4 day road trip from Los Angeles 4 day road trip from Los Angeles

Navigating the Best 4 Day Road Trip From Los Angeles

Taking road trips from Los Angeles is one of the best things about the city. That means you can explore the city for about two days, then head out on the road for the adventure of a lifetime! Here are the most scenic places to visit on your four-day road trip from Los Angeles.

California offers National Parks, beaches, deserts, cities, and charming towns within a few hours’ drive. Whether you’re looking for a beach escape, wine tastings in a vineyard, an adrenaline rush in a mountain area, or a little respite from the chaos, California has endless options.

You can take a road trip around California in various ways, but a terrific option is to rent an R.V. or campervan in Los Angeles. There are plenty of R.V. parks and campsites all over the state. Alternatively, stay in a unique or luxurious resort or hotel instead of camping.

The following is a suggested itinerary for a four-day road trip from Los Angeles. Afterward, you will explore more attractions to add to the trip or extend it to discover more.

Group Convertible Roadtrip Celebration
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The Perfect Itinerary For You!

Los Angeles to San Francisco

Have one of the best road trips with a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway for a four-day road trip from Los Angeles. The Pacific Coast Highway runs along the entire length of the West Coast Of the United States, and you can take a road trip from Seattle to San Diego.

From Los Angeles to San Francisco, the Pacific Coast Highway has so many beautiful places that you can spend 4 days road trip from Los Angeles and still have more to discover and enjoy.

So, let’s start the 4-day road trip and make the most of it!

Day 1: Santa Monica to Santa Barbara

Distance: 120km (75 miles) along the 101. You might want to allow a bit more time for winding your way around the coast. But the entire drive will be on inland roads.

Drive Time: 2.5 to 3 hours

Start your road trip from Los Angeles with a drive along Highway 1 from Downtown LA to reach the ocean from the sandy beaches of Santa Monica and Venice Beach. The road starts at sea level from where you can see a half-kilometer wide sandy beach. Put Malibu into your GPS to get to the coastal highway in L.A. Squeeze in some time to surf along the shores of Malibu. If not possible now, make time later to come back here for a weekend getaway.

Your first stop on your road trip from Los Angeles is the charming city of Santa Barbara. It is one of the prettiest cities in the United States, with Spanish adobe-style buildings reflecting the town’s roots.

The weather is excellent all year round due to the tall Santa Ynez mountains surrounding the city, keeping the hot desert air while the Channel Islands quell the gushing ocean breeze.

Things to do in Santa Barbara

In the charming city of Santa Barbara, visit the Old Mission, which stands majestically overlooking the town.

Take a drive up to the Santa Ynez Valley, the wine country, which is covered in hundreds of vineyards with over 200 wineries where you can spend a whole day in tasting rooms with wines from more than 50 types of grapes, most of which are chardonnays and pinot noirs.

At the Santa Ynez Valley, you can enjoy a memorable horseback ride. If you go early in the morning, you can take a hot air balloon to get a bird’s eye view of the area.

You can also hike up to the waterfalls at Nojoqui Falls or explore the caves at Gaviota Wind Tunnel. If you want to take a whole day, go the more extended look and check out the nine-mile trails of Figueroa Mountain.

Solvang California
Photo by Anthony Fomin on Unsplash

Then stop by the cute town of Solvang to visit the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, the author of many children’s books like The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, and more.

If you are looking for an adventure, visit the Channel Islands, National Park. It is all about the outdoor experience on land and Sea. You can take day-trip adventures or an overnight camping trip to enjoy. You can go kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving, or go hiking at East Anacapa for sweeping ocean views and a lighthouse sighting.

On top of that, you can take a catamaran cruise in the Santa Barbara harbor for a whale-watching excursion into the beautiful waters of the Santa Barbara Channel in search of 27 different species of whales and dolphins.

Day 2: Santa Barbara to Big Sur

Distance: 215 miles or 345 km

Drive time: An average of 4.5 hours

You have a long drive on the second day of your 4-day road trip but don’t miss Hearst Castle in San Simeon, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Before it became a 130+ room’ castle,’ it was a humble bungalow built on a family ranch. It took over 28 years to complete the structure, and it has lots of stories to tell.

From Hearst Castle, head onto Morro Bay to get back to the coast and head up through Big Sur and Pfeiffer State Park, which offers incredible views.

Visiting the Big Sur coast provides one unforgettable view after another, with Pfeiffer Beach and the Bixby Bridge providing picturesque views. In addition to the stunning ocean views and lush natural beauty, expect to spot various wildlife, including elephant seals and California condors.

Day 3: Big Sur to Monterey

Distance: 70 miles or 112 km

Drive Time: Approximately 2.5 hours

Thrown off the stunning views of Big Sur, make your way up to Carmel by the Sea for the glorious, tranquil beach in Carmel Valley with bright blue waters and soft white sands. The riptides here can be pretty ferocious, so save the swim for the experience.

A scuba entry point is available at Carmel River State Beach, where the Scenic Bluff Path runs from surf spot Carmel Beach to bird-rich Carmel River State Beach. The historic Carmel Mission features museums, a library, and its village center’s picturesque cottages and galleries.

In the charming old town of Monterey, make your first stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is a host of thousands of marine animals and plants. During whale season, which runs from April 1 – December 14, the three-hour Whale Watch cruise provides the chance to learn about local marine life with experienced marine biologists on board.

Press on further to arrive at Santa Cruz in time to catch a beautiful sunset. Boutique shops, art galleries, spas, and cafes line the streets of this pedestrian-friendly town. Over a century ago, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk was built as a bathhouse, and now it offers both classic rides and whizzy sideshows to keep the kids occupied for days.

Santa Cruz offers several exciting attractions once you step off the beach, too, such as the quirky Mystery Spot – with a gravitational anomaly in the redwoods and the Seymour Marine Discovery Center.

Day 4: San Francisco

Distance: 75 miles or 120km

Drive Time: Approximately 2 hours

Almost there! The last stop in our 4-day road trip to San Francisco.

Take the ‘Slowcoast’ route, stretching State Route 1 between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. Surrounded by mountains and ocean right in the middle of the Northern California coastline, this route offers wonderful things to see, eat, and experience.

Half Moon Bay is known to produce some of the world’s best surfers from its vast waves. Take some time to stretch your legs and walk along the beach to enjoy the ocean. A visit to Half Moon Bay State Beach is a must, along with exploring the shops, art galleries, restaurants, and accommodation options that are located in the historic downtown area.

Just a little bit more, and you’ve reached the last stop from Los Angeles. Despite being only 7 miles wide, San Francisco has an abundance of activities that are sure to please nature lovers, foodies, and curious travelers of all ages.

Things to do in San Francisco

On the last day of your road trip, you must see the Golden Gate Bridge. The Alcatraz Island, a former federal prison closed in 1961, is also a must-see.

The Golden Gate Bridge is said to be one of the most photographed things on Earth, so get your camera ready! There is a pedestrian walkway if you can walk the 1.7-mile stretch, and bikes are also allowed on the western side.

Golden bridge san Francisco
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

A notorious former prison, Alcatraz, sits on an island bearing the same name. The stories of Alcatraz are legendary, and a visit will be fascinating. There are recorded cell-house tours available to learn about its history.

Ride a cable car and see sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf. Within walking distance are the San Francisco Dungeon and Madame Tussauds, the Museum of 3D Illusions, the Cartoon Art Museum, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum, the historic Boudin Bakery, and various nearby food establishments.

As an alternative to the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, grab a bite at the Ferry Building Marketplace or go for a walk through Castro to discover a more authentic side of San Francisco.

There’s plenty to love about San Francisco for active types and nature lovers. Whether you’re climbing Twin Peaks or walking through Golden Gate Park, there is so much to do! Taking a guided tour may help you schedule your trip.

That’s an example. Read on to find out more about places you can visit on a road trip from Los Angeles.

Road Trips From L.A.

Here are a few places you can take your car out for a weekend road trip. You can take it slow by visiting one site at a time or clubbing a few places together for weekend getaways.

Palm Springs

Distance: Approximately 105miles or 169km

Drive time: 2.5 hours

A few hours away from Los Angeles, Palm Springs is great for a weekend getaway. Palm Springs, a city in the Sonoran Desert in California, is known for its luxury hotels, spas, golf courses, public art, hot springs, and fine dining. Additionally, Palm Springs possesses many vintage boutiques as well as fine restaurants.

