Road Trips from Los Angeles

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Los Angeles is one of the iconic cities in the US known for Dodger stadium, oil production, Beverly Hills, the Hollywood sign (originally Hollywoodland), and of course traffic.

A few trivia notes on LA: It has a mammoth economy, ranked second to only New York City.

Baggy suits are prohibited due to the 1943 zoot riot, and one may not lick a toad within city limits.

Living in Los Angeles puts you into the heartbeat of California. The region offers state and national parks, weather for all tastes (ranging from deserts to forests), activities and scenery all worthy of a road trip. But with so many options, where do you go?

7 Day Road Trips from Los Angeles

So you have a week off. That is enough time to really enjoy some famous surrounding places. Why not start with Las Vegas. It’s a little over a four hour drive. Along the way you can visit an authentic ghost town.

You’ll find numerous sweet and savory stops for food, and can even take a trip down Route 66, also known as Will Rogers Highway. It was one of the first highways in the US dating back to 1926. This road goes through 6 states from Chicago to LA. 

Once you’re in “sin city” the rest is up to you! Gamble, see a live show, take a helicopter or hot air baloon ride, or enjoy a theme park (and that’s only scratching the surface).

A second option for a week long road trip from Los Angeles is Lake Tahoe. This is an 8 hour trip, so plan som stops along the way. There are a ton of quaint towns where you can stretch your legs like Big Pine and Bishop.

Taking westward routs brings you to forested mountains and snowmelt lakes. One interesting side trip is a visit to Mono Lake Tufa Reserve. Here you can view incredible stone towers made from calcium-carbonate, and peer over the 65 miles of this million year old lake.

As for activities in Tahoe, there’s Emerald Bay State Park, Alpine Skiing in Squa vally(home of the 1960 Winter Olymics), or enjoy a day of sun & fun at King’s Beach.

Another Road trip from Los Angeles that takes about 8 hours of driving is heading into Flagstaff, Sedona, Sonoma, and Napa. Napa and Sonoma offer some of the best of wine country. Sonoma is to the west on your trail and Napa is the East.

If you’re looking for something more laid back, Sonoma is your best choice. There are hot air balloon rides, and of course plenty of wine tasting. Meanwhile, a Flagstaff and Sedona drive gives you a chance to see the Hoover dam, Grand Canyon or Death Valley depending on your tastes.

These two cities are only a half hour apart. You can enjoy craft beers in Flagstaff, or a wellness retreat in Sedona.

3-Day Weekend Trips from Los Angeles

Not everyone has the luxury of being able to get away for a full week, so how about a weekend instead? One idea is taking in the two hour drive along the coast via the San Diego Highway.

Bring your camera! Once you arrive in San Diego there’s plenty to do and see, easily filling out a weekend. Got to a beach for a picnic, ride the trolleys, or take in the San Diego Zoo. If you get hungry, head to the Gaslamp part of town, filled with restaurants many of which offer outdoor seating all day long.

If the foodie in you seeks a little more pazazz, then head to the north side of San Diego to La Jolla for gourmet options.

Or, how about Palm Springs, under 2 hours away. You’ll be heading east so look out for the miles of wind turbines that stand like giants against the sky. Upon your arrival select from any number of fantastic venues.

Take an aerial trip for a birds’ eye view via gondola. Stroll through the Living Desert Zoo with African and North American influences (hey, ride a Giraffe!). If you like contemporary art, there’s the Palm Springs’ Art Museum, and all you nature lovers head to the Moortenbotanicalgarden.

If you enjoy camping, plan your weekend roadtrip from Los Angeles with Joshua Tree in mind. It’s only 130 miles from the city . Joshua Tree is smack dab in the middle of two desert regions, the Colorado and the Mojave.

You might think it would be drab, but actually you’ll see an amazing variety of animals and plants, including the park’s namesake-the Joshua Tree. Joshua Trees are a part of the Agave family.

They look like gnarly, spikey trees (get your picture taken in front of one). Star gazers, you couldn’t ask for a better stop. Joshua Tree Park stands 5,000 feet above sea level far from major cities.

Head to the East of the park for your best nightime show (this is where the Milky Way might show herself). Note: if a little astronomy is your goal, plan your trip when the moon is not visible (new moon/dark moon).

Day Trips from Los Angeles

Like most large cities, Los Angeles has many options for short-stint driving adventures. For example, the Malibu Coast is only 30 miles away. It takes a little time to get across town, so plan for an hour drive time.

There are 30 miles of coastline just past Santa Monica. It’s quiet, lovely, and refreshing. If you want to make it a long day, visit a beach, try some wine, or look out over rocky canyons.

Or, how about Santa Catalina Island. It takes about 90 minutes from LA to reach the ferry, which then takes you over 20+ miles of water. The two main attractions on Santa Catalina are the Two Harbors and Avalon Two Harbors is rustic in nature.

