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The Best Day Trips from Los Angeles

by Keith langston

LA’s size and global recognition make it one of the most unique and dynamic cities to live in. But even Angelinos need an escape now and then…

Photo: CanadaStock

Los Angeles. The City of Stars. Tinseltown. The Southland. The city is a gorgeous and striking combination of skyscrapers, palm trees, titanic freeways, and endless urban development. LA’s size and global recognition make it one of the most unique and dynamic cities to live in. But even Angelinos need an escape now and then… even if it’s just for a day. Here are the five best day trips from Los Angeles to help you unwind, relax, and get back to nature.



Big Bear Lake (Photo: Jack Armstrong)

Located east of LA in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear is the perfect mountain escape. During the winter, the region provides excellent skiing at Big Bear Mountain, or cross country skiing throughout the mountain range’s various paths. During the summer months, visitors take to Big Bear Lake for swimming, boating, and paddling, and the nearby ski resorts offer mountain biking and hiking. Best of all, while the area does have lodges and hotels, it also hosts a wide array of vacation and cabin rentals, making it the perfect getaway for anyone looking to social distance.



Catalina Island (Photo: Chris Grant)

Like most things in California, Catalina Island is an oddity you can’t find anywhere else. Located about 30 miles offshore from LA, Catalina Island is known for its casino and ritzy harbor. But the island also offers some excellent hiking, which will give you the opportunity to see a wild herd of bison. Yep. In 1924, 14 bison were brought to Catalina for the filming of The Vanishing American. The crew didn’t have the money to transport the bison back to the mainland, so they left them on the island to die. Little did they know the island proved to be the perfect habitat, and there’s now a herd of 150 majestic animals. Only in California…



Malibu, CA (Photo: dualpics)

While it may be close to the city (Just 30 miles west of DTLA and a short drive from Santa Monica), Malibu feels like a world all on its own. Take your pick between gorgeous cinematic beaches (quite literally, Malibu is where many of Hollywood’s beach scenes are filmed) like Zuma or the Malibu Surf Reserve. Or, head to the hills.

Many don’t know this, but Malibu is loaded with untamed, natural cliffs and mountains that overlook the Pacific Ocean, with Malibu Creek State Park being one of the most popular. Or, to blend a bit of luxury with the outdoors, make a visit to one of Malibu’s vineyards, like Saddlerock Ranch. You can embark on a “wine hike” where you sip on local wines while traversing through the grape-lined hills.



Carrizo Plain National Monument (Photo: Kenneth Rush)

Located north of LA, as you make your way towards California’s Central Valley, you’ll find Carrizo Plain. It’s been designated a National Monument because it’s the largest remaining native grassland left in California. The region is famous for its springtime wildflower superblooms, which transforms the rolling hills into dazzling yellows, purples, whites, and orange. Contrasted by the brilliant blue sky, it feels totally unreal. You can imagine why early frontiersmen thought Califonia was a heaven on Earth.

Aside from the wildflowers, there’s also Painted Rock, an ancient sandstone rock formation that has pictographs painted by the Chumash people dating back to around 2,000 BC.



Pacific Coast Highway (Photo: Taras Vyshnya)

Sometimes, the best day trip is just a good ol’ fashioned drive. And California’s State Route 1 (The Pacific Coast Highway) is easily one of America’s most popular road trip destinations. The highway runs next to the Pacific Ocean, snaking around beaches, cliffs, cities, and rolling hills, all the way from San Diego in Southern California to Mendocino County in the state’s North Coast. The drive will take you past Malibu, Santa Barbara, Big Sur, the Redwoods, and more. The road has pull-off points throughout, and passes tons of public beaches, state parks, small towns, and rest areas. The only limitation depends on how far you want to go.


Here are some other articles that are sure to make you want to hit the road:

Los Angeles to San Francisco

California Road Trip: Los Angeles To San Francisco


San Francisco to the Oregon Border

California Road Trip: From San Francisco to the Oregon Border


The Ultimate USA Road Trip

The Ultimate USA Road Trip Route 66

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