8 Exciting Stops on a Los Angeles to Death Valley Road Trip

Los Angeles to Death Valley Road Trip | Fabulous 5-Day Itinerary + Best Pit Stops
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While I don’t love Los Angeles, I’ve been there dozens of times because it’s a major connection for me on trips when I fly in from Seattle. Back when I used to travel internationally all the time, I’d often have a quick layover here and then jet off to Cuba, Dubai, or wherever my latest destination was. However, I mainly stick to traveling within the country now, and I recently found that flying here was the perfect place to go on a Los Angeles to Death Valley road trip.

While it’s only about four hours if you drive straight, I highly recommend making a longer trip because there are so many fun places you can stop along the drive to Death Valley from Los Angeles. I stuck to exploring the major cities in California for years, but now I’m obsessed with going to all the smaller ones along the way.

That’s why I put this guide together so you can copy my trip or change it up as you’d like. I list some of the best stops along the way and give a sample itinerary if you want to extend your Los Angeles to Death Valley drive.

Tips for a Los Angeles to Death Valley Drive

Death Valley, California

Any good road trip requires planning. Remember that a large portion of your journey is through the desert. Make sure you have your car organized and enough food and water, as food stops may be sparse at times. Being as prepared as possible will make the journey less stressful and allow you to maximize the fun. Here are some more essential things to know before you get on the road.

How Long is the Drive From Los Angeles to Death Valley?

The trip from Los Angeles to Death Valley takes about 3 hours and 47 minutes on CA-14N by car. This is if you’re shooting straight to your destination without any stops along the way.

A better idea would be to take the spectacularly scenic route along the I-10, which is a few hours longer but definitely worth the effort.

How Far is Death Valley from Los Angeles?

It may seem like a long way, but Death Valley is only 260 miles from Los Angeles. The drive is relatively short if you don’t plan to make any stops. That would be no fun, though, so while the route I’m recommending is longer, it’s so memorable the extra hours are a fair trade.

I personally love to add to road trips to explore new places I wouldn’t otherwise, which is exactly why I’m encouraging this itinerary.

Check out this Los Angeles to Phoenix road trip if you want more desert!

When is the Best Time to Travel to Death Valley?

Death Valley has something going on all year round. However, considering that most of your trip will be through the desert, I’d say that going in the summer may be more than you can handle.

Winter temperatures range from the mid-40s to mid-50s Fahrenheit during the day but can get very cold at night. So, if you choose to do it between November and February, include some warm layers and marshmallows on your road trip checklist for some cozy fireside hot chocolate.

Spring and fall are your best bets, where you can bask in the milder weather and avoid crowds that flock here during peak season. The wildflowers are also in bloom between March and May, and the sight is unforgettable.

How Many Days Are Enough in Death Valley?

National parks have endless things to see, so every time you return, there’s something new to marvel at. That said, two days in Death Valley are sufficient to see a good chunk of the area. That’s what I did on my last trip and while I wish I had more time, I still felt really happy with how much I saw during my visit. If you’re in a time crunch, you can cram a lot of must-sees into one day.

What is the Best Route From Los Angeles to Death Valley?

The best route is always the prettiest. This route via Palm Springs and Las Vegas will have you stopping everywhere to enjoy the region’s beauty. It is longer than the standard route, but breaking it up over a couple of days will make for an epic mini-vacation.

Besides, who would pass up a night on the legendary Las Vegas strip?

Los Angeles to Death Valley Road Trip Map

8 Top Sights Along a Los Angeles to Death Valley Road Trip

los angeles

There is a whole hoard of fun and fabulous sights to check out on your way to Death Valley. I’ve highlighted the best ones, so start marking these stops off on your map! 

1. San Bernardino National Forest

San Bernardino National Forest

The San Bernardino National Forest has rugged mountain views, which are magnificent, whether on foot or from your car. Over 800,000 acres of different landscapes within the National Forest are waiting to be explored, including mixed conifer forest, oak woodlands, semi-desert, and scrub.

The hiking trails are an engaging opportunity to connect with nature. Along the way, watch for black bears, bighorn sheep, and majestic deer. If you have time, go for a horseback ride through one of the trails to gain a new perspective on the striking terrain.

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2. Palm Springs

Palm Springs is known for its luxe hotels, hot springs, golf courses, and relaxing spas. Characterized by its mid-century architecture, well portrayed by the Palm Springs Art Museum, this desert resort city is a haven for contemporary and classic art.

The shopping district in Palm Springs is a collection of vintage boutiques, trendy design stores, and delectable restaurants. Located a stone’s throw away from Joshua Tree National Park, the city has lots to do along its borders. 

One of my favorite attractions to stop at is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which gives you gorgeous views of the surrounding landscape. I did this on my last trip there with a friend and loved getting up into the mountains. We even saw a little bit of snow at the top!

If you want to do just this portion, I have an itinerary for a road trip from Los Angeles to Palm Springs.

3. Desert Hot Springs

California Hot Springs

Desert Hot Springs is settled in the Coachella Valley and is best known for its natural hot mineral springs. These springs are believed to possess healing properties and are popular with locals and tourists alike. 

