How to Go to Sacramento: Best Routes & Travel Tips


Traveling from Sacramento to San Francisco, a journey of approximately 90 miles, offers several transportation options to suit various preferences and schedules. Choosing the right mode of transportation is crucial for a smooth and enjoyable trip, whether you prioritize time, convenience, or scenic views. In 2019, an estimated 27.2 million visitors traveled to San Francisco, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.

Key Points

  • The main routes from Sacramento to San Francisco are I-80 and Hwy 50
  • Checking traffic reports and being aware of construction zones is essential for a smooth journey
  • Public transportation options, such as Amtrak Capitol Corridor and the upcoming California High-Speed Rail, provide convenient alternatives to driving

Main Routes from Sacramento to San Francisco

I-80 Route

Interstate 80 (I-80) is the most direct and popular route from Sacramento to San Francisco. To embark on this journey, head west on I-80 from Sacramento, passing through cities like Davis, Vacaville, and Fairfield. Major exits along the way include the UC Davis exit, the Nut Tree Plaza in Vacaville, and the Cordelia Junction, where I-80 meets I-680. Be mindful of typical traffic patterns, especially during peak hours, and consider traveling during off-peak times to avoid congestion.

Hwy 50 Route

An alternative route to San Francisco is via Highway 50 (Hwy 50). Start by heading west on Hwy 50 from Sacramento, which will take you through the scenic Sacramento Delta region. Merge onto I-80 West at the I-80/Hwy 50 interchange in West Sacramento and continue your journey to San Francisco. While this route may be slightly longer than taking I-80 directly, it offers a more picturesque drive through the Delta’s unique landscape.

Traffic and Navigation

Traffic Reports and Accident Information

Before setting out on your trip, it’s crucial to check real-time traffic reports to stay informed about any accidents, delays, or road closures. Both Google Maps and Apple Maps provide up-to-date traffic information, allowing you to plan your route accordingly. In the event of a major incident, such as the recent Fairfield accident, be prepared to take alternative routes or adjust your travel time.

Construction Zones and Delays

Construction projects along I-80 and Hwy 50 can cause delays and impact your travel plans. To minimize disruptions, research current construction zones and detour information before your trip. Websites like Caltrans provide detailed information on ongoing projects and estimated delay times.

Using Navigation Apps

Navigation apps like Google Maps and Apple Maps are invaluable tools for a smooth journey from Sacramento to San Francisco. These apps provide real-time updates on traffic conditions, accidents, and construction zones, helping you avoid congestion and find the most efficient route. Familiarize yourself with their features, such as alternate route suggestions and estimated arrival times, to make the most of your trip.

Public Transportation Options

Amtrak Capitol Corridor

For those who prefer public transportation, the Amtrak Capitol Corridor is a convenient and eco-friendly option. This train service runs multiple times daily between Sacramento and Emeryville, with a Thruway bus connection to San Francisco. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenic views as you travel along the Capitol Corridor.

High-Speed Passenger Rail

Looking to the future, the California High-Speed Rail (CAHSR) project aims to revolutionize travel between Sacramento and San Francisco. Once completed, this high-speed rail system will significantly reduce travel times and provide a comfortable, efficient alternative to driving or traditional rail services.

Air Travel

Sacramento International Airport (SMF)

If time is of the essence, consider flying from Sacramento International Airport (SMF) to one of the San Francisco area airports, such as San Francisco International Airport (SFO) or Oakland International Airport (OAK). SMF offers daily flights to these destinations, with various airlines providing service. Upon arrival, you can easily access downtown Sacramento via taxi, rideshare, or public transportation.

McClellan Airfield

McClellan Airfield, located just northeast of Sacramento, is another option for air travel to the San Francisco area. While it primarily serves private and charter flights, it’s worth considering if you have access to these services or are looking for a more exclusive travel experience.

Transportation Services in San Francisco

Rental Cars and Shuttles

Once you arrive in San Francisco, you may need transportation to reach your final destination. Rental car services are available at both SMF and throughout San Francisco, providing flexibility and freedom to explore the city and its surroundings. Alternatively, shuttle services offer direct transportation between Sacramento and San Francisco, eliminating the need to navigate the city’s streets on your own.

Parking in San Francisco

If you choose to drive into San Francisco, be prepared for the challenge of finding parking, especially in popular areas like the Financial District. To make your life easier, use parking apps to locate available spots and compare prices. Keep in mind that parking in San Francisco can be expensive, so factor this into your travel budget.

Exploring Beyond San Francisco

Lake Tahoe

After your visit to San Francisco, consider extending your trip to explore the stunning beauty of Lake Tahoe. From San Francisco, take I-80 East towards Sacramento, then continue on I-80 East towards Truckee. The drive from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe typically takes around 3.5 hours, depending on traffic and weather conditions.

Napa Valley

Another popular destination near San Francisco is the world-renowned Napa Valley wine region. To get there from San Francisco, head north on Highway 101, then take Highway 37 East to Highway 121 North. This route will take you through the charming towns of Napa and Yountville, where you can enjoy wine tastings and tours at the many vineyards and wineries.


How do I check for traffic updates between Sacramento and San Francisco?

You can check for real-time traffic updates using navigation apps like Google Maps or Apple Maps, or by visiting the Caltrans website for information on accidents, construction zones, and road closures.

What are the best times to travel from Sacramento to San Francisco to avoid traffic?

To avoid peak traffic, consider traveling during off-peak hours, such as early morning or late evening. Weekends and holidays tend to have more congested roads, so plan accordingly.

Can I use public transportation to travel from Sacramento to San Francisco?

Yes, the Amtrak Capitol Corridor offers train service between Sacramento and Emeryville, with a Thruway bus connection to San Francisco.

What are the parking options in San Francisco’s Financial District?

Parking in San Francisco’s Financial District can be challenging and expensive. Use parking apps to locate available spots and compare prices, or consider using public transportation or rideshare services to avoid parking hassles.

How do I travel from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe or Napa Valley?

To reach Lake Tahoe from San Francisco, take I-80 East towards Sacramento, then continue on I-80 East towards Truckee. For Napa Valley, head north on Highway 101 from San Francisco, then take Highway 37 East to Highway 121 North.


About the author

Krystal Collins is deeply immersed in the San Francisco community, embracing its vibrant culture and adventurous spirit. As an active participant in the city’s diverse neighborhoods and outdoor scene, she brings authoritative insights into San Francisco’s rich cultural heritage, lively parks, scenic beaches, and distinct neighborhoods. Her first-hand experiences with transportation, local dining, and community events provide her with an authentic understanding of daily life in the city.