Palm Springs California
Photo by Cesar Cid on Unsplash

While in Palm Springs, check out the International Banana Museum, which was named the world’s largest collection of banana memorabilia for its Guinness World Record. Take a trip to one of the ghost towns near here to experience a taste of the California Gold Rush. If you are an outdoor enthusiast visit the nearby Joshua Tree National Park.

Being a short distance away and having many things to do, Palm Springs is the most ideal for a road trip from Los Angeles.

Joshua Tree National Park

Distance: 130 miles or 205 km

Driving Time: 2 hours

It is the most magical place in California and is the closest national park just 2 hours south of Los Angeles. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the park, whether you choose to drive over the park’s main roads or go on long hikes.

There’s something quite exotic about the national park, with its gnarled and ancient Joshua Trees and its sprawling boulder fields, which make for impressive views during a leisurely drive. A camping trip here can include stargazing and hearing the howl of wild coyotes.

A favorite hike in Joshua Tree National Park, Skull Rock Nature Loop’s 1.7-mile trail offers spectacular views of eroded rock formations that have formed the shape of a skull. It can get really hot during the day, so start your hike early in the morning or later in the day. Pack plenty of water and wear layers, it can get quite cool after sunset.

Big Bear Lake

Distance: 97 miles or 157km

Driving Time: 2 hours from Los Angeles

A drive to Big Bear Lake is another great addition. It is located in the San Bernardino Mountains with over 100 miles of trails and 22 miles of shoreline. It is probably the closest pine forest to Los Angeles.

In summer, you can go hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, or swimming, and in the winter, you can ski or go snowboarding on Bear Mountain. There are many shops to rent gear for all seasonal activities.

Beaches in Orange County

Distance: approximately 36 miles or 58km

Driving Time: 40 minutes

The best road trip from Los Angeles is to one or two of the nearby sandy beaches in Orange County.

Perfect for families with kids, Huntington Beach is great for surfing, swimming, fishing, long walks along the shoreline, and volleyball. Be sure to check out the Huntington Beach Pier, fire rings for bonfires, and baseball courts located near the beach.

There are many art galleries, beaches, and coves along Laguna Beach. It also offers an extensive trail system along the water, ideal for hiking, running, biking, and other outdoor activities.

Laguna Beach is also home to surfing, summer art festivals, and a great overall atmosphere. Check out Heisler Park for tidepools and sculptures Victoria Beach for white sand and the Pirate Tower.

Yosemite National Park

Distance: 280 miles or 450km

Driving time: 6 hours

The impressive geological features, including high mountains, majestic waterfalls, rounded domes, alpine lakes, and more, are just a few reasons to take a road trip from Los Angeles to Yosemite National Park.

Visit Tunnel View, which shows Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Falls all at once! Or go up to Glacier Point, over 3,000 feet above ground to view one-third of the Yosemite valley.

If you feel more adventurous, visit the less-visited parts of Yosemite National Park. Drive up to Tioga Pass to find astounding dramatic features. However, the Tioga pass is inaccessible during winter, so be sure to catch it in the sunny months.

San Diego

Distance: 124 miles or 200 km

Driving Time: 3 hours (4-6 hours, if taking multiple pit stops)

The Mediterranean climate all year round, 70 miles of coastal beaches, and more make this charming town worth a road trip from Los Angeles. Just head south for an extended weekend road trip from Los Angeles.

Explore the tide pools and sea caves at La Jolla Cove. Take a stroll at Pacific Beach. Take in views of the Pacific Ocean at Torrey Pines State Reserve.

San Diego has many ways for visitors to enjoy themselves on road trips from Los Angeles. Take the kids to Belmont Park, an iconic beachfront waterpark, or explore downtown San Diego and grab a cup of coffee at a local shop. You can also spend time in a tasting room of the 150 wineries in the city.

Sequoia National Park

Distance: 260 miles or 420km

Driving time: 4.5 hours approximately

Sequoia National Park is enjoyable all year round and makes a good 4-day road trip from Los Angeles. So head to the Land of Giants to explore the natural wonders of the tallest trees in the world.

It is famous for the massive groves of Sequoias and the varying environments of deep canyons, rolling hills, marble caves, and majestic mountains. It has many adventures to experience, including hiking, skiing, horseback riding, climbing, and more. Be sure to pay your visit to the General Sherman Tree, the largest Sequoia in the world, and hike up to the Moro Rock for spectacular views.

