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Best Road Trip to Drive From New Jersey to California Coast 🧭

Embark on the best road trip from New Jersey to the California coast! Plan your drive, check distances, view maps, and enjoy the journey 🚗🗺️

Driving from the east coast to the west coast of the United States is a classic American road trip adventure. The distance from New Jersey to California is around 2,800 miles, making for an unforgettable cross-country journey. Whether you drive  a big RV or take a smaller vehicle, this road trip is full of opportunities to experience the diversity and beauty of the country.

How Long Does it Take to Drive from New Jersey to California?

The total driving distance from New Jersey to California can vary slightly depending on your exact starting and ending points, but it averages around 2,800 miles. If you drive straight through without stopping, it would take around 42 hours of drive time to get from New Jersey to the California border.

However, few people want to just drive straight through on a road trip like this. Most road trippers prefer taking their time, stopping at attractions and scenic areas along the way. A reasonable estimate for this road trip allows 5-7 days of travel time if you’re driving around 6-8 hours per day.

Of course, you could also fly from New Jersey to California rather than drive if you’re looking to get there faster. A flight between the two takes around 6 hours of travel time.

Planning the Best Route from New Jersey to California

There are a few main route options when road tripping from New Jersey to the West Coast. You can take a more northern route through places like Chicago and Denver, or a more southern route that passes through cities like Nashville and Santa Fe.

The northern route via I-80 to I-70 covers around 2,815 miles and takes you through major cities like Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Denver before cutting through Utah and Nevada. This route allows you to stop at attractions like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the St. Louis Arch, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

The southern route via I-40 and I-10 is around 2,900 miles long. It takes you through Nashville, Memphis, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff (where you can stop to see the Grand Canyon), and then into California. Along this route you can visit Graceland, the Oklahoma City National Memorial, Petrified Forest National Park, the Meteor Crater outside Winslow, AZ, and experience a taste of historic Route 66.

Selecting the Best Route for Your NJ to CA Road Trip

One key decision when planning a New Jersey to California road trip is determining which route to take across the country. While the straight line distance is around 2,500 miles, the driving distance on most routes falls between 2,800-3,200 miles depending on your stops and routing.

Those looking for an efficient drive may want to stick to major interstates like I-80 across the northern U.S. through places like Chicago, Des Moines, and Salt Lake City before cutting down to California. This more direct route comes in around 2,900 miles of driving.

For travelers with more time, meandering along I-40 creates a southern route with plenty of opportunities for detours and scenic drives. This routing takes you through Nashville, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff and needs closer to 3,100 miles but allows stops at places like the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and traces of Route 66.

Want to really take the road less traveled? Mapping tools let you create custom routes using smaller highways, state roads, and even unpaved routes for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. Just be prepared for extra miles and drive time.

Not-to-Miss Stops on an East to West Coast Road Trip

While the destination of sunny California is appealing, the journey from New Jersey is arguably the real highlight of this cross-country road trip. Be sure to budget time to stop at iconic parks, unique roadside attractions, and distinctive regional cities. A few recommendations:

Lake Tahoe/Reno: Veer slightly off the direct route to experience the alpine beauty surrounding massive Lake Tahoe that straddles the California/Nevada border. Nearby Reno offers an entertaining contrast with its neon-lit casino scene.

Route 66 Towns: Whether passing through Flagstaff, Winslow (“Standing on the Corner”), Amarillo (Cadillac Ranch), or other classic stops, connect with slices of vintage Americana along the historic Route 66 highway.

Santa Fe: This desert city oozes a distinctive Southwestern charm and Native American influence found in its adobe architecture, art galleries, and cuisine. Don’t miss Meow Wolf’s trippy immersive art exhibits.

St. Louis: Admire the iconic Gateway Arch, catch a baseball game at Busch Stadium, and fuel up on local barbecue at one of the Missouri city’s acclaimed joints.

Nashville: While in Music City, tour the historic Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame, listen to live music pouring from Broadway’s honky-tonk bars, and indulge in hot chicken.

