Driving Tips for a California Road Trip

Both San Francisco and especially Los Angeles suffer from serious traffic congestion. Avoid driving in or through San Francisco during rush hour traffic, typically weekdays 7am-9am and 4pm-6pm, though serious congestion can occur at other times. In Los Angeles, rush hour can stretch all the way from 5am to 10am and from 3pm to 7pm. Of course, special events can create traffic jams in both cities on weekends.

Golden Gate Bridge Traffic
Traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

To view current traffic conditions in the San Francisco Bay Area, visit www.511.org. For Los Angeles, go to http://trafficinfo.lacity.org for a city map showing current traffic information. Though not as notorious as San Francisco or Los Angeles, Las Vegas has its own traffic problems, especially on Thursday and Friday evenings. The Nevada Department of Transportation has information on current road conditions.

Because it’s located in the high-altitude Sierra Nevada, access to Yosemite is dependent on the weather and the seasons. Two of the most traveled roads in the park, Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road, are typically closed November to early June. In recent years, forest fires have occurred in the park and surrounding areas, limiting access in the summer and fall as well. Check for road conditions and closures online.

Fires and landslides can also impede a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, especially through Big Sur. Visit the Caltrans website for highway conditions throughout California.

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur
Bixby Bridge at Big Sur

Expect high summer temperatures on the drive between Yosemite and Las Vegas, especially if you take the route through Death Valley, where blazing hot temperatures of 120°F or more can occur. Heat can also be a problem on the routes to and from the Grand Canyon. Make sure your car has sufficient engine coolant and working air-conditioning and take along plenty of drinking water. You may also encounter thunderstorms in this area from July to mid-September, which can lead to road flooding. Contact the Nevada Department of Transportation (877/687-6237) and Arizona Department of Transportation for each state’s road conditions.

Cell phone reception is limited or nonexistent in large sections of Yosemite, along the desert route to and from Las Vegas, and along the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur.

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Driving Tips for a California Road Trip