You can enjoy hiking, camping, boating, fishing, Scuba driving, or just set yourself down on the beach for hot-and-cold running drinks. Many Hollywood movies used this location such as the Vanishing American.

What about Avalon? If you’re hoping to see someone famous, you have a chance here. Actors, dignitaries and all manor of well-known people come here for Avalon’s charm and beauty. Take in some golf, or treat yourself to a spa.

For the inner child, there is Legoland in Carlsbad, CA. Just 90 miles away from LA, Legoland opened in 1999. There are 60 rides here,suited to people of all ages. Legoland is open year-round and busiest in the summer.

Ride a roller coaster, visit a Lego factory, and stand in awe of Lego reproduction cities. Note: that a walk-through tunnel takes you to the Sealife Aquarium.

Road Trip from Los Angeles to Seattle

This is a long car ride, some 1,200 miles (18 hours) over three states (whew!). It is well worth the time and energy thanks to dynamic scenery and great stops along the way. Give yourself at least two weeks for this jaunt. 

Along the way make sure to take in the Griffith Observatory with theater programs, star gazing, and exhibits. You might like to take a side trip to Yosemite (after passing through Big Sur).

Oregon offers Crater Lake National Park. The lake was formed by a violent eruption over 7,000 years ago. As rain and snow ran into the remaining bowl, Crater Lake became the deepest lake in the United States with clear, blue water.

Make sure to enjoy some lookout points like Watchman Overlook and Discovery Point.  Smith Rock State Park in Oregon’s desert isn’t far from here, so that might be an option

Alternatively you might choose Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve. If you are fascinated by caves, this will make you very happy. The Siskiyou Moutains are filled with passages that have marble rocks from water that seeps into the cracks.

Its a lovely region for camping too. Just after Portland and before Seattle, take a swing through Columbia River Gorge.

Once you reach Seattle on your road trip, your options are overwhelming. Highlights of your visit might include Chinatown (complete with a dumpling crawl from January-March).

Or shop till  you drop in Pike’s Market with fresh foods, gourmet coffee from around the world, restaurants, barber shops, and crafts. Don’t worry about parking your car-there are 800+ spaces. Cruise the Seattle waterfront.

Enjoy the Museum of Flight from the first excitement of Kitty Hawk to Apollo lunar modules. Finish your day with a cold brew in the Ballard neighborhood where you cannot help but notice Viking influences. You can also curl up with a good book or go to a water park.

Road Trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco

No where near the daunting distance of Seattle, San Francisco is just under 400 miles away from LA, so you’ll want to give yourself at least four days for your road trip at the minimum.

The Pacific Coast Highway is your most scenic route option. Along the way consider a side trip to the Hearst Castle with incredible topiary gardens, suites fit for a king, stunning pools and a sunset view that’s to die for. 

Do you love garlic? A little further north,  you can visit the Garlic Capital of the World, Gilroy. The town hosts an annual all-things-garlic festival with entertainment, demonstrations, and competitions. Try your hand at garlic braiding!

How about a spooky ghost adventure. Just outside of San Jose you can visit the Winchester Mystery House, home to the Winchester heiress. The sprawling mansion includes 10,000 windows (count them!), 47 stairways, and 2,000 doors. Here, Sarah became a recluse. Paranormal activity here is reported to this day. 

In San Francisco proper, stop one the Golden Gate Bridge. Here you can see a fair amount of the city from several vantage points. The towers of the bridge were built in 1937 and reach 746-feet upwards.

And while you’re thinking “golden,” how about Golden State Park with some lovely historical houses, a flower conservatory, fine art’s musem, and a Academy of Science, just to name a few. It’s hard to enjoy all 1,000 acres in one day.

Don’t miss Pier 39  and Fisherman’s Wharf. The Pier is a protected bay, welcoming all manner of fish and seals that enjoy it here all year. Fisherman’s Wharf offers a social center for food, lodging, and bay cruises. 

For East-meets-West experiences explore Chinatown or the Japanese Tea Gardens. When you reach Chinatown, pass through the Dragon Gate and take a break from your car.

Go aon a walking tour and discover tucked away food treasures and historic buildings. Whatever you do, don’t miss the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, producing 20,000 hand-folded cookies a day.

The Japanese Tea Gardens offer a Zen-like atmosphere with blossoming cherry trees, gardens, and of course TEA!

Finally (well, not really finally since there is so much more San Francisco offers) take to the Mission District. Here you can see neighborhoods filled with murals adorning all manner of buildings.

Far more than what you’d consider grafiti, these are true works of art with themes of social justice and the Latino Heritage along Caledonia Alley, Balmy Alley, Lilac Alley, and Horace Alley, among others.

Conor

I'm the owner of Beast Auto. I live in Phoenix, Arizona. I love anything automotive related, and taking road trips all across my beautiful state.