Check out Kings Canyon National Park, adjacent to Sequoia National Park, to make it more exciting.

Las Vegas

Distance: 270 miles or 435km

Drive Time: 4-5 hours

Visit the entertainment capital of the world for endless entertainment. The Sin City is best for a 4-day road trip from Los Angeles. Away from the strip and the casinos, spend a day exploring museums and other best attractions of Las Vegas. The Mob Museum, the Red Rock Canyon National Conversation Area, the Hoover Dam, and the Fountains of Bellagio are a few places to visit.

Tons of excellent restaurants highlight the city’s rich and diverse culinary landscape. Vegas is fabulous for a 4 day trip from Los Angeles with family, and friends, or even a solo trip.

11 Great Scenic Drives in California

Lake Tahoe

Distance: 465 miles or 748 km

Driving time: 7 hours

Wind your way on this extended trip by stopping along with the smaller towns of Lone Pine, Big Pine, and Bishop for short strolls and delicious food.

You can find hot springs to soak tight muscles after a long drive. You can also go climbing or bouldering for some rock scrambling. You can go for a hike or a ski day on the Mammoth mountain. You can take a spin at Yosemite National Park from here if you want.

Death Valley National Park

Distance: 215 miles or 346km

Driving time: 3.5 hours

The Death Valley is a phenomenal 4-day road trip destination from Los Angeles. But it is the hottest and driest place in the country, so winter is the best time to go.

There’s something to do at Death Valley for everyone, including hiking, off-roading, and taking a scenic drive. Explore canyons, giant dunes, and mountains. You may also spot wildlife, including bighorn sheep, jackrabbits, and desert tortoise.

It can be challenging to see all the highlights of Death Valley, but a few shouldn’t be missed. Don’t miss Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level, and Dante’s View, where you can get a bird’s eye view of the valley below. Experience the unique sand and rock of the Golden Canyon, followed by a sunset trip to Zabriskie Point.

Salton Sea

Distance: 165 miles or 266 km

Driving Time: 2.5 hours

Drive south to the 1950s popular vacation spot with resorts covering the eastern shore. Increased salinity and agriculture pollution have left the town forgotten as a luxury retreat.

Explore abandoned structures along the shoreline and eat at the few establishments still open in the area. Be sure to visit the rainbow-hued Salvation Mountain adorned with the words ‘God is Love.’

Catalina Island

Distance: 48 miles or 77km

Drive time: approximately 1 hour

It would be best if you took a ferry as you cannot drive to or on the island. It is a part of the Channel Islands and is only 22 miles long by 8 miles wide. It is home to stunning beaches and offers several land and sea activities to enjoy.

Catalina Island 4day road trip from los angeles
Photo by Elias Shankaji on Unsplash

The natural beauty of this island is a breath of fresh air away from the traffic of Los Angeles. Take a day hike on the Trans Catalina Trail, zipline over the forest, or go fishing and kayaking. There are two ‘cities’ on the island, where day trip adventures are operated – Two Harbors and Avalon.

Grand Canyon

Distance: 486 miles or 782km

Drive Time: 8 hours from Los Angeles with no stops along the way

This trip makes it to the Grand Canyon with incredible landscapes and notable towns along the way. By leaving L.A. via I-10, you will come across Mojave National Preserve, Coachella Valley National Park, Bearizona Wildlife Park, and eventually reach Kaibab National Forest and the Grand Canyon Village. You can also trip to the Joshua Tree National Park and the Salton Sea from here. You can stop at any of these destinations to make the journey even more exciting.

The Grand Canyon National Park is the crowning attraction of this road trip. The massive expanse of gorges, ridges, and rock formations will have you impressed. Apart from hiking, rafting in the Colorado River or a Helicopter tour is also a great way to explore. You can visit the Yavapai point in the village to get a great view of the canyon and an off-road excursion to explore the desert landscape.

Start your Road Trip Today!

Los Angeles is full of things to do and see, but you can explore more of the country with a set of wheels and a sense of adventure. You can find new places, activities, and landscapes throughout a road trip from Los Angeles.

Whether you want to visit the desert, incredible beaches, giant trees, or mountains, pack up your car and go for a ride.

Suggested Reads

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USA Tales

Last Updated on November 26, 2023 by Namita Soren


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