The City by the Bay, San Francisco, is perhaps best known by most as simply, “The City.” It is located at the tip of the San Francisco peninsula, and it is arguably the most densely populated area in California. The city is laid out in a grid pattern, but no freeway crosses the city: All freeways lead onto the most significant city streets, thus leaving California 1 and U.S. 101 to use city streets (such as 19th Avenue and Van Ness Avenue) to cross the city.
Known for its many tourist attractions, San Francisco is home to the Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Twin Peaks, Haight/Ashbury District, Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, the Civic Center, Yerba Buena, Pac Bell Ballpark, Tommy’s Joynt, Ghiradelli’s Chocolate, and much more. The city has so much concentrated into a tiny space that it is possible to explore much of it on foot or via public transportation, including the world-famous trolleys and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.
View of a 49-Mile Scenic Drive shield in downtown San Francisco near Union Square. The 49-Mile Scenic Drive covers most of the scenic and historical attractions of San Francisco, crossing the city several times to reach a variety of points of interest. The route is well-signed with markers such as these to ease navigation for visitors. Photo taken 12/23/02.
San Francisco is well known nationwide for its large constituency of bicycle riders. As a result of making navigation easier for those who commute or travel primarily on bicycles, a system of bike routes has been created for the citizens. An example is this shield, which is along eastbound San Francisco Bicyle Route 16 in downtown. Photo taken 12/23/02.
James Lick Skyway / San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
Interstate 80 enters the San Francisco Bay Area from the northeast, following the path of Historic U.S. 40 over the Carquinez Straits between Vallejo and Hercules, then closely following the eastern shoreline of the San Francisco Bay as it passes by San Pablo, Richmond, and El Cerrito en route to Berkeley and Oakland. The freeway is extremely congested as it merges with Interstate 580 (Richmond-San Rafael Bridge), and it meets Interstate 880 and the Interstate 580 split in the Maze interchange near downtown Oakland. While Interstate 880 continues south along the east bayshore and Interstate 580 turns southeast toward Hayward, Interstate 80 crosses the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge en route to the city of San Francisco. Crossing the bridge from Treasure Island westward with two decks, Interstate 80 reaches land at the Embarcadero and ramps leading to Downtown and various points of interest. The remaining segment of Interstate 80 elevates on the James Lick Skyway, with the route ending at U.S. 101 (Central Freeway). Historically the route was proposed to extend further west to an end at California 1 near the Pacific Ocean.
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge
Interstate 180 was designation planned for the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge between 1978 and 1983. The numbering was eliminated due to route duplication with California 180 near Fresno. Today, this section of freeway is part of the larger Interstate 580.
Interstate 238 / Mission Boulevard
Interstate 238 is a short connector route between Interstate 880 and Interstate 580 between San Leandro and Hayward. At Hayward, Interstate 238 transitions into California 238, and the state route leads south through Hayward and Fremont as Mission Boulevard, ending at Interstate 680. There were plans to create an easterly freeway bypass of Fremont that would carry the California 238 designation.
Father Junipero Serra Freeway
Interstate 280 is the Father Junipero Serra Freeway, named after one of the original California missionaries. Starting in San Jose at the stack interchange with U.S. 101 and Interstate 680, Interstate 280 starts its journey as an eight-lane freeway, carrying traffic through San Jose and Silicon Valley en route to San Francisco. This freeway is well-known as a good alternate to U.S. 101, the Bayshore Freeway, and it frequently carries less traffic because it passes through fewer urban areas. In fact, Interstate 280 passes right along the San Andreas Fault Line as it steers its way north along the San Francisco Peninsula. Finally leaving the relative peacefulness of the rural San Francisco State Fish and Game Refuge, the freeway quickly reenters suburbia, passing by U.S. 101 on its way to its terminus in San Francisco, near AT&T Park (home of the Giants baseball team). The freeway does not reach Interstate 80 directly, although traffic may use the Embarcadero to reach the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Quentin L. Kopp Freeway
Interstate 380 is a short freeway connector between Interstate 280 and San Francisco International Airport in San Bruno. The freeway was proposed for a westerly extension to California 1, and the exit numbers begin at five to represent that. Interstate 380 nominally ends at U.S. 101, but dedicated ramps lead from the eastern terminus into the airport. Plans have surfaced at various intervals over the years to construct a new trans-bay bridge between I-380 and I-238, with the most recent suggestion made by Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California on December 6, 2017.
