Last Updated August, 2020
If you are planning a Los Angeles to Palm Springs drive and wondering if there is anything to see along the way, here is my post for you! We have been asking just the same exact question when we lived in LA (curious to know why we left?) and visited Palm Springs on multiple occasions.
So I put this list together to provide you with suggestions for how to have a fantastic road trip between these two wonderful cities in Southern California. The ideas you’ll find below will suit all types of travelers. From lesser-known museums and nature trails to one of its kind temples and preserves, my post has it all! See below.
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Planning a Los Angeles to Palm Springs Road Trip
The drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs is pretty quick and easy since you can take one of many highways that crosses the city. While most people drive straight without making any stops, I encourage you to take a detour and check out a few places. They are all within the city or county limits, have parking, restrooms, and various food establishments nearby.
Depending on the road where exactly you are driving, it may take more time to get from one point of interest to another. But if you feel like one place is more out of the way, then exit only there where you feel like it.
See my list below with all the suggestions and find out what interests you more and what you’d like to skip.
If planning to rent a car for this road trip, you’ll find a number of options on RentalCars. For the US market, it aggregates the best deals across all major car hire companies, offers a lot of perks, and has great customer service.
TIP: Looking for more ideas for Southern California travel? Check my guide to weekend trips from Los Angeles.
How Far Is Los Angeles From Palm Springs?
The distance between Palm Springs and Los Angeles, if taking downtown as a departure point, is around 110 miles (177 km.) So, if you decide to drive straight without making any stops, you can easily cover LA to Palm Springs driving distance in about 2 hours, if there is no traffic of course.
Out of all 10 times, we have been to Palm Desert, only once we spent that much time on driving, coming from Woodland Hills. And it was because we left the house before 8 am on a weekend. All other times, the average drive time was always between 3-4 hours.
Thus, the distance from Los Angeles to Palm Springs or back is a secondary factor. Always take into consideration the time frame when you plan to drive as the traffic can make the distance look much longer.
However, even with a short period of driving time, I recommend to take it slower. There are a few pretty interesting places between these two destinations to stop at and see. Especially if you are visiting LA from out of state (or from another country,) these ideas will definitely introduce Los Angeles to you in a unique way.
So below, I am including some of the best stops on a drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs that we personally visited and thought they were awesome.
Best Los Angeles to Palm Springs Drive Stops to Make
Obviously, you will be starting your LA to Palm Springs road trip in Los Angeles. The second-largest city in the US is home to zillion activities and attractions, so you’d definitely want to spend at least a couple of days there. During our 3.5 years in LA, we haven’t even seen everything that’s in this metropolitan area and there is so much!
I know, Los Angeles definitely deserves a separate guide with a long list of things to do.
But if I had to recommend only a few activities, based on all those years I spent in this city, I’d definitely highlight a visit to the Griffith Observatory and hike to the Hollywood sign, super-duper melt-in-your-mouth delish Sidecar donuts, Skyspace for its glass slide and impressive views, Echo Park, and Point Dume point with incredible coastal views in Malibu. And if you have time, don’t skip downtown LA with many quirky things to do.
If you have more than a few days, go on a fascinating tour to Universal Studios and check out their park (we purchased a yearly pass and had visited dozens of times and every time it was so much fun!).
Do some world-class shopping on fancy Rodeo Drive, stroll down lively streets of Santa Monica, enjoy the water, wind, and sand at the Venice beach, visit one of the cool museums, watch the sunset from the Palisades Park, or simply hike in Santa Monica mountains.
The Richard Nixon Library & Museum
The first stop that I recommend you to make after you leave Los Angeles is President Richard Nixon Library and Museum. It is located in the Southeastern part of Los Angeles which is slightly off the road if you are driving from the North or Northwest of the city. Yet, it is an incredibly interesting presidential library for both adults and kids.
If you have never heard of Presidential Libraries, it is a system of a nationwide network of 13 Libraries, scattered across the United States and being part of the National Archives and Records Administration. The libraries serve as repositories for records, collections, historical materials for every president starting from Herbert Hoover. These libraries also serve as museum exhibitions and events venues.
The Richard Nixon Library is located in Yorba Linda of the Orange Country. Depending on where in Los Angeles you stay, this might be a small detour going towards Palm Springs. But this is definitely a worthy stop to make.
The library gives a great opportunity to look into President Nixon’s life from his birth throughout his presidency and life after that. There, you can visit the oval office, learn about his achievements, daily life, Watergate scandal, and even visit his grave. Yes, this is where he was actually buried.
Off the topic, but if you are interested in this kind of place, there are actually two presidential Libraries in California. The second one is Ronald Reagen’s Library located in a very beautiful location in Simi Valley. If you haven’t been there already, this could make an excellent day trip from LA!
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandhir Hindu Temple
From the Richard Nixon library, get back on the road and drive for about half an hour via CA-142E before you reach an amazing and very detailed Hindu temple BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandhir.
