California beach, USA with a view of a lifeguard cabin on Santa Monica beach in California at early sunset, retro toned.
Natalia Macheda/

Road Trip from Arkansas to California

Updated by Dianne Titos on February 28 2024

Drive from the beautiful forests of Arkansas through the beautiful deserts and mountains of the Southwest, ending on the coast of California. A road trip from Arkansas to California will be full of excitement and adventure plus the chance to relax in some of the best natural landscapes in the USA.

The 1,190-mile road trip from Arkansas to California will take 28 hours to drive. You can visit Dallas, El Paso, Tucson, Phoenix, San Diego, Oklahoma City, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

From cities to mountains, forests to unforgettable beach towns, the road trip from Arkansas to California will be unforgettable. Read on below to learn more about this wonderful drive, where to stay, and what to see and do along the way.

How far is California from Arkansas, and how long will the road trip take?

Comparison of road trip routes between Arkansas and California
RouteDistanceDriving Time
The Los Angeles Route1,190 miles28 hours
The San Francisco Route2,290 miles36 hours

The Los Angeles Route is perfect for those wanting to experience Hollywood and the deserts of the Southwest. This route is 1,190 miles long with 28 hours of driving time.

Alternatively, the San Francisco Route takes you 2,290 miles with 36 hours of driving time. You'll pass towering mountains, and endless high desert wilderness, and end in iconic San Francisco.

Dallas, Texas, USA with the cityscape at night against a blue sky.
With countless great cities, like Dallas, and bucket list worthy parks, this epic road trip is simply unforgettable.

Because of all the top sights and experiences along the way on both routes, we recommend taking seven to ten days to complete the journey. Continue on below to learn more about these fantastic routes, where to stay, and what to see and do along the way.

If you are looking to explore California, here is our ultimate road trip itinerary:

READ MORE - Ultimate Florida Road Trip Itinerary

Best road trip route from Arkansas to California

The Los Angeles Route takes you through the Southwestern United States, offering a mix of stunning urban and natural landscapes. You will pass through cities such as Dallas and Phoenix, which offer a variety of food, culture, and entertainment options.

This route also takes you through the scenic Sonoran Desert, where you can stop to see the giant saguaro cacti and appreciate the natural beauty of the desert. Full of hiking and other outdoor sporting options, the Sonoran Desert is a nature-lovers' paradise.

Most of the roads on the Los Angeles Route are well-maintained highways and interstates, making for a relatively smooth and comfortable driving experience.

The San Francisco Route is a great option for travelers who want to experience the natural beauty and diverse landscapes of the American West. This route takes you through some of the most stunning natural attractions in the country, including the Grand Canyon, Lake Tahoe, and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Along the way, you'll also have the chance to visit vibrant and unique cities such as Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. The route offers a mix of historic and cultural sites, as well as diverse natural attractions, from the deserts of New Mexico to the mountains of California.

The majority of the roads on this route are well-maintained highways and interstates, offering a comfortable and efficient driving experience. Overall, the San Francisco Route is dotted with adventure and exploration, with a strong emphasis on natural beauty and cultural experiences.

The Los Angeles Route

Starting in Little Rock, Arkansas, make your way west into Texas. You'll then drive to one of the country's most famous big cities, Dallas, Texas.

An overlooking view of Tucson, Arizona, USA on a sunny day with blue skies and rolling hills.
Be sure to stop en route to California and take in the stunning scenery surrounding Tucson, Arizona.
Cheri Alguire/

From here, head back on the route to the historic city of El Paso, Texas. Continue on through the desert landscapes of western Texas and into the city of Tucson, AZ.

After Tucson, drive into Arizona's largest city, Phoenix, Arizona. After exploring this part of Arizona, head back on the route through the beautiful Sonoran Desert and into Southern California.

Next, continue on into the city of San Diego, California. From here, it's only a short drive north to your final destination of Los Angeles, California. However, if you have more time, we recommend checking out our ultimate California road trip itinerary.

The San Francisco Route

Leaving the city of Little Rock, Arkansas, head west into the state of Oklahoma. Continue on into the great city of Oklahoma City. From here, drive west through the Texas Panhandle and into New Mexico. You'll soon get to beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Lake Tahoe, USA with a rocky shoreline in sunny day, beach with blue sky over clear transparent water.
This route takes you through so many iconic spots, including the incredibly beautiful Lake Tahoe.

