On a recent trip to California we decided to make the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to see the strip. This is one of the most traveled routes in the world. Most of the people who drive the route (takes about 4.5 hours) think there is nothing to see on the way. The reality is that there are all kinds of interesting things to do on the Los Angeles to Las Vegas drive. You just have to be willing to veer slightly off the highway.
Here are my top things to do on the Los Angeles to Las Vegas drive.
Visit Part of the Historic Route 66
Get off near D Street in Victorville and take old Route 66 from Victorville to Barstow. On this drive, you can visit the Route 66 Museum in Victorville, get famous eats at the Hollandburger, and see the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Ranch.
The Desert Discovery Center and the Old Woman Meteorite
The Desert Discovery Center is a public-run community education center located in Barstow, California. The center is staffed by the Bureau of Land Management and focuses on promoting awareness of desert life to local residents. The Desert Discovery Center also houses the “Old Woman Meteorite”, the second largest meteorite found in the United States. The meteorite weighed 6,070 pounds when discovered in 1975.
Mojave Narrows Regional Park
Located alongside an old riverbed in the high desert south of Victorville, Mojave Narrows offers lush plant growth, acres of waterways, impressive strands of cottonwood and willows and broad meadows all naturally landscaped by nature. The park is home to more than 1,500 species of watchable wildlife. In addition there is year-round hiking trails, disc golf course, equestrian trails, a playground, fishing, climbing rocks, and kids splash pad. For people wanting to stop and camp on the way to Las Vegas, there are tent campsites along the shores of both Horseshoe Lake and Pelican Lake. There are also RV sites with full hook-ups located near Horseshoe Lake.
Eddie World is a great place to stop if you need a pit stop on the way to Vegas. This is not your normal gas station. They have all kinds of great food, sushi, fresh pizza, aisles of candy and a huge selection of soft drinks and all kinds of beverages. Also available are ice cream bars, Peet’s coffee, clean restrooms, and reasonable gas. The Laker’s floor on the wall, and amazing mosaics are additional highlights.
Calico Ghost Town
Calico is a ghost town and former mining town in San Bernardino County. Located in the Calico Mountains of the Mojave Desert region, it was founded in 1881 as a silver mining town. Today it has been converted into a county park named Calico Ghost Town. Just off Interstate 15, it lies 3 miles (4.8 km) from Barstow and three miles from Yermo. Giant letters spelling CALICO can be seen on the Calico Peaks behind the ghost town from the freeway.
Mojave National Preserve
If you are up for a longer stop along the route, the Mojave National Preserve is a must see. You can start your visit at the excellent visitor center. Pick up maps and information, then explore the Preserve’s highlights. The most popular sunset and sunrise spot is the nearby Kelso Dunes, the second largest dune system in California. These dunes cover 45 square miles and soar to more than 600 feet. In spring, desert wildflowers decorate the sands with color. Climb the highest dunes and you’ll be rewarded with a desert panorama. Another popular hike is the three mile round-trip trek to the summit of 5,775-foot Teutonia Peak. This is the highest point on Cima Dome, an almost perfectly symmetrical formation covered by the world’s largest concentration of Joshua trees. Take plenty of water, and avoid the hottest part of the day.
If you’ve ever driven the I-15 to Las Vegas you’ve probably noticed the monolithic thermometer standing tall over Baker, California. You may have even stopped in Baker to refuel, grab a bite to eat, or snap a picture or two of the towering attraction. If you haven’t been to Baker you should stop. Try the Beef Jerky from Alien Jerky, a gyro or strawberry shake from Mad Greek. Also, you have to take your picture in front of the world’s largest thermometer.
Just a few miles to the west along I-15 lies the exit for Zzyzx Road. This dirt road leads to Soda Springs, the site of the health resort established by Curtis Springer in the late 1940s and now the Desert Study Center maintained by the California State University.
Bonny and Clyde Death Car – Whiskey Petes
This may be a weird one, but it has to make the list of the best things to do on the Los Angeles to Las Vegas drive. Once you’ve crossed over into Nevada, stop at Whiskey Pete’s Casino in Primm, Nevada. In the casino there is an exhibit dedicated to the Bonny and Clyde death car. May 23rd, 1934, was not their lucky day as they were killed by the police in a hail of bullets.
Stop for a Swim in Lake Mead
Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States and a popular destination for boating, fishing, and swimming. Located just outside of Las Vegas, the lake offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and desert landscape. Visitors can also explore the nearby Hoover Dam and its impressive engineering feats.
Red Rock Canyon State Park
Just as you are arriving in Las Vegas take a slight detour to see the amazing Red Rock State Park. Get off at Highway 60 and then take Highway 159 which will turn into Red Rock Canyon Road. Once you arrive at the Visitor Centre you can take the one-way 13-mile scenic drive. The drive has some spectacular scenery. Take advantage of the hiking and trails, plants and wildlife, geology, camping, cultural resources and much more.
As you can see there are a lot of interesting things to do on the Los Angeles to Las Vegas drive. Enjoy!
For other interesting desert sights in California see the One Week in the California Desert- Death Valley and Joshua Tree itinerary.