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Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost ―Erol Ozan
I’ve found that people either love to drive or despise it. I’m the girl that used to drive to San Diego for the day on a whim. From the moment I received my Driver’s License, I found myself often enjoying the journey as much as the destination. Perhaps that is because as a young girl, road trips were our vacation staple. We threw snowballs at each other in Denver in the winter and fished along the Santa Barbara pier in the summer. The Grand Canyon, The Golden Gate Bridge, and Hoover Dam were some of the wonders we experienced as a family, all accessible from Southern California via car.
Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road ―Jack Kerouac
When my own children were born, road trips were my way of satisfying my wanderlust without the stress of airline travel. I could pack everything I needed for my kids without being constrained to carry-ons and FAA regulations. We could stop as often as we needed to for restroom breaks and spontaneous sightseeing. I once read that people who take road trips tend to be optimistic and astute, adaptable to change and insightful. While you can plan a road trip for months, the unexpected should and can be expected when you take a road trip.
Best Road Trips From Southern California
While Los Angeles is a destination in and of itself, it is ideally situated and within driving distance of several spectacular locations. Whether you are seeking reprieve from the warm summer heat or looking to enjoy some of the most beautiful deserts in the world, here are the Best Road Trips From Southern California.
Las Vegas: Located approximately 270 miles* from LA, Las Vegas is one of the most popular road trips for Southern California residents. The drive can take a minimum of 4 hours without stops, but there are several noteworthy stops along the way including Calico Ghost Town, Zzyzx Road, Alien Fresh Jerky, Mad Greek Cafe and the Seven Magic Mountains.
Sequoia National Park: Located approximately 200 miles from LA, the national park houses the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on Earth. Within this forest, you’ll find five of the 10 largest trees in the world. Drive through the infamous fallen Tunnel Log, see Tharp’s Log, a hollowed fallen sequoia once used as a shelter by pioneers, and take in the view from Moro Rock.
San Francisco: Located approximately 381 miles from LA, I recommend the scenic coastal route if this is your first visit. Highway 1 is longer, but offers pristine coastal views and a number of noteworthy stops including Santa Barbara (which really is a separate trip in and of itself), Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the Winchester Mystery House.
Palm Springs: Located approximately 107 miles from LA, Palm Springs is an easy weekend getaway. Spend some downtime at one of the resort’s pools or venture out shopping, dining, or enjoying the views from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Before you unplug by the pool, be sure to see the Cabazon Dinosaurs, the Bonita Domes (a set of Star Wars-like Earth Domes), Salvation Mountain and the Salton Sea.
San Diego: Located approximately 120 miles from LA, San Diego is another tourist/local hotspot. While a weekend is doable, you’ll find yourself longing to go back since San Diego offers a wealth of things to see and do. If you drive the coastal route, you’ll enjoy some of Orange County’s best beaches including Laguna Beach, Dana Point Harbor, San Clemente, and La Jolla.
Sedona: Located approximately 478 miles from LA, a visit to Arizona offers a unique perspective on desert life. The drive itself is absolutely stunning with dessert beauty intermingled with dense forests. Known fro their red sandstone formations, Sedona is particularly majestic as the sun rises and sets in the desert. If you are the active type, Sedona provides the perfect backdrop for hiking, mountain biking and more.
Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks: Zion National Park is located approximately 388 miles from LA and is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The red-tan Navajo Sandstone formations are complimented by the winding Virgin River. The park’s geography and life zones allow for unique plant and animal diversity. If you plan to visit Zion, I recommend that you extend your trip by a few days to spend some time at Bryce Canyon National Park. Located 527 miles from LA, you could easily plan a trip that involves a night in Las Vegas and 2-3 nights at each national park. Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its collection of natural amphitheaters and distinct geologic structures called the hoodoos.
*All mileage is from Los Angeles using Google Maps
Tips for a Safer Road Trip
One of the most important lessons my father taught me as a young girl was to be proactive about car maintenance. As someone who spends much of her time driving (Southern Californians unite!), I rely heavily on my car to take my kids to school in the morning, meet with clients mid-day and shuttle everyone to extracurricular activities in the evening. When I moved down to Orange County, I discovered my local Walmart Automotive Center, which has been a valuable resource for maintaining my car. When my kids were younger, grocery store trips were an adventure in and of themselves. I appreciate the fact that I can drop my car off for an oil change while I shop for groceries and household supplies.
In addition to regular maintenance, I go through a few safety checks before any road trip. This includes ensuring my tire pressure is correct, my emergency kit is stocked, and performing any routine maintenance including an oil change. While an oil change is probably one of the easiest and most basic of car maintenance tasks, the right oil can help ensure your vehicle is running efficiently. Pennzoil® Platinum is ideal for cars under 75,000 miles like mine, although as my car approaches this mile marker, I will be switching to Pennzoil® High Mileage Vehicle®. As you can imagine, a vehicle with over 75,000 miles requires proper maintenance. Pennzoil® High Mileage Vehicle® motor oil helps clean out the sludge left behind by other oils so that the engine runs clean and strong. I have owned several vehicles that have had a lifespan of over 100,000 miles, and the key to their longevity was proactive maintenance. Pennzoil® High Mileage Vehicle® motor oil is currently on Rollback at Walmart at just $35.88 (a savings of $4). Stop by your local Walmart Automotive Care Center before your next road trip to ensure your vehicle is running optimally.