At 472 square miles, the City of Los Angeles is a global metropolis that could swallow several major U.S. cities within its borders. Fortunately, a sprawling network of freeways connects millions of drivers throughout the widespread regions of LA. In Los Angeles, no one refers to a freeway by its official number, whether it’s in casual conversation or when giving directions. Locals and media alike will usually refer to a freeway by its number, beginning with “the.” So if you ask someone for directions to get from the Hammer Museum in Westwood to Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown LA, he or she will likely say, “Take the 405 south to the 10 east to the 110 north.” To help you navigate the city, LA Tourism has compiled a list of key freeways with their numbers and names.
The 405 begins at the 5 freeway in the Mission Hills district of the San Fernando Valley. It travels south through the Valley and passes the Getty Center on its hilltop perch as it crosses over the Sepulveda Pass in the Santa Monica Mountains. The 405 roughly follows the Pacific coastline, with large sections parallel to Sepulveda Boulevard, before it bends from north-south to east-west at the “South Bay Curve” in Torrance. It continues south through Long Beach and Orange County before it re-connects with the 5 freeway at the El Toro Y Interchange in Irvine.
The major east-west interchange between California and Arizona begins at Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica. The westernmost section is known as the Santa Monica Freeway from PCH as it crosses the 405 to the East Los Angeles Interchange, southeast of Downtown LA. From there, it’s known as the San Bernardino Freeway as it continues east through the San Gabriel Valley and into San Bernardino.
The 101 is a major north-south coastal route that connects Greater Los Angeles, the Central Coast, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the North Coast. The Ventura Freeway segment begins at the Santa Barbara / Ventura County line northwest of Los Angeles, crossing Ventura County before heading into LA County. It continues along the southern edge of the Valley, crossing the 405 before the Hollywood Split, where the Ventura Freeway changes from US 101 to SR 134. From the Hollywood Split, the 134 continues east through Glendale and Eagle Rock before entering Pasadena. The 134 ends at I-210, aka the Foothill Freeway.
At the Hollywood Split (see above), the 101 transitions from the Ventura Freeway to the Hollywood Freeway and turns south. It passes Universal Studios Hollywood in Studio City and continues through the Cahuenga Pass into Hollywood and Downtown LA. The 101 ends at the East Los Angeles Interchange southeast of Downtown. The 101 continues north of the Hollywood Split as SR 170, passing through the northeastern part of the Valley before connecting with the 5.
The 110 begins as the Arroyo Seco Parkway (SR 110) in Pasadena, the first freeway in California and the western United States. It continues south into Downtown LA, passing Dodger Stadium, STAPLES Center, L.A. LIVE and the Los Angeles Convention Center before it becomes I-110, aka the Harbor Freeway. From there it continues through South Los Angeles to San Pedro and the Port of Los Angeles.
This major north-south route begins at the Mexico border to the south and continues the length of California north into Oregon. The Golden State Freeway section of the 5 passes Six Flags Magic Mountain in Santa Clarita and continues south through Burbank in the Valley. After crossing the Ventura Freeway (see above), the 5 passes the eastern side of Griffith Park before the East Los Angeles Interchange, where it becomes the Santa Ana Freeway. The 5 continues south, passing the Citadel Outlets in Commerce and then Disneyland in Buena Park before it connects with the El Toro Y Interchange in Irvine and heads towards San Diego.