Best Summer Road Trips From Los Angeles In 2017
As your time abroad is coming to an end, there is one thing you still have to look forward to before returning home: summer! A time where essays and exams are a thing of the past and the only thing you have to worry about is not burning in the California sunshine, which, admittedly, for me, is an issue all year round.
Whilst most people will be bumming it at the beach or partying with their friends, which is still pretty great, why not make the most of your lack of responsibility and explore! And there’s no better way to explore than going on a summer road trip. Better yet, for those of you lucky enough to be in Los Angeles (LA), your options are endless!
Regardless of whether you’re a metropolitan millennial or more of a nature-loving nemophile, there is something for everyone, and it’s all right at your fingertips. So, if you want to make your summer this study abroad semester memorable, grab a bag, hop in the car and hit the road! Here is our list of the best summer road trips from Los Angeles.
Road Trip Option 1: Grand Canyon And Sedona.
If you’re looking to have a ‘grand’-spanking good time this summer then where better to visit than Arizona?! A desert dream perfect for hiking and escaping the chaos (and traffic) of LA life. Trade hours of sitting on the 405, for hours hiking the desert trails and remember how it feels to breathe in fresh, unpolluted air.
I took a road trip over spring break with a group of friends and had an incredible time. The eight-hour drive through the stunning Nevada desert makes for plenty of great photo ops along the way, including plenty of chances to snap a pic along historic Route 66.
We decided to stay in Flagstaff, AZ, as it was a one-hour drive from Sedona and a 90-minute drive from the Grand Canyon, which made for a perfect base. We stayed in a lovely Airbnb which had access to a country club pool and hot tub and even had guide books recommending restaurants, activities, and tips to make the most of our stay.
Once we arrived in Flagstaff in the early evening, we decided to venture into the town center of Flagstaff for a spot of dinner.
The following day we got up and left to explore Sedona, where we completed two hikes; the first along the Broken Arrow trail and the second to see Cathedral Rock. If you don’t fancy working up a sweat, there is an option to take a pink jeep tour, however this does come at a price (from around $59.00 for 90 minutes).
After spending most of the day hiking, we decided to explore the town center. A walk along Main Street offers a timely, eclectic experience and you could easily spend an hour or two browsing the variety of stores and restaurants.
We then proceeded to go for dinner at the restaurant in the Armara Resort and Spa. While the food was overpriced and we did experience some rain, being able to sit by a fire and watch the sun set over the radiant red mountains made it worthwhile. After snapping a few pictures and stopping for more food because we were still hungry, we climbed back in the car, bid a fond farewell to Sedona, and made our way back to Flagstaff to rest up before another busy, but brilliant, day.
After some much-needed sleep we awoke the next morning, made some breakfast, and hit the road once again. After 90-minutes of driving we arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
In order to enter each vehicle must purchase a parking pass which is $25.00; however, once purchased it is valid for seven days. Finding a parking spot is difficult, although there are multiple parking lots so you should be able to find one with a little perseverance.
Once at the Grand Canyon, I would recommend making a stop at the visitor’s center as you can find out about the best trails and plan your visit according to how much time you have to spend there. You can also pick up brochures which have suggested plans for both half- and full-day visits.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon at just after midday, so we followed the half-day plan. We walked around the edge of the rim before hiking into the canyon on the South Kaibab trail until we got to Ooh Aah Point (yes, that’s genuinely what it’s called and when you see the view you’ll see why!)
The hike took around two hours and offered stunning views on the way down as well as beautiful panoramic views of the canyon. There are water stations at the top of the trail where you can fill your bottles with fresh spring water from the canyon, and there is also a free hop on/hop off shuttle which goes around the rim and stops at the beginning of the trails.
Once we finished hiking we managed to grab a snack at a nearby canteen. We then managed to make it back to the rim (barely!) in time to watch the sun set behind the mountains, perfectly concluding our day at the Grand Canyon.
Our final day was spent soaking in the country club hot tub before packing our bags and heading back to LA. I went on this trip with five friends from my dance team, some of whom I hadn’t had chance to get as close to as before. In the short time we were away we all became closer and got to know each other more and we all had a wonderful time. And all the while we got to see some absolutely amazing places!