Check out Albuquerque and continue on into Arizona. Then, continue your drive into the city of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Once you're in Flagstaff, you're only a short drive away from the mighty Grand Canyon. After exploring one of the world's greatest natural wonders, head to the famous city of Las Vegas, Nevada.

From here, make your way through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, near Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the Lower 48. Continue on to the winter sports destination of Mammoth Lakes.

From here, drive further into the mesmerizing shoreline of Lake Tahoe. After exploring this vacation destination, head west into the Bay Area and to the famous city of San Francisco, California.

Ready to explore more? Here is our ultimate California road trip itinerary.

Best places to stop between Arkansas and California

Along the way, you'll want to split the trip up and stay in one of the destinations below. This way, you'll get to experience the most of what these incredible places offer.

See the high desert in Flagstaff

Located on the San Francisco Route is the wonderful small city of Flagstaff. From stunning natural surroundings, historic places, and ancient ruins, to tons of outdoor activities, Flagstaff is one of the most exciting and adventurous small cities in America.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, USA with a river running through the Grand Canyon at sunset.
Flagstaff is not only surrounded by several stunning peaks, but it is also a great gateway to the amazing Grand Canyon National Park.
Stephen Moehle/

Once you're in Flagstaff, you can explore the San Francisco and Coconino peaks. If you're a skier or hiker, these natural areas will provide you with the ultimate adventure. You'll also get to experience historic Route 66 landmarks and a wonderful food scene.

Another major draw for visitors to Flagstaff is the famous Lowell Observatory. Everyone from professional astronomers to casual stargazers will love this one-of-a-kind destination.

For a historic visit well worth a visit, head to the Walnut Canyon National Monument. This wonderful site contains famous cliff dwellings and archeological ruins built by the area's indigenous Puebloan people.

Once you reach Flagstaff, we recommend staying at the Little America Hotel Flagstaff. The hotel is perfect for relaxation, as it features a fitness center, outdoor pool and spa, and beautiful grounds to walk on.

On-site is the Little America Restaurant and Bar which features incredibly popular breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.

Guests love the hotel's prime location, located just a short drive from Flagstaff's major landmarks like the Lowell Observatory. You'll also be just a few minutes from downtown Flagstaff, which is full of restaurants, breweries, and fantastic shopping options.

READ MORE - Click here for great hotel options

Hit the sandy beaches of Los Angeles

After your long drive, you'll want to stay somewhere luxurious and memorable once you reach LA. That's why we recommend staying at the highly rated Hoxton, Downtown LA.

Los Angeles, California, USA with a view of the Santa Monica Pier during sunset time.
If you're in need of some beach vibes, then a stop in iconic Los Angeles is a great option.

The Hoxton, Downtown LA is a top choice for travelers seeking a stylish and comfortable hotel in a prime location for exploring the city. The hotel offers beautifully designed rooms with modern amenities and stunning views of the city.

The Hoxton is located in the bustling Fashion District of downtown LA, within walking distance of many popular attractions, and near public transportation options for easy access to other parts of the city.

The hotel offers a range of on-site amenities, including a restaurant and bar, a coffee shop, a rooftop pool and lounge with great views, a fitness center, and co-working space. The friendly and helpful staff provide excellent service and are always ready to offer recommendations and assistance

Take in the golden sunset in San Francisco

Once you reach the beautiful Bay Area, we recommend staying at the luxurious and iconic Hotel Drisco, San Francisco. This highly rated hotel is an excellent choice for travelers seeking a luxurious and comfortable hotel in a prime location in San Francisco.

San Francisco, California, USA with a Cable Car overlooking the sea and mountains in the distance on a sunny day.
What better way is there to see San Francisco than by cable car which offers incredible panoramic views of the city.

The hotel offers beautifully designed rooms and suites with elegant decor and modern amenities. Located in the Pacific Heights neighborhood, Hotel Drisco is within walking distance of popular attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Presidio Park.

After your long drive, you'll love the complimentary breakfast buffet each morning and an evening wine and cheese reception, which are great opportunities to socialize with other guests. Hotel Drisco also has exceptional service, with staff members going above and beyond to make guests feel welcome and comfortable.

