Amazing panorama view of New York city skyline and skyscraper at sunset.

Road Trip from San Diego to New York

Updated by Pat Dorri on March 7 2024

A road trip from San Diego to New York is a monumental journey taking you all the way from the East to the sunny West Coast You'll travel through the heart of the nation, coming across famous natural landmarks, vast scenic lakes, and some of America's most famous cities and towns.

The 3,080-mile road trip from San Diego to New York takes about 47 hours to drive nonstop. The notable stops are Mojave National Preserve, Las Vegas, Dixie National Forest, Grand Canyon, Moab, Denver, Albuquerque, St Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh.

With so much to see, do, and explore, you'll certainly get a lifetime's worth of thrills and adventures along the way. Read on to learn about our recommended routes, sights, places to stay, and adventures along the way.

How far is New York from San Diego, and how long will the road trip take?

Comparison of road trip routes between San Diego and New York
Route Distance Driving Time
The Lake Michigan Route
3,080 miles 48 hours
The Sooner State Route 3,080 miles 47 hours

On the Lake Michigan Route, you'll cover 3,080 miles and drive 48 hours. You'll pass beautiful mountain towns and cities like Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, and Cleveland.

The Sooner Route is slightly quicker, at 3,080 miles and 47 hours. The Sooner State Route travels east until reaching Oklahoma. From there, you'll start traveling northeast towards New York.

This road trip is long, so make sure you allow plenty of time. Resting is important for your safety, but it'll also allow you to take in all the states that you pass through

Whichever route you take, we recommend taking 10-16 days for this road trip. Continue to read on below to learn more about our suggested routes, places to stay, and what to see and do along the way.

Best road trip route from San Diego to New York

There are two excellent routes to get you from San Diego to New York. Both offer limitless experiences and classic American cities, towns, and landscapes to discover.

Along the Lake Michigan Route, you'll meet major US cities like Las Vegas, Chicago and Cleveland with big city attractions and nightlife. Also, take time to stop at the smaller towns and cities on the route to uncover the less touristy locations. Driving through 12 states, you'll have ample opportunity to do so.

Colorful sunrise on Coronado Island. San Diego, California USA.
San Diego is the perfect place to start your road trip.

As you travel east, the landscape shifts from dramatic sandstone rock formations to alpine mountain vistas, prairies, giant lakes, and eventually dense forests.

On the Sooner State Route, you'll drive through desert and canyon landscapes while even having the opportunity to drive along historic Route 66. From Oklahoma, the landscape changes to greener surroundings and you can enjoy scenic mountain ranges and lakes.

The cities on this route are less well-known but still have a lot to offer. This is a great trip for the explorer wanting to go off the beaten track and see the more rural parts of America.

Whether you're flying into San Diego, or you simply don't have your own transport in the city, renting a car for your road trip is something you'll want to take care of ASAP.

For an easy-to-compare view of rental options for your road trip from San Diego to New York, take a look at our partner site,

The Lake Michigan Route

Head north from San Diego through the Mojave Desert of California. Enjoy the high desert sun on your way into Las Vegas Nevada.

From Sin City, head past Zion National Park and the Dixie National Forest, some of the west's most photographed areas. Head north, further into the great state of Utah and get on Interstate 70 (I-70) east.

Continue on through Utah and make a stop in Moab. From Moab, get back on the interstate and enter Colorado.

From here drive east, through the towering Rocky Mountains, and into Denver. After you've gotten your fill of the big city, head out on I-76 and I-80 and cross the Great Plains.

Drive through Nebraska, the city of Omaha, and the state of Iowa, until you reach Chicago, Illinois. Take in one of the country's most iconic cities before getting back on the road.

Head east on I-80 along the border of Michigan. Drive into Ohio and into Cleveland. Enjoy the coastline of Lake Erie until you reach the Allegheny National Forest.

Drive through the scenic wilderness and into central Pennsylvania. Continue east through eastern Pennsylvania and into the great city of New York.

The Sooner State Route

Starting in beautiful San Diego, head north through the Mojave Desert and get on the iconic I-40. From here you'll drive east and make a detour north to experience one of the world's greatest natural wonders, the Grand Canyon.

Sunset moment at Horseshoe bend Grand Canyon National Park. Colorado River. famous view point.
You can't miss one of the worlds greatest natural wonders - the one and only Grand Canyon!
Wisanu Boonrawd/

Return to the route and head east through the Arizona desert until you reach Albuquerque, New Mexico. Explore the high desert landscapes and some of the best food in the United States before getting back on the route.

Continue on through the Texas Panhandle and Amarillo. Drive further along the old Route 66 and into Oklahoma and the Wichita Mountains.

