LA To Las Vegas Road Trip: 10 Must-See Stops To Make

By Elle
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If you’re heading to Las Vegas from LA by car, you have two choices — get to Vegas as quickly as possible, or take your sweet time doing it.

You can either do the 4ish hour drive with only a pee break here and there or turn it into a full-blown road trip that takes 1-2 days to complete. And if you’re thinking “what could there possibly be to do in the California desert for 1-2 days?”… we’ve got many answers to that question!

You can linger for a looooong time in the desert, exploring all the crazy attractions spread out between Southern California and Nevada.

We personally enjoy the latter option whenever we road trip with non-locals from Los Angeles to Vegas. Even though it does take a bit longer to get there, they end up loving it because the massive stretches of California desert contain such oddities and quirky things to see!

If you’re also someone who enjoys stopping for random roadside attractions and landmarks, you’re going to like this post a lot.

Below is a handful of our handpicked off-the-beaten-path stops to make along the Los Angeles to Las Vegas road trip, and a convenient little map to go along with it!


Idyllwild

Idyllwild California

Idyllwild, nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains, is renowned for its alpine-y outdoorsy vibes, making it a worthwhile stop for outdoor lovers during a road trip from LA to Las Vegas.

SoCal locals flock here during the weekends to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and camping, explore local shops and galleries, and experience the relaxed mountain vibe.

If a hike is what you’re after, try the challenging Devil’s Slide Trail or the scenic Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail. For a taste of local culture, browse the charming shops and galleries along North Circle Drive, or catch a performance at the Idyllwild Arts Academy.

When hunger strikes, indulge in delicious mountain cuisine at Café Aroma, known for its delectable Italian dishes and cozy atmosphere, or savor a mouthwatering burger at Idyllwild Brewpub.

Route 66 Museum

Route 66 is an iconic highway in the United States that stretches from Chicago, Illinois, all the way to Santa Monica, California. In California, it winds through the desert and small towns, passing through places like Barstow, Needles, and the Mojave Desert.

Along the way, you’ll find classic roadside attractions, retro diners, and quirky landmarks — some of which are going to be covered below!

Many people love driving along Route 66 to experience a slice of Americana and soak in the scenic beauty of the California desert. There’s also much significant history tied to the Historic Route 66 Highway!

If you’re interested in learning more about its history or just interested in old-timey Americana culture, the Route 66 Museum is the place to go.

The California Route 66 Museum is located in historic Old Town Victorville. There are three display rooms packed with Route 66 memorabilia as well as a gift shop that sells a variety of quirky goods, all set inside an old 50’s diner. The museum is free to visit but donations are accepted.

PRO TIP: After exploring the museum, you can head to Santa Fe Trading Company for unique gifts, then wander over to the aromatic wonders of Sweet Treasure Shack.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs California

Your drive eastbound will land you in Palm Springs, California. Palm Springs is nothing if not unique. This desert city has had a long association with the rich and famous of Hollywood and continues to prove as a great escape from the hustle and bustle of more metropolitan cities such as Los Angeles.

Its neighboring areas are equally as unique and quirky and are definitely worth paying a visit if you’re in the desert area. If you can manage to tear yourself away from sunbathing by the pool for a day or two, you’ll find a world of eccentric art, spectacular hiking trails, and unique architecture in the deserts of Southern California.

When I lived in LA, I absolutely loved taking long, weekend trips to Palm Springs. There’s simply so much to see, do, and eat! 

The number one must-do during your time here? Taking a self-guided drive through the city to see the iconic houses and landmarks that make up Palm Springs. Palm Springs is known for its iconic mid-century modern architecture, designed by famous architects such as Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, and William Krisel. Alternatively, you can take a guided architecture tour of Palm Springs.

 If you’re looking to explore this artsy hipster town further, check out 25 other cool things to do in Palm Springs.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Ask anyone who’s been there—there’s really no other place in the world like Joshua Tree National Park. I’m a huge fan of this national park as well as its quirky neighboring towns. My friends and I can go on for days about all the great landmarks and attractions this area has to offer!

