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What is the best driving route from California to New York?

April 30th, 2015 - 3:58 PM

Traveling from California to New York?

Whether you’re planning an epic road trip or a cross-country move, driving from the Golden State to the Empire State will be quite the adventure! There are plenty of things to do and see along the way to make the trip more enjoyable, but we’ll get to that later. First, you need to know the best route to take.

What’s the best route?

We think the best way to travel from California to New York is by taking Interstate 40 to Interstate 70, and here’s why:

  • It’s the most direct route to New York – and it’s interstate all the way
  • You’ll pass through a few big cities, including Albuquerque, St. Louis, and Columbus
  • It includes most of historic Route 66 (also known as Main Street of America)


California to New York

Driving route from California to New York

Let’s explore this route in detail…

Making the drive from CA to NY

How much will gas cost? It depends on what kind of vehicle you drive. Use the fueleconomy.gov My Trip Calculator to see an approximate cost for gas in your vehicle.

How many miles? If you’re traveling from the heart of LA to the heart of NYC, you’ll cover around 2,700 to 2,900 miles.

How long will it take?

It’ll take about 46-50 hours to complete the trip with stops. To avoid exhaustion, a good rule of thumb is to travel no more than 8 hours, or 500 miles per day. That means for a 2,900 mile trip, it would take around 6 days of travel. If you want to factor in some sightseeing, add a day or two to your trip. Here are some ideas for mapping your route:

Itinerary 1: Grand Canyon Visit

  • Travel from Los Angeles to Williams, AZ (night 1)
  • Spend the next day at Grand Canyon National Park
  • Spend the night in Flagstaff, AZ (night 2)
  • Travel to Tucumcari, NM (night 3)
  • Make your way to Tulsa, OK
  • Spend the night in Tulsa (night 4)
  • Travel through St. Louis to Effingham, IL for the night (night 5)
  • Travel to Wheeling, WV for the final night of your trip (night 6)
  • The next day, you’ll enter New York!

Total days: 7 days; 6 nights

Itinerary 2: Maximizing Time (fit in 8 hours of travel or 500 miles per day)

  • Start from LA and drive to Flagstaff, AZ
  • Spend the night in Flagstaff (night 1)
  • Travel to Tucumcari, NM and spend the night (night 2)
  • Make your way to Claremore, OK (night 3)
  • Travel the next day to Effingham, IL (night 4)
  • Continue on to Wheeling, WV for the night (night 5)
  • The next day, you’ll travel to New York!

Total days: 6 days; 5 nights

What about food?

Plan your travel to coordinate when you eat. For instance, if you leave Los Angeles at 8 AM after eating a full breakfast, you’ll likely start getting hungry around 12 PM. You can stop in Needles, CA (it’s about 4 hours away and in the Mojave Desert area) for lunch, then travel to Williams or Flagstaff (about 3 hours away), check into your hotel and freshen up, then grab dinner.

Yelp and TripAdvisor are two apps great for finding good food near you.

What about sleep?

Nothing will feel better after a full day of travel than a bed, pillow, and catching some ZZZs. If possible, plan your hotel stays ahead of time so you aren’t scrambling to find a room at the end of the day. Here are some things to consider when planning your stays:

  • A hotel on the outskirts of a big city may have cheaper rates than a hotel within the city limits.
  • Read reviews on hotel review sites to ensure you’re staying at a safe place.
  • Sign up for hotel rewards programs to get points for free future stays.

What’s there to do and see?

There are plenty of fun activities and sights to experience when you travel from California to New York! These are a few you definitely don’t want to miss:

  • Calico Ghost Town in Yermo, CA
  • The Grand Canyon (just an hour and a half from Flagstaff)
  • Meteor Crater in Winslow, AZ
  • Wigwam Village Motel No. 6 in Holbrook, AZ
  • Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona (near Holbrook)
  • Tinkertown Museum in Sandia Park, NM
  • Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX
  • Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK
  • Blue Whale of Catoosa in Catoosa, OK
  • Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO
  • World’s Largest Wind Chime in Casey, IL
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, IN
  • Fallingwater in Mill Run, PA

Are there any toll roads?

Along this route, you’ll find toll roads as you travel through Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, so keep some spare change in the car.

Other routes you can take from California to New York

There are a few other paths you can travel, too.

An alternate route from LA

If you don’t want to take I-40 to I-70, you can go a little more north and travel through Las Vegas, Denver, Kansas City, St. Louis, Louisville, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.

Northern Cross Country Routes

  • If you’re leaving from San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento, or another area in northern California, you can take Interstate 80 the entire way to New York. It’s a straight-shot. You’ll pass through Salt Lake City, Cheyenne, Des Moines, South Chicago, and Cleveland.
  • You can go further north to Idaho Falls (stop to see Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park), Rapid City (see Mount Rushmore), Sioux Falls, Milwaukee, Chicago, and Cleveland.

Southern Cross Country Routes

  • If you’re leaving from San Diego and want to stick south, you can take Interstate 10 to 20, 30, 40, and 81. You’ll pass through Tucson, Dallas, Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, just west of Washington D.C., and Baltimore.
  • You can go further south and travel through Tucson, San Antonio, Baton Rouge, north of New Orleans, Mobile, Pensacola, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Savannah, west of Charleston, east of Raleigh, Richmond, Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia.

Driving from New York to California

If you’re going in the opposite direction, from New York to California, you can take the same path, starting out on Interstate 70 and connecting to Interstate 40. You can also take Interstate 80 and part before entering Colorado to go toward Los Angeles (I-70 to I-15) or toward Sacramento and San Francisco (continue on I-80).

How to map your route from California to New York

We recommend planning your route by season, so you know what to expect weather-wise as you travel through each state. These cross-country routes show the best path to take depending on the season.


Cross Country Routes by season

Two more resources for planning your route are Google Maps and Roadtrippers.com. With both planners, you can enter in your origin, destination, and stops along the way. Roadtrippers even offers an option to show attractions, hotels, natural wonders, and more.

We also recommend reading our ultimate guide on how to plan a road trip for even more travel tips to help you plan your route – checklist included!

Moving from California to New York?

If you’re planning to move to New York from California, U-Pack® can help move your household goods. Here’s how it works:

  • We’ll deliver a moving trailer or ReloCube to your home in California.
  • You pack and load.
  • We’ll drive your belongings direct to your new home in New York.
  • You unload.
  • We pick up the empty equipment.

U-Pack is the most convenient way to move your belongings across the country, allowing you to make the drive to your new home in your personal vehicle, not a rental truck. What makes U-Pack even better is that prices are affordable – in many cases, just as affordable as truck rental.

Call 800-413-4799 or get a free moving quote online to see your U-Pack price.

Questions about your trip?

Leave a comment below! We’ll answer your questions or point you in the right direction. And, if you have questions about moving with U-Pack, we’re happy to answer those, too. Happy travels!