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Los Angeles to Las Vegas

More Than Just Desert

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The great thing about the Los Angeles to Las Vegas road trip is that you can do it in 4 hours, or 4 days - depending on what your heart desires! And while many believe the drive is simply a never ending road through the vast Californian desert, there is actually plenty to see and do along the way.

So why not make the journey more of an adventure and less of a transit on this drive between two of America's most famous cities.

Start: Los Angeles

Finish: Las Vegas

Duration: 887 km – 4 Days

Day 1: Los Angeles, CA to Palm Springs, CA

Duration: 172kms - 2hrs

Drive due east from L.A. on Interstate 10 (I-10) east, towards the Greater Palm Springs area– an oasis filled with LA’s most stylish residents located in the heart of Coachella Valley. Greater Palm Springs is perfectly situated on the LA to Vegas route and is about two hours driving distance from Los Angeles. Located approximately an hour out of Los Angeles is the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, stop here for your first opportunity to splash the cash and take advantage of designer brands at outlet prices.

Continue towards Greater Palm Springs, an amazing region which includes nine wonderful little cities all grouped together: Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio, Indian Wells, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, and Coachella. Each city has its own personality, fabulous hotels, and heaps of things to do.

Stay the night in Palm Springs city- natural mineral springs and plentiful outdoor recreation options make Palm Springs’ a leading destination for health and wellness. Activities include golf and tennis, swimming and equestrian sports, as well as biking and hiking on more than 100 scenic trails. All this combined with 350 days of sunshine every year, a unique and eclectic history, and a flourishing culinary, arts and music scene and you have the ultimate California holiday spot!

If staying in Palm Springs for a few nights, you can channel your inner western star with a day trip to Pioneertown, a 40 minute drive north of the city. This real-life old west town was built as a set for filming movies and tv shows. Experience mock gunfights on Mane Street then stop by Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace for live music, a tex-mex BBQ and lively dancing.

We Recommend: Delay your departure from LA to avoid peak hour if you can. But no matter when you leave you will hit some level of traffic so be prepared for delays and stay patient.

Palm Springs to Los Angeles, CA

Day 2: Palm Springs, CA to Barstow, CA

Duration: 200kms - 2hrs

This morning you’ll be leaving Palm Springs and driving to Joshua Tree National Park, approximately 40 minutes north-east of Palm Springs. This national park is the meeting place of two distinct desert ecosystems – the Mojave and the Colorado. You’ll see a diverse range of plants (750 species!) and animals which call this place home. Plan to head there early while the weather is cool, which also means you get to enjoy peace and quiet.

Enter through the west entrance, (just off Highway 62 on Park Boulevard) and pick up a map. Buy some souvenirs or snacks while learning about the parks history at the visitor centre. Head up to Keys View (the highest point in the park) for sweeping panoramic views of Coachella Valley, you can even see all the way to Mexico on the clearest days.

With all this exploring you will have worked up an appetite, so it’s time to hop back in the car and head towards Barstow, which was once a small mining and railroad town located along Route 66. Today it is best known as being home to the “Train Car McDonalds”. This McDonalds restaurant is located inside 3 converted passenger train cars – stop here for a truly unique dining experience! Barstow also has a couple of big outlet malls for any shopaholics looking for a bargain. Stay the night in Barstow and rest up for tomorrow’s drive.

We Recommend: When in Barstow, sample one of California’s cult favourites - In-N-Out Burger. No trip to Cali is complete without a visit!

Joshua Tree National Park

Day 3: Barstow, CA to Baker, CA

Duration: 105km - 1hr

Today you leave the bargains behind in Barstow and head towards Baker, where the scenery starts to get really interesting as the desert dominates the landscape. Detour through the Calico Mountains and check out Calico Ghost Town – an abandoned mining town turned historical park. There are plenty of great photo opportunities here, with the highlight being an old mining tunnel you can walk through. Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner is located just down the road so stop here to step back in time and experience 50’s nostalgia.

Continue on Interstate 15 and for a unique peek into the past, look out for Exit 23 (Zzyzx Road) which leads you to the ruins of the former Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa. The spa was created back in 1944 by a crazy evangelist, who tricked visitors into thinking they were soaking in healing natural hot springs. In reality, all the pools were boiler-heated and eventually the FBI shut the location down.

Soon you will arrive at today’s final stop – the small town of Baker. Visit some of its unique attractions such as the World’s Largest Thermometer (which actually displays the correct temperature) and Alien Fresh Jerky, a roadside shop dedicated to… you guessed it, aliens and jerky! Enjoy an entertaining dinner at The Mad Greek, an eclectic Greek-themed restaurant which claims to serve “America’s Best Gyro”. Spend the night here, as tomorrow you head towards the bright lights of Vegas!

We Recommend: Keep an eye on your fuel levels! There are a couple of sections on the I-15 without gas stations for more than 50kms. Approximately, Barstow is the one-half mark, Baker is the two-thirds mark. Fill up your gas tank before driving to Death Valley National Park.

Road to Zzyzx

Day 4: Baker,CA to Las Vegas, NV (via Death Valley National Park)

Duration: 410km - 4hrs

Leaving Baker, take a left and head north on Death Valley Road towards Death Valley National Park. It adds approximately two hours to the journey, but is well worth the trip. As you pass Shoshone, you start the descent into Death Valley's geologic heart. Follow the curving roads starting at 1,500 feet, until you delve to 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin - the lowest and hottest point in the Western Hemisphere. Driving through Badwater Basin is surreal; the snow-capped Sierra Mountains to the sides of the valley cradle the pristine lake bed with its salted crust. A short loop drive then reveals the colourful rocks of Artist's Palette and The Devil’s Golf Course which are best seen in late afternoon.

Stop at Furnace Creek, the park's headquarters for refreshments before you begin the final leg of the drive to Las Vegas.

As you drive closer, Las Vegas springs out of the desert, a welcoming sight after driving through kilometres of desert. The casino-resorts themselves are a sight to behold. As you drive down the strip, it’s almost like taking a world tour, surrounded by the icons of New York, Paris and Italy. Once you have arrived, Vegas is a playground of your own to explore, with endless entertainment and activities at your fingertips.

We Recommend: The drive through Death Valley National Park during the months of June, July and August can be difficult because of the high temperatures. Check local weather conditions before planning a trip in the summer months.

Las Vegas, NV

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