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Short Distance Road Trips From Los Angeles

A List of Most Popular Nearby Road Trips From LA


One of the best features of living in Los Angeles--or California for that matter--is the possibility of plenty of great road trips around this massive and beautiful golden state. Taking the entire week off to drive to San Francisco, Baja California or Mendocino can be a luxury for most Angelenos. There are however, a few fantastic spots--each with its own special vibe--that can be accessed in under four hours, making them ideal for three-day weekends. Below is a list of the more popular short road trips from Los Angeles.

Big Bear Lake

Distance from LA: 100 miles

Driving Time: 2 hours 

Highlights: Big Bear Discovery Center, Snow Summit skiing and snowboarding, Moonridge Animal Park, Hangman’s Tree, Big Bear Solar Observatory, Pine Knot Village, horseback riding, and Big Bear Mountain Trading Company.

Guide to Visiting Big Bear

Joshua Tree

Distance from LA: 130 miles 

Driving: Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Highlights: Carey’s Castle, Ryan Mountain, rock climbing, camping, hiking, horseback riding, Joshua Tree National Park, Lost Horse Mine, Integratron, Southern California Vipassana Center (meditation), and Mission Well.

Guide to Visiting Joshua Tree National Park


Distance from LA: 165 miles

Driving Time: 3 hours and 40 minutes

Highlights: Kern Valley Museum, river rafting, John Wayne Stagecoach, Johhny Powers Gravestone, Mayflower 100 Year Old Log Cabin, and the Kern River.

Laguna Beach

Distance from LA: 55 miles

Driving Time: 55 minutes

Highlights: Loads of galleries (especially specializing in ‘Plein Air’ art), golf, wine tasting, tennis, Marine Center/Wilderness Park, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, Laguna Art Museum, beaches, surfing, water sports, Treasure Island Park, Crystal Cove State Park, and dolphin watching.

Guide to Visiting Laguna Beach

Palm Springs

Distance from LA: 107 miles

Driving Time: 2 hours

Highlights: Spas, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs Art Museum, Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, botanical gardens, golf, Coachella music festival, Windmill Farm, Palm Canyon, Annenberg Theater, Pioneertown and Papi and Harriet’s Palace (music), and tennis.

Guide to Visiting Palm Springs

San Diego and La Jolla

Distance from LA: 125 miles

Driving Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Highlights: San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, LEGOland California, Sea World, beaches, golf, shopping, nightlife, whale watching, and the Birch Aquarium, Tidal Pool Discovery Center, coral reef farms, La Jolla Festival of the Arts, La Jolla Playhouse, golfing at Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Resort and Spa, and Mission Bay Park.

Guide to Visiting La Jolla

San Luis Obispo

Distance from LA: 190 miles

Driving Time: 3 1/2 hours

Highlights: Wine tasting, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, San Simeon, Pismo Beach, Heart Castle, galleries, golf, Grover Beach, Avila Beach, shopping and spas.

Mission San Luis Obispo

Santa Barbara

Distance from LA: 95 miles

Driving Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Highlights: Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, beaches, surfing, historic Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Downtown Waterfront Trolley, whale watching, water sports, wine tasting, hiking, biking, restaurants and horseback riding.

Visitors Guide to Santa Barbara


Distance from LA: 130 miles

Driving Time: 2 1/2 hours

Highlights: wine tasting, Hans Christian Andersen Museum, Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, Elverhoj Museum of History and Art, Danish Days festival/parade/event (September), golfing, Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort River Golf Course, horseback riding, missions, specialty farms, spas, restaurants, Sideways tours, Solvang Farmer’s Market and Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts.

Santa Ynez Valley


Distance from LA: 70 miles

Driving Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Highlights: beaches, surfing, water sports, Ventura Music Festival, Downtown art walks, streets fairs, music festivals, and parks.

Visitors Guide to Ventura

By Sea: Catalina Island

Distance from LA: 22 miles (from Long beach)

Ferry Time: Approximately one hour

Although not technically a 'road trip,' Santa Catalina Island is a favorite short distance getaway for Angelenos--so it made our list. Drive to Downtown Long Beach, Queen Mary or San Pedro harbors and take a Catalina Express ferry to the island.

Highlights: bicycling, snorkeling, golfing, glass bottom boat tours, diving, fishing and shopping (and of course cruising around the island in a golf cart as no cars are permitted there).

Santa Catalina Island Profile

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