Things to see on a road trip from Arkansas to California

With so much to see and do along both routes, you'll be busy planning your perfect itinerary. To help you out, we've chosen our top highlights along the way, so you can easily plan the road trip of your dreams.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona, USA with a view of a desert sunset of Saguaros and small cacti.
The Los Angeles Route will take you through the desert plains of Arizona, including the beautiful Saguaro National Park.
Nate Hovee/

The Los Angeles Route

  1. Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, Dallas - This museum is located in the former Texas School Book Depository building, overlooking Dealey Plaza, and explores the life, death, and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. It's an interesting and informative attraction for history buffs.
  2. Fort Worth Stockyards, Fort Worth - This historic district features a cattle drive, live rodeo performances, and cowboy-themed attractions. It's a fun and unique experience for visitors to Texas.
  3. Saguaro National Park, Arizona - This national park is home to thousands of giant saguaro cacti, which can grow up to 40 feet tall. Visitors can hike, bike, or drive through the park's scenic desert landscape.
  4. Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson - This museum is one of the largest air and space museums in the world, featuring over 350 aircraft and spacecraft exhibits. It's a fascinating attraction for aviation enthusiasts.
  5. The Biosphere 2, Oracle - This unique research facility was designed to simulate a closed ecological system, with its own rainforest, ocean, and desert biomes. Visitors can tour the facility and learn about its history and research.
The Crystal Forest in the Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, USA against a blue sky surrounded by pebbles.
Follow the San Francisco Route for a chance to explore the Petrified Forest National Park and see its fascinating rock formations and badlands.
Felix Lipov/

The San Francisco Route

  1. Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, Oklahoma City - This memorial and museum honors the victims and survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, with exhibits on the tragedy and its aftermath.
  2. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City - This museum celebrates the history and culture of the American West, with exhibits on cowboys, Native Americans, and western art.
  3. Santa Fe Plaza, Santa Fe - This historic town square is surrounded by adobe buildings, and features shops, restaurants, and art galleries, making it a great spot to explore and shop.
  4. Meow Wolf, Santa Fe - This immersive and interactive art experience features a surreal and fantastical world of installations, puzzles, and mysteries.
  5. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona - This national park features stunning rock formations, colorful badlands, and ancient petrified trees, making it a unique and fascinating attraction.
  6. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - This iconic national park features stunning views of the massive canyon, with hiking trails, scenic drives, and ranger-led activities.
  7. Hoover Dam - This engineering marvel, spanning the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada, provides power and water to much of the Southwest, and is an impressive sight to see.
  8. Yosemite National Park, California - This national park features stunning natural beauty, with waterfalls, granite cliffs, and towering sequoia trees, making it a popular spot for hiking, camping, and wildlife watching.
Yosemite National Park, California, USA on a sunny day with tall trees and a river in the foreground and a mountain peak in the distance.
Yosemite National Park is an ideal place to explore if you love hiking, climbing and discovering waterfalls surrounded by wild nature.
angie agostino/

Best time to go on a road trip from Arkansas to California

California is a year-round destination, but the climate and weather can vary significantly depending on the region. Coastal areas have a mild and temperate climate, with cooler temperatures in the winter and warmer temperatures in the summer, while inland areas can be hot and dry in the summer and cooler in the winter.

One thing to consider when planning a trip to California in the summer is that it can be a busy and crowded time of year, especially in popular tourist destinations like theme parks, beaches, and national parks.

California is a summer festival destination as there are plenty of music, culture, and art festivals as well as fun events. Some of the biggest summer events include the San Francisco Pride Parade in June and the Monterey Jazz Festival in September.

Winter can be a fun time to visit if you don't mind the occasional rainstorm. Coastal areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego typically experience mild temperatures in the winter, with temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to the low 60s Fahrenheit during the day.

One advantage of visiting California in the winter is that it is typically a less busy travel season than the summer, making it a good option for those looking for a quieter and more relaxed vacation.

Spring and fall are popular seasons to visit California, as the weather tends to be mild and comfortable, and there are fewer crowds than in the peak summer season. In the spring, California's coastal regions typically experience mild temperatures in the mid-60s to low 70s Fahrenheit during the day, while inland regions can be slightly warmer.

This time of year also marks the blooming of wildflowers in places like Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Joshua Tree National Park, making it a great time for outdoor activities like hiking and sightseeing.

Springtime sees the famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. This festival is one of the most popular music festivals in the world. Coachella takes place over two weekends in April and features a diverse lineup of musical acts, art installations, and food vendors.

In the fall, temperatures in California tend to be similar to those in the spring, with mild temperatures in most regions. This time of year can also be a great time to visit California's wine country, as the grape harvest is typically in full swing in September and October, and there are many fall festivals and events to enjoy.