In fact, this temple is one of 6 major temples of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha organization in North America, and stopping here on the way to Palm Springs can really broaden your horizon.
The temple has a very unique architecture, style, and atmosphere. Awe-inspiring and serene grounds are full of tradition and make you feel you are in a totally sacred place. At times, it is even hard to believe you are in California at all.
Even if you are not a religious person, it is worth a visit here to look at the magnificent design, both outside and inside, learn about Hindu, go on a self-guided tour, and join the ceremony if you like. We did once, and it was a very peaceful, relaxing, and deep experience.
Also, there is an Indian cafe which serves vegetarian food and shop where you can get snacks and spiritual artifacts. The cafe though is open only until 6:30 pm and is closed on Tuesdays.
California Citrus State Historic Park
The next stop on this Los Angeles to Palm Springs drive is a very unique family-friendly park-museum and that is a California Citrus State Historic Park. Located off Highway 91 in Riverside, it’s only 21 miles (34 km) away from the temple mentioned above and 27 miles (43 km) from the Richard Nixon library.
A California Citrus state historic park is one of a kind, a unique place where you can learn the history of the citrus and try samples of the various oranges and lemons that grow there. You can also go on a one hour tour dedicated to the history of California’s great citrus boom of the 20th century. Tours start at 11 am and 2 pm.
The park also has nice trails, picnic areas, and bathrooms, all well maintained. Additionally, it features the museum with the exhibitions of citrus and different people who help the citrus industry thrive. Overall, you could easily spend half a day here but it’s also good enough to pop in for an hour to walk on the plantation and try oranges.
Please note: museum admission is free but you have to pay $5 for the parking.
Historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
From the California Citrus State historic park, get back on Highway 91 and drive for about 10-15 minutes before reaching Riverside. There, in downtown, you’ll find a Spanish mission-style hotel which is a historic landmark considered to be the largest Gothic Revival Style building in the US.
This is a great hotel overall, offering nice and comfortable rooms, fantastic SPA, and fine dining. But you don’t need to necessarily spend a night there in order to enjoy the property and amenities of the hotel.
There is plenty of space to walk around and contemplate this piece of art. You can visit its magnificent hallways, go up the balconies, and sit in a garden. Spend some time in the lobby area with a cup of coffee and a dessert while listening to old classic music. Also, check out their inner courtyard restaurant with great food and service.
Side Note: This hotel is pretty famous for its Christmas decorations. If you ever get a chance, visit during that time as well!
UC Riverside Botanic Gardens
Another stop from Los Angeles to Palm Springs is also located in close proximity and take you less than 15 minutes to drive there. This beautiful botanical garden is located on the outskirts of Riverside as part of the University of California. However, anyone can visit, not only students.
Some people refer to the gardens as a hidden gem of Riverside and a hidden gem in Los Angeles. The gardens offer an incredible assortment of plants from around the world, plus hiking trails on the hillside with great views from the top. It’s a fantastic place to detach for an hour or so and relax emotionally.
According to the park’s administration, there are always some flowers blooming throughout the year. So no matter when you come, you can always expect florets and blossoms around. Just check their page on what’s currently blooming.
The botanical garden is well-kept and is free! You only pay for parking – $2 or $3 per hour.
Oak Glen Preserve
The next stop is worth making only if you are not in a hurry to get to Palm Springs. Oak Glen Preserve is 2000 acres of land with stunning panoramas, lush flora and fauna, hiking trails, orchards, farms, and gardens.
Situated in the San Bernardino mountains at the elevation of 4734 feet, this area promises lower temperatures year-round. If driving here on a hot summer day, it’s a fantastic place to cool down.
The best things to do in Oak Glen are a visit to a Botanic Garden, go on a famous nature trail through the Preserve, pay a visit to the largest historic apple ranch Los Rios Rancho, pop into one of many cool gift shops that sell apple cider and other unique apple-based products. You can read more about what to do in Oak Glen in my other guide about weekend trips from LA.
The place is especially popular in the fall during the apple season and in the spring.
Morongo Casino Resort & SPA
Tired of botanical gardens and nature trails? Here is a different kind of attraction not far from our final destination Palm Springs. It can be a cool, refreshing stop for a few hours for people who love gambling or just want to spend time on a beautiful property.
Morongo Casino Resort is a 4-star casino-hotel with 150,000 square ft territory with all the common machines, slots, and types of games that a respectable casino would have. It’s fascinating to make a quick stop here to stroll around, share good laughs, and play a couple of games.
Non-gamblers will definitely enjoy a drink from a bar, a visit to the spa, a delish meal in 1 of 8 restaurants, or swim in a large Oasis Pool. For the pool though, you need to stay overnight. Check the hotel’s availability and rates, if it interests you.
The Biggest Dinosaurs in the World – Cabazon Dinosaurs
In 5 minutes from Morongo Casino Resort, you can reach another destination before finishing up your LA-Palm Springs road trip.
