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Amylin hitching in Northern California

California is a state in the United States of America. Hitchhiking here is easier than in a lot of other states of the US. You usually won't be harassed by cops. The Central Valley is a concentrated version of the dixie-area "Bible-Belt", so getting around from Bakersfield to, say, Sacramento (and anywhere in between) is a real pain. The major urban centers are notoriously difficult to hitch out of too. It's usually better to take public transportation as reasonably far as possible, and then hitch from there. The Sierra Nevada (especially highway 395) and the Coast are a breeze for hitchhiking.

Cities and major landmarks of California

North Coast Arcata | Eureka | Mendocino Central California Valley | Redding | Chico | Sacramento | Stockton | Modesto | Merced | Fresno | Visalia | Bakersfield | Central Coast | Bay Area | San Francisco | Oakland | San Jose | Santa Cruz | Monterey | Big Sur | Southern California Los Angeles | Santa Barbara | San Diego | Barstow | Inland Empire Sierra Nevada Mammoth | Yosemite | Bishop | Tahoe

Major Highways

I-5 and CA-99 both run up and down the middle of California in the Central Valley, from Los Angeles up through Sacramento, Redding, and into Oregon. I-5 is a long-distance freeway; stick to truck stops. CA-99 is a more urban route, connecting towns and cities.

(anywhere south of modesto on ca-99 is a pain to hitch). - J-rod User: Jaredjestes22)

Route 1 goes up and down the Coast, with beautiful scenery, but not the easiest to hitch on for the most part.

North of Sonoma is beautiful...that is to say, if you have time to spare at all, do take the 1!

Hitchhiking along the 1 north of San Francisco is not easy as there is little traffic, no on-ramps, no service stations, and very few stop lights. If you're lucky, you might find a construction site where all traffic has to stop and wait for five or ten minutes.

US-101 from San Francisco up through Marin (San Rafael), Sonoma (Santa Rosa), Mendocino (Mendocino) and Humboldt (Arcata, Eureka) Counties is arguably the easiest hitching in the US. Ollie Monaghan I would like to reiterate hitching on the 101, particulary for the stunning scenery, redwood groves laced in white mist rolling down from the mountains on side with the crash of the pacific tide on the other ... also the route has a history of being used for hitch-hiking, was a very common route taken in the 50s, 60s & 70s up and down the west coast, most of these people now have cars and will pick you up !

Recommended places

Justin hitchhiking to Arcata

The following places are recommended: Big Sur and Crescent City (CA-1 & US-101), have beautiful shores/beaches. Yosemite (Highway 120), Sequoia National Park, the Redwoods and the Los Padres Forest are a must. The Haight-Ashbury (or just "the Haight") district in San Francisco the famous epicenter of much of the 1960s' drug and music culture is long gone and beat like a drum, but you might meet a few interesting people there. Arcata is mad cool as well.


  • Shoulders
Broad shoulders are common along many roadsides, giving people plenty of room to pull over for you. However, it is not uncommon to encounter places where shoulders have not been built or are prohibitively narrow.
  • Pedestrian Rights
All interstates and many major many four lane and even several two lane highways in California prohibit pedestrians.
  • Interchanges
Split-traffic interchanges are all too common in California. Many interchanges also do not require drivers to slow down, which can lead to longer waiting times.


While hitchhiking is traditionally considered legal in California and the cops will rarely harass you, anecdotal evidence has been reported of people being threatened under California Vehicle Code Section 22520.5 which states:

(a) No person shall solicit, display, sell, offer for sale, or otherwise vend or attempt to vend any merchandise or service while being wholly or partly within any of the following:

(1) The right-of-way of any freeway, including any on ramp, off ramp, or roadway shoulder which lies within the right-of-way of the freeway.

(2) Any roadway or adjacent shoulder within 500 feet of a freeway off ramp or on ramp.

(3) Any sidewalk within 500 feet of a freeway off ramp or on ramp, when vending or attempting to vend to vehicular traffic.

(b) Subdivision (a) does not apply to a roadside rest area or vista point located within a freeway right-of-way which is subject to Section 22520.6, to a tow truck or service vehicle rendering assistance to a disabled vehicle, or to a person issued a permit to vend upon the freeway pursuant to Section 670 of the Streets and Highways Code.

