15 Fun Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles

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The sleek exterior of the Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel.

Here are some Great Summer Getaways Out of Los Angeles

By Oscar Davis

Early morning tidepool exploring at Treasure Island Park in Laguna Beach. weekend getaways from Los Angeles.
Early morning tidepool exploring at Treasure Island Park in Laguna Beach. Max Hartshorne photo.

While there are lots of things to do in LA, the best part about the city is actually getting out of it!

There are plenty of weekend getaways from Los Angeles to a variety of destinations- beaches, deserts, mountains, cities, and towns all within a one to a six-hour drive.

Whether you enjoy an active outdoor adventure or prefer relaxing on a beach, there’s a destination for any type of traveler!

Tips for Weekend Trips from Los Angeles

Depending on where you choose to explore, the varying locations have different climates, accommodation options, and ways to spend your time.

Weather & What to Pack

Southern California has varying weather throughout the year. For the most comfortable temperatures, it’s typically best to visit the desert locations from late fall to early spring. The mountains are typically a better option from late spring to early fall (unless you love the snow!). Warmer temperatures generally mean better road conditions in the mountains. Beaches are typically nice to visit year-round.

Therefore, it’s hard to say what exactly to pack but layers are key in California. Whether you’re in the desert, mountains, or at the beach, the daytime and nighttime temperature can vary drastically. In California, it’s always important to pack layers! This makes it easy to bundle up or strip down depending on the weather.

Where to Stay

There are a variety of hotel accommodations throughout these areas. Many cities have famous luxury hotels. If you’re visiting a more outdoorsy destination, there are still plenty of hotel options as well as campsites.

Many of these destinations book up quickly so reserve your hotels and campsites in advance to guarantee your preferred accommodation.

For a more unique and authentic experience, rent an RV to get out of Los Angeles! RVs are an affordable and safe way to travel to a variety of destinations with the comfort of all of your belongings in your own personal space- a bed, kitchen, toilet, it’s all there!

What to Do

All these locations have plenty of different activities to fill your time. If you’re an active person there are many opportunities to hike, off-road, swim, and ski. For a more relaxing experience go wine tasting, chill on a beach, or dine and shop. The best weekend getaways from Los Angeles offer plenty of activities for any type of traveler.

Best Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles

Joshua Tree

Known for the famous Joshua trees, cholla cacti, gigantic rocks, and rugged mountains, there are countless wonders to explore in this unique desert landscape where the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert converge.

If you love hiking, make your way up Ryan Mountain for incredible views overlooking the park. For a moderate stroll head to Skull Rock to view an iconic granite formation. Visit in the spring for a chance to see wildflowers and the Joshua trees in bloom. If you prefer sightseeing from the car, make your way up to Keys View for sweeping sites of the desert landscape.

Camp among the giant boulders of Joshua Tree and enjoy views of the Milky Way in the evening. Be sure to reserve a campground or arrive early for a walk-up campsite!

Death Valley

Giant sand dunes, badlands, canyons, mountains, and the lowest point in North America— Badwater Basin. Death Valley has a diverse environment to enjoy. It’s home to bighorn sheep, coyotes, desert tortoises, and jackrabbits and with incredible sites of the vast landscape, Death Valley is a must-visit place.

Check out Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, or Golden Canyon for great hikes and impressive views! There are many ways to explore Death Valley, but as the park is known for its blistering hot summer temperatures, it’s safer and more comfortable to visit from November to April.

San Diego from Hornblower Cruise
San Diego skyline from Hornblower Cruise. Noreen Kompanik photo.

San Diego

Driving about two hours south of Los Angeles will land you in San Diego. With a warm climate year-round, 70 miles of beaches, and stunning parks, San Diego is a charming city with plenty of sites to explore.

Enjoy the Pacific Ocean views at Torrey Pines National Reserve. Look for marine wildlife at the La Jolla Cove tidepools. Head to Pacific Beach for cool vibes. Explore the city’s downtown and grab a coffee at a local cafe or stop by Balboa Park. To view celebrity neighborhoods, travel up to Rancho Santa Fe. If traveling with kids check out the historic beachfront amusement park, Belmont Park.