Joshua Tree National Park is famous for its unique terrain, covered with whimsical Joshua Trees as well as its massive boulder formations.

The top sights not to be missed include ogling at the iconic Joshua Trees themselves, towering monoliths like Skull Rock that beg exploration, and the mesmerizing Cholla Cactus Garden, where golden sunlight dances through a forest of spiny wonders. Don’t miss a quick scramble over the Jumbo Rocks either, it’s a ton of fun to feel like a kid climbing over boulders again!

Yucca Valley

Crochet Museum Yucca Valley Joshua Tree

After a day of exploration at Joshua Tree National Park, take a few hours to stop by the nearby town of Yucca Valley. I adore this little artsy, off-beat town!

It holds some of the area’s best and most beloved roadside oddities! Start at The World Famous Crochet Museum, an old photo-processing booth transformed into a mini-museum featuring the art of crochet. From there, peruse the nearby shops and galleries, including the Beauty Bubble Salon and Museum.

Drive a few minutes to get to Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum where you’ll find weather-aged sculptures built from recycled materials and scraps, conveying a powerful message.

And if you’re seeking a totally unique sound bath experience, head to The Integraton for 60 minutes of sound and relaxation (you may need to reserve a spot a few months in advance).

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum
Art installation made of toilets at Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum

Pioneertown

Pioneertown, located a few minutes north of Yucca Valley, California is a darn good time and definitely worth a visit! Pioneertown is an entire old west mining town (from an old movie set) with historical buildings galore.

You’ll also find some fun independent gift shops, Pioneertown Bowl, and even a legit saloon or two. Catch a mock gunfight on Main Street (Saturdays only October thru May), then visit Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace for some finger-licking good barbecue, live music, and dancing.

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town
Calico Ghost Town during the holidays

Not too far from Barstow, you’ll encounter your next exciting stop — Calico Ghost Town! Once filled with miners searching for silver, this town was eventually abandoned in the 1890s, rendering it a “ghost town.”

It has since been restored to look as it did in the 1880s and has been turned into a fun roadside attraction aimed at transporting visitors back in time.

Calico Ghost Town recreates the California Silver Rush life with pioneer-style restaurants, shops, and sights.

For adults who don’t care for quirky old-timey attractions, this one could be skippable. But for the young at heart, weirdos (like me) who love this type of stuff, or families traveling with kids, expect to spend 1-2 hours here, walking around and perusing the gift shops.

This is by far one of my favorite stops along Historic Route 66, because I’m a sucker for western towns, California gold rush towns, and all things reenactment! I had a short but wonderful time here on my last Las Vegas road trip.

PRO TIP: While in Yermo, stop by Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner for a hefty bite to eat. This charming ’50s diner serves your typical diner food, including grilled cheeses, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, and good old-fashioned ice cream. The inside is as cute and 50’s-looking as the outside. After you’ve finished eating, linger and explore for a bit… don’t miss the dinosaur area out back! Then go to EddieWorld for candy, ice cream, hot sauce, nuts, jerky, and more. It’s a must!

Baker

Alien Fresh Jerky - Baker California

Baker, CA is a quirky oasis in the desert that’s sure to leave you scratching your head in wonder. That’s the California desert for ya.

First up on the agenda? Alien jerky, of course. Step inside the touristy haven of Alien Fresh Jerky, adorned with a “Galaxy Peace Patrol” vehicle out front, and load up on all the otherworldly jerky your taste buds can handle. Don’t forget to seek wisdom from the all-knowing “Ali-n” before hitting the road again. (Don’t worry, it’s not real alien meat.)

Then, behold the world’s largest thermometer, standing tall at 134 feet and boasting a history as colorful as its towering stature. Snap a selfie with this iconic roadside attraction and don’t forget to grab a keychain from the gift shop to commemorate your brush with temperature-measuring greatness.

Finally, satisfy your hunger pangs at the legendary Mad Greek Cafe, a 24-hour haven for weary travelers. Nibble on a savory gyro and leave room for the mouthwatering sweets – trust us, the strawberry milkshake, apple pie sundae, and baklava milkshake are worth the stop alone.