(c) A violation of this section is an infraction. A second or subsequent conviction of a violation of this section is a misdemeanor.

This law is generally only used against prostitution, however soliciting a ride is considered soliciting a service, so if the cops attempt to tell you it is illegal to hitchhike in California it is best to not argue with them.

The following law is enforced more often:

21957. No person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride from the driver of any vehicle.

Definitions: 530. A "roadway" is that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.

As with other states where the roadway definition does not mention a shoulder, it might be wise to hitch from outside of the paved portion of the road.

Federal Districts

Note:All land regulated by the National Park service prohibits hitchhiking under the Code of Federal Regulations Title 36 section 4.31: Hitchhiking or soliciting transportation is prohibited except in designated areas and under conditions established by the superintendent.

  • Yosemite National Park
Hitchhiking is permitted in the following areas under the terms and conditions noted:
all areas of the park when the person is off the roadway surface and when public safety and traffic flow are not adversely affected
when vehicles may safely pull off of the main traffic lane
when not under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating drugs
when hitchhiking behavior is safe and not a nuisance
except in residential areas where signs exist establishing the area as residential areas only and discouraging public traffic
  • Joshua Tree National Park

Hitchhiking is only permitted under exigent conditions where the health and safety of the person hitchhiking is in jeopardy.

  • Mojave National Preserve

4.31 has not been amended here, so hitchhiking is prohibited.

  • Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

4.31 has not been amended here, so hitchhiking is prohibited.

  • Death Valley National Park

Hitchhiking, or the soliciting of transportation, is allowed anywhere in the park as long as the person is off the paved roadway on the shoulder, and visitor safety and traffic flow are not adversely affected.

  • Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks

Hitchhiking is permitted when not standing in the roadway, and visitor safety and traffic flow must not be adversely affected.

  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Hitchhiking is permitted in the following areas: Marin County - Marin Headlands

  • Point Reyes National Seashore

Hitchhiking is allowed anywhere in the park as long as the person does not stand in a roadway and the hitchhiking/solicitation does not adversely affect visitor safety or the normal flow of traffic.

  • Lassen Volcanic National Park

4.31 has not been amended here, so hitchhiking is prohibited.

  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Hitchhiking is explicitly prohibited at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

  • Redwood National Park

4.31 has not been amended here, so hitchhiking is prohibited.


In SoCal, one just has to transit as far from the city as possible before attempting to hitch. Northbound, take the commuter bus from downtown LA Union Station to Valencia and hitch I-5 from there. Eastbound, Metrolink (~$13 from Union Station) to the truck stops along Fontana, Rialto, San Bernadino, etc. Hitching will get easier once you hit the desert in Indio, home to better truck stops, and a departure point for Niland/Slab City. Ontario is known for "lot lizards" and other urban truck-stop crime. It takes a long time, but one can transit through Los Angeles to Orange and San Diego Counties, all the way down to Mexico. See also Nick Cophee's excellent thread on "hitching in SoCal" on Squat the Planet.

Northern California: If hitching north or east out of the Bay, the University Ave onramp in Berkeley is GOLD. The Octavia Ave onramp for the 101 south and 80 east seems to the best in SF. In Sacramento, the 16th St onramp is alright for commuting to the Bay (just stand on the left side of the road, not by the onramp post, and hold your sign high), but hitching north or south will take a long long while to happen--if you can get rides from friends in the area, go to Lodi if heading further south, the Dunnigan truck stop if northbound, but otherwise consider Megabus, Union Pacific, or hitching from the Bay. If you're in the Shasta area, check out the regional bus system--you're more likely to get a quick ride from hippie-friendly towns like Mt Shasta and Weed than more conservative places such as Dunsmuir.

Vallejo seems pretty ghetto, though the rest stop in Vallejo is really good. It's full of Urban Sprawl.

Humboldt county is real good. They have a Hoopa Indian Reservation up there that is pretty good. They'll stop if you're walking on the side because they think you're one of them, and then once they stop they feel bad and give you a ride anyway. Lord Ellis peak took me about half an hour to get a ride to Redding.