Sequoia

Sequoia National Park is a stunning destination about four hours northeast of Los Angeles. Head to the Land of Giants to stroll among the Giant Sequoias, the largest trees in the world or make your way up the grueling 23-mile round trip hike to Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous 48 states.

There are many ways to explore the park. Don’t miss seeing General Sherman, the largest Sequoia in the world, and make sure you take the Moro Rock Trail for spectacular views of the park. With numerous viewpoint pull-offs, it is also enjoyable to visit Sequoia by car.

Sequoia is worth visiting at any time of the year but is most crowded in the summer. While some roads close in the winter, the tranquil snow-covered landscape is magical and worth the visit.

View of Lake Mary in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
View of Lake Mary in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

Mammoth Lakes

Taking a road trip to beautiful Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra of California is a must-do. Although the drive is about 5 hours, this is another one of the best weekend getaways from Los Angeles. The scenery will change drastically as you make your way north on Highway 395. As you pass through the high desert, 14,000-foot peaks tower above you to the west.

Mammoth Lakes is an adventure destination year-round. In the winter head to Mammoth Mountain for the highest resort skiing and snowboarding in California. This mountain usually stays open until Memorial Day weekend but sometimes as late as July!

In the summer, go swimming, paddle boarding, or kayaking on Lake Mary or plan a hike to Devils Postpile National Monument and Rainbow Falls. Beware, black bears are very common in this area.

Big Sur, California
Big Sur, California

Big Sur

Big Sur is one of the best weekend getaway road trips. Drive Highway 1 up and down the coast for impressive ocean views the whole way. The 6-hour coastal road trip is surely worth it, and on your way north, stop in Paso Robles to visit a winery or olive grove.

Drive over the Bixby Creek Bridge, view McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, drive the 17-mile drive, or head to Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground to walk amongst the towering Redwoods. There are so many landmarks and sites to check out for any type of explorer.

Downtown Palm Springs, California
Downtown Palm Springs California. Max Hartshorne photo.

Palm Springs

This Southern California city in the Sonoran Desert is famous for its luxury hotels, golf courses, public art, spas, and hot springs. Palm Springs is also a popular shopping and food destination with its vintage boutiques and fine restaurants.

It’s the spot where all the famous come to relax since it’s only a couple of hours from Los Angeles. With plenty of things to do in the area, you’ll find a way to stay entertained. Just outside the city of Palm Springs take a trip to a ghost town or balance and relax your mind at a sound bath.

Palm Springs has some of the best hotel accommodations in the Sonoran Desert, so sit by the swimming pool and relax in one of the best getaway spots outside of Los Angeles.

Santa Catalina Island Casino 1
Santa Catalina Island Casino. Noreen Kompanik photo.

Catalina Island

Catalina Island is about 22 miles long by 8 miles across. What’s interesting about this destination is that you have to take a ferry to it making it one of the more unique weekend getaways from Los Angeles.

Whether traveling by car or on for it’s important to book ferry tickets early and you should do the same for hotels and campgrounds. Although some parts of Catalina Island are undeveloped, there are still luxury hotels making it a great trip for any type of traveler.

There are two “cities” on the island. Day trips are operated out of them ranging from kayaking tours to jeep adventures. You can also embark on your own hike, or relax on the beach. Either way, this is a great weekend trip where you can enjoy the beauty of nature with modern comforts.

Big Bear Lake and the solar observatoryBig Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake, located in the San Bernardino Mountains, is one of the most amazing year-round weekend getaway destinations in Southern California. Just about 2.5 hours from Los Angeles, Big Bear offers activities no matter the season. In the winter enjoy skiing and snowboarding at Big Bear Mountain Resort.

Make a trip in the summer to go hiking, mountain biking, or swimming.

