set of attractions and highlights to explore throughout California.
Our Pacific Coast Highway Route is a breathtaking journey from Anaheim to San Francisco, hugging the stunning California coastline throughout. The route is punctuated with visits to charming towns and cities like Santa Monica, Solvang, Big Sur, Camel-By-The-Sea, and Monterey.
With plenty of beach-side stops along the way, you can take a refreshing swim in the ocean or simply soak up the sun on one of the many picturesque beaches.
Our Yosemite Route is perfect for nature lovers who want to experience California's breathtaking national parks. The route takes you through Yosemite National Park and the two Sequoia parks, where you'll be surrounded by stunning natural landscapes.
If you're looking for a taste of the city, you can stop by Bakersfield, Modesto, or Fresno along the way. For those who want to immerse themselves in nature, the route also offers optional visits to Sierra National Forest, Inyo National Forest, Eldorado National Forest, or Stanislaus National Forest.
Compared to the Pacific Coast Highway Route, our Yosemite Route is more leisurely, allowing you to take your time and fully appreciate the natural beauty around you. If you're interested in visiting Los Angeles, it's conveniently located right on the route as an optional stop.
The Pacific Coast Highway Route
Starting in Anaheim, you'll travel through Los Angeles before heading west along I-10 towards Santa Monica. Take in the sights of the ocean before heading north towards Santa Barbara, where you'll experience a change of scenery as you head inland towards Solvang via CA-154.
From Solvang, the drive becomes even more breathtaking as you head north along the 101, passing through Santa Maria and Pismo Beach before reaching the coastal town of Monterey through the stunning scenery of Big Sur.
As you approach San Jose, we highly recommend stopping to explore this eclectic city, but if you'd prefer to stick to the coastal road, continue towards Half Moon Bay. Finally, take CA-92 and CA-101 to reach the vibrant and exciting city of San Francisco.
The Yosemite Route
Beginning in Anaheim, you'll travel north through Los Angeles, where you can choose to stop and explore the city's unique attractions or continue on I05 towards Bakersfield.
From Bakersfield, head north towards Sequoia National Park, the first planned stop on this route. You'll be greeted by the towering sequoia trees and can take in the stunning vistas of this national park. After exploring Sequoia, continue along the 198 towards the Sierra National Forest.
Yosemite National Park is just a short drive away from Sierra National Forest, so you can plan to visit both parks during one long stop. You can marvel at Yosemite's granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and beautiful meadows before getting back on the road.
After passing through Modesto, take CA-120 towards Stockton and continue on I-580 westbound until you reach San Francisco.
Best places to stop between Anaheim and San Francisco
Whether you plan on taking either park-focused Yosemite Route or the breathtaking Pacific Coast Highway Route, we highly recommend taking an overnight break to fully appreciate the many attractions and sights along the way.
Although you could technically complete these routes in a day or two, taking your time to explore the unique features of each route is a real adventure. Below, we have a couple of options for excellent overnight stays!
Admire the coastal scenery in Monterey
If you're planning a Pacific Coast Highway Route, we suggest making a stop in the charming coastal town of Monterey. Located about two-thirds of the way along your journey, Monterey is a perfect overnight stay destination that offers a plethora of attractions and beautiful ocean views.
Famous for its whale-watching tours, Monterey State Beach and renowned aquarium, Monterey provides an excellent vantage point to witness the Pacific Ocean's beauty.
The city has many other must-visit attractions, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where you can discover rare marine species, and the Monterey State Historic Park, which showcases historic houses and buildings scattered throughout Old Monterey.
For luxurious accommodation in Monterey, look no further than the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa. This hotel offers stunning and unparalleled views of Monterey Bay, with private beach access for a more intimate sunbathing experience.
The Monterey Plaza also features an on-site café and upscale restaurant, focusing on serving marine delicacies. Additionally, the hotel provides access to a full-service spa and rooftop fitness center, ensuring that you feel refreshed during your journey.
The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is situated close to many of the city's top attractions, allowing you to explore the area on foot. If you're looking to experience Monterey by car, the hotel is conveniently located near the entrance to the scenic 17-Mile Drive.
Marvel at the amazing national parks and forests near Bakersfield
If you've chosen to take the Yosemite Route, we suggest stopping in Bakersfield to add some small-town charm to your nature-focused adventure. Bakersfield is situated perfectly, right in the middle of the Yosemite Route, making it an ideal stop.
This way, you can take a break, spend the night in Bakersfield, and start your journey towards the nearest park, Sequoia National Park, feeling rejuvenated in the morning.
Apart from its proximity to California's best parks, Bakersfield is known for its significant contributions to the world of country music, being home to Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, two country legends!
While there are many attractions to choose from in Bakersfield, we recommend visiting the Kern County Museum and California Living Museum. The former provides a comprehensive history of the city, and the latter is a zoo that hosts many of California's most beautiful native species.
A Bakersfield institution, The Padre Hotel is a first-rate entertainment destination as well as a great place to stay. The Brimstone Bar, with its hardwood floors, billiards, and stamped tin ceiling, offers a sophisticated spot for guests to unwind. For those who enjoy live music, the Prospect Bar hosts live piano performances that fill the evening with elegance.
