While you may have heard plenty of jokes about the traffic nightmare on I-405 over the years, you’re just as likely to have heard about the joys of driving all over and around the city. There’s no shortage of scenic drives to enjoy. When driving around Los Angeles, there are several locations worth visiting for some of the best driving roads in southern California. You may even find yourself wanting to move to LA because the scenery will convince you to stay. Enjoy these 12 popular scenic drives around Los Angeles in both the downtown and the wider LA areas.
Scenic Drives Around Los Angeles in the Heart of Downtown
If you want to spend some time where all the action is, there’s practically no limit to what you can see when driving around downtown. Whether you want to see the Mulholland Drive Hollywood sign overlooking the city or cruise down the Sunset Strip, you can view the city from just about any angle imaginable. Make the most of your next trip with these downtown scenic drives around Los Angeles. And if you choose to make Los Angeles your home, these drives never get old.
Hollywood Boulevard to Vine Street from La Brea Avenue
If you’re familiar with a lot of Hollywood history, you’re likely familiar with many of the destinations along this stretch. It’s a short drive, but there’s no shortage of rich history considering all the locations here. The list includes the Dolby Theatre and the surrounding Hollywood & Highland shopping complex, along with the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and many other iconic structures and scenes. You can pass the TCL Chinese Theatre where the Hollywood Walk of Fame lies, or check out some hotspots for the city’s nightlife. Of course, you’ll be tempted to stop plenty of times on your drive.
- Length of drive: 1 mile (1.61 km)
The best place to get a clear view of the legendary Hollywood sign from the road is on the northwest corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, on the rear patio of the Hollywood & Highland Mall.
Sunset Strip to Doheny Drive from Crescent Heights
Few stretches in America are more eclectic and lively than the Sunset Strip. You don’t have to drive far to see just about everything you could imagine in a city full of vibrant personalities. The route takes you past boutique hotels that offer some of the richest stays, a cowboy saloon, large billboards advertising the latest beauty products and blockbusters, and upscale restaurants. The people wandering the streets are just as interesting, with celebrity sightings aplenty and club-goers lined up to get into their favorite famous (and infamous) venues like the Viper Room and The Roxy.
- Length of drive: 1.5 miles (2.41 km)
Wilshire Boulevard to Pacific Coast Highway from Downtown
Wilshire is the longest stretch to enjoy in this part of LA, with 16 miles going from the downtown area to Santa Monica. Along this route, you’ll see a wide variety of sights showcasing the city’s history. You can enjoy the city’s wide range of architectural styles spanning from the early 20th century through to today, from Art Deco to more contemporary designs. For a transformative trip, start downtown on Wilshire, where skyscrapers will surround you. From there, you’ll head down to the Pacific Coast Highway, where you’ll get a better view of the city’s natural surroundings. On your journey, you’ll be able to see such icons as the La Brea Tar Pits, the Miracle Mile, and the Beverly Hills shopping district.
- Length of drive: 16 miles (26 km)
You’ll be able to witness the beautiful merging of nature and city when driving around Griffith Park. The main entrance is along Vermont Avenue, and from there, you will drive by the Greek Theatre and some homes before you travel through a tunnel in the direction of the Observatory. Once you’ve reached the peak of the hill that offers some great views of the sprawling city below, you’ll head down along Western Canyon Road. That road will take you to the southwest corner of Griffith Park, known as Fern Dell, where you will be surrounded by lush evergreens.
- Length of drive: 3.5 miles (5.63 km)
Inland Scenic Drives Around Los Angeles
Do you want great views of downtown from the outside along with scenes of the surrounding desert and mountains? You can get a glimpse of both city and nature with the following inland drives.
Mulholland Drive to Laurel Canyon Boulevard
Mulholland Drive is one of the most famous streets in Los Angeles for a good reason. You can view many beautiful vistas on scenic drives along this road and retrace the paths of many famous Hollywood chase scenes. If you want to get away from the city’s hustle and bustle for a little while and enjoy a long scenic drive, Mulholland is the road to travel.
You can begin this scenic drive around Los Angeles near the Hollywood Bowl Overlook toward the east and travel up to the San Vicente Mountain Park. Along the way, you’ll be able to see plenty of views of the Valley. Once you reach San Vicente, the road will transition into a dirt path. Another path you can take begins near the Skirball Center Drive right off of I-405. There, you can drive along the Santa Monica Mountains and get some great views of the Hollywood Hills and San Fernando Valley. Whether you want to see elegant, gorgeous homes or multiple generations of commercial architectural innovation that decorates the city, trips in this area make for some of the best scenic drives around Los Angeles.
