By Steve Beauregard
There are two main ways to drive from San Diego to Las Vegas.
The fastest, shortest route is 327 miles from downtown San Diego to the center of the Las Vegas Strip.
Without much traffic, it would take you roughly 4 hours and 45 minutes to get there.
Directions from San Diego to Las Vegas
To get to Sin City from San Diego, you’ll simply want to take I-15 North.
About an hour into your drive, or roughly 64 miles from downtown San Diego is the exit to the 215. Taking Interstate 215, instead of going on I-15, will give you a more straightforward drive to Las Vegas, while helping you avoid the traffic on I-15.
The exit to 215 is a few miles after you pass Temecula. You’ll enter the town of Murrieta, and right after you see the Murrieta city limits sign on your right, you’ll want to stay in your right lane to get on the 215.
After that, you’ll stay on the 215 for it’s entire length, 54 miles, before it merges into Interstate 15.
From there, it is a 3 hour drive, (213 miles), from the 215/I-15 junction, to Las Vegas. You’ll go through the town of Victorville, before coming to the long stretch of nothingness between Barstow and Baker (a desolate 65 mile stretch of desert).
After Baker, (home to the world’s largest thermometer), you’ll have an 89 mile drive to get to the center of the Las Vegas Strip.
However, if you can’t wait to get your gamble on, you can stop and try your luck at one of the casinos in Primm, Nevada, which is 51 miles from Baker, on the California and Nevada border.
Other Route from San Diego to Las Vegas
As an alternative, (if there are long delays due to construction or traffic), you can always get to Sin City via I-10.
With this route, you’ll drive the same as if you were going on the quicker route described above, however in the city of Edgemont, you’ll want to take State Route 60 East, or the 60 Freeway as it’s called. (Exit signs will say “Beaumont/Indio”).
The 60 Freeway, also known as the Moreno Valley Freeway, will merge into Interstate 10.
In the middle of about a million white windmills, you’ll see the signs pointing you to Highway 62. They’ll also say “Yucca Valley/Twenty-Nine Palms.”
You’ll take State Route 62 north through the Mojave National Preserve, for what may seem like forever, until it merges into I-15, about five miles before you get to Primm, Nevada.
Mapping systems peg this route at 354 miles from downtown San Diego to the Las Vegas Strip. It would take you about 5 and ½ hours, assuming normal traffic conditions.
In other words, this road takes about 45 minutes longer than sticking with the I-215 and I-15 road to Las Vegas.
San Diego to Las Vegas Driving Tips
There are only two main tips, one for going, and one for coming back:
When driving to Las Vegas on a weekend, leave very early Friday morning.
Interstate 15 can get busy with L.A. residents wanting to spend their weekend in Las Vegas. In fact, the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Bureau says that last year, 27% of all visitors to Las Vegas came from Southern California.
(Related: List and map of San Diego casinos)
Since there were approximately 41 million visitors to Sin City last year, that means 11 million came from Southern California. If you leave late on a Friday, you may feel that all 11 million are in front of you on I-15.
You may wake up on a Sunday morning in Las Vegas with a headache, but if you’re able to leave really early, you’ll save yourself even more of a headache on the drive home.
This applies to 3-day weekends as well, when all of your fellow Southern Californians are headed home. Last year on Labor Day, for example, it was estimated that 315,000 people visited Las Vegas. That’s 85,000 people from Southern California roughly. And yes, some will fly, but many of the 85,000 will be driving home on I-15. Beat them to the rush.
Distances and Estimated Driving Times to Las Vegas from Nearby San Diego Cities
(Please note, these are all assuming normal traffic conditions and start in the heart of each down – usually the city government building – to the center of the Las Vegas Strip, in this case, Caesars Palace)
Carlsbad to Las Vegas – Driving distance of 309 miles with a time of 4 and ½ hours. This is by going the fastest way, which is I-5 to the State Route 133, (which is a toll road), meandering north and east to I-15.
Chula Vista – 332 miles. 4 hours and 45 minutes.
Escondido – 297 miles. Approximately 4 hours and 15 minutes.
La Jolla – 327 miles. 4 hours 45 minutes.
El Cajon – 329 miles. 4 hours and 45 minutes.
Encinitas – 318 miles. 4 hours and 40 minutes.
How many miles is it from San Diego to Las Vegas?
So to recap, it’s just about 330 miles from downtown San Diego to the Las Vegas Strip. Be sure to get an early start, both when leaving and when coming home. And have a great time! (Photos courtesy of djfpaagman and Ken Lund via Flickr).