Route 101, North from San Francisco and Route 1 South from the bay, towards Santa Cruz, are great roads to hitch, arguably the easiest hitchhiking in the United States. Incredibly beautiful scenery too. From the bay, hitching can be difficult but not impossible. You can alternately take public transit to the Diridon station in San Jose. There is a shuttle for $5.00 to Downtown Santa Cruz. Make sure to hitch out of Santa Cruz instead of Capitola...or alternately, there is a bus for $3.00 from Santa Cruz to Monterrey. In Monterrey, the bus 24 for another $2.00 will take you to Barnyard shopping village in Carmel. The red lights there are an excellent place to catch rides as they are the last lights before the road turns into big sur area. Alot of drivers are headed all the way to L.A. with many cars full of young people, travelers, surfers. It took me literally 5 minutes to get a ride there, and i´m a 24 year old dude with long messy hair. Once in Big Sur hitchhiking is ridiculously easy and it is also an excellent place to camp for free on oceanside bluffs(as long as you are respectful).

Also, if you are heading down (or up) the coast, try and get to Mendocino. It's the county in Cali that produces the most marijuana, and there is this awesome communal farm there. Half the rides you get will even offer you a toke or two! Golden Gate Transit will get you up to Santa Rosa from the Bay Area, which is halfway there.

Highway 20, in between Yuba City (off Hwy 99) and Williams (off I-5) in Northern California can be difficult. It has been reported to take as long as 6 hours for someone to catch a ride. There are not many places for people to pull over, and Yuba City is a huge strip mall town that people just blast through on a multi lane road. If hitching from Yuba City, wait at the intersection of Hwys 20 & 99. The 99 commuter bus runs between Yuba City and Sacramento, too. On the other hand, User:Thewindandrain has had nothing but easy experiences hitching around Yuba City and Williams.


The difference between hitching in the mountainous areas and the valley is like night and day. While the mountainous areas in any region of the state are very easy, hitchhiking in the valley can be a challenge at times. California has many of the best swimming holes in America, an excellent climate, and a virtually unlimited selection of hiking opportunities. A fan of the outdoors could spend a lifetime exploring here. Thewindandrain (talk) 23:33, 1 June 2013 (CEST)

Ollie Monaghan Northern California is the greatest hitch-hiking I have done in my life, I took the Route 299 to Redding and then the 44 & 36 to Susanville via the breathtaking Lassen Volcanic Park, I never waiting longer than an hour and met some truly interesting and inspiring people. But a warning, out of about 20 lifts I got west to east across the state, at least half of them were stoned, so stoned on that gorgeous Humboldt county weed refrenced prior. I enjoyed this thoroughly, but it is worth taking into consideration that when hitchiking thro this part of the world, regardless of time of day (I had a guy pick me up at nine in the morning, and within five minutes was driving the steering wheel with his knee so he could roll a spliff) you will get picked up by many intoxicated drivers.

I Byron Motley tried to hitchhike from Ontario California on the on ramp but I was HARASSED by the police until I gave up trying! A close friend to which I will testify to his integrity told me he tried to hitchhike from the outskirts on on ramps of San Diego from 2 different locations and he was HARASSED at BOTH locations by the police until he gave up trying to hitch a ride! Southern California is a VERY DIFFICULT area to attempt hitching from!

"Born and raised in North Cali - if you can, take Highway 1. Everyone who takes their time to enjoy life and see cool stuff is on Highway 1, where the party's at haha. I met this amazing acidhead couple who took me to Swanson Berry Farms between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, where we sampled weird sacred Native American jams and sat around the barn on picnic tables talkin to wild westerners. Don't get stuck in So Cal. I was tryna get out of LA for about a week. When I finally got to Barstow, I hung out under the bridge on the freeway with other vagabonds, and like 3 of us were hitchhiking - I got picked up first by this awesome woman from Arkansas who lived in Baker, drove me there and we hung out with her neighborhood, getting drunk and having a good ol' fashioned fish fry. Bring loads and loads of water to So Cal, it gets hot, especially on your way out of state on I-15."