The epic landscapes surrounding the city are also a draw, with hiking trails snaking through the mountains and the desert. Some might be tricky, but the views on these trails more than make up for the effort.

There are many resorts and spas in the city, maximizing the relaxing aura of the hot springs area. The town provides a tranquil retreat for tired bodies to rejuvenate and recover from hectic daily life.

I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to help me plan out my trips and find fun stops along the way. Use my code “BTR5QTP” for $5 off when you sign up!

4. Calico Ghost Town

 Calico Ghost Town

Calico was once a busy silver mining town in the Mojave Desert but was abandoned in the early 1900s. Today, you can visit the perfectly preserved and historic Calico Ghost Town as it looked in the 19th century. 

Feel free to explore the town’s schoolhouse, general store, and saloon, offering a look into the town’s cowboy days. There are also mine tours, reenactments of old-school gun fights, and other activities to entice you during your visit.

5. Mojave National Preserve

Mojave National Preserve

The rugged beauty of this preserve and its diverse ecosystems combine with its adventurous yet solitary nature to provide sheer viewing pleasure on your Los Angeles to Death Valley road trip.

Mojave National Preserve is a vast park in the desert featuring extraordinary landscapes, sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, and Joshua Tree forests. The preserve hosts activities, including hiking and camping.

Experience the Kelso Depot, a historic railway station that was once essential to the area. The visitor center has some great information about the site. The adjoining Kelso Dunes Field Station, which was lovingly restored, is also worth visiting.

Make sure to reserve your rental car ahead of time! I love using Discover Cars for my trips.

6. Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area

Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area

Not only does it have views overlooking Las Vegas, the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area is a hideaway known for ancient petroglyphs and impressive desert scenery. The area is riddled with hiking trails, offering hikers a choice based on their ability to get a better look at the terrain and the fascinating petroglyphs. (Good news! Entry into this area is free.)

The canyon features diverse flora and fauna, including coyotes and desert bighorn sheep, among many other little critters scuttering about.

Fan of canyon treks? Maybe you’ll enjoy this Los Angeles to Grand Canyon road trip.

7. Las Vegas

seattle to las vegas road trip

The brightest city on Earth, Las Vegas holds every hedonist’s heart. Flush with casinos, hotels, entertainment, and fun, it’s no wonder this city is known as the entertainment capital of the world.

The iconic Strip is lined with themed hotels and opulent resorts, all under the glow of so many neon lights. I’ve been to Vegas over a dozen times at this point, but I still find something new to do each time. Sometimes I just love to walk the whole strip (about three miles) and see all the different casinos with their fun themes.

Beyond the hotels and casinos, the city holds top-tier dining, shopping, and entertainment options. Vegas is known for its unfathomable nightlife (The Hangover movie wasn’t too far off), making it obvious why this exhilarating city is on everyone’s bucket list on a road trip to Death Valley from Los Angeles.

Another beautiful trip is the drive to Yosemite from Los Angeles.

8. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon is just outside Las Vegas and is a splendid desert area distinguished by its red sandstone formations. Adventure lovers will revel in the hiking and rock climbing opportunities here.

There is a trail for everyone to experience a little of this magnificent place, so if you aren’t at your fitness peak yet, you can still partake in the outstanding views of the canyon and its surroundings.

The conservation area is bursting with plant and animal life, which nature enthusiasts will particularly enjoy. It’s a great place to stop on your way out of town on your Los Angeles to Death Valley road trip.

Road Trip From Los Angeles to Death Valley: 5-Day Itinerary

Los Angeles Road Trip

Day 1: LA to Palm Springs

Driving time/distance: approximately 2.5 hours (105.6 miles)

Start with breakfast at Porto’s Bakery and Cafe in Glendale, where you can also pick up some picnic goodies for later. Head out from Los Angeles along the I-10 East, passing through the scenic San Bernardino National Forest. Look out for bighorn sheep and black bears among the diverse terrain. Stop off for an easy little hike along the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail. There are picnic benches and bathrooms at the trailhead.

Continue down the I-10 to Palm Springs. Check in and rest for a while before you go out on the town. The Purple Room Supper Club is an excellent spot for dinner and cabaret.

There are tons of restaurants, bars, and activities to make your stay in this sunny city one to remember.

Fun Fact: If you’re a McDonald’s fan, take a detour to the burger giant’s original site in San Bernardino. You can find out all there is to know about those golden arches and their history.

Where to Stay: I found this amazing hotel near the city center, which will be a perfect base for your overnight stay in Palm Springs. The Little Paradise Hotel is well known for its spacious rooms that have a fireplace and a gorgeous outdoor pool. (Rates start at $216 per night)

Tip: Another great destination idea heading this way is a road trip to Joshua Tree, about an hour from Palm Springs. Check it out for another day.

Day 2: Palm Springs to Las Vegas

Driving time/distance: a little over 4.5 hours (278.4 miles)

Set off from Palm Springs along CA-68, going through Desert Hot Springs. Tap into your inner Wile E Coyote and see if you can spot a road runner.