Interstate 480 was the proposed Embarcadero Freeway. Starting at what would have been an interchange joining Interstates 80 and 280, ultimate plans for the freeway outlined a route along the bay shore to near Fisherman’s Wharf, then a tunnel under North Beach. The freeway would resurface in the Marina District, then connect to the U.S. 101 at the Golden Gate Bridge approaches. Only a short stub of the freeway was constructed. With plans for the remainder of the route cancelled, I-480 was retired from the Interstate Highway System in 1964. The Embarcadero was renumbered as California 480.
The Embarcadero Freeway was a double-decked freeway between Interstate 80 and just south of Fisherman’a Wharf. Efforts to remove the freeway gained traction in 1985 when San Francisco city council voted to condemn the structure and redevelop the waterfront. The Embarcadero closed permanently in 1989 following the Loma Prieta earthquake. Subsequent work in 1991 demolished the freeway and constructed a surface boulevard within its previous foot print.
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge / John T. Knox Frwy / MacArthur Frwy
Interstate 580 is something of a hybrid freeway corridor, having been cobbled together by a variety of routes. The number is very apropos, as it connects Interstate 5 with Interstate 80. Replacing much of the U.S. 50 corridor in the East Bay, Interstate 580 begins at a remote junction with Interstate 5 near Vernalis and south of Tracy. It retains a 70 mph speed limit until it meets Interstate 205 (and Historic U.S. 50) west of Tracy. From that junction, Interstate 580 parallels the original routing of U.S. 50 as it crosses the Altamont Pass, home to thousands of windmills that constantly generate electricity for the Golden State. The freeway is always busy, as it is the largest portal from the Central Valley (and Los Angeles!) into the Bay Area. Interstate 580 quickly meets Interstate 680, a prime arterial through the San Ramon Valley, connecting Concord and Walnut Creek with San Jose, then crosses into Castro Valley and Hayward. At Hayward, through traffic turns north toward Oakland, while Interstate 238 spurs northwest toward San Leandro. Interstate 580 meets Interstate 80 and Interstate 880 in the Maze interchange, where it used to end until the mid-1980s, when it was extended over former California 17 over the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. Interstate 580 is the only Interstate to serve Marin County, and it meets its western terminus at U.S. 101 in San Rafael within earshot of Skywalker Ranch.
Sinclair Frwy / Benicia-Martinez Bridge / Donald D. Doyle Hwy
Interstate 680 replaced California 21 as the main north-south route in the inland East Bay valleys. Starting at the interchange between Interstate 280 and U.S. 101 near downtown San Jose, Interstate 680 immediately turns north, leading through Milpitas and Fremont before entering the rural beauty of Sunol. Although the Sunol Grade routinely backs up with traffic commuting between the South Bay and East Bay, the view is unrivaled even in rush hour. Interstate 680 then enters San Ramon Valley, serving Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Danville, Walnut Creek, Concord, and Martinez. At Martinez, the freeway crosses the Sacramento River Delta via the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, which is slated for replacement. Interstate 680 used to follow what is now Interstate 780 into Vallejo, but it was re-routed over California 21 to end at Interstate 80 near Cordelia.
Interstate 780 is a short freeway connector route between Interstate 680 in Benicia at the foot of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge and Interstate 80 in Vallejo.
Interstate 880 is the Admiral Nimitz Freeway, which gained notoriety in 1989 when a significant portion of its double-decked section collapsed during the Loma Prieta Earthquake. By the late 1990s, that section was reconstructed, and the new Interstate 880 through Oakland is elevated on a new alignment that does not feature any double decked segments. Interstate 880 begins at Interstate 80 in the Maze interchange, at the eastern end of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. it leads south from Oakland, paralleling the eastern bay shore, en route to San Jose. it serves the Oakland Coliseum, the Oakland International Airport, San Leandro, Hayward, Newark, Fremont, and Milpitas as it approaches downtown San Jose. Interstate 880 replaced California 17 between San Jose and Oakland, but it feeds directly into California 17 as it leads toward Santa Cruz.
Grove Shafter Freeway
Interstate 980 connects I-880 (Nimitz Freeway) with I-580 (MacArthur Freeway) and Downtown Oakland. The freeway continues northeast of Interstate 580 as California 24 en route to Walnut Creek and Concord via the Caldecott Tunnel.
Bayshore Frwy / James Lick Frwy / Central Fwy / Golden Gate Bridge
U.S. 101 enters the Bay Area from the south near San Jose, passing through that city as it creates a spine for the San Francisco Peninsula. Easily one of the busiest routes in the Bay Area, U.S. 101 is always full of traffic as it passes through Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto (home of Stanford University), Redwood City, San Carlos, and Burlingame as the Bayshore Freeway. U.S. 101 enters the city of San Francisco as a freeway, but it quickly changes to a city street (Van Ness Avenue and Lombard Street) as it passes through the city. It again becomes a freeway as it crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and enters Marin County near Sausalito. U.S. 101 becomes the Redwood Highway en route to Sonoma County and the North Coast.
