Mudcracks forming expansive landscape, across Death Valley National Park

Road Trip from Los Angeles to Death Valley National Park

Updated by Dianne Titos on February 14 2024

This epic Californian road trip takes you from sunny, buzzing Los Angeles, to the incredible landscapes of Death Valley National Valley, traveling past amazing scenery and fascinating landmarks along the way. If you are looking for the perfect long weekend getaway, this is it!

The 320-mile trip from Los Angeles to Death Valley National Park takes about 6 hours, via highlights Santa Clarita, Bakersfield, Searles Valley, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Palm Springs, Barstow and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

This breathtaking and interesting journey is sure to leave a lasting impression, and that's before even reaching the unique and awe-inspiring landscapes of Death Valley National Park. Keep reading to see where we suggest stopping off and exploring en route.

How far is Death Valley National Park from Los Angeles, and how long will the road trip take?

Comparison of road trip routes between Los Angeles and Death Valley National Park
RouteDistanceDriving Time
The Bakersfield Route320 miles5 hours and 35 minutes
The Las Vegas Detour500 miles8 hours

The very scenic Bakersfield Route takes about 5 hours and 35 minutes to travel 320 miles if you are taking no detours along the way.

Travel the alternative Las Vegas Detour journey and you will be traveling around 8 hours, passing 500 miles on this beautiful route.

Both of these road trips are fairly short and could just about be completed in daytime driving, however we suggest taking 2-3 days to make the most of all the incredible sights you can explore and enjoy on the way.

Sand dunes in Death Valley, California, USA
Whichever route you choose to arrive at Death Valley National Park you can be sure of an incredible experience, with a diverse landscape that needs to be seen to be believed.
Zhukova Valentyna/

Best road trip route from Los Angeles to Death Valley National Park

As you pass through the ‘Golden State' of California towards Death Valley National Park both of the routes that we suggest will take you on an incredibly scenic and very exciting journey.

The best route will ultimately depend on how much time you have, what you'd like to see and where you'd like to visit on this epic adventure.

The Bakersfield Route is a thrilling, fun and picturesque road trip that includes beautiful and unusual landscapes and cultural hot spots. You'll get a chance to ride rollercoasters, explore historical sites and hike across beautiful parkland.

If you are a fan of the Fast and Furious movie franchise, you might recognize parts of this route as you will get to briefly drive on Highway 58, which is potentially where the famous escape race was filmed.

Take the Las Vegas Detour and this beautiful scenic road trip visits some of the most impressive national parks, balanced with memorable city sights. You can be sure a detour to Las Vegas is never going to be short of surprises!

How to drive from Los Angeles to Death Valley National Park

The map above shows our suggestions for the best road trip routes between Los Angeles and Death Valley National Park. Keep reading for detailed descriptions of both routes, where to stay on either, and the best things to do on the way.

The Bakersfield Route

From Los Angeles take Insterstate-5 (I-5) towards Santa Clarita, where you can enjoy a rollercoaster or two at Six Flags Magic Mountain, before rejoining the I-5 and for scenic stop offs at Castaic Lake State Recreation Area and Frazier Park ahead of Bakersfield.

Wide view of colorful roller coaster rides at Six Flags Magic Mountain
Enjoy thrills and spills at Six Flags Magic Mountain before continuing along the memorable Bakersfield Route.
Robert V Schwemmer/

Settle for a night or two in Bakersfield where you can take in the Museum of Art and Downtown Arts District to admire local talent and art installations. Afterwards pick up CA-58 East to continue on this journey.

Stop off at the Tehachapi Heritage League Museum to learn more about the area's history, before arriving at iconic Kramer Junction to pick up food and gas, then take US-395 for the final leg of this trip.

Make sure to visit Searles Valley and the unusual Trona Pinnacles landmark, dotted with hundreds of tufa spires, before arriving in the stunning Death Valley National Park to continue an incredible and exciting trip.

The Las Vegas Detour

Taking the Las Vegas Detour starts by leaving Los Angeles along the I-10 East, taking in San Bernardino National Forest, with its incredible mountain scenery. A unique stop at the Original McDonalds Site and Museum can also be seen!

Entrance to the desolate Mojave National Preserve in California
Stop off to hike across beautiful Mojave National Preserve. The Hole-in-the-wall trail is a great hike to get panoramic views.
William Silver/

Continue along I-10 and you'll arrive in beautiful Palm Springs, then continue along CA-68 for wildlife spotting in Desert Hot Springs, before taking the CA-247 to marvel at religious sculptures dotted around Desert Christ Park.

