Best Road Trips from Los Angeles: Where to Go and What to Do
With international travel remaining limited and plane rides seemingly a thing of the past (for now, at least), the road trip is back—and there are few places as synonymous with the All-American road trip as California and the Southwest. For LA locals, within a day’s drive, you can go from the SoCal coast to national parks, the Arizona desert, and even Mars on earth. From Catalina Island to the Grand Canyon, here are our favorite road-trip destinations from LA, along with curated collections of the best things to do while you’re there. As if you needed another reason to look forward to the weekend.
Within 50 miles
Catalina Island, Huntington Beach, and Laguna Beach
Hit the road on Friday after work and find yourself on a Mediterranean island (well, kind of) or in one of SoCal’s coastal towns—all in time for dinner. Take the 1-hour ferry over to Santa Catalina, or Catalina Island, for beach boutiques, boardwalk strollin', oceanfront dining, and outdoor pursuits in the mountains and along the coast. And less than an hour’s drive south are the Orange County cities of Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach, where you’ll find beautiful beaches, a gnarly surf, and neighborhoods worthy of exploration.
Within 100 miles
Ojai, Temecula Valley, Santa Barbara, and Big Bear Lake
Venture a little further to visit a real-life Shangri-la, the American Riviera, SoCal’s wine country, and a year-round adventure playground. In Ojai, which depicted Shangri-la in the old Hollywood movie Lost Horizon, plan to hit both the day spas and the hiking trails. For more, head to Big Bear, an off-the-grid haven for hikers in the summer, and one of California’s best ski and snowboard resorts come winter. If a wine-tasting weekend is more what you had in mind, consider a trip to Temecula Valley or Santa Barbara (for Santa Ynez Valley).
Within 200 miles
Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, and San Diego
Head south on the Interstate 10 for two hours and arrive in the Sonoran Desert’s mid-century modern mecca: Palm Springs. Think chic hotels, even chicer restaurants, pool parties, and—naturally—modernist homes. Less obviously, you’ll also find great hiking and biking trails. For a longer trip, tie in a trip to Joshua Tree, where there's a multitude of hiking and rock climbing opportunities, as well as some of California’s dreamiest glamping spots. If the desert’s not your thing, make a break for San Diego for a weekend on the water.
Within 300 miles
Las Vegas and Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
A land of giants home to a mighty canyon and some of the world’s largest trees awaits less than four hours from Los Angeles. Guided hikes take you from the sunny Sierra Nevada foothills and through groves of sequoias to alpine peaks in Sequoia National Park and neighboring Kings Canyon National Park. Closer still is Las Vegas, just a 3-hour drive away. Add these to your Vegas wishlist: Helicopter ride over the Strip, Red Rock Canyon scooter tour, kayaking on the Colorado River, and a trip to the Grand Canyon.
Within 400 miles
Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and San Francisco
With a long weekend (or ideally a week) ahead of you, fill up the gas and head north out of LA and onto Highway 1, aka the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH. Your destination? San Francisco and—after you’ve had your City by the Bay fix—Yosemite. Alternatively, cross state lines to Arizona where there’s sunset hot-air balloon rides, desert off-roading, and river rafting adventures to be had in and around Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Within 500 miles
Napa & Sonoma, Lake Tahoe, Flagstaff, Sedona, and Grand Canyon
Fortune favors the bold, and that’s certainly true for those willing to make the 500-mile trek from LA to the red-rock landscapes of Sedona and the Grand Canyon, and the peaks of Tahoe and Flagstaff. In Sedona, Red Rock State Park is top of the list for hikers. And just two hours north, the Grand Canyon's South Rim is your go-to for below-the-rim hiking (the North Rim is best for above-the-rim exploration). Meanwhile, the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe and Flagstaff are home to some of the best ski and snowboard resorts in the US. For an altogether less strenuous trip, the California wine regions of Napa & Sonoma are all about great wine and farm-to-table dining.