San Francisco to Las Vegas: Travel Options

  • 01 of 05

    How to Travel Between San Francisco and Las Vegas

    Driving from San Francisco to Las Vegas: The Fast Route
    ••• Driving from San Francisco to Las Vegas: The Fast Route. Map Data ©2013 Google - Sanborn

    People often ask about how they can get from San Francisco to Las Vegas. This is a roundup of the ways you can do it.

    Driving from San Francisco to Las Vegas: the Short Route

    Distance: 570 miles
    Drive Time: 9 hours

    You have several options for a road trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas. The shortest way from San Francisco to Las Vegas is also the least prone to winter road closures, but it's also so boring that you'll wish you had gone another way.

    The map above shows the fast route in general. The red line is the best option if you're starting from San Mateo or south of there. If you'd like to see the map bigger, zoom in and out or get detailed driving directions for your road trip and explore what you might see along the way, go to the interactive version.

    This is the basic route:

    • From San Francisco, take I-80 east to I-580 east to I-5 south.
    • South of Kettleman City, exit onto CA Hwy 46
    • Connect to CA Hwy 99 south toward Bakersfield.
    • Exit onto CA Hwy 58 east toward Tehachapi...MORE and Mojave
    • Connect with I-15 east at Barstow.
    • From there, I-15 goes directly to Las Vegas.

    If you're looking for a fun road trip and not just a way to get from city to city as fast as possible, there are better options. The next couple of pages describe the most scenic ones.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Driving from San Francisco to Las Vegas: Summer Scenic Route through Yosemite

    San Francisco to Las Vegas: Summer Scenic Route Through Yosemite
    ••• San Francisco to Las Vegas: Summer Scenic Route Through Yosemite. Map Data ©2013 Google - Sanborn

    Distance: 610 miles
    Drive Time: 12 hours

    One of the most scenic ways to get to Las Vegas from San Francisco passes through Yosemite National Park. It runs along the eastern side of the Sierras and past Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental U.S. You'll have to pay an entrance fee to drive through Yosemite, even though you're just driving through - but the scenery is worth it.

    The map above shows the route in general. If you'd like to see it even bigger, zoom in and out or get detailed driving directions and explore what you might see along the way, go to the interactive version.

    This is the general route:

    • From San Francisco, take I-80 East
    • Connect to I-580 East
    • Take I-205 toward Tracy, merging onto I-5 north toward Stockton
    • Exit at CA Hwy 120 east toward Sonora. In the process, you will travel on US Hwy 99 for a short distance.
    • Follow CA Hwy 120 through Mariposa to Yosemite, then continue on it across the mountains and over Tioga Pass to Lee Vining.
    • Take US Hwy 395...MORE south.

    From there, if your vehicle is up to a steep climb and possible high temperatures, this route will take you across Death Valley, a real hot spot with some of the highest recorded temperatures on earth:

    • Turn left (east) just past Lone Pine onto Hwy 136, which will become CA Hwy 190.
    • Turn left onto North Hwy
    • Tur right onto Daylight Pass Rd toward Beatty, crossing into Nevada. Daylight Pass Rd becomes NV Hwy 374.
    • Turn right onto US Hwy 95 and take it to Las Vegas.

    If you choose this route, don't start out with taking along some good, old-fashioned technology: a paper map. GPS systems are often wrong in this part of California - with occasional tragic consequences - and cell phones aren't like to work, either.

    If you'd rather not drive through such a hot place, turn east onto US Hwy 6 near Bishop and then onto US Hwy 95 at Tonopah, Nevada.

    Whether or not Tioga Pass will be open depends on Mother Nature – the opening date depends on how much snow has fallen and how fast it can be removed, and it closes when the snow gets too deep to plow. To check road status during your trip, you can go to the Department of Transportation website or call 800-427-7623 and enter the highway number you want to know about. Tioga Pass is on CA Hwy 120.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Driving from San Francisco to Las Vegas: Alternate Scenic Route

    San Francisco to Las Vegas: - Scenic Route
    ••• San Francisco to Las Vegas: - Scenic Route. Map Data ©2013 Google - Sanborn

    Distance: 650 miles
    Drive Time: 11.5 hours

    This scenic route veers north to avoid the high mountain passes and so is open for more of the year than the Yosemite option, but it still follows scenic US Hwy 395. It's best for traveling in spring and fall - or even winter when the roads are clear. It goes through Death Valley, which is not recommended in summer because of extreme heat.

    The map above shows the route in general. Click on the map, and you'll get a slightly larger version. If you'd like to see it even bigger, zoom in and out or get detailed driving directions and explore what you might see along the way, go to the interactive version.

    This is the basic route:

    • Take I-80 east toward Sacramento
    • Take US Hwy 50 toward South Lake Tahoe.
    • Turn south onto CA Hwy 89 toward Markleeville
    • Follow US 395 south
    • Turn left (east) onto Hwy 136 at Lone Pine, which will become Hwy 190.
    • Turn left onto North Hwy, then right onto Daylight Pass Rd toward Beatty, crossing into Nevada.
    • Daylight Pass...MORE becomes Hwy 374.
    • Turn right onto US Hwy 95 and take it to Las Vegas.

    I-80 is the route that all Northern California skiers take to get to the slopes around Lake Tahoe and can be extremely busy and full of traffic jams on Fridays. Try to go on another day if you can. While less prone to closure than Tioga Pass, sections of this route can also be closed by snow and ice. Check road status at the Department of Transportation website or call 800-427-7623.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    San Francisco to Las Vegas by Air Flight

    Taking Off at SFO.jpg
    ••• Taking Off at SFO. dsleeter_2000 at Flickr under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License

    Travel Time: Flight time from San Francisco to Las Vegas is about 1.5 hours, but add about 1.5 hours more for getting to the airport early and picking up baggage after you arrive.

    If you can get a cheap flight between San Francisco and Las Vegas - by shopping around and buying your tickets a couple of weeks ahead of time - it's the best way to go if only one person is traveling. Surprisingly, taking a flight between San Francisco and Las Vegas isn't much more expensive than the bus, and it's much faster.

    Southwest Airlines operates from San Francisco, Oakland or San Jose to Las Vegas. They don't participate in any of the online travel sites, and you should always check directly with their website. Not only do they offer some great, cheap fares, but you can also find hotel and airfare packages that make planning your trip easy.

    The airport code for Las Vegas is LAS. From the San Francisco Bay area, you have three airport options: San Francisco (SFO), Oakland (OAK) and San...MORE Jose (SJC). Learn about the pros and cons of San Francisco area airports.

    Try not to get too focused on the cost of the airline tickets alone when comparing ways to get from San Francisco to Las Vegas. Other things to consider include costs for airport parking and airport shuttles, as well as the time required to get to and from the airport.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    San Francisco to Las Vegas by Bus or Rail

    This Bus Goes to San Francisco
    ••• This Bus Goes to San Francisco. Scott Page at Flickr under AAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

    Other options for getting from San Francisco to Las Vegas are limited and time-consuming - and may not save you as much money as you might think.

    Buses from San Francisco to Las Vegas

    • Greyhound operates buses between San Francisco and Las Vegas. It takes at least 14 hours.
    • Green Tortoise (the hostel company) runs buses from San Francisco to Las Vegas on selected Fridays April through October. They accept reservations only seven days ahead of time.

    San Francisco to Las Vegas by Train

    There is no direct train service between San Francisco and Las Vegas. In fact, there is no long-distance train service to or from San Francisco to anywhere. To make the trip on Amtrak, you'd have to take a train from Oakland or San Jose to either Los Angeles or Reno, then use their bus service.