Drive through Missouri and into the Gateway to the West, St. Louis. From here, get back on the route and continue on into Indiana and Ohio.

Drive further into Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. From here, you'll take the last stretches of freeways into the city of New York.

Best places to stop between San Diego and New York

This long and diverse road trip will have you passing through some truly bucket list-worthy landmarks. With so much to do and see along the way, we've picked our favorites to help you get the most out of this incredible journey.

Take in the mountain nightlife in Denver, Colorado

About one-third of the way on the Lake Michigan Route is Denver, Colorado. The Mile High City is a cosmopolitan city with something for everyone. Whether you want to explore the Rocky Mountains or enjoy the culture of downtown, it has it all.

For sightseeing, Denver is one-of-a-kind. For starters, Downtown Denver is very walkable. Go to the 16th Street Mall where you can ride the free shuttle bus to Union Station or LoDo. LoDo is short for Lower Downtown and is a historic district with 90 brew pubs. Larimer Square is the place to go for unique boutiques.

Restaurants and bars in Larimer Square
Go on a pub crawl in Larimer Square, Denver.
Jacob Boomsma/

If you are looking to spend some time outdoors, make sure to get away from the city for a bit and travel up Lookout Mountain. At the top is the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave where you can also see the Rockies and the great plains.

If you're into music, you should definitely visit Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Carved from red rocks, this concert venue is a bucket list for music aficionados. If there's not a show on when in town, go and have a look around during the day and visit the free Performers' Hall of Fame.

Once you reach Denver, we suggest resting at the luxurious Grand Hyatt Denver. Located Downtown on Welton Street, the hotel has a fantastic indoor swimming pool, perfect for a dip right after a long drive. Or head to the on-site eatery if the drive has worked up an appetite.

The hotel is located in Downtown Denver. You're walking distance away from landmarks like the 16th Street Mall, Union Station, LoDo, and Coors Field. The Buffalo Bill Museum is only a 30-minute drive away. Also within 30 minutes by car is the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

READ MORE - Click here for more great hotel options

Enjoy the bridges and museums of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

About 370 miles from New York on the Sooner State Route is the city of Pittsburgh. Famous for its bridges, the city of Pittsburgh is a great place to visit with friendly locals and world-class museums.

Evening view of Pittsburgh from the top of the Duquesne Incline in Mount Washington, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
There is lots to do in Pittsburgh that you might want to plan a couple of days to stay in the city to cover them all.
ESB Professional/

While in the city, nothing beats a visit to the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. These include the Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Carnegie Science Center.

Make sure to also ride on the Duquesne Incline. Once a method of transport for workers in the 19th century, it's now a star attraction leading to Grandview Overlook.

In Pittsburgh, we highly recommend staying at the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel. Located downtown on Sixth Street, the hotel features luxurious rooms with views of the Allegheny River and the city, but we suggest venturing out before heading to the room.

Nearby the hotel is downtown Pittsburgh. On foot, you can walk to several landmarks like Point State Park, the Andy Warhol Museum, the PNC and the Carnegie Science Center. The famous Duquesne Incline is less than 10 minutes away by car.

When you are done sightseeing, you can head back to the hotel for a meal as there are two great on-site restaurants, Braddock's Rebellion for breakfast and Braddock's Street Side for dinner. Alternatively, there are plenty of other incredible dining options to enjoy just a short walk away.

READ MORE - Click here for more great hotel options

Where to stay when you reach New York

Once you reach your destination in New York, we suggest seeing the city in style by basing yourself at the Hilton Club The Quin New York. The hotel is within walking distance of the Museum of Modern Art, Broadway, Radio City Music Hall, Times Square and Rockefeller Center.

Inside, the hotel is full of luxurious amenities like crisp and clean modern bedrooms and bathrooms and a great fitness center. There's nearby paid public parking, so you won't have to worry about your car or the infamous New York traffic while exploring the city.

To explore the city, head 50 yards to the West 57th Street Subway, where you can connect to the famous New York subway system and reach any destination in the city.

For more options and to learn more about other areas in New York City where you can stay, please check our detailed guide below:

READ MORE - Our Area-by-Area Guide to NYC

Things to see on a road trip from San Diego to New York

For the entirety of this journey, you'll come across some of the most well-known landmarks and landscapes in America. Below, we've included our favorite landmarks to help make your journey easier.

