The Ultimate Road Trip Guide: Driving From Los Angeles To Chicago

If you’re looking to embark on the classic American cross-country road trip from LA to Chicago, you likely have a lot of questions. What route should you take? How many days will this epic drive realistically take? What are some top attractions and stops to make along the way? Here’s a quick answer: the fastest route from LA to Chicago is along I-40 E, and you’ll want to give yourself 4-5 days for this 2,000+ mile journey. Some top stops include the Grand Canyon, Route 66 landmarks, Memphis for barbecue, and St. Louis. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide tips on mapping your LA to Chicago road trip route, timing, stops, packing, and more to make your drive amazing.

Route Options

I-40 E

If you’re looking for a scenic drive that takes you through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the United States, then I-40 E is the route for you. This iconic highway stretches from Los Angeles all the way to North Carolina, passing through states like Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma along the way.

As you drive eastward, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, and the stunning landscapes of the Southwest. Make sure to plan your stops in advance, as there are plenty of attractions and natural wonders to explore along this route.

I-70 E from Utah

Another popular option for driving from Los Angeles to Chicago is taking I-70 E from Utah. This route will take you through some of the most picturesque parts of the Rocky Mountains, including the stunning canyons of Utah and the majestic peaks of Colorado.

As you make your way through this scenic route, be prepared to be amazed by the beauty of Arches National Park, the towering cliffs of Glenwood Canyon, and the charming mountain towns that dot the landscape.

Don’t forget to pack your camera and hiking boots, as there will be plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures along the way.

I-80 E from Nevada

If you’re looking for a more direct route from Los Angeles to Chicago, then I-80 E from Nevada is the way to go. This interstate highway cuts straight through the heart of the country, passing through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois.

While this route may not offer the same scenic views as the other options, it does provide a faster and more efficient way to reach your destination. Along the way, you’ll pass through major cities like Salt Lake City, Omaha, and Des Moines, giving you the opportunity to explore urban attractions and experience the unique culture of the Midwest.

No matter which route you choose, it’s important to plan ahead and make sure you have all the necessary supplies for your road trip. Be sure to check the weather conditions and road closures before you leave, and don’t forget to pack snacks, drinks, and a good playlist to keep you entertained along the way.

Safe travels!

Length & Timing

Total Drive Time

Driving from Los Angeles to Chicago is an epic road trip that spans a considerable distance. The total drive time for this journey is approximately 30 hours, covering a distance of around 2,000 miles. However, it’s important to note that the actual drive time may vary depending on factors such as traffic conditions, rest stops, and the route you choose to take.

Typical Number of Days

While it is possible to complete the drive from Los Angeles to Chicago in as little as two or three days, it is recommended to allow yourself at least five to seven days to fully enjoy the journey. This will give you enough time to make stops along the way, explore interesting attractions, and take in the breathtaking landscapes that you’ll encounter.

If you’re on a tight schedule and can’t spare that much time, you can still make the trip in a shorter duration. However, keep in mind that you may have to cut down on the number of stops and attractions you can visit.

It’s always better to have a bit of flexibility in your schedule to fully savor the experience.

Best Time of Year

The best time to embark on a road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago largely depends on personal preferences and the type of experience you’re looking for. However, it is generally recommended to avoid the extreme weather conditions that can be experienced in certain seasons.

The summer months, from June to August, are a popular time for road trips as the weather is generally pleasant and there are plenty of activities and events happening along the way. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is also the peak tourist season, which means more crowds and higher prices for accommodations.

If you prefer to avoid the crowds and enjoy mild temperatures, consider planning your road trip during the spring or fall months. These shoulder seasons offer beautiful scenery, fewer tourists, and more affordable prices.

However, it’s a good idea to check the weather conditions and road closures before setting off, as these seasons can also bring unpredictable weather.

For those who are up for a winter adventure, driving from Los Angeles to Chicago in the colder months can be a unique and memorable experience. However, be prepared for snow and icy conditions, and make sure you have appropriate winter tires and emergency supplies in case of any unforeseen circumstances.

