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The best scenic drives near Los Angeles
November 22, 2022

The best scenic drives near Los Angeles

Nestled among the Pacific coastline and multiple mountain ranges, Los Angeles is the gateway to some of California’s most scenic drives. The area’s year-round temperate climate makes it the perfect destination for a windows-down road trip. Plan your adventure with these not-to-be-missed scenic routes within Los Angeles and beyond the city limits. 

1. Palos Verdes Peninsula

This 14-mile coastal drive takes you between Torrance and San Pedro with dramatic cliffs the whole way through. You'll see both natural views and diverse neighborhoods. At just half an hour long, it's a pleasant way to spend the afternoon, especially if you stop off at one of the many beaches along the way.

2. Malibu Canyon to Pacific Coast Highway

Drive through Malibu State Park to reach the Pacific Coast Highway and start your drive with striking views of the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu Canyon. From there, you'll head south to reach the Pacific Ocean and then across Point Mugu Cape in Ventura County. Before going home, take a dip at Dume State Beach while watching a beautiful sunset.

3. Angeles Crest Highway to Mt. Wilson

This 45-minute scenic Los Angeles drive culminates in the county's highest peak, Mt. Wilson. Part of the San Gabriel Mountains, the curving road is perfect for thrill-seekers. Once you reach the top, you can take in views on the horizon spanning as much as 30 miles.

4. Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive spans 55 miles, starting in the Hollywood Hills and leading up to Leo Carillo State Beach. You can also shorten this scenic drive in Los Angeles to just six miles and end at the Mulholland Scenic Overlook for breathtaking valley views.

5. Linda Vista through the Arroyo Seco

Pasadena's Linda Vista neighborhood is full of historic homes that make for an interesting drive for architecture lovers, particularly the mid-century modern aesthetic. Then continue through the Arroyo Seco watershed area to explore natural sites like Millard Canyon.

A white building with a dark gray domed roof on the left side, with a bird’s-eye city view to the right.

6. Griffith Observatory Loop

This short trip is lovely day or night. Halfway up the drive, you can stop to enjoy a sweeping view of the city's skyline. When you're ready to stretch your legs long, you can park and explore the outdoor Greek Theatre or head into the observatory and use its free public telescopes to bring the moon and planets into view or see solar flares on the sun.

7. Tuna Canyon Road

Thrill seekers will enjoy a drive down Tuna Canyon Road in the western portion of L.A. county. This steep, narrow paved road is known for its twists and turns through the Santa Monica Mountains. Be careful if you decide to pull over to snap photos — the road becomes a single, one-way lane and is not ideal for stopping. 

8. Angeles Crest Highway

For an inland scenic drive near Los Angeles, check out the Angeles Crest Highway, which leads to Angeles National Forest. The highway runs 66 miles through the San Gabriel Mountains, showcasing alpine-esque vistas and even snow throughout the year. 

9. Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu

The Pacific Coast Highway spans more than 650 miles, but you can explore just a segment of the road from L.A. to Malibu and get a taste of what it has to offer. This stretch takes just an hour each way and provides several public areas to stop and enjoy warm, sandy beaches, including Zuma State Beach. 

10. White Point Park to Royal Palms Beach Park

These two parks are located in L.A.'s San Pedro District and share an entrance, so you can hit up both locations in one day. The 27-mile drive from downtown Los Angeles makes it the perfect day trip that's still off the beaten path. You’ll enjoy rocky beaches surrounded by cliffs with dramatic views and sheltered coves.  

11. Windsor Boulevard

One of the most scenic drives in Los Angeles, Windsor Boulevard takes you down a palm tree-lined path. Start to slow down a little between 4th Street and 5th Street so you can enjoy views of the iconic Hollywood Sign. Keep driving to explore the surrounding residential area.

12. Playa del Rey to Manhattan Beach

Although it’s just a short eight-minute drive, heading to Manhattan Beach from Playa del Rey is the epitome of Southern California beach living. Palm trees dotting the ocean are even more picturesque if you can time this drive with the sunset. Once you're there, rent a bike and cruise along one of the area's bike-only paths. 

13. Wilshire Boulevard

Immerse yourself in the architectural beauty of Los Angeles by traveling Wilshire Boulevard from downtown all the way to Santa Monica. The 16-mile stretch provides plenty of opportunities to pull over and immerse yourself in the city's culture as well. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for instance, is considered the largest art museum in the western United States. 

14. Palms to Pines Scenic Byway

For a longer scenic drive near Los Angeles, check out the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway, about two hours east of the city. Before you begin on the winding roads with mountain views, stop by the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains Visitor Center for a map and tips. There are plenty of interesting stop-offs, including the Coachella Valley Vista Point. 

A curving road winds through dry mountainland, with a few green trees sprinkled throughout. Silhouette mountains appear in the background.

15. Mulholland Drive to Cahuenga Boulevard 

This 11-mile drive takes you from the Hollywood Hills to Cahuenga Boulevard, with a jaw-dropping view of the Hollywood Bowl from the Jerome C. Daniel Overlook. You'll have your choice of other viewpoints as well, and you should also be able to spot the famed Hollywood Sign. 

Scenic driving trip tips

Get the most out of your Los Angeles scenic drive by following these three driving tips:

Check gas prices

An unexpected surge in gas prices can quickly bust your budget. Track prices before your trip and even plan to spend a little more than you expect. If you over-calculate, you'll have a few extra dollars to spend on shopping in L.A.

Keep directions on hand

Traveling to remote locations could result in poor cell phone service. Download or print your directions ahead of time so you always know your next turn — even if your phone doesn't. Mark gas stations along your route so you don’t get stuck far from one when your tank is low. 

Plan for weather changes

Check the forecast in advance, but also be prepared for sudden changes by keeping an umbrella or poncho in your car. Also check for any road and park closures before you head out.