Cabazon Dinosaurs land is a great roadside attraction not far from Palm Springs. And it will make every dinosaur lover happy. I guess someone can say that it’s a fun place for children (and their parents) only but on one of the visits my mom was genuinely enjoying it too as much as we did.
Being right off the freeway makes it easy to stop here quickly and continue your drive. With many different types of dinosaurs at their height, you can climb up inside the two biggest dinosaur statues, see dino digs, fossils, go inside the T-Rex’s head, and walk inside the park with many trails.
Treat yourself to a dino ice cream, visit a nice gift shop inside the brontosaurus which sells robotic dinosaurs, and has tons of visual effects. Also, get your camera ready. With so many spots for photos, this park is the right place for Instagrammers.
Side note: The trails they have are all outdoors, keep that in mind when visiting during the hot season. Have a hat, sunblock, and water with you.
See details, admission, and schedule on the park’s website.
From Cabazon Dinosaurs, get back on I-10 East and spend another 20 minutes on finally reaching Palm Springs. This city is known not only for spas, golf, upscale restaurants, and entertainment. There are also many outdoor events, natural sights, and a few cool scenic roads to drive.
We have personally always chosen Palm Springs as a base from where it was easy enough to reach Joshua Tree National Park and Mt San Jacinto state park. But many people come just to be able to relax in one of the resorts, shop, visit museums, and explore the natural beauty of the oasis.
Those who love hiking will be surprised to find many free trails in Greater Palm Springs and Desert Mountains. If you love museums and history, check out the Museum of Palm Desert or Art Museum.
For a change of scenery and temperature, take the world’s largest rotating tramcar – Palm Springs Tramway. On it, you’ll get to the 8516 feet elevation where you can do more hiking, dine at the Peak restaurant with a panoramic view of the Coachella Valley, go on a guided nature walk, or camp. If visiting in winter, this is the place to ski.
Also, don’t forget to drive or walk the Palm Canyon Road in downtown Palm Springs, famous for galleries, shops, and restaurants.
No matter how you decide to spend your time, Palm Springs is definitely more than just a hotel city. There are many things to do that can keep you busy for days, if not weeks.
Where to Stay on the Los Angeles to Palm Springs Drive?
The road trip from LA to Palm Springs can be easily done during one day. The distance is short and you can really see all sights from this list in one day if leaving Los Angeles early and arriving in Palm Springs late at night. And most likely, you have already prepared your Palm Springs itinerary, answering the question of where to stay there.
If not, I’d love to share a few of our favorite types of accommodation. This is where we stayed or considered staying.
But besides traditional hotel stays, some Airbnbs in Palm Springs go beyond any expectations. There are countless properties available from private rooms to entire homes. But some of them, like this charming stardust oasis guest house or this dome house with 360 degrees views of the desert, are simply perfect for a desert getaway.
Cool Palm Springs hotels for all budgets
MOVIE COLONY HOTEL – a very interesting boutique hotel for budget travelers. With the price less than $100 per night for rooms with all amenities, an indoor pool, free parking, courtyard with fireplace and mountain views, this is a great deal! The only note, this is an adult-only property. Check here their availability.
STAYBRIDGE SUITES – a mid-range hotel in Cathedral City on the eastern side of Palm Springs international airport. This property is somewhat hidden but feels like hideaway heaven. With clean and nice rooms with kitchenettes, a lovely pool, restaurant and bar, outstanding mountain views on all sides, and all the amenities that you may need for a stay, you will enjoy this hotel for sure! Also, all rooms here have unique rustic decor and some come with full kitchens. Click here to see their rates and availability.
KORAKIA PENSIONE – an absolutely unique hotel built in a Mediterranean style. It is great for romantic getaways and special occasions. Outside the room, you’ll find here two outdoor pools, spa services, bikes for rent, yoga classes, courtyard with fire pits, and green landscape. Click here to see their availability.
JW MARRIOTT DESERT SPRINGS – I know, Marriott hotels are pretty popular everywhere and there is no need to give them extra advertisement. But I really wanted to recommend this particular property where we have been twice and enjoyed our stay to the fullest.
JW has spacious clean rooms, gorgeous well maintained property with 3 pools, its own lake, water canals inside the hotel where you can ride in a boat, a few restaurants with delicious food, and lounge. You can be staying only here during all your Palm Springs vacation, without leaving the hotel and having so much to do! Click here to check their excellent reviews and availability.
As you can see, a drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs can be turned into a mini road trip. Instead of driving straight for a few hours, why not to have a day full of adventure! With quite a few incredible activities that different types of travelers will appreciate, this is a trip not to miss!
If you are an international traveler who is visiting the US, don’t forget to take care of your travel insurance. We personally like SafetyWing and use them for many trips – get a quote from there here.
Are you planning a road trip from Los Angeles to Palm Springs? Which stops would you make and what would you skip? Have you been driving this stretch of the road before? Anything else you’d add to this list? Share in comments!
Do you plan any other trips along the West Coast of America? See my other posts that might come in handy: