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The best ways to get from Sacramento to San Francisco

Zip between Sac sun and SF fog with the easiest ways to get from Sacramento to San Francisco and back again

Written by
Garrick Ramirez

San Francisco and Sacramento share a common history: the Gold Rush rocketed both cities into booming metropolitans. Today, they're more commonly linked by the bustling 88-mile thruway that hosts commuters and travelers seeking the wealth of business and attractions in each city. Plus, when Sac temps heat up, residents of the California state capital can find relief in San Francisco’s famously cooling marine layer. The same can be said of chilly SF residents who flock to Sacramento’s sunshine and pools. Whether your trip is business or pleasure, here are all the ways to travel from Sacramento to San Francisco and back again.

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Best ways to get from Sacramento to San Francisco

Photograph: Flickr/Martijn de Valk/CC

1. Car

Thanks to a direct route via Interstate 80, the 88-mile trek from Sacramento to San Francisco is easily traveled by car in roughly two hours. Note that the route is more utilitarian than scenic, passing through long stretches of barren fields, so prepare your in-car entertainment accordingly. And while travelers should always expect a pockets of traffic, some time periods are worse than others. Try to avoid evening rush hour around Sacramento, and Sunday winter days when hordes of Tahoe skiers clog the trip back to SF. 

Photograph: Flickr/Roadsidepictures/CC

2. Bus

One way to beat sitting behind the wheel in traffic is letting someone else deal with driving while you play on your phone. You’ll find numerous bus transit companies with daily service between Sacramento to San Francisco. Greyhound runs six daily routes with at least one stop in Oakland, and perks such as free Wi-Fi, seats with power outlets, and streaming entertainment (including a free, promotional Audible title). Download the app to keep track of your tickets as well as track your bus. Or skip the stops with Megabus which boasts a limited amount of $1 tickets available months in advance, and runs direct buses from Sacramento to the SF Caltrain station. The relatively new-to-the-U.S. Flixbus, which has a huge transit network throughout Europe, also offers exceptionally low fares, but has provoked some customer gripes concerning delays.

Photograph: Flickr/A.Davey/CC

3. Train

Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor train is a boon for travelers shuttling between Sacramento and San Francisco. The route bypasses Interstate 80’s traffic snarls and offers a more scenic route than the highway in roughly the same time as driving. The Capitol Corridor speeds along the San Pablo Bay, across the Carquinez Strait, and along wildlife-filled fields and meadows that turn lush green during spring. You’re welcome to bring your own food, and there’s also a cafe car stocked with sandwiches, salads, beer, and wine (the cafe also sells MUNI or Clipper cards to ride public transit within San Francisco). In Sacramento, the train departs and arrives at the historic Sacramento Valley Station that’s walking distance from downtown and the hip new Doco Commons area surrounding the Golden 1 Arena. While there is no direct train service from SF—train stations are in nearby Oakland and Emeryville—passengers can add a bus ride to the station with their fare. A one-way ticket with bus transfer averages $33. Alternatively, passengers can take a ferry from San Francisco’s Ferry Building to the Amtrak station at Jack London Square. 

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/elleneka102

4. Plane

United is the only commercial provider that offers direct flights between Sacramento International Airport (SMF) to San Francisco International (SFO). Flight time clocks in at less than an hour, but after security lines and transfers, the total trip duration is probably equal if not longer than traveling via car, bus, or train.

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