As the second largest city in America, Los Angeles serves as a prime departure point for road trips to some of the nation’s top destinations. From the glittering casinos of Las Vegas to the desert landscapes of Arizona and national parks further afield, the open road beckons LA residents and visitors alike.
If you’re pressed for time, here’s a quick overview: Driving times from LA range from less than 5 hours to popular neighboring cities to 15-25 hours for cross country destinations.
This comprehensive guide covers expected drive times from LA, recommended routes, must-see stopping points, road trip planning tips, and alternatives to driving yourself for those who prefer a shortcut.
Drive Times from LA to Major U.S. Cities
Los Angeles to Las Vegas: 270 miles, 4-5 hours
Heading to Las Vegas from the City of Angels? Get ready for a thrilling road trip that covers approximately 270 miles, usually taking around 4 to 5 hours. The journey offers breathtaking desert landscapes, picturesque mountain ranges, and plenty of pit stops along the way.
So buckle up and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!
Los Angeles to Phoenix: 370 miles, 5-6 hours
Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of LA and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Sonoran Desert? A road trip from Los Angeles to Phoenix is just what you need! With a distance of approximately 370 miles, the drive typically takes around 5 to 6 hours.
Explore the unique desert scenery, visit stunning national parks, and experience the vibrant culture of the Southwest.
Los Angeles to San Francisco: 380 miles, 6-7 hours
Traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco? Get ready for a scenic drive along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway! Covering a distance of approximately 380 miles, the journey usually takes around 6 to 7 hours.
Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to witness breathtaking coastal views, visit charming beach towns, and indulge in delicious seafood. Don’t forget to snap some photos of the famous Golden Gate Bridge!
Los Angeles to Seattle: 1,140 miles, 16-18 hours
Embarking on a cross-country adventure from Los Angeles to the Emerald City? Be prepared for a long-haul road trip covering a distance of approximately 1,140 miles. The drive typically takes around 16 to 18 hours, so make sure to plan for overnight stays or take turns with a travel buddy.
As you make your way through different states, you’ll witness diverse landscapes, from the beautiful coastlines of Oregon to the majestic forests of Washington.
Los Angeles to Denver: 1,010 miles, 14-16 hours
If you’re up for a road trip through the heart of the American West, consider driving from Los Angeles to Denver. Covering a distance of approximately 1,010 miles, the journey usually takes around 14 to 16 hours.
Along the way, you’ll pass through stunning national parks, awe-inspiring mountain ranges, and charming small towns. Soak in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and enjoy the adventure of a lifetime!
Los Angeles to Chicago: 2,000 miles, 30 hours
Ready for an epic road trip from coast to coast? Driving from Los Angeles to Chicago will take you on an unforgettable journey spanning approximately 2,000 miles. Be prepared for a long drive of around 30 hours, so make sure to plan for rest stops and overnight stays.
As you cross multiple states, you’ll witness the diversity of America’s landscapes, from the deserts of the Southwest to the Great Plains and finally, the urban charm of the Windy City.
Recommended Routes from Los Angeles
To Las Vegas via I-15 N
If you’re looking to head to the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas, the recommended route from Los Angeles is via the I-15 N. This route will take you through the picturesque Mojave Desert, offering stunning views along the way.
The distance between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is approximately 270 miles, and the average driving time is around 4 to 5 hours, depending on traffic conditions.
To Phoenix via I-10 E
For those planning a trip to the vibrant city of Phoenix, the best route from Los Angeles is via the I-10 E. This highway will take you through the scenic landscapes of the Sonoran Desert. The distance between Los Angeles and Phoenix is around 370 miles, and the average driving time is approximately 5 to 6 hours, depending on traffic conditions.
To San Francisco via I-5 N or CA-101 N
If you’re craving the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and the vibrant culture of San Francisco, you have two recommended routes to choose from. The first option is via the I-5 N, which is the quicker route with a distance of approximately 380 miles and an average driving time of around 6 to 7 hours.
The second option is via the CA-101 N, which offers a more scenic coastal drive but is slightly longer with a distance of around 450 miles and an average driving time of 7 to 8 hours.
To Seattle via I-5 N
If you’re up for a road trip to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and the Emerald City of Seattle, the best route from Los Angeles is via the I-5 N. This highway will take you through stunning coastal scenery, majestic forests, and charming towns.
The distance between Los Angeles and Seattle is approximately 1,130 miles, and the average driving time is around 17 to 18 hours, depending on traffic and rest stops.
To Denver via I-15 N to I-70 E
For those looking to explore the Rocky Mountains and visit the vibrant city of Denver, the recommended route from Los Angeles is via the I-15 N to I-70 E. This route will take you through the picturesque landscapes of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.
The distance between Los Angeles and Denver is approximately 1,020 miles, and the average driving time is around 15 to 16 hours, depending on traffic and rest stops.
To Chicago via I-15 N to I-80 E
If you’re up for an epic cross-country adventure to the Windy City of Chicago, the best route from Los Angeles is via the I-15 N to I-80 E. This route will take you through several states, including Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Illinois.
The distance between Los Angeles and Chicago is approximately 2,000 miles, and the average driving time is around 30 to 31 hours, depending on traffic and rest stops.
Key Stopping Points for Road Trips from LA
Santa Barbara, CA
If you’re looking for a picturesque coastal town to stop at during your road trip from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is an excellent choice. Located just 90 miles northwest of LA, Santa Barbara offers stunning beaches, charming Spanish architecture, and a vibrant downtown area.
You can explore the Santa Barbara Mission, take a stroll along Stearns Wharf, or simply relax on the beautiful beaches. Don’t forget to indulge in some delicious seafood and local wines while you’re there!