California 1 follows the Pacific Ocean throughout the Bay Area. Much of it is two-lane rural highway, but it changes into a freeway as it approaches Pacifica and merges onto Interstate 280. Following 19th Avenue and Park Presidio Boulevard, California 1 is a major route through the city, but it is not a freeway. Like U.S. 101, it crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, but it splits off toward Point Reyes National Seashore upon reaching Marin County.
California 4 follows the California Delta Highway from its westerly terminus at Interstate 80 near the mouth of the Sacramento River east through Martinez, Concord, Pittsburg, and Antioch. California 4 leads into the Central Valley as a well-traveled, two-lane highway.
California 9 provides a scenic alternative to California 17 between Santa Cruz and Los Gatos.
California 13 – Warren Freeway
California 13 is the Warren Freeway between Interstate 580 and California 24 in Oakland. The freeway is generally four lanes wide through this stretch, and it is reminiscent of the Cabrillo Freeway through Balboa Park (California 163). North of California 24, northbound California 13 (Warren Freeway) transitions into Tunnel Road, then turns due west via Ashby Avenue through Berkeley en route to Interstate 80 at Eastshore State Park.
California 17 connects Santa Cruz with San Jose. Built as an expressway for much of its length, it changes into a freeway as it enters Silicon Valley. California 17 used to continue north of San Jose along the current alignment of Interstate 880 to Oakland and then Interstate 580 to Marin County.
California 24 is the major east-west connection from the Oakland metropolitan area to the Walnut Creek/Concord area. The state route passes through the Caldecott Tunnel between Berkeley and Orinda. With the addition of the fourth tunnel bore through the Caldecott Tunnel, the freeway will is at least eight lanes wide at all times. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) tracks closely parallel California 24 for its entire length.
California 35 – Skyline Boulevard
California 35 is Skyline Boulevard, following the ridge of mountains that form the backbone of the San Francisco Peninsula. It is largely a two-lane highway until it connects with Interstate 280, and then it becomes a four-lane divided highway as it enters San Francisco. The highway ends at its junction with California 1 (19th Avenue).
California 37 connects Novato with Vallejo via Sears Point along the north shore of San Pablo Bay. Although it is two lanes in spots, it is planned for upgrades due to traffic and safety issues.
California 61 is Encinal Avenue as it passes between Alameda and Oakland. It connects to California 260 at its northern end and California 112 at its southern end, and it serves Oakland International Airport. The route has been proposed to be extended north and south of these termini, but there are no current plans to construct these extensions.
California 77 is 42nd Avenue between Interstate 880 and California 185 (International Boulevard) in the vicinity of High Street in Oakland. The remainder of this route is unconstructed (and very unlikely to be constructed); it is anticipated to head northeast toward Moraga. It is unsigned.
California 82 – El Camino Real
California 82 is El Camino Real, the original route of U.S. 101 before it was moved onto the Bayshore Freeway. This route is very congested with suburban traffic for its entire length between San Jose and San Francisco/Daly City.
California 84 is split into two parts. The western California 84 begins near San Gregorio at its junction with California 1 and connects the peninsula with the east bay via the Dumbarton Bridge. This segment ends at its junction with Interstate 580 in Pleasanton. The eastern segment of the highway follows the banks of the Sacramento River between Rio Vista (California 12) and Interstate 80 in West Sacramento. Plans call for a connection between these two segments, but a proposal to construct a toll facility along that alignment was dropped in the early 1990s due to its controversial nature.
Stevens Creek Freeway / West Valley Freeway
California 85 provides an alternate route to busy U.S. 101 through Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Saratoga, and San Jose.
California 87 is Guadalupe Parkway through San Jose. The portion closest to the San Jose International Airport was the last to be upgraded to full freeway standards.
California 92 is the San Mateo Bridge, which was widened in stages across the bay, starting in Hayward.
California 93 is officially unconstructed, but an expressway along the approximate proposed alignment of California 93 is in place, along the Richmond Parkway. Although unsigned and maintained locally, the call box mileage on this parkway suggested that this route is California 93, even though there are no shields or postmile markers. The Richmond Parkway begins at its junction with Interstate 580 in Richmond, then arcs northeast to meet Interstate 80. The proposed routing of California 93 continues east from Interstate 80 to San Pablo Reservoir then south toward Orinda and Moraga, but this route is very unlikely to be constructed.
