Death Valley is one of the most intriguing national parks in the American South West, as well as being the largest by extension of all the contiguous United States. Despite being in California, the closest large city is Las Vegas, Nevada. It is no coincidence that most of the tours organized to visit this area start from this city.
However, if you are planning a road trip to California, or a multi-state itinerary, you may be wondering how to cover the distance between Los Angeles and Death Valley. In fact, of the major Californian cities, LA is the closest and best connected.
It is worth dedicating a few lines to this route for a very simple reason: we are talking about two places that are part of many itineraries through the southwestern states, but which are many kilometers away. So let's see how to better organize your trip, perhaps inserting some stops to see other naturalistic beauties or particular places.
- Los Angeles to Death Valley: distance and best itinerary
- What see? The best stops along the way
- Vasquez Rocks
- Red Rock Canyon State Park
- Trona Pinnacles
- La ghost town Ballarat
- Where to sleep between Los Angeles and Death Valley?
- Los Angeles - Death Valley route map
Los Angeles to Death Valley: distance and best itinerary
Over 400 kilometers they separate Los Angeles from Death Valley and, as you can imagine, there is no single way to get to the park from the coastal city. There are two main road links:
- In the first case (about 420 km for 4,15h of travel), you can follow the CA-14 north to Cantil, where taking the Redrock Randsburg Rd you will arrive to merge into 395 and from this (cutting with the Searles Station Cutoff), into the CA-178 and then into the CA-190 up to Death Valley.
- In the second case, (about 480 km for 4,30h of travel), you can follow US-10 towards San Bernardino and then detour onto US-15, following it to Baker, where you will take the CA-127 which will take you to Death Valley Junction and then to CA-190 until the entrance to the Park.
Consider that It is best to visit Death Valley early in the morning, especially in summer, when the heat can be really unbearable in the central hours of the day. Furthermore, this is a park that needs to spend a lot of time driving even to visit it, having to travel several kilometers inside. Therefore, it may be worth not visiting the park on the same day as you are traveling from Los Angeles.
My advice is to choose the first of the two aforementioned options, not only from the point of view of timing, but also and above all because it offers the possibility of inserting really interesting stops along the way. In this way you can take advantage of the day not only to move, but also to enjoy some other Californian beauty, staying overnight near Death Valley to visit it the next morning.
What see? The best stops along the way
Starting from Los Angeles in the morning and planning to stay overnight near Death Valley, the day can be used by interspersing the trip with the visit to another minor park, or with short stops in some particular places. The same is obviously true if you head in the opposite direction, with destination Los Angeles. If the places I recommend below appeal to you particularly, you might as well consider the idea of dedicate one more day to it, staying overnight in the middle of this itinerary.
If you are a fan of Star Trek, but probably even if you've never seen it before, the landscape of the Vasquez Rocks Park it will sound familiar. This was one of the sets of the famous science fiction saga, but also of other Hollywood shots. Just 40 minutes drive from the city, without having to make long detours from your path, you can stop in this park where naturalistic beauties go hand in hand with curiosities and pop attractions: in this case the movie sets.
In our dedicated article you will find out why it is worth stopping here and how to reach the park from Los Angeles. The deviation from CA-14 is very minimal and admission is free. Therefore, even if you are uncertain ask yourself: why not?
Red Rock Canyon State Park
Red Rock Canyon is a fairly common name: be careful not to get confused! The most famous red rock canyon that bears this name is the Red Rock Canyon of Nevada, but there are also others scattered throughout the South West. On the other hand, we are in a geographical area where both canyons and reddish rocks are the masters. In any case, even if smaller and certainly less known than others, this gorge in the arid Californian hinterland is also worth a visit, especially if you are passing through.
The fastest route between Las Vegas and Death Valley plans to leave CA-14 at some point and merge onto Redrock Randsburg Rd. Red Rock Canyon State Park (California) and you will find signs for its Visitor Center. The entrance fee is $ 6 per vehicle and you can decide, depending on the time available, to wear a pair of comfortable shoes and walk the paths that cross it.
A couple of hours they are sufficient for a good visit to this park, which can therefore be perfectly included in the program of trip between Los Angeles and Death Valley. In our dedicated article you will find all the details to organize the visit, also useful for deciding if among the various stages available this is the one for you.
Not far from the town of Ridgecrest, they rise from the desert terrain and soar towards the sky, giving the area a sci-fi atmosphere: they are the Trona Pinnacles, one of California's hidden gems. This small naturalistic wonder is a stop to be taken into serious consideration along this itinerary because the deviation is minimal and it is worth it. You will probably feel like you are walking on an asteroid and you won't be the first to think so! Numerous science fiction films have been shot here because of the setting which is perfectly similar to that of some desert planet lost in space.
The last stretch of the road is unpaved, but you can travel safely by paying attention and going slowly. All the information to reach the Trona Pinnacles from Ridgecrest, as well as the details on these strange tuff pinnacles, can be found in our dedicated article.Something unusual along the way ...
Just before taking the detour to the Trona Pinnacles you will find the Fish Rocks (GPS position), a series of rocks ready to take the bait!
Please note: Trona Pinnacles are on the way even if you don't start from Los Angeles, but from San Diego, or in any case from the southernmost part of California!
La ghost town Ballarat
If you are already experienced travelers along the most remote roads of America, you will certainly have already walked in some ghost town. If, on the other hand, it has not yet happened to you, know that the ghost town they are numerous and also very different from each other. Some are very touristy, but also others so remote and disturbing as to give rise to the suspicion of being seriously haunted.
About eighty kilometers north of Ridgecrest, with a small detour from the itinerary towards Death Valley we can reach Ballarat. Despite the eddies of desert dust, eerie squeaks, and legends about a serial killer, this place isn't entirely uninhabited.
In fact, he lives here Rock Novak, sole inhabitant who performs the functions of mayor, doctor, judge, sheriff, priest and… gravedigger, even if one wonders how he could bury himself, the only mortal citizen among the many ghosts of Ballarat.
To get there, just follow the CA-178 northwards: half an hour after leaving Pioneer Point behind you, pay attention to the small green sign which will show you Ballarat Rd on the right.
Where to sleep between Los Angeles and Death Valley?
The basic idea of this itinerary is to leave Los Angeles in the morning, stop at one or more of the suggested stops and arrive in the evening near Death Valley, staying overnight in this area to visit the park the next morning. So the first tip is to look for it a hotel near (or even inside!) Death Valley.
Our advice on accommodation near or in Death Valley
However, if you are thinking of an overnight stay along the way, to see more attractions along this route, my suggestion is to look for accommodation in Ridgecrest. This town is 45 minutes from Trona Pinnacles, one hour from Ballarat and one hour and twenty minutes from Red Rock Canyon: an ideal middle ground, suitable for any of the proposed stops.
All Ridgecrest accommodations
A third option is Mojave, located between Vasquez Rocks and Red Rock Canyon. I recommend it especially if you intend to leave Los Angeles in the afternoon (it is an hour and a half drive), perhaps seeing Vasquez Rocks Park that same afternoon, and then access Red Rock Canyon the next morning. Or if you are planning your itinerary in reverse and looking for accommodation after visiting Red Rock Canyon.
All accommodations in Mojave