August 17, 2022

5 one-tank road trips from Los Angeles, California

Between high gas prices, limited vacation days, and chaotic air travel, taking a local road trip is more appealing than ever this summer. These five destinations are all within 300 miles (round-trip) of Los Angeles, travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California, making them ideal for quick getaways. Spend less time at the pump and more time enjoying the road. 

If you’re in an electric vehicle, we’ve noted whether you can expect to find chargers along each route as well. 


1. Joshua Tree, travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California

Total mileage: 280 miles

Located about 2 hours east of Los Angeles, the high desert town of Joshua Tree is home to vintage boutiques, cozy cafes, roadside attractions, and a national park. The park straddles two main ecosystems—the Mojave and the Colorado deserts—and is a popular destination for climbers due to its world-famous boulders. Stay overnight for amazing stargazing.  

Don’t miss: Spend a day hiking or climbing in Joshua Tree National Park. Pick up some souvenirs and check out the Muffler Man at The Station, enjoy eccentric art at the tiny World Famous Crochet Museum or the sprawling Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum, and stroll through Pioneertown’s Mane Street, originally built as an Old West movie set. End the day with a meal, a drink, and live music at Pappy & Harriet’s.  

Stay: Book a vintage trailer at the fun and funky Hicksville Trailer Palace or camp under the stars at Indian Cove Campground.

Charge: A handful of public charging stations are available in the Joshua Tree area. Palm Springs, which is a 30-mile drive away, has a lot more options.


2. Solvang, travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California

Total mileage: 260 miles

Take a trip north along Pacific Coast Highway to the historic Danish village of Solvang. Located at the foot of the Santa Ynez Mountains, in the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country, Solvang is a quaint tourist destination for those looking for a taste of Scandinavia. Here you’ll find Danish architecture, pastries, trinkets, and multiple windmills scattered throughout town.  

Don’t miss: Learn about Danish history and culture at the Elverhøj Museum and Hans Christian Andersen Museum, or admire the two-wheeled collection at the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum. Stroll through Solvang Village and pick up a souvenir at Rasmussen’s Gifts or a Danish pastry at Mortensen’s Danish Bakery. Round out your visit with a wine or olive oil tasting at one of the area’s many wineries.

Stay: Book one of 12 rooms at the European-style Mirabelle Inn or spend the night camping or glamping in the scenic Cachuma Lake Recreation Area just outside of town. 

Charge: Public charging stations, and especially fast chargers, are limited in Solvang, so EV drivers should plan accordingly.


3. Borrego Springs, travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California

Total mileage: 300 miles

This small desert town is a lesser-known—and less crowded—alternative to nearby Palm Springs. Driving into Borrego Springs is an experience in itself: With its narrow switchbacks and steep drop-offs, Montezuma Valley Road is not for the faint of heart. However, the breathtaking view of the desert floor below more than makes up for the white-knuckle drive.      

Borrego Springs is surrounded by the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California. During the summer months, it’s not uncommon for temperatures here to reach well over 100 degrees, so late fall to early spring is generally the best time to visit. But no matter when you go, bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Don’t miss: Explore Anza-Borrego’s 500 miles of dirt roads and 110 miles of hiking trails, including the short but scenic Slot Canyon. Take a mini road trip through town to see the 130 large metal sculptures that make up Galleta Meadows. Grab food at Kesling’s Kitchen and then head across the street to catch a live band or karaoke at Carlee’s Place.

Stay: Book a room or RV site at the Wild West-themed Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort, or boondock in one of the state park’s many dispersed camping areas.

Charge: Charging stations in this area are very limited. Do your research and plan ahead.


4. Pauma Valley, travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California

Total mileage: 220 miles

Located in the foothills of Palomar Mountain, in the northeastern corner of San Diego County, Pauma Valley is the home of multiple Native American tribes, including four bands of Luiseño Indians: Pala, Pauma, La Jolla, and Rincon. The area features casinos, wineries, outdoor recreation opportunities, and more.   

In 2016, the Rincon Tribe, which owns Harrah’s Resort Southern travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California, partnered with a local advertising agency to rename the 40-acre casino property to Funner, travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California. The new city—which is all about having fun—even named David Hasselhoff as its inaugural mayor. As of May 2022, Funner’s current mayor is actor and comedian Jane Lynch. 

Don’t miss: Drive to the top of Palomar Mountain to take in the views, hike or fish in Palomar Mountain State Park, and grab lunch at Mother’s Kitchen. Float down the lazy river, play the slot machines, or sip a beer from the tribal-owned on-site brewery at Harrah’s. If you’re traveling with kids, head south to Bates Nut Farm to feed the Farm Zoo animals.  

Stay: There are plenty of casino hotels in the area, including Harrah’s, Valley View, and Pala. Camp on top of Palomar Mountain or at Woods Valley Kampground & RV Park.

Charge: Charging stations are available at the area’s casinos and in nearby Escondido. 


5. Big Bear Lake, travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California

Total mileage: 200 miles

In the winter, Big Bear Lake, located just 2 hours east of Los Angeles, is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders. In the summer, the ski resorts transform into mountain playgrounds for hikers, bikers, golfers, and thrill-seeking families. At an elevation of 6,000 feet, the area offers a welcome respite from the city heat. 

Don’t miss: Get outside and enjoy hiking, mountain biking, ziplining, and other activities at Snow Summit, or ride the Mineshaft Coaster at Magic Mountain, then cool off with a swim in Big Bear Lake. Peruse the shops in The Village, grab some excellent Nepalese food at the Himalayan Restaurant, and taste locally brewed beers at Big Bear Lake Brewing Company.     

Stay: Stay in a haunted manor or renaissance-themed room at Castle Wood Cottages, or camp lakeside at Holloway’s Marina & RV Park

Charge: There are a few public charging stations in town, but don’t expect to find many DC fast chargers.

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