And with a belly full of goodness, it’s time to bid farewell to Baker and set your sights on the neon lights of Nevada. But hey, if you’re not quite ready to hit Las Vegas just yet, Primm awaits with its roller coasters, outlet malls, and more.

Primm

Primm, Nevada is home to a collection of quirky attractions and offbeat sights. perfect for travelers who need a little more mental stimulation on their journey from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

First up on the agenda? The Desperado Roller Coaster at Buffalo Bill’s Resort. With its heart-pounding 225-foot drop, four G-force, and speeds reaching up to 90 miles per hour, this adrenaline-pumping ride will give you a good thrill despite being in the middle of nowhere. Plus, where else can you say you’ve experienced a roller coaster that zooms through a casino?

From there, head over to Whiskey Pete’s Casino and lay your eyes on a piece of history – Bonnie and Clyde’s Death Car. Steeped in notoriety and intrigue, this bullet-laden relic offers a fascinating glimpse into the notorious crime duo’s final moments. It’s a weird and wonderful addition to any road trip itinerary, perfect for those seeking a dose of vintage Americana and kitschy charm.

You can also stop at the Primm Valley Lotto Store. Located just across the California border, this quirky outpost is where savvy Nevadans go to try their luck at the lottery. And if you find yourself with a bit of spare time, don’t forget to check out the nearby Prizm Outlets for some retail therapy and the chance to look at some beautiful murals at the Mural Oasis.

Seven Magic Mountains

Seven Magic Mountains

Seven Magic Mountains is a fun and free photo op worth a quick pull off the main road. This one’s perfect for the IG lovers!

Seven Magic Mountains is a public installation of seven towers made up of painted, stacked boulders that stand more than 30 feet high.

This colorful art installation was created by Ugo Rondinone and commissioned by the Nevada Museum of Art. No matter how you photograph them, they’ll be photo-ready. These colorful rock totems look so darn cool against the dusty barren desert landscape!

To get there, you’ll have to get off at one of two interstate exits– it is at least a 5-mile drive from either of them.

At this point, you’re only about 15 minutes from downtown Las Vegas! Woohoo!

Other Stops You Could Add To Your LA To Vegas Road Trip

Lake Elsinore (Seasonal)

Lake Elsinore California

Lake Elsinore is where you want to go to witness nature putting on the most colorful show during the springtime superbloom season.

During superbloom, the wildflowers burst into a kaleidoscope of colors, transforming the landscape into a breathtaking masterpiece of yellows and oranges. Ogle at the fields of poppies, lupines, and goldenfields blanketing the hillsides, creating the perfect backdrop for epic photos and unforgettable memories.

Death Valley National Park (Detour)

Death Valley National Park

If you’re a national park chaser, a detour to Death Valley National Park is an absolute must. This iconic desert landscape is a land of extremes, boasting the lowest point in North America and temperatures that can soar to blistering heights. In fact, the hottest recorded temperature taken across the whole wide world was at Death Valley!

But don’t let that deter you – Death Valley is also a land of stunning beauty, with towering sand dunes, colorful canyons, and otherworldly salt flats just waiting to be explored.

PRO TIP: Death Valley is too hot to explore during the late-spring to early fall, so we’d recommend visiting if you are traveling during the cooler months (or aren’t bothered by extreme desert heat).

Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park (Detour)

For those who live and breathe the great outdoors, a detour to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is another detour worth taking. Home to some of the largest trees on Earth – including the legendary General Sherman Tree – these majestic parks offer a wilderness experience like no other.

Hike among towering sequoias, explore rugged mountain landscapes, and marvel at cascading waterfalls as you immerse yourself in the natural beauty of these parks.

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About The Author - Elle
About the author

My name is Elle and I'm a travel blogger based in California. I love helping people plan trips and create unique itineraries based on their interests and their budgets. I'm a huge fan of outdoor adventures and doing off-the-beaten-path things in Las Vegas (and around the world too)!