Unsigned California 112
California 112 is Davis Street between California 61 (Doolittle Drive) and California 185 (East 14th Street) in San Leandro. It may be unsigned or signed as California 61.
California 123 – San Pablo Avenue
California 123 is Historic U.S. 40 (San Pablo Avenue) through El Cerrito and Berkeley.
California 130 – Mount Hamilton Road
California 130 is Mount Hamilton Road, starting in downtown San Jose and leading east to Mount Hamilton. Proposals call for this route to be extended to the Central Valley, perhaps as a freeway, but such a route has met opposition.
California 131 – Tiburon Boulevard
California 131 is Tiburon Boulevard from U.S. 101 southeast to Tiburon in Marin County.
California 185 connects Hayward and Oakland via city streets, including International Boulevard in Oakland, roughly parallel to Interstate 880.
South Bay Freeway
California 237 is the South Bay Freeway between California 82 (El Camino Real) and Interstate 680 in Milpitas. Most of the route is a freeway, except the portion between Interstate 880 and Interstate 680.
California 260 is the Posey Tubes, located at the north end of California 61 between Alameda and Oakland. The tubes go underwater near Jack London Square near the western terminus of Interstate 980 to provide access to the city of Alameda.
Traveling north along the beach in western San Francisco, the Great Highway extends from California 35 (Skyline Boulevard) north to Point Lobos Avenue near the Cliff House. The Great Highway passes alongside Ocean Beach and was planned for a time as a freeway until most freeways were eliminated within the city of San Francisco. The highway was constructed on a berm to prevent encroachment by the beach sands. Part of the 49-Mile Scenic Drive, the Great Highway has ample parking for the beach, which is often obscured by fog during the summer months. Photos taken 04/06/09.
Westbound North Point Street approaches Van Ness Avenue. North Point Street is located near the bay, just west of the North Waterfront (Pier 39 and North Embarcadero) and north of North Beach, near the intersection of North Point, Colmbus, and Leavenworth. As the street approaches Fort Mason, it makes a left turn (south) onto Van Ness Avenue. Photos taken 11/28/03 and 07/06/07.
Lincoln Highway – Western Terminus
The transcontinental Lincoln Highway, which was conceived in 1912 by Carl G. Fisher, was officially dedicated October 31, 1913. Lincoln Highway was the first coast-to-coast automobile route in the United States. While most of the Lincoln Highway between San Francisco and New York City follows today’s Interstate 80 and U.S. 30. With the coming of the U.S. Numbered Highway System in 1926, the Lincoln Highway was split among multiple routes. The western terminus is located in Lincoln Park in San Francisco.
A marker for the western terminus is located next to the Palace of the Legion of Honor parking lot in Lincoln Park at the north end of 34th Avenue. Prior to the opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 1936, the Lincoln Highway arrived in San Francisco via the ferry arriving from Oakland at the Ferry Building. From the ferry terminal, the Lincoln Highway follows Market Street southwest, Post Street west, Presidio Avenue south, Geary Boulevard west, 36th Avenue north (today’s entrance is via 34th Avenue). Thirty-fourth Avenue enters into Lincoln Park from the south and leads to the Palace of the Legion of Honor.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
The Cliff House is a restaurant and viewing area located on Point Lobos near Seal Rocks north of Ocean Beach. True to its name, the Cliff House is situated on top of a cliff overlooking Ocean Beach southwest of Lands End; the Cliff House is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Within the city of San Francisco, the national park includes the Cliff House, Ocean Beach, Presidio, and Fort Point adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge (more of the park is located on the north side of the Golden Gate in Marin County). Located within the Sutro Historic Landscape District, the Cliff House was originally constructed in 1863, destroyed by fire on December 25, 1894, reopened in 1896, destroyed by fire again in 1907, and reopened for a third time in 1909 and remains open today. The Cliff House was added to the national park in 1977 and was rehabilitated between 2002-2004. To the north of the Cliff House are the Sutro Baths, which opened in 1896 and closed by the 1960s. Today the ruins can be explored by foot. Photos taken 04/06/09.
Sprawling Ocean Beach is located west of Golden Gate Park along the Great Highway between the Cliff House to the north and Fort Funston to the south. Rip currents and odd wave patterns resulted in injury and death, so warning signs have been posted. The beach is part of the national recreation area that also includes the Cliff House and Presidio to the northeast of here. Photos taken 04/06/09.
Page Updated June 25, 2018.