Yosemite National Park, CA
For nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, Yosemite National Park is a must-visit destination. Located about 300 miles northeast of Los Angeles, this iconic national park is known for its magnificent granite cliffs, waterfalls, and giant sequoia groves.
Whether you’re into hiking, rock climbing, or simply enjoying the breathtaking scenery, Yosemite offers something for everyone. Make sure to plan your visit in advance, as the park can get quite crowded, especially during peak seasons.
Zion National Park, UT
If you’re up for a slightly longer road trip from LA, Zion National Park in Utah is worth the drive. Situated approximately 400 miles northeast of Los Angeles, Zion is known for its stunning red rock formations, dramatic canyons, and diverse wildlife.
Hiking enthusiasts will be thrilled with the wide range of trails available, including the famous Angels Landing and The Narrows. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the awe-inspiring beauty of this national park.
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
The Grand Canyon is undoubtedly one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders in the world. Located about 500 miles east of Los Angeles, this iconic national park offers breathtaking views and a unique geological history.
Whether you choose to hike along the rim, take a mule ride down to the canyon floor, or simply admire the sunset from one of the viewpoints, the Grand Canyon will leave you in awe. Don’t miss the chance to witness this natural wonder during your road trip from LA.
For a taste of Southwestern charm and culture, consider making a stop in Albuquerque during your road trip from Los Angeles. Situated approximately 700 miles east of LA, Albuquerque offers a rich blend of Native American, Spanish, and Mexican influences.
Explore the historic Old Town, visit the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, or take a hot air balloon ride over the city. And of course, don’t forget to try some mouthwatering New Mexican cuisine, known for its delicious green and red chili dishes.
Salt Lake City, UT
If you’re seeking a combination of natural beauty and urban exploration, Salt Lake City is an ideal stop on your road trip from LA. Located approximately 720 miles northeast of Los Angeles, Salt Lake City offers stunning mountain views, outdoor recreational opportunities, and a vibrant city atmosphere.
Visit the iconic Temple Square, explore the nearby Great Salt Lake, or hit the slopes at one of the nearby ski resorts during winter. Salt Lake City has something to offer for everyone, no matter the season.
LA Road Trip Planning Tips
Get your car tuned up before departure
Before embarking on your road trip from Los Angeles, it’s essential to get your car checked and tuned up by a professional mechanic. Regular maintenance can help prevent unexpected breakdowns and ensure a smooth journey.
Don’t forget to check your tires’ pressure, change the oil, and inspect the brakes. This will not only give you peace of mind but also increase your safety on the road.
Pack an emergency roadside kit
While you hope for the best during your road trip, it’s always wise to prepare for the worst. Packing an emergency roadside kit can be a lifesaver in case of unforeseen circumstances. Include items such as a spare tire, jumper cables, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and a basic toolkit.
Additionally, having a roadside assistance membership can provide an extra layer of security and peace of mind.
Bring more snacks and drinks than you think you’ll need
Long drives can be exhausting, and hunger can strike unexpectedly. To avoid getting hangry, it’s a good idea to pack more snacks and drinks than you anticipate needing. Fill a cooler with refreshing beverages, pack a variety of snacks like granola bars, fruit, and chips.
This way, you won’t have to rely solely on gas station selections, and you’ll be prepared for unexpected delays.
Have maps/GPS as backup navigation
While most of us rely on GPS navigation systems nowadays, it’s crucial to have a backup plan. Technology can sometimes fail, and you might find yourself in an area with poor signal reception. Therefore, it’s wise to have physical maps of the areas you’ll be traveling through.
Familiarize yourself with the route in advance and have a general understanding of the direction you need to go. This way, you’ll be prepared for any unexpected detours or technology glitches.
Allow extra time in your schedule
When planning a road trip from Los Angeles, it’s important to factor in extra time for unforeseen delays or spontaneous detours. Traffic, road closures, or unexpected attractions along the way can all contribute to slight deviations from your initial plan.
By allowing some flexibility in your schedule, you can fully enjoy the journey without feeling rushed. Plus, you never know what hidden gems you might discover along the way!
Alternatives to Driving Yourself
While driving can be a convenient way to get around, there are times when it may not be the best option. Whether you’re looking to avoid traffic, save on gas, or simply want a break from being behind the wheel, there are several alternatives to driving yourself that you can consider.
Fly and rent a car at your destination
If you’re traveling long distances, flying and renting a car at your destination can be a great alternative to driving. Not only does it save you the stress of navigating unfamiliar roads, but it also allows you to relax and enjoy the journey by air.
Many airports have car rental services conveniently located onsite, making it easy to pick up your rental car as soon as you land. Plus, with the flexibility of renting a car, you have the freedom to explore your destination at your own pace.
Take a bus or train for long distances
Another alternative to driving yourself is taking a bus or train for long distances. This option can be both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Many bus and train services offer comfortable seating, onboard amenities, and even Wi-Fi, allowing you to relax and enjoy the journey while someone else takes care of the driving.
Additionally, taking a bus or train can be a great opportunity to meet new people and experience the sights and sounds of different cities along the way.
Join a tour group
If you’re looking for a hassle-free and guided travel experience, joining a tour group can be a fantastic alternative to driving yourself. Tour groups typically handle all the logistics, including transportation, accommodations, and sightseeing activities.
This not only takes the stress out of planning, but it also allows you to sit back and enjoy the trip without having to worry about navigating unfamiliar roads or finding parking. Plus, being part of a tour group gives you the chance to meet like-minded travelers and make lasting memories together.
With distances spanning from under 5 hours to neighboring cities to 30+ hours coast-to-coast, planning a road trip from LA requires checking drive times, routes, stops and your vehicle preparation in advance.
While flying can save substantial transportation time, many find driving themselves allows for more flexibility and fun. Fill up the tank in your car or RV, load your snacks and tunes, and hit the wide open road from the City of Angels.