I would recommend planning 4-5 days for this trip, depending on how much you want to do. This trip will cost you around $300 to $350 for the entire trip, including gas. I can guarantee if you decide to embark on an Arizona road trip that it will be GRAND!
Road Trip Option 2: San Francisco.
If the idea of hiking in the wilderness where cell service suffers and you’re susceptible to bug bites and getting dirty, a city break may be more up your street. If splendid scenery, colorful cuisine, and delightful diversity sounds appealing, then San Francisco is a must.
Whilst I am yet to make it out to San Francisco this year, it’s something I plan on doing this summer, so I’ll offer some suggestions as to what I would do whilst visiting in the hopes it could help give you some ideas of your own!
The drive from LA to San Francisco is around six hours long. When I go, I plan to drive to Big Sur on the way, which takes about six hours from LA. I’ll then spend an hour or so there and finish up by driving the remaining three-and-a-half hours to San Francisco.
It may seem strange to want to drive an extra three-and-a-half hours; however, it would mean checking another place off my bucket list and so I feel that the extra effort would be worthwhile. And with views like this, you can’t blame me!
After researching accommodation in San Fransisco, it seems that there is very little financial difference between hotels and Airbnb’s. However, it seems hotels are generally more centrally located, so it would seem more convenient to stay in a hotel.
Hotels, whilst they are on the pricey side, can be found in San Francisco for as cheap as $130 per night. If that cost is split up amongst friends, the price can be quite cheap – especially if you’re only staying for one or two nights. Some hotels that stood out to me are the Hotel Zephyr, the Grand Hyatt San Fransisco, and Pier 2620 Hotel, all of which are under $200 per night and have free WiFi (obviously a priority for Instagram updates).
When in San Francisco there is so much to see and do, it can seem difficult to narrow it down! Of course, an absolute must see is the Golden Gate Bridge. The one-mile long iconic red bridge is magnificent and is regarded as the number one sight to see in San Fransisco. Some of the best places to snap a picture of the bridge would include Battery Spencer, Fort Point, and Baker Beach.
In addition, some of the top local attractions include Union Square, Lombard Street and Pier 39. And don’t forget to take a ride on the iconic cable cars that run throughout the city! And if you have a little extra time, you might even be able to take a short ferry ride across to Alcatraz.
If you decide to take a road trip to San Fransisco, I would recommend around three days minimum to make sure you have enough time to see as much of the city as possible. A three-day trip will cost you between $360 to $400, but this price can be lowered if you share expenses with friends.
San Francisco is the perfect place to go if you’re looking to get some great summer snaps and explore another vibrant, exciting city in California. So, what’s stopping you? Get planning and go!
Road Trip Option 3: Big Bear.
For those of you looking for a total escape from civilization, just a short two-hour drive from LA is Big Bear Lake. The drive is absolutely beautiful, especially as you begin to ascend the mountains surround LA. Plus, the fresh forest air and total tranquility will have you forgetting about city life in no time!
I would advise leaving LA around 10am to avoid the morning traffic. This will get you to Big Bear around noon; however, you may get there later if you do what I did which was stop every two minutes to take photos! The earlier you leave, the earlier you’ll get there, which means you’ll have plenty of time to explore and enjoy the rest of your day.
After arriving we unpacked the cars and checked out our cabin. There are some hotels and resorts near Big Bear Lake, but if you want a true mountain experience I would recommend staying in a cabin if possible. Cabins can be rented through Airbnb from as cheap as $69 per night.
After spending a few hours relaxing after the drive and we decided to explore and go on a hike. There are some amazing trails varying in distance and intensity to choose from. We spent around two hours on a hike and then went back to the house for a night of TV, board games and, of course, dinner.
The following day we woke up and cooked breakfast and then went into Big Bear village. The village is full of shops, cafes, and a movie theater and it’s a great place to grab lunch and maybe a souvenir. We browsed the boutiques whilst munching on an English toffee-covered apple, before catching a movie at the cinema. Afterwards, it was around 4pm, so we decided it would be best to head home before it got too late.
On the way home we stopped for (of course) more pictures and reluctantly made our way back into the hustle and bustle of the city. A weekend wilderness escape is sometimes just what the doctor ordered, and if you want a low budget but incredibly enjoyable mini break, then Big Bear is the perfect place to go!