Probably the closest pine tree wilderness to Los Angeles, this area is a place you should visit. As an outdoorsy destination, there are many sleeping options. Hotel accommodations, guest rooms, and camping are all popular choices.

Lake Arrowhead

Located in San Bernardino National Forest, Lake Arrowhead is a stunning lake famous for its charming mountain town and diverse outdoor recreation activities. Hiking, bicycling, backpacking, fishing, and swimming.

With plenty of hotel accommodations and restaurants to choose from, if you’re looking to escape the busy life in the city, Lake Arrowhead is an incredible weekend getaway destination less than two hours from Los Angeles.

Balboa Island, Newport Beach California.
Balboa Island, Newport Beach California. Max Hartshorne photo

Newport Beach

Newport Beach is a good option for a last-minute day trip or a full weekend getaway since it’s only an hour south of downtown Los Angeles. Hit hiking trails, explore the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park, or make your way out to Balboa Island to check out the cute, small town.

The Newport Beach coastline is close to the well-known Huntington Beach and Pier where you can dine and fish. There a variety of ways to spend your time here no matter what type of beach-goer you are.

Stearns Wharf and State Street in the city of Santa Barbara. Photo by Mark Weber/Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara.
Stearns Wharf and State Street in the city of Santa Barbara. Photo by Mark Weber/Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara

The city of Santa Barbara is about two hours north of Los Angles and located on the ocean. While standing on the beach you’ll see the dramatic Santa Ynez Mountains in the distance.

Outside of its picturesque beach shoreline, downtown Santa Babara is well known for a variety of wine tasting rooms, street fairs, and upscale restaurants and boutiques. There are many museums and historical Spanish Mission churches.

Funk Zone is a popular district showing off the contemporary side of Santa Barbara with graffiti murals and other modern art pieces. The surrounding area is also famous for numerous wineries.

Riding an electric bike in Ojai, California.
Riding an electric bike in Ojai, California.

Ojai

This charming resort town in the Topatopa Mountains is about an hour and a half from Los Angeles. Enjoy local wines at the tasting rooms in town, explore art galleries, and head to the Sunday morning Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market.

With so many quaint local places to enjoy meals and drinks, or the gorgeous surrounding scenery to adventure in, you’ll find many ways to enjoy this little town.

Laguna Beach

Less than an hour from Los Angeles is Laguna Beach, a small coastal city in Southern California. If you love beaches and the outdoors, this place is for you.

Aliso Beach Park, in Laguna Beach, one of 22 beaches in the city.
Aliso Beach Park, in Laguna Beach, one of 22 beaches in the city. Max Hartshorne photo.

While visiting check out the famous Laguna Beach tide pools during low tide for a chance to see sea stars, anemones, and more! If you enjoy surfing, head to Thousand Steps Beach. If birdwatching is more of your thing bring your binoculars to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

If you have the whole weekend, spend one day at Heiler Park and go snorkeling the next day at Diver’s Cove. Spend one of your evenings watching the sunset at Crescent Bay Park. There are plenty of hotel options right along the beach with oceanfront views to choose from here.

Coachella Valley

Coachella Valley is well known for its numerous music festivals but it’s also a popular winter destination for people escaping the cold mountains. The valley is home to many resort towns all of which are great weekend getaways from Los Angeles.

The driver of a two-seater Day of the Dead-looking rickshaw, wears a skeleton bandana as he shuttles guests to and from the venue at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The driver of a two-seater Day of the Dead-looking rickshaw wears a skeleton bandana as he shuttles guests to and from the venue at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Museums, music, and art are some popular pastimes. If you enjoy the outdoors the valley is close to Joshua Tree or join a jeep tour based outside of Palm Springs. If you enjoy drinks, head to some tasting rooms! Desert Distilling serves hand-crafted spirits.

The valley is in the center of the mountains and desert. With its close proximity to many places, it is easy to hop around and enjoy at any time of year, but if you visit in the summer, expect it to be hot!

Oscar DavisOscar Davis is a veteran traveler and freelance writer from Leeds, UK.

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