Los Angeles is notorious for its traffic jams, but if you know where to go, there are quite a few scenic drives from LA that will let you feel the thrill of the open road. Los Angeles wasn’t made for walking– it was made for driving. Check out this guide to the most beautiful drives in Los Angeles that will take you everywhere from the coast to high-elevation scenery you may not have thought possible in the City of Angels.
Note that the best time to tackle these scenic drives is early in the morning or later in the evening. You want to avoid rush hour and the worst traffic jams around the city.
Mileage: 14 miles
Drive Time: 50 minutes+
Mulholland Drive is one of the most classic stretches of road you’ll find in Los Angeles. It’s been featured in several movies and is still home to some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, like Jack Nicholson. You don’t want to take it too fast. Otherwise, you might miss views of the San Fernando Valley, the Hollywood Sign, and the Los Angeles Basin.
Pick this one up at the Jerome C. Daniel Overlook, the viewpoint for the Hollywood Bowl. You can drive along the mostly 2-lane road until San Vicente Mountain Park, near the intersection with Encino Hills Drive. You’ll encounter a dirt road that signals your stopping point from there.
Palos Verdes Drive
Mileage: 14 miles
Drive Time: 30 minutes
Palos Verdes Drive is one of the best drives in Los Angeles, thanks to the impressive scenery you’ll pass along the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The landscapes here are frequently used as filming sites. For the pirate fans out there, several scenes from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise were filmed here.
If you’re just here for a coastal drive, you’ll get plenty of that as you cruise around Point Vincente and Terranea Beach. Drivers with time for stops won’t want to miss the Point Vincente Lighthouse, a popular whale-spotting destination, and the Wayfarers Chapel, a church designed by the son of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Start your drive where Palos Verdes Drive meets with Palos Verdes Boulevard, just east of Rat Beach and Malaga Canyon. Hug the peninsula as you travel south to the Korean Friendship Bell north of Point Fermin Park. If you’re an early bird, sunrise on the peninsula is a magical sight.
Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu
Mileage: 20 miles
Drive Time: 35-45 minutes
The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is beloved by Southern California natives and visitors for some of the most scenic drives in the country. You’ll hug twists and turns as you travel along the coast and the sparkling water of the Pacific Ocean.
Start your drive in Malibu. Anywhere in Central Malibu works, but if you want beach scenery from start to finish, kick things off from Malibu’s Zuma Beach. This is one of the most popular beaches in Los Angeles County for its vast, sandy shores and ample opportunities for surfing. From there, you’ll pass Malibu Creek State Park on your way to Santa Monica. The Santa Monica Pier is a great scenic stopping point if you’re driving from one beach to another.
If you love the sound of a coastal drive and have more time, start your drive west of Malibu. Fuel up at Neptune’s Net, another 10 miles west of Zuma Beach, for fresh fish of the day.
City Canyon Roads
Drive Time: Varies
Many Los Angeles natives use the city’s canyon roads as shortcuts during their daily commutes. That only makes these roads more unique to the town and a scenic drive Los Angeles is known for that you should consider on your next ride. Here are a few of the best canyon roads that connect with other major thoroughfares around Los Angeles:
- Laurel Canyon Boulevard: Pick up this historic ride at Mulholland Drive. Travel south past iconic sites like The Houdini Estate, an urban oasis that was used by Harry Houdini himself as he practiced his underwater escapes.
- Coldwater Canyon Drive: This one overlaps with Mulholland Drive as it travels about 10 miles through exclusive neighborhoods like Beverly Hills. Travel Coldwater Canyon early in the morning to avoid drivers with the same idea.
- Las Flores Canyon Road: A twisty road takes you on a steep ascent of about 2,000 feet from the PCH at Duke’s Malibu. Be mindful of other drivers doing the same, some at high speeds in customized cars. This is a famous drive for the local tuner culture.
Angeles Crest Scenic Byway: La Cañada to Wrightwood
Mileage: 55 miles
Drive Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
The Angeles Crest Scenic Byway, or Route 2, is a famous scenic drive for motorists and bikers, thanks to its many overlooks. Wind your way through the San Gabriel Mountains, several ski areas, and the Pomona Valley before finishing up your drive near Wrightwood. If you want to make a day out of it, the byway is known as a jumping-off point for many popular Los Angeles trails, like the hike to Switzer Falls.
Start your trip in La Cañada Flintridge, known more simply as La Cañada. The entire 55 miles take you into San Bernardino County. The county sits at an elevation of 6,000 feet, so expect quite a few panoramas on this one.
Angeles Crest Scenic Byway: La Cañada to Mt. Wilson
Mileage: 22 miles
Drive Time: 45 minutes
If you want an alternative to the entire Angeles Crest Scenic Byway, make a right at Mt. Wilson Red Box Road about 17 miles into your trip from La Cañada. You’ll be about 5 miles away from Mt. Wilson and the Mt. Wilson Observatory. If you’re driving with a group, the Cosmic Cafe at the viewing station is a great place to rest and catch up before the drive back into the city.
Remember that Mt. Wilson Red Box Road is most accessible in summer. You’re driving up into elevation here, and things can shut down due to snow in the winter months.
Hit the Road With Fast Lane Drive
Auto club enthusiasts join Fast Lane Drive for more than scenic drives and fast cars. Our Los Angeles car club is a growing chapter that combines a passion for cars with networking opportunities and philanthropy. Get on the waitlist at Fast Lane Drive if you’re interested in a car club that commits to giving back. We promise you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to feel the thrill of the open road with other members.