Keep driving along CA-247 where a stop at Barstow will give you the chance for some history and ghost tours at Calico Ghost Towers, before traveling I-15 through the beautiful Mojave National Preserve and Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area.

A change of pace with an arrival at Paradise, and shortly after Las Vegas, gives the chance to tick off some bucket-list sights in Las Vegas including the iconic Strip, entertainment, and a visit to the replica of Grand Canal in Venice.

After a night or two in Vegas the beautiful scenery of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area awaits you, before taking the US-95 towards end destination Death Valley National Park.

Best places to stop between Los Angeles and Death Valley National Park

These beautiful road trips pass some of California's most scenic inland landscapes and make for a journey packed with amazing things to do and unforgettable sights to enjoy.

We recommend stopping overnight to make the most of these routes, so keep reading to see whereabouts we suggest you should hang out a little longer.

Take in a show at Bakersfield

Head along the Bakersfield Route on this road trip from Los Angeles to Death Valley National Park, and there is no better place to stopover than Bakersfield itself, found around halfway along this route.

Make sure to head to the California Living Museum first to check out the museum, rides, and over 200 animals. This diverse attraction is particularly popular in the holiday season, where there are amazing illuminations too.

Front view of the Kern County Museum building, Bakersfield.
The impressive Kern County Museum is a great stop off to learn more about this area's interesting history.
Richard Thornton/

To understand more about the area, visit Kern County Museum. The Western buildings are interesting to stroll round, depicting past life of Kern County along with impressive landmarks such as Beale Memorial Clock Tower.

Afterwards visit Fox Theater, an iconic theater in the heart of Bakersfield. There are plenty of shows taking place here each day, so check out a film or show at this famous arts and community center.

We recommend stopping over in the Padre Hotel, which is set in the heart of Bakersfield and on the doorstep of so many top attractions including Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and Centennial Plaza.

This four-star hotel enjoys modern décor, with gorgeously designed lounges and bar. Make sure to head to the rooftop Prairie Fire to enjoy drinks with views over the city, before dining at on-site Brimstone Bar. Delicious.

Marvel at the bright lights of Sin City

Around two hours from your final destination in Death Valley, this change-of-pace and bucket-list stop off Las Vegas is a memorable sight to enjoy before arriving at Death Valley National Park.

Wander the four-mile stretch of The Strip, buzzing with entertainment, bright lights and places to enjoy all day and all night. The Grand Canal is just one of these amazing sights. A replica of Venice, head here for a spot of shopping and browse from the comfort of your very own gondola.

Las Vegas City in Nevada, bright lights in the night
You can be sure of a memorable trip when you visit the bucket-list sights of Las Vegas.

Make sure to visit Bellagio Botanical Gardens and Fountains. The impressive gardens and displays are adapted year-round, and the fountain waters play a complex choreography unlike anywhere else. Sit back and enjoy the show.

For a change of scene visit the Las Vegas Arts District. Spread over 18 blocks, it is teeming with interesting and artistic displays, artworks and shops.

For a hotel that matches the energy of Sin City then look no further than Wynn Las Vegas. Set in an amazing location, close to all the great sights of Las Vegas, it is super close to sights such as Eiffel Tower at Paris Hotel, Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and Las Vegas Festival Grounds.

This hotel houses three incredible on-site pools, a spa, designer shops, and a state-of-art fitness center for a yoga class or massage.

An impressive concierge service is also on hand to supply you with all the information on the top places to visit during your stay, but with 15 restaurants on-site you won't need to travel far for amazing hospitality.

READ MORE - Click here for more great hotel options

Where to stay when you reach Death Valley National Park

The incredible and diverse landscape of Death Valley National Park is breathtaking, with the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Badwater Basin just some of the amazing sights here.

To match this incredible experience, stay at a beautiful five-star hotel, nestled within Death Valley National Park itself, The Inn at Death Valley.

The stunning property boasts a beautiful outdoor pool to relax in after a busy day exploring, with a gorgeous terrace to relax on and take in the views.

Enjoy a night or two in the beautiful, lush, lodge-style rooms and lounges, with plenty going on to enjoy including golf and cycling. Hungry? Then you can choose from two great restaurants on-site, serving delicious American cuisine.

Things to see on a road trip from Los Angeles to Death Valley National Park

Take this pretty road trip from Los Angeles to Death Valley National Park, and although it is short it is also very sweet indeed, full of beautiful landscapes, historical and cultural landmarks, and unique sites to explore. Keep reading to see our list of things to see and do along the way.