The Lake Michigan Route

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada - Enjoy the wild nightlife of Las Vegas. Try your luck on the slots, see a show and ride roller coasters on top of the Stratosphere.
  2. Dixie National Forest, Utah - Camp in the magical Dixie Forest. Both Cedar Breaks National Monument and Panguitch Lake are en route offering campgrounds and hiking trails.
  3. Moab, Utah - Marvel at the Arches National Park. The natural sandstone arches will take your breath away, with Delicate Arch being the most popular.
  4. Colorado National Monument, Colorado - Before Grand Junction, you'll find the Colorado National Monument. The striking canyons are a must-see. Detour through Rim Rock Drive for the best overlooks.
  5. Omaha, Nebraska - Accredited by AZA, Henry Doorly Zoo has conservation at its heart. It's often considered one of the top zoos in the world, and there's even a rainforest to walk through.
  6. Des Moines, Iowa - Walk through the tranquil Pappajohn Sculpture Park and when the sun sets, see in the night at the trendy East Village. Here you'll find Des Moines at its most vibrant.
  7. Chicago, Illinois - No trip to Chicago is complete without a photo next to Cloud Gate at Millennium Park. But for views of Lake Michigan, go to the 360 Chicago Observation Deck.
  8. Cleveland, Ohio - The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a vast space covering everything rock and roll. See handwritten lyrics and used instruments of the world's most famous rock stars.
  9. Lake Erie, Pennsylvania - Stop at Erie to take in the lake of the same name. With sandy beaches, if the weather permits, you can relax or go wild in one of the water parks.
  10. Kinzua Bridge State Park, Pennsylvania - Not for those scared of heights. This Skywalk was once an old railway bridge, but now you can walk to the glass floor and peer deep into Kinzua Gorge.
Chicago River with boats and traffic in Downtown Chicago
Choosing the Lake Michigan Route will allow you to explore all the amazing things Chicago has to offer.

The Sooner State Route

  1. Mojave National Preserve, California - Witness the rugged Mojave landscape. Boulders Viewpoint isn't far off track where you can see the Mojave boulders and cacti.
  2. Grand Canyon, Arizona - Entering from the South Rim, hop on the free bus to find a spot to view the majestic Grand Canyon.
  3. Flagstaff, Arizona - Take photos next to vintage Route 66 signs. Leaving Flagstaff, stop at the Walnut Canyon National Monument where you can hike to Sinagua cliff dwellings.
  4. Albuquerque, New Mexico - See prehistoric artwork at the Petroglyph National Monument. On the night, enjoy Central Avenue with its many nightclubs and restaurants.
  5. Amarillo, Texas - See the colorful Cadillac Ranch and ride along historic Route 66. Although a detour, Palo Duro Canyon is a popular hike with the Lighthouse Trail, leading to specular views.
  6. Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma - Hike, bike and watch wildlife in the Wichita Mountains. The Elk Mountain Trail is a 2-mile round trip to the summit with views of the plains.
  7. Osage Beach, Missouri - An ideal spot to enjoy Lake Ozark. Here you can hire boats and spend a day on the famous lake.
  8. St Louis, Missouri - Admire the Gateway Arch. You can even ride to the top of the 630-foot high monument if you're willing to sit in a small cabin and take the ride up.
  9. Indianapolis, Indiana - Close to the city's popular attractions is the Central Canal. Enjoy a stroll or take a boat trip on the canal.
  10. Hershey, Pennsylvania - The home of Hershey chocolate, here you can visit Hershey's Chocolate World and discover how it's made. What's more, you can indulge in treats on this sweet adventure.
The main gateway entrance to Hersheypark, a family theme park situated in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Stuff your face with all things chocolate at Hershey and make sure to bring some back as souvenirs!
George Sheldon/

Best time to go on a road trip from San Diego to New York

New York is the city that never sleeps and that's regardless of the time of year. It's one of the world's most bustling cities regardless of the time you visit and weather.

June, July, and August are the hottest months with average temperatures ranging from 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. However, these months are popular times to visit, so expect higher hotel prices and a busier experience than usual.

December, January, and February are the coldest months. Average temperatures range from 33 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit.

New York is busy in the winter. Tourists flock to see the Christmas lights and festive landmarks such as the Rockefeller tree. New Year's Eve is also a monumental event in New York with hotel prices going through the roof. To enjoy Christmas in New York, try visiting midtown where it's quieter or try early December when the lights are on but less crowded.

Spring is an excellent time to visit. However, April is the rainiest month and the St Patrick Day Parade in March attracts huge numbers of tourists.

Fall is another quieter time but you'll need to avoid the Halloween Parade and Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, which can increase hotel prices and make parking very difficult.

There are plenty of festivities year-round in America's largest city. These include the Governor's Ball in June and Independence Day on July 4th.