Turn off onto the C-247 towards Barstow. Take a detour just after Barstow to experience the history of the Wild West in the Calico Ghost Town. Here, you’ll find a railroad, mine, and fascinating historical buildings, as well as a spooky haunted shack.

Go onto the I-15, which will take you through the breathtaking Mojave National Preserve. If you have time, take the short Hole-in-the-Wall trail for the most spectacular views of the preserve.

The Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area is up next. Try out the 100 trail, also known as the Petroglyph Canyon Trail, to experience the many amazing petroglyphs, and if you time it correctly, you can watch the sun go down over Las Vegas as a beautiful end to your day.

Ah, Las Vegas. Get ready for a night out on the strip, decked in bright lights and excitement, with so many activities and food options on the famed stretch. Visit Area 15 for an unparalleled showing of art and entertainment, or go to Omnia for the best night of your life.

Where to Stay: Sin City is in your sights, so you definitely want to check into the iconic Bellagio Hotel. This opulent hotel and casino, which is known for its famous fountains, provides five courtyard pools, well-known botanical gardens, boutique shops, and a variety of dining options. (Rates start at $189 per night)

Day 3: Exploring Las Vegas

There is an endless list of things to do in Las Vegas. That said, you can certainly fit a lot into one day in this lively city. So, get those captions for Instagram ready.

If you’re a museum buff, you can hop between Madame Tussaud’s, the Neon Museum, the Mob Museum, and the Burlesque Hall of Fame. If these aren’t in your wheelhouse, there are a whopping 34 museums in Vegas for you to choose from.

If you need a beach day, relax on the golden sands of the Mandalay Bay beach. There is a wave pool and a lazy river to enjoy in between snacking at one of the restaurants lining the shore. Try The Mandalay Beach Bar and Grill for some poolside favorites.

Vegas is best known for its casinos and all-you-can-eat buffets. My favorite was definitely the Caesars Palace Bacchanal Buffet. It is an all-you-can-eat extravaganza at one of the strip’s most famous hotels. Just pace yourself, though. There’s a lot to get through.

You can’t leave Vegas without seeing a live show. I recommend Cirque du Soleil or Dolby Live, where you’ll likely find an A-lister on stage, as stars like Bruno Mars and Beyoncé have graced the theater’s stage.

Fun Fact: Las Vegas is the brightest place on Earth from space. No wonder Area 51 is nearby!

Day 4: Las Vegas to Death Valley

Driving time/distance: roughly 2 hours (130 miles).

As tough as it might be to say goodbye to sparkling Vegas, it’s time to head off to your final destination. You can sneak a peek at the colossal Hoover Dam before you leave on the I-15 toward Red Rock Canyon National Park, one of the Mojave desert’s pristine jewels.

The soaring redstone peaks form an imposing sight as you drive through the conservation area. Panoramic viewpoints are dotted along the scenic road, perfect for frequent stops to gaze at the striking landscape and even take some pictures. Stop at the visitor center to meet Mojave Max, a desert tortoise who is the area’s mascot.

Turn towards US-95, which will take you to Death Valley National Park. Congratulations, you’ve made it to the final leg of your bucket list journey.

Fun Fact: Red Rock Canyon is a wonder in biodiversity. In fact, there are 15 plant species that can only be found in the Red Rock area. 

Where to Stay: The Ranch at Death Valley has spacious rooms and loads of activities, such as a swimming pool, tennis court, and relaxation areas, to make your stay in the park as comfortable as possible. (Rates start at $197)

Day 5: Experience Death Valley

The phenomenally diverse landscape of Death Valley National Park is breathtaking. If you have the time, you can extend your stay by a day or two. There’s enough to see and do in this 3.4 million-acre park.

You should know that some regions of the park require a 4WD vehicle. You can rent a Jeep in the park or just stay within the areas your car can tackle.

Check out Zabriskie Point for kaleidoscopic sunsets and mesmerizing night skies. It’s also an excellent place to stargaze. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a wish on a shooting star or get a good shot of the Milky Way.

You’d never expect to find so much color in such a dry area, but Artists Drive will definitely prove you wrong. The pastel colors on the rocks are resplendent. See Artists’ Palette, in particular, for the best view of these mineral deposits.

Looking for your next road trip destination? Look at this one out of Los Angeles to Big Sur.

A trip to Death Valley isn’t complete without a visit to Badwater Basin. The lowest point in North America, the basin is also home to the popular salt flats of Death Valley.

The largest dunes in the park are the Eureka Dunes. Covering only three miles, these giant dunes are a must-see. If you need something more accessible, head to the Mesquite flat sand dunes, which are less imposing but still impressive.

For panoramic views of the park, Dante’s View is your best choice. Standing at over 5,000 feet above sea level, your eyes won’t know where to look first at this unbelievable view.

Looking for an American saloon experience? Stop at Badwater Saloon in Stovepipe Wells, where you’ll find juicy burgers and fries for a steal.

Fun fact: A group of 19th-century pioneers who became lost in the valley gave this vast park its name. Even though only one of them actually died, I’m pretty sure they all thought they were next.

Which one of these Los Angeles to Death Valley road trip stops are you looking forward to?

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