The Bakersfield Route

  1. Santa Clarita - Ride the thrills and spills of Six Flags Magic Mountain, spread over 262 acres this amusement park is sure to keep you entertained.
  2. Castaic Lake State Recreation Area - There are over 11,000 acres to explore, with parklands and a state park reservoir, the largest in Southern California. The 425-foot Dam is particularly impressive.
  3. Frazier Park - Pretty park to stop at for a leg stretch, with expansive grounds and lake to enjoy.
  4. Bakersfield - Known for its art and culture scene make sure to visit the Bakersfield Museum of Art and Downtown Arts District to admire local talent and art installations.
  5. Tehachapi Heritage League Museum - Founded in 1973, this museum is dedicated to informing its visitors about the area's history, whose past began in the area with the arrival of the Kawaiisu over 1,500 years ago.
  6. Kramer Junction - This recognized junction, also known as ‘Four Corners' gives you the option to head in each direction to continue your journey. A good place to stock up on food and gas.
  7. Searles Valley - The valley and lake beds here were formed by the evaporation of the water thousands of years ago. A unique attraction.
  8. Trona Pinnacles - Found in Searles Valley, this area is made up of 500 tufa spires dotted across the landscape. An unusual and interesting stop-off.
Overhead view of Trona Pinnacles dotted throughout Searles Valley
Stop off in Searles Valley and you can marvel at the unique rock formations that are found throughout this area.

The Las Vegas Detour

  1. San Bernardino National Forest - The incredible mountain scenery is breathtaking. You get amazing views whether driving or hiking, or how about taking to horseback across the trails of this 23,000-acre site.
  2. Original McDonalds Site and Museum - A great museum in San Bernardino for any burger fans, this iconic building will tell you everything you need to know about McDonalds, its history and legacy.
  3. Palm Springs - Explore this beautiful area by taking a hike across the Indian Canyons to see the area at its best, and interesting native plants and landscape.
  4. Desert Hot Springs - Hike across the Hidden Horseshoe and Pushawalla Palms Trail, where you pass plenty of wildlife living amongst the sand dunes and palms.
  5. Desert Christ Park - Found near Flamingo Heights, this interesting garden in Yucca Valley is dotted with religious sculptures crafted by Antone Martin. There are over 40 on display.
  6. Calico Ghost Towers - Just outside Barstow this event runs every Saturday, where you can tour the historic town and maybe experience some paranormal activity.
  7. Mojave National Preserve - Over 1.5 million beautiful acres, and home to more Joshua Trees than anywhere else. The Hole-in-the-wall trail is a popular hike to get great views.
  8. Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area - Spread over 48,000 acres, this area is packed with geological interest points, with hundreds of rock carvings dating back to natives thousands of years before.
  9. Paradise - Adjacent to Las Vegas, this town is brimming with museums and interesting attractions. How about heading to the unusual National Atomic Testing Museum?
  10. Las Vegas - Wander in awe along the impressive Strip, spanning miles with places to eat, drink and be very merry. This once-in-a-lifetime city has to be seen to be believed.
  11. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area - A visit to this National Park around 20 minutes from Las Vegas is a must-see. Take a guided tour to best see the red rock formations and amazing views. You might need to make a reservation for a timed-entry slot, so check the official website before traveling.
Taking the highway towards Red Rock Canyon Conversation Area
Take the short detour from Las Vegas to experience the incredible, expansive landscapes of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Best time to go on a road trip from Los Angeles to Death Valley National Park

Spanning over three million acres there is plenty to see and do when you arrive at Death Valley, which offers a lot year-round with changing scenery depending on when you visit.

However, with the peak summer scorching, we recommend visiting outside of this time of year to be able to best explore this amazing national park and not have to cope with temperatures reaching up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sunset from Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
The jaw-dropping sights throughout Death Valley National Park are unforgettable, with the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes a particular highlight.
Doug Meek/

If summer is the time you are set on visiting, then making the trip very early in the morning or later in the day is wise to keep the temperatures at bay. Make sure to pack plenty of water and refreshments and seek shade when you can.

If you travel during winter, then the desert heat can be avoided and temperatures in the day still range from around 40 degrees to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. However, evenings can drop to freezing so pack plenty of layers.

Spring or fall are also great options to visit this impressive park, where you miss the extreme heat, and cold, and the attractions are typically quieter, and local places to stay are likely to have better deals on for staying.

Spring in particular is a popular time to visit with the beautiful wildflowers emerging. These flowers transform the otherwise dusty landscape and really are a mesmerizing addition to your experience of this amazing national park.