These days, most travel has shifted from far-away destinations to weekend camping adventures and epic road trips. While this year has been challenging in many ways, more of us are taking the time to explore beautiful places closer to home, and that travel has brought some much-needed perseverance and perspective.
If you find yourself near the city lights of Los Angeles, CA, adventure is just a short drive away. Here are two epic road trips to take from the City of Angels this winter.
Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Reserve, and Death Valley National Park
When to Go: Fall, Winter, Spring
Duration: 5-7 days
Nothing quite compares to the California desert’s splendor and solitude, and it starts within a 2-hour drive of Los Angeles. This epic road trip can take place in five days, but if you have an entire week to spare, we recommend extending it to be a 7-day adventure.
This trip is great in fall, winter, or spring. Summer temperatures have been known to exceed 120 degrees F in some parts of CA during the summer months, so the season is best avoided if you can. Though you’ll encounter some cold nights and short days in the winter, camping is doable (especially in an RV or camper).
The first stop on this road trip is Joshua Tree National Park. This park is most widely known for its world-class rock climbing, unique geological formations, and of course, the cherished and protected Joshua Trees.
Since the drive from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree is only two hours, you can leave early morning and then head to the park for an afternoon of exploring. To get here, head East on the I-10 for about an hour and a half, and spend the last half hour on CA-62 E/ 29 Palms Hwy.
If you have the time, we recommend staying two nights in Joshua Tree before moving on to the Mojave National Preserve.
Must-Do Adventures in Joshua Tree National Park:
- Hike and picnic on the Hidden Valley Nature Trail
- Hike Ryan Mountain
- Take a tour of Keys Ranch
- If you have 4-wheel drive: Take a drive down Geology Tour Road
- If you’re a climber: boulder at Trashcan Rock or rope climb in the Echo Rock Area
Where to Camp in Joshua Tree National Park:
After you’ve finished your final morning in Joshua Tree, head north and drive the hour and a half to the Mojave National Preserve. The Mojave Preserve has over a million acres of land, making it an expansive landscape to visit in just a few short days.
You will have limited cell reception in the park, so download an offline map before getting too far off the highway. Make your way to the Preserve’s Hole in the Wall Campground, which is also close to great hiking.
The next day, check out the Kelso Sand Dunes first and then the Mojave Desert Lava Tubes for an epic underground adventure.
Must-Do Adventures in Mojave National Preserve:
Where to Camp in Mojave National Preserve:
You can choose to boondock one more night on the Mojave National Preserve near the Lava Tubes or drive towards Death Valley to find camping. Death Valley National Park, which is full of big landscapes, plentiful hiking, and the lowest point in the United States, is about two and a half hours from the Mojave Desert Lava Tubes. It is pretty much a straight shot to Death Valley on CA-127 N once you leave the Mojave Preserve.
Must-Do Adventures in Death Valley National Park:
Where to Camp in Death Valley National Park:
Sequoia National Forest and San Luis Obispo
When to Go: June-August
Duration: 3-5 days
Our list’s final trip is a fun little loop that can be done in just three days but is recommended in five. From LA, drive around three and a half hours to reach the primal beauty of Sequoia National Forest and Sequoia and Kings National Park. This vast land of the giants brings forth a testament to the beauty, diversity, and scope of nature.
Not only does the area include the world’s largest trees, but you can also experience deep canyons, rolling foothills, mountain peaks, and mysterious caverns. There is a seemingly endless array of wonder to be had here.
Must-Do Adventures in Sequoia National Park:
Where to Camp Near Sequoia National Park:
Moving back west towards the coast after a day or two in the Sequoia National Forest, drive 3 hours to San Luis Obispo. SLO is California’s central coast region, rich in cultural history and, of course, the world-famous weekly farmers market. Outside of the bustling downtown, there’s an immense array of natural beauty surrounding the area.
After spending a day or two in the SLO area, take the 3-hour scenic drive south back to LA.
Must-Do Adventures in San Luis Obispo:
- Thursday night Farmer’s Market
- Shell, Pismo, and Avila Beach
- Explore downtown
- Avila Hot Springs
- Oceano Sand Dunes
Where to Camp in San Luis Obispo: