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Take a West Coast road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas

Adventures abound on the road between two of the West Coast’s most thrilling cities. | By Matt Villano | October 3, 2022

Road-tripping from Los Angeles to Las Vegas has become a rite of passage in Hollywood. Considering the astronomical number of visitors (just under 10 million at last count) who come to Vegas from Southern California, there’s no surprise that the four-hour, 270-mile (434.5 kilometers) road trip between the two cities taps the zeitgeist. To make the most of your trip, we recommend:

  • Route 66: Celebrate America’s most iconic highway

  • Out of the ordinary: See ghost towns, tall thermometers and aliens

  • Embrace the unique: Marvel at desert art and enjoy one-of-a-kind dining

Victorville, California

Start your roadtrip from downtown Los Angeles by taking Interstate 10 to Interstate 15 northeast. Travel up and over the Angeles and San Bernardino national forests, about 84 miles (135 kilometers) to a tiny town called Victorville. The drive takes roughly 90 minutes with no traffic.

Old Town Victorville sits right on historical Route 66, an iconic West Coast thoroughfare popularly known as the Mother Road and one of the original highways on the United States’ numbered highway system. It’s also the site of the California Route 66 Museum. This modest, must-see museum combines history and mid-century memorabilia as it tells the story of America’s most famous road-tripping highway. Don’t skip the opportunity to sit in a 1917 Model T Ford for an Insta-worthy moment to commemorate your trip.

Calico, California

For the next leg of your West Coast road trip, it’s a brief 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) north from Victorville to Calico, a ghost town just to the east of Barstow. The former mining town was abandoned when silver lost its value in the mid-1890s and sat empty for decades. Most of the buildings were restored in the 1950s, when Calico was designated a California State Historic Landmark. Today, you can visit a silver mine or ride a historical narrow-gauge railroad.

Barstow is a good stopover if you’ve left late in the day. Hang your head at Home2 Suites by Hilton Barstow and hit the road refreshed in the morning.

Baker, CA

A West Coast road trip to Vegas isn’t complete without a stop in Baker on Interstate 15 heading north from Calico and Barstow. As you approach, you’ll spot Baker’s signature attraction: The World’s Tallest Thermometer.

In summer, this giant sign regularly records temperatures upward of 120-degrees Fahrenheit (about 49 degrees Celsius), hence its existence. This harsh reality is fitting, since Baker considers itself the “Gateway to Death Valley National Park,” the lowest, driest and hottest point in North America. The surreal vistas of Death Valley make for an otherworldly detour if you have time for some National Park exploring.

Also in Baker is Alien Fresh Jerky, a gift shop that sells homemade beef jerky and other snacks and trinkets. The store has a strong alien theme, which is a nod to years of supposed alien sightings in the region. Area 51, the highly classified U.S. Air Force base where some believe alien spaceships are kept, is right around the proverbial corner.

Ivanpah Valley

Continuing northeast from Baker for about 70 miles along a mostly deserted stretch of Interstate15 and across the Nevada state line, you’ll find Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation by renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.

The colorful large-scale artwork is composed of giant, brightly-painted boulders stacked into seven columns that rise 35 feet from the desert floor. The unique exhibit offers great perspective on the vastness of the Mojave Desert and makes for a fun, budget-friendly road trip photo-op.

Las Vegas, NV

From Rondinone’s rock-candy towers, it’s only about 20 miles north along Interstate-15 into Las Vegas for the last leg of your West Coast road trip.

Once you’ve arrived, check out Resorts World Las Vegas (3000 S Las Vegas Blvd), the newest casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip. This property boasts three different Hilton hotels: a Hilton, a Conrad, and a Crockfords. It also has garnered plaudits as one of the best food destinations in town.

No. 1 on the Resorts World foodie list: Crossroads Kitchen, the Strip’s first vegetarian fine-dining restaurant. One of the signature dishes at this innovative eatery is an eggplant “filet” in which eggplant is dried for a day, then soaked for a day in beet juice—so it appears unmistakably as a filet, indeed. After dinner, head to the onsite Eight Lounge for a cigar or a house-made, barrel-aged Boulevardier.

Freelance writer and editor Matt Villano has covered Las Vegas for more than 20 years — he has authored and co-authored 13 guidebooks about the city.

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