Experience Nov. 2012

I hitched from southern Oregon to Texas without any problems except one in Westmorland, CA. I was standing on the edge of the shoulder of highway 86 on the south end of this rural small community when approached by two aggrevated and aggressive Imperial County sheriffs. They asked if i knew that it was illegal to hitchhike in California. I told them it was not. Minutes of arguing later they retrieved their citation book and showed me the law shown above that you can not hitch on roadway. I asked them to show me the state definition of a roadway. This upset them. Veins bulging and spit spewing, they pointed to a business wall 40 feet away and said that's where the roadway ends. They then grabbed their pepper spray and asked if I'd be walking back to town. I complied and spent $1 for a bus to El Centro and continued on my way. Pick your battles wisely and be safe out there. ~nomadinexile

Experience Sept. 2014

DAY 1 --- I hitched from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo in one-and-half days. Took the BART from Mission St to Daly City, then the 110 bus to Pacifica. Waited about 15 minutes for a ride down Highway 1 to a beach just north of Santa Cruz. I stood in the beach parking lot for 5 minutes before getting a ride into Santa Cruz, then waited 10 minutes near the onramp to Highway 1 before I got a ride to Carmel. Carmel was a bit tricky. I waited about 2 hours before a guy told me told me it was a bad hitching spot and took me down to the gas station junction where the 1 leads to Big Sur, I waited about 45 minutes for a ride. Got to Big Sur about seven and met some surfers who showed me a safe place to hide my sleeping bag and rest for the night. All four of my rides were solo men between 25 - 60.

DAY 2 --- Quiet in the morning, but by 10am I had a ride from Big Sur to Lucia. Walked 10 mins to the next good lay-by and got a ride from a German tourist couple who were driving all the way to San Luis Obispo (we stopped off and looked at the elephants seals, and then the sea lioons in Morro Bay). I arrived in SLO by 2.30pm

A week later I hitched from Highway 1 near Lompoc to L.A. in about 5 hours. The 1 looked tough heading south, but waited about 90 mins for a young elementary school teacher who took to me to Santa Barbara. Waited on the 101 onramp at a tricky multi-lane junction, waited about 90 mins for these two Nepalese guys to take me right into downtown L.A. I set off about 4pm and arrived about 9pm.

TIPS: Always carry a big cardboard sign of your destination. Smile infectiously, and even dance (though not too much to make you look mentally ill). STAY POSITIVE - it always works out some way or the other.

Experience March 2016: Hitched into Cali from Southern Oregon on the I-5, and stopped in Redding for the night. The next day was the weirdest day of hitchhiking I ever had. We were headed toward San Fran, which proved difficult . We got a lift from a trucker out of Redding, he was headed to Sacramento, but we'd heard lots of bad stuff about Sac so he offered to drop us somewhere before. We got dropped at the truck stop in Dunnigan, CA which had very little traffic on the on ramp. People often waved but no one ever stopped. We started walking on the highway, the 505 towards San Fran, even though we knew it was illegal. We made it a few miles before highway patrol pulled over. Showing IDs from New York and Florida, he let us off pretty easy and ended up taking us 20 miles down the road to Winters, CA where we got a ride in 5 minutes. Oh, and before dropping us the cop joked "If you want some real good Mexican food, there's a Taco Bell here for ya. Ha ha!". Lots of nice people willing to pick us up after that, after a ride with a restaurant owner and then a construction worker who dropped us at the transit station in San Rafael, we took the bus into San Fran. Koalajuj

October 2023

Los Angeles to Arcata along the 1 and 101. Definitely start hitching north from Malibu if you wanna take the 1, that spot worked beautifully. The road up to Big Sur was closed so I had to take the 101 and pass through SLO. I received a ride from a state park officer and all other policemen did not bother me. Stuck to onramps, didn't try gas stations or truck stops and my average wait time was about 90 (!) minutes, as a young, clean male with only a backpack. Some of my longest waits were along the 101, in Mendocino county, but my best experiences were in the Emerald Triangle! I was invited to a Halloween party high in the hills, hosted by weed farmers. A tent is a must in these cold, rainy winter months. Be sure to sample some of that Humboldt county weed!

- The Falling Leaf

External links

Nomadwiki & Trashwiki

Check Nomadwiki for info on accommodation, showers etc. or Trashwiki for dumpsters...and share your wisdom :)