Get off the interstate and you’ll uncover a wealth of small-town Americana, regional culinary specialties, unique roadside oddities, and striking desert/mountain landscapes on your drive from New Jersey to California.

More to See Along the Way on a New Jersey to California Road Trip

No matter which route you choose, there is much to see and do when driving across the U.S. In the Northeast, you can stop in cities like Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall or tour Washington D.C. ‘s museums and monuments.

In the Midwest, take a break in Chicago to visit iconic attractions like the Bean sculpture, the Art Institute museum , or a baseball game at Wrigley Field. As you continue west, you’ll pass by America’s agricultural heartland with miles of farmland and opportunity to experience rural towns.

Once you hit mountain country, you can spend time exploring national parks like Rocky Mountain, Arches, Canyonlands, the Grand Canyon, and more. The Southwestern United States offers stunning desert landscapes, Native American culture, and remnants of historic Route 66 attractions.

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in California is a road trip highlight, with incredible ocean views and coastal towns to stop and recharge. Don’t miss the eateries, beaches, and celebrity handprints along the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. Further north, San Francisco provides a fun, hilly urban destination with the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and fresh seafood.

How to Calculate Your New Jersey to California Road Trip Distance and Time

There are many handy online driving distance calculators and map tools to help plan your New Jersey to California road trip. Google Maps and travel apps like Roadtrippers provide turn-by-turn driving directions and let you map out stops along the way.

TravelMath also has a useful tool where you can input your starting point, destination, and stops to calculate the total miles and estimated drive time for a trip. It allows you to compare the driving distance and times for different potential routes to find the quickest or most scenic option.

AAA’s website also has road trip planning tools including mile calculators and maps. You can order free TourBook guides for the states you’ll pass through, each filled with hotel, restaurant, and attraction information.

Tools and Tips for New Jersey to California Road Trip Planning

In addition to using online direction and mapping tools, get a physical road atlas for your drive from New Jersey to California. This can come in handy if you lose internet access in rural stretches. Bring a cooler to pack with road snacks and drinks to save money on meals.

Be sure to get your vehicle serviced with an oil change, tire rotations, and overall check before such a long road trip. Bring an emergency roadside kit, blankets, and other safety items in case of any car troubles or bad weather conditions.

For the return trip back east from California, consider taking a different route to experience new scenery and attractions. Routing through Denver and Kansas allows for a stop in Las Vegas, while a northern route could let you visit national parks like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and see sights like Mount Rushmore.

No matter which direction you go, a road trip from New Jersey to California (or California back to New Jersey) provides the opportunity to experience the vast diversity of the United States. With a little planning and an adventurous spirit, it’s a journey you’ll never forget.

To Sum It Up

When planning a New Jersey and California road trip, there are handy tools to calculate the distance between New Jersey and your California destination. Travel mapping sites like Google Maps allow you to view a map and get the straight line distance and driving distance between cities. This can help determine whether it’s better to drive or fly for your needs.

Online calculators like those from Travelmath or AAA provide similar trip calculations and driving estimates. You can input starting and ending zip codes to figure out the total mileage and time for different route options across the U.S.

Plan plenty of stops along the way to experience the national parks, unique attractions, restaurants, and landscapes this country has to offer. Driving along i-40, you can visit spots like the Petrified Forest, meteor crater near Winslow, and sections of old Route 66. Taking i-70 or i-80 allows for stops in cities like Denver, chances to see the black hills and rushmore, and to drive through the scenic mountain west.

Whether heading to Flagstaff to get a first glimpse of the Grand Canyon, experiencing southern hospitality in cities like Santa Fe and Amarillo, or driving the pacific coast highway  through California to view the Pacific Ocean from the Santa Monica Pier or see the animals at the San Diego Zoo, this cross-country road trip has much to see and do. With some planning and an appetite for adventure, the drive from New Jersey to California makes for memories to last a lifetime.

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