Whenever life in the big city gets you down, there are many great getaways within easy driving distance from LA. Here are a dozen of our favorite road trips from Los Angeles to places where you can unwind and relax.
In less than 3 hours, you can find yourself in the otherworldly wilderness of Joshua Tree National Park. It’s a straight shot east on I10 to Palm Springs and then onto CA-62 E/29 Palms Highway. From there, watch for signs to the entrance of the park. The best time to go is during the cooler months when the weather is mild enough to enjoy a hike.
Dominated by towering Joshua Trees and majestic mountains, the pristine, primal landscape feels a million miles away from Los Angeles. It’s the perfect place to contemplate an amazing sunset and mystifying, shifting shadows across the mountains.
Less than 100 miles north of the city on Highway 101, you’ll find the upscale and laid-back city of Santa Barbara. Known for its quintessential Spanish architecture, vineyards, and fine dining.
Just offshore from Santa Barbara is the pristine Channel Island National Park as well as whale watching expeditions. The Los Padres National Forest is also nearby. Santa Barbara could possibly be the most perfect place in all of California.
A two-hour drive along the coast brings you to the second-largest city in Southern California, San Diego. Famous for its world-class zoo, there is much more to explore in and around San Diego than you might expect. For one thing, it’s less than an hour to Tijuana, Mexico. There are also whale watching tours and kayaking the La Jolla sea caves.
Just over 100 miles east of LA on I10 is Palm Springs, the legendary getaway of Old Hollywood. Known for its luxury golf resorts, Palm Springs is also known for its arts community.
Be sure to take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway along the stunning cliffs of Chino Canyon. It will take you from 2,643 feet up to 8,516 feet into the mountains. Here, you can enjoy the cool mountain air, get a bite to eat, and relish the beauty of the Mount San Jacinto State Park Wilderness.
The 5-hour drive along the Coast Highway is an epic road trip on nearly everyone’s bucket list. The road along the rugged Pacific coast can be challenging at times but will give you an unrivaled view of the vast, Pacific Ocean.
Big Sur is a mecca for nature lovers with its uncrowded, pristine beaches and wilderness hikes into the Saint Lucia Mountains. Once you get here, likely, you’ll never want to leave.
Take California Highway 99 north through Bakersfield, Visalia, and Fresno to Yosemite National Park. It’s nearly a 5-hour drive, but once you get there, you’ll know it was worth it.
Made famous by nature photographer Ansel Adams, Yosemite is a vast, wild landscape of towering cliffs, vast forests, and raging rivers. With more than 1,200 square miles, you could spend a lifetime exploring all of the treasures hidden within Yosemite.
This will be nearly a 7-hour drive north on US I5, to the heart of California’s wine country. You’ll want to spend the night at one of the region’s quaint bed and breakfasts. There is so much to explore here, from wine tasting tours and Michelin-starred dining to organic farmer’s markets and local artisans. Wine country is a dichotomy of down-to-earth farming communities and world-class amenities for the wealthy.
The red rock New Age mecca of Sedona is nearly an 8-hour drive from Los Angeles. Go east on I10 to Phoenix, and then I17 north to Sedona. Known for its spiritual energy vortexes, Sedona is the perfect place to literally relax and re-energize. This small town is home to hundreds of healers, mystics, artists, and psychic readers. You might be surprised to find that the nearby Verde Valley is Arizona’s wine country.
The neon glitter of Sin City is a 4 to 5-hour drive from LA, depending on whether you go via I40 or I10. Once you hit The Strip, you’ll be dazzled with endless choices; should you first see a show, hit the slots, or go for a world-class all-you-can-eat buffet? Las Vegas is a city that never sleeps, so be prepared for 24/7 opportunities to have fun.
Taking I5 will get you to San Francisco in around 6-hours. The city packs in a lot to see from Golden Gate Bridge, China Town, the cable cars, and Fisherman’s Wharf. And that’s just to start. Then there is Haight Ashbury, North Beach, the Castro District, and Alcatraz Island. Be sure to put Presidio Park, the Palace of Fine Arts, and Sutro Baths on your list too. We could go on, but San Francisco is simply not a city you can fully appreciate in just a day or two.
Sequoia National Forest
Less than a 5-hour drive north on I5 will bring you to the majesty of Sequoia National Forest. In addition to groves of towering, majestic Sequoias, you’ll be amazed at the glacier-carved landscape of rocky monoliths, such as The Needles.
The Sequoia National Forest covers well over 1 million acres, embracing elevations from just 1,000 feet to peaks over 12,000 feet high. You could spend a lifetime exploring this vast wilderness. But, even if you just have a weekend, it’s well worth the drive.
Driving north on US 395 will take you through Death Valley on the way to Lake Tahoe. That might be a double road trip if you’re going in the winter. But, if you are headed there during the summer, take I5 to Sacramento and then US 50 to South Lake Tahoe.
During the summer, Lake Tahoe offers visitors a cool, alpine getaway among the pines. You can enjoy paddle boarding, boating, fishing, wind sailing, and every other water sport. There are also hundreds of miles of hiking trails and a dozen campgrounds in which to pitch a tent.
In the winter, Lake Tahoe transforms itself into a world-class ski destination. Year-round, you can also book a room gamble at one of the casinos lining the Nevada side of the lake. To put it simply, Tahoe is a great getaway for Angelinos any time of the year.