For more information on road conditions and weather forecasts along the route, check out websites such as or

Key Stops & Attractions

Grand Canyon, AZ

One of the must-see stops on a road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago is the majestic Grand Canyon in Arizona. With its awe-inspiring panoramic views and stunning natural beauty, the Grand Canyon is truly a sight to behold.

Whether you choose to hike along the rim, take a helicopter tour, or simply soak in the breathtaking vistas, this iconic landmark is sure to leave you in awe.

Las Vegas, NV

No road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago is complete without a stop in the vibrant and electrifying city of Las Vegas. Known for its world-class entertainment, dazzling casinos, and bustling nightlife, Las Vegas offers a unique and unforgettable experience.

Try your luck at the slot machines, catch a spectacular show, or simply stroll along the famous Las Vegas Strip – there’s something for everyone in this city that never sleeps.

Route 66 Stops

Driving along the historic Route 66 is an essential part of the journey from Los Angeles to Chicago. This iconic highway is filled with quirky roadside attractions, charming small towns, and nostalgic Americana.

From the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, to the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, each stop along Route 66 offers a glimpse into the rich history and culture of America’s past.

Memphis, TN

As you make your way through the heartland of America, a stop in Memphis, Tennessee, is a must. Known as the birthplace of blues music and the home of Elvis Presley, Memphis offers a vibrant music scene and a rich cultural heritage.

Visit Graceland, the legendary home of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, explore the iconic Beale Street, and indulge in some mouthwatering barbecue – Memphis has something to satisfy all your senses.

St. Louis, MO

Before reaching your final destination, take a detour to St. Louis, Missouri. This charming city is famous for its iconic Gateway Arch, which offers stunning views of the Mississippi River and the surrounding cityscape.

Visit the historic Soulard neighborhood, home to one of the oldest farmers markets in the country, or explore the vibrant Delmar Loop, known for its eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and live music venues.

These are just a few of the key stops and attractions to consider when embarking on a road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago. Remember to plan your itinerary ahead of time, allowing for flexibility to explore unexpected hidden gems along the way. Happy travels!

Lodging & Dining Recommendations


When embarking on a road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago, finding the right hotels to stay at along the way is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable journey. Some popular hotel options along this route include:

  • The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles – Located in the heart of downtown LA, this luxurious hotel offers stunning views of the city skyline and top-notch amenities.
  • The Drake Hotel, Chicago – Situated along the Magnificent Mile, this historic hotel is known for its elegant decor and exceptional service.
  • The Venetian, Las Vegas – If you’re looking to add a little excitement to your road trip, consider a stop in Las Vegas and stay at this iconic hotel on the Strip.

These hotels offer a range of accommodations to suit different budgets and preferences. Make sure to book in advance to secure the best rates and availability.


For those seeking a more adventurous and nature-oriented experience, camping along the route is a great option. Here are a few recommended campgrounds:

  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona – Camp amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon and enjoy hiking trails and stunning sunsets.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado – Set up camp in the picturesque Rocky Mountains and explore the park’s numerous hiking trails and wildlife.
  • Indiana Dunes State Park, Indiana – Located along the shores of Lake Michigan, this park offers beautiful sandy beaches and camping facilities.

Remember to check availability and make reservations ahead of time, as popular campgrounds can fill up quickly, especially during peak travel seasons.

Classic Diners

No road trip is complete without indulging in some classic American diner food. Along the Los Angeles to Chicago route, you’ll come across several charming diners that are worth a visit, such as:

  • Phil’s Diner, Flagstaff, Arizona – This iconic diner has been serving up delicious comfort food since 1927 and is a favorite among locals and travelers alike.
  • Lou Mitchell’s, Chicago, Illinois – A historic diner that has been welcoming hungry patrons since 1923, known for its hearty breakfasts and friendly atmosphere.
  • The Apple Pan, Los Angeles, California – A beloved LA institution that has been serving up delicious burgers and pies since 1947.

These diners offer a taste of nostalgia and provide a unique dining experience that will leave you satisfied and ready to hit the road again.