For a breath of fresh air and a view of the city, guests can ascend to the Prairie Fire, an outdoor patio bar on the rooftop deck. It's the perfect place to relax and socialize under the Bakersfield sky. The hotel also features the Farmacy Café, where guests can enjoy a casual dining experience with a modern twist.
Where to stay when you reach San Francisco
In the heart of San Francisco's bustling Financial District, the Omni Hotel presents a blend of historic charm and modern luxury. Housed in a former bank building dating from 1923, this refined establishment is a mere stone's throw from a cable car stop and just a 13-minute walk from the vibrant shops and restaurants of iconic Union Square.
As you step into the Omni, you're greeted by the grandeur of its past and the comfort of its present. Many of their Signature Rooms and suites boast uninterrupted vistas of the San Francisco cityscape, offering guests a spectacular view of the city.
The hotel's location is unbeatable for those looking to immerse themselves in the San Francisco experience. Nestled near world-class shopping, restaurants, and arts districts, guests have the best of the city at their doorstep.
The nearby cable car lines offer a charming and convenient way to explore the rolling hills and unique neighborhoods that make San Francisco so beloved.
Our favorite features of the Omni Hotel include the breathtaking cityscape views from the Signature Rooms and suites, the delightful dining and ambiance at Monte's Restaurant and Bar, and the unbeatable location that puts the best of San Francisco within easy reach.
Things to see on a road trip from Anaheim to San Francisco
There are tons of options for attractions to see from Anaheim to San Francisco—check out some of our options of amazing things to see on this incredible journey.
The Coastal Route
- Santa Monica - Although Santa Monica is famous for its pier, there's much more to this city. Take some time to explore the art galleries and beautiful beaches that are waiting to be discovered.
- Santa Barbara - Enjoy the stunning sunsets at the sandy beaches of Santa Barbara, located right along your route and perfect for a relaxation pit-stop.
- Solvang - This one-of-a-kind location offers a diverse blend of California wineries and Danish bakeries, making it an ideal spot for a brief stopover.
- Big Sur - Big Sur is a nature lover's paradise, featuring redwood forests and scenic beaches that can be explored through hiking. You can even spend a few days here to fully appreciate its beauty.
- Half Moon Bay - Half Moon Bay, known as the Pumpkin Capital of the World, is more than just a destination for squash. This location offers breathtaking ocean views and fantastic hiking trails.
- Pescadero - With its rich history and landmarks, the picturesque town of Pescadero is a must-see, especially the 1872 Pigeon Point Lighthouse.
- Monterey - Monterey, situated on the Pacific Coast, offers luxurious accommodation and a world-renowned aquarium.
- San Jose - Just half an hour off-route, the city of San Jose is full of history, being the oldest civilian settlement in California and home to the state's first capital.
The Yosemite Route
- Bakersfield - This charming and quaint city along the route to California's renowned national parks is perfect for a day trip or an overnight stay, featuring several unique music-related museums.
- Sequoia National Park - Prepare to be amazed by the majestic trees in the stunning and vast Sequoia National Park, including the General Sherman Tree, which is the largest tree in the world by volume, towering at 275 feet tall.
- Sequoia National Forest - Experience California's breathtaking mountain scenery at the Sierra National Forest, covering over 1.3 million acres.
- Fresno, CA - Renowned for its agricultural industry, this city offers an array of delectable food options, from street food to fine dining.
- Yosemite National Park - Yosemite National Park is celebrated as one of the most beautiful parks in the US, renowned for its picturesque waterfalls and is a must-see on your journey.
- Modesto - Visit Modesto, a vibrant city with fantastic restaurants and numerous wineries, including the world's largest winery!
- Stockton - Located towards the end of this route, Stockton is a city with a rich gold-rush history and is home to California's oldest university.
Best time to go on a road trip from Anaheim to San Francisco
San Francisco is a destination that is enjoyable to visit year-round, offering a plethora of indoor and outdoor attractions. Whether you're on a tight budget or have a particular travel style, you're sure to find the perfect time to visit. The city experiences relatively mild winters and warm summers, making it a delightful place to visit any time of year.
During summer, San Francisco has long and comfortable days with temperatures ranging between 55 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. This season is the busiest tourism period, resulting in longer lines and higher hotel costs. However, if you want to visit San Francisco's nearby beaches, summer is the perfect time.
Winters are short and relatively wet with temperatures ranging from 45 to 56 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it can get somewhat cold, you won't need to pack wool socks. This season has the lowest tourism rates and cheapest accommodations, except for the holidays.
Spring and fall are both great seasons to visit San Francisco, with low demand resulting in lower prices. You'll be able to enjoy the gorgeous weather that summer travelers experience, with average temperatures ranging from the low forties to high sixties Fahrenheit.
San Francisco has a vibrant festival scene with events throughout the year. For a cultural experience, don't miss the Chinese New Year Parade in February or the Cherry Blossom Festival in April.
In June, the city comes alive with the colorful Pride Parade, and music lovers should head to the Outside Lands Music Festival in August. In April, the International Beer Festival and San Francisco Film Festival offer diverse entertainment options. And for a bluegrass experience, don't miss Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in October! There's truly an option for everyone.