California Road Map of the Highway System
At first glance, you might wonder why this California road map is different than any of a thousand others that appear when you search for "california road map" or "california highway map."
Here's the answer to that burning question: This map highlights the basics and the larger cities, but it leaves out all the clutter that can show up on interactive maps. It gives you an overview of the highway system, with the most commonly used routes highlighted. At a glance, you can figure out that Highway 99 goes to Fresno or find all the highways that lead to Los Angeles.
In other words, it's custom made for visitors and vacationers.
It's the first map you need when planning your trip, but not on the only one. It can't give you driving directions or distances, but it's an easy way to get a better idea of what's where and how to travel between the major cities.
What You Need Besides a California Highway Map
If you want to get detailed driving directions, an app like Google maps or Apple maps is the way to go most of the time.
The thing is that they aren't good at telling the difference between slow or stopped traffic and a longer-lasting road closure. You might get a hint from a highway speed map with a gap, but even then you don't know whether they are getting that rogue giraffe off the road or repairing a section of missing pavement the size of Rhode Island.
Road closures can happen for construction, but in California, you also need to know about winter snow closures and roads that close during winter rains because of mudslides. Once in a while, a wildfire might force a road closure, too.
CalTrans is the state's highway department, and that's the place to go to get the most accurate, detailed information. They have a mobile Quick App, but their website is more helpful if you need to know about significant road closures.
All you have to do before you go is enter the highway number you want to check by using the Cal Trans website. It will give you information about temporary closures and road work. Their site can also help you find out whether roads through the mountain passes are closed by snow and whether there's been a highway-closing landslide along the coast.
Getting Around in California
If you're looking for more than just driving information, save yourself hours of research. It's already done for you if you want to travel from San Diego to Los Angeles - by air, train, bus, and driving.
You might also need to know how to get around the Disneyland Resort or find out how to get around Lake Tahoe. In San Diego, learn how you can get from place to place using the San Diego Trolley.
More California Maps
If you need California maps that show more than just an overview, check this index of state maps.
To understand all of California's regions and where they are located, consult the Map of California by Region, which also includes a list of California Places by Area.
Driving in California
If you're planning a trip to the mountains in the winter, you'll also need to know when you need snow chains to drive in California.
You may also need to know how to get around the major tourist areas in California. If you're going to LA, you definitely need to read this guide to getting around LA, local traffic lingo and other transit tips. If San Francisco's puzzling mix of buses, trolleys, cable cars and other transport has you scratching your head, see the guide to getting around San Francisco to sort it all out.
If you're visiting California and don't know the traffic rules, you can find an overview of them in the California driving survival guide. It has a summary of the laws you need to know, but also includes other things that baffle visitors, like what Californians mean when they say "what's up?" or "literally" and what you need to know about Californians' bad driving habits.