LA to Sacramento via 101?
March 21, 2011 6:01 PM   Subscribe

How long would it take to drive from Los Angeles to Sacramento via 101?

I live in Los Angeles and drive up to Sacramento frequently to visit family. I usually take I-5 in the interest of time, but I'm sick to death of going that way and seeing all of the nothingness in the Central Valley. I'm thinking of taking 101 to San Jose, and 680 to 80 from there. Google Maps says this will take about 8.5 hours, but it's been my experience that Google Maps sometimes lies. It's normally about 6 hours on I-5, and I don't mind tacking another couple of hours onto the drive if I'll have more interesting scenery to look at. On the other hand, anything beyond 10 hours seems like too much.

I'll be leaving Wednesday morning, if that matters. I'm also looking for suggestions as to what might be a good time to leave. Thanks!
posted by MiaWallace to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Depends on traffic and the occasional road closure, but it could take 8-10 hours to San Francisco. It always seemed to take that long for me when I went from Orange County to San Francisco on the 101. Lots of speeders and highway patrol in the middle section. Getting out of LA and through Santa Barbra takes longer than you think. There will be some traffic in San Luis Obisbo. Getting from Gilroy to San Jose might be clogged depending on the time of day.

It longer, but it's a fun drive and worth doing.

You must go to Jocko's along the way for a steak lunch. So good I'd want to catch a flight back to the US just to eat there.
posted by sleepytako at 6:41 PM on March 21, 2011

I have never taken that whole route at one time. But I have taken the route in in two pieces several times. LA to San Jose takes around 6 hours. San Jose to Sac takes about 2.5 hours (up to 4 in traffic).

I like taking the 101 instead of the 5, much better looking. Traffic through the Bay Area can be rough so plan your trip carefully time wise.
posted by Felex at 6:43 PM on March 21, 2011

To be on the safe side, I'd add about 1.5-2 hours to the expected trip. (I've driven from Palo Alto to LA on the 101 many times and the 5 several.)
posted by paultopia at 6:44 PM on March 21, 2011

(Actually, never mind -- I was thinking LA to SF. I'd forgotten that the 5 doesn't go to SF, so it's actually a way bigger difference -- probably more like 3.5 hours or so.)
posted by paultopia at 6:45 PM on March 21, 2011

Dunno about the LA to SJ leg but I drive from SJ to Sac fairly frequently. Used to be I could go from my SJ garage to my dad's doorstep in Carmichael in exactly 133 minutes on 680->80 but over the past several years, extensive suburban development along 80 has added a minimum of 45 minutes and more frequently an hour to the drive. Doesn't seem to matter much when I time the drive, early Saturday mornings are just as congested as weekday afternoons (and of course every skier in the Bay Area is on 80 north from 1pm-midnight Friday, so drive-time expands yet another 45-90 minutes).

Lately, I take 680>580>205>5>80 because even though it's a little longer in miles, it's faster/less congested and the route takes me by at least two Sonics because I have a horrible shameful addiction to their chili Frito Pie wraps.
posted by jamaro at 6:46 PM on March 21, 2011

Do you have a radar detector and a GPS?
posted by Ideefixe at 6:48 PM on March 21, 2011

No on the radar detector, yes on the GPS.

So it sounds like (depending on traffic) around 10 hours. Seems like a decent trade off to me... I-5 is just so, so, SO boring.
posted by MiaWallace at 6:55 PM on March 21, 2011

IMO, the biggest bonus of taking 101 is there is significantly less eau de livestock than one encounters on 5. That's worth a few hours right there.
posted by jamaro at 7:09 PM on March 21, 2011

I've driven from the Inland Empire to SLO countless times. It always takes me 3.5 hours. So from LA proper, figure 2.5-3 hours

I've also driven between SLO and the Bay Area at least 5 times, that usually takes me 3 hours.

Add just under 2 hours between San Jose and Sactown, and a total drivetime of 7-8 hours sounds reasonable.

FWIW, I can't drive 55.
posted by bodaciousllama at 7:58 PM on March 21, 2011

Out of curiosity, have you driven 5 in the winter/early spring? I usually agree with you that it's miserably ugly, but I did the drive in January and it was really lovely, foggy and lush. (And a friend of mine noticed the same thing just the other day.) Just a thought.
posted by asterix at 9:39 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's what I would do if I was bored of a taking a regular route. I'd leave earlier, and then meander there, along whatever erratic path took my fancy. I wouldn't even look it up on a map. Seriously.

Life is what happens while we are busy making other plans. - John Lennon
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:55 PM on March 21, 2011

What part of LA? It's an 8-9 hour drive from the north-western end of the LA area (Malibu/ Santa Monica) to Sac going that route. That's without traffic. If you're heading for the Elk Grove area you might also consider cutting over via Tracy, although the traffic in that area is pretty horrific these days.
posted by fshgrl at 12:07 AM on March 22, 2011

I'm leaving from Hollywood and my destination is in South Sacramento.
posted by MiaWallace at 11:44 AM on March 22, 2011

Then I'd go via 680 to 4 (at Concord) and take 160 north to 5. It's not that much longer and most people never drive through the Delta, which us a very cool place.

Don't go that way if its raining though! Stay in 80.
posted by fshgrl at 5:55 PM on March 22, 2011

Out of curiosity, have you driven 5 in the winter/early spring? I usually agree with you that it's miserably ugly, but I did the drive in January and it was really lovely, foggy and lush. (And a friend of mine noticed the same thing just the other day.) Just a thought.

Just be careful about Tule fog
posted by bodaciousllama at 6:43 PM on March 22, 2011

The Yaesu VX-7R HT is a good transceiver for this. It is technicall a quad band, operating in the 6 meter, 2 meter, 220mhz, and 430/440mhz. If you're not aware of Yaesu, they make some of the best ham radios on the market today. This HT transceiver is also water proof!
posted by radioguy at 2:12 PM on October 2, 2011

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