- Length of drive: 11 miles (ca. 18 km) to 14 miles (ca. 23 km)
- Where to begin the drive: The Hollywood Bowl Overlook
You can pull over in many areas along this drive to get out on foot to take in some breathtaking scenes of the city below.
Palms to Pines
For a journey through the wilderness, the Palms to Pines scenic byway is by far one of the best routes. Along this route, you’ll start with a beautiful scene featuring Palm Desert and travel to the San Bernardino National Forest’s snowy mountain ranges within an hour. Watch as the world around you transforms from a flat landscape of desert palms to a rocky mountainscape of both Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains.
- Length of drive: 56 miles (ca. 90 km)
- Where to begin the drive: Palm Desert
Angeles Crest Highway to Mt. Wilson
Once you get off the freeway, you’ll be able to climb a few thousand feet of highway on the Angeles Crest. As you climb to even greater heights, you’ll pass many areas still healing from the wildfires and encounter several rigid inclines. The sweet spot on this drive will be near the Red Box Picnic Area, where you can enjoy a long five-mile stretch unlike any other as you travel along a wall of evergreens on one side, with an expansive view of the San Gabriel Mountains opposite the trees. You’d be hard-pressed to find another view quite like it anywhere in the city.
- Length of drive: 17 miles (ca. 27 km)
- Where to begin the drive: La Cañada Flintridge
Scenic Drive Through the Arroyo Seco to Linda Vista
You can begin your drive along Linda Vista Avenue close to the Rose Bowl, where a sign initiates a “scenic tour,” but you’ll enjoy an even more worthwhile drive if you start farther west on Chevy Chase Drive. From there, you can travel east through picturesque Glendale until you reach the expanse of the Arroyo Seco.
While driving down Linda Vista, you’ll see plenty of trees and beautiful homes before you make it to the freeway.
- Length of drive: 7 miles (ca. 11 km)
- Where to begin the drive: Rose Bowl Stadium
Instead of ending your drive at the freeway, you can top it off by crossing the freeway and taking a brief journey along the Colorado Street Bridge.
Scenic Drives Around the Los Angeles Coast
Malibu Canyon to Pacific Coast Highway
If you want one of the best scenic drives around Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, you’ll want to head down Las Virgenes Road. You’ll pass both the Malibu Temple and Malibu Creek State Park on this drive on your way to the mountains through Malibu Canyon. Eventually, you’ll make your way to the Pacific Coast Highway, where you can continue your drive along the ocean and see a combination of sea views and mountainscapes.
- Length of drive: 24 miles (ca. 39 km)
Palos Verdes Drive to San Pedro from Palos Verdes Estates
There are few coastal paradises like the scenic drive along the Palos Verdes through southern California. With some incredible views of the coast on the Palos Verdes Peninsula that you might recognize from films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, along with roads that twist and turn through beautiful beaches and vistas, you’ll never want to leave once you get into this area. You may even see some whales reaching the surface of the Pacific from the Point Vicente Lighthouse. You can also take a drive across the Vincent Thomas Bridge, one of the area’s unique features.
- Length of drive: 14 miles (ca. 23 km)
- Where to begin the drive: Palos Verdes Estates
North Sepulveda Boulevard to Manhattan Beach from Redondo Beach
This stretch passes through South Bay, which is located between El Segundo and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. You’ll be able to visit Redondo, Hermosa, or Manhattan beaches when traveling along down Sepulveda Boulevard. If you prefer spending a lot of time on the beach, this is the drive for you — you can visit any of these three locations, where you can enjoy many beach-side restaurants, bars, and piers.
- Length of drive: 4 miles (6.44 km)
- Where to begin the drive: Redondo Beach
Scenic Drive Along Pacific Coast Highway to Zuma Beach from Santa Monica
There is plenty to see during a scenic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway on the coast. You can check out the beaches full of sun-worshipping visitors and locals alike enjoying the ocean and beach activities. You can also see the homes of the rich and famous along Malibu Beach. While the coast gets cool in the evening thanks to the frigid Pacific, it looks beautiful at every time of day. Simply travel from Santa Monica all the way up north as far as you want to go. Then head right back, and you’ll enjoy a simple yet visually varied drive.
- Length of drive: 20 miles (ca. 32 km)
- Where to begin the drive: Santa Monica
Regardless of what you want to see on your trip to LA, the scenic drives around Los Angeles through and on the edge of the city can provide one of the richest driving experiences when visiting the west coast. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re visiting Los Angeles to see the sights or you’re making it your new home. You can also explore the city by shopping at the top Los Angeles farmers markets.
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