BBQ Joints

If you’re a barbecue enthusiast, you’re in luck. The route from Los Angeles to Chicago is dotted with fantastic BBQ joints where you can savor mouthwatering smoked meats. Here are a few notable ones:

  • Bludso’s BBQ, Los Angeles, California – Known for its authentic Texas-style barbecue, Bludso’s is a must-visit for meat lovers.
  • Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Kansas City, Missouri – Located in the barbecue capital of the world, Joe’s is famous for its burnt ends and ribs.
  • Lillie’s Q, Chicago, Illinois – A Chicago staple, Lillie’s Q offers a diverse menu of BBQ options, from pulled pork to brisket.

These BBQ joints will satisfy your cravings for smoky, tender meats and introduce you to regional flavors and techniques.

Remember, the key to a successful road trip is to plan ahead, but also be open to unexpected discoveries along the way. Whether you choose to stay in luxurious hotels, camp under the stars, dine at classic diners, or savor delicious BBQ, this road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.

Packing Checklist

Clothing & Shoes

When packing for your road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago, it’s important to consider the varying weather conditions along the way. Be sure to pack a mix of clothing options, including lightweight and breathable items for the warmer states and layerable pieces for the cooler regions.

Don’t forget to pack comfortable shoes for all the walking and exploring you’ll be doing. It’s also a good idea to pack a rain jacket or umbrella, just in case.


Having the right toiletries can make your road trip much more comfortable. Remember to pack essentials such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, and soap. Don’t forget any medication you may need, and be sure to bring sunscreen and bug spray for protection during outdoor activities.

It’s also a good idea to have a basic first aid kit with band-aids, pain relievers, and any necessary prescription medications.


Keeping yourself entertained during the long hours on the road is essential for a successful road trip. Consider bringing along books, magazines, or a Kindle for reading. Audiobooks and podcasts are also great options for passing the time.

If you’re traveling with kids, pack some games, coloring books, or portable DVD players to keep them entertained. Don’t forget chargers for your electronic devices, as well as headphones for personal listening.

Road Trip Snacks

No road trip is complete without delicious snacks to keep you fueled along the way. Pack a variety of snacks that appeal to everyone’s tastes, such as granola bars, trail mix, chips, and fruit. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.

It’s also a good idea to have a cooler with ice packs to keep perishable snacks fresh. And of course, don’t forget to indulge in some classic road trip treats like beef jerky and candy!

Road Trip Tips & Safety

Embarking on a road trip from Los Angeles to Chicago is an exciting adventure, but it’s important to prioritize safety along the way. Here are some essential road trip tips to ensure a smooth and secure journey:

Vehicle Inspection

Before hitting the road, it’s crucial to thoroughly inspect your vehicle. Check the tires for proper inflation and tread depth, ensuring they are suitable for long-distance driving. Don’t forget to examine the brakes, headlights, and signals to guarantee they’re in optimal working condition.

Regular oil changes and fluid checks are also essential for the overall health of your vehicle.

Emergency Equipment

Being prepared for unforeseen circumstances is vital during a road trip. Pack essential emergency equipment such as a spare tire, jack, jumper cables, and a basic toolkit. Additionally, having a first aid kit, flashlight, and extra water and food supplies can prove invaluable in case of unexpected delays or accidents.

It’s better to be over-prepared than to find yourself stranded without the necessary tools.

Staying Alert

Long drives can be tiring, so it’s important to stay alert and avoid drowsy driving. Get a good night’s sleep before starting your journey and take regular breaks every few hours to stretch your legs and rest your eyes.

If you start feeling fatigued, it’s better to find a safe place to pull over and take a short nap. Remember, your safety and the safety of others on the road should always be the top priority.

Road Safety Laws

Each state has its own set of road safety laws, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with them before embarking on your road trip. Speed limits, seatbelt requirements, and cell phone usage regulations can differ from state to state.

Visit websites such as or to ensure you are up to date with the specific laws of California and Illinois.

Remember, a road trip should be a fun and memorable experience. By following these road trip tips and prioritizing safety, you can enjoy the journey from Los Angeles to Chicago with peace of mind.


A road trip from LA to Chicago is the quintessential way to see the diversity of American landscapes and cultures. With the right preparation and route planning, you’re bound to have an epic adventure. We hope this guide has outlined the optimal route, timing, stops, packing tips, and safety advice to make your LA to Chicago drive smooth and memorable.

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