Los Angeles and Las Vegas may not be twin cities or even sister cities, but they are definitely second cousins.
Both rely on the entertainment industry, in different ways, for their local economies.
Both have storied airs that make them must-see destinations.
And Vegas was practically built by L.A. when movie and music stars made the town an oasis in the middle of the desert.
Now, just 270 interstate miles apart, the two cities should be an easy road trip from each other.
I say “should be,” because they can be, but often aren’t.
A drive between Los Angeles and Las Vegas can be either a short, enjoyable hop or an utterly miserable shlog.
It entirely depends on when you set out, when you reach your destination (L.A. rush hour is wicked), and the kind of incidents you encounter along the way.
Sure, that’s any road trip, but the traffic between LA and Vegas, and vice versa, is truly something special.
The I-15 Corridor
The quickest path between Los Angeles and Las Vegas is Interstate 10 to Interstate 15.
That’s it. One change.
You may do a little road switching to get to I-10, and again to get to your destination once you reach Vegas (though, not if you’re staying on the Strip), but once you hit I-10 East in Downtown LA, you can roll along it to I-15 North and stay on that all the way into town.
As far as drives go, it doesn’t get much simpler than this.
And, barring insane traffic or a freak snowstorm (not entirely unlikely!), you definitely only need a single day to do it.
So, let’s hit the road.
(For our road trip, we’re assuming you’ll spend as much time in LA as you want and as much time in Vegas as you want. This is just the driving portion of the trip.)
The Los Angeles to Las Vegas Road Trip (I-15)
Segment 1: Downtown Los Angeles to Rancho Cucamonga/Fontana
The Drive: Drive east on I-10 to Rancho Cucamonga or drive east on I-10 to I-15 N to Fontana
Drive Time: 45-65 minutes (highly dependent on traffic)
If your road trip between LA and Vegas has even a lick of haste about it, the first thing you want to do is get the heck out of the Los Angeles Metro area.
While weekend mornings can be wonderfully reasonable traffic-wise, weekdays, even driving out of LA, can be a bear. (Traffic in LA can always be a bear. In our experience, as both repeat visitors and former residents, there is simply no good time to drive through LA.)
The last time we drove out of LA on a weekday (leaving from Downtown before 8 a.m.), we literally took the on-ramp and sat in traffic.
Then, we sat in some more traffic. And some more.
Still, getting an early start (before 8 a.m.) – or a late-early start, like 9 or 10 am, ‘cause we were obviously in the middle of rush hour – can help.
But if you want to make several stops, we don’t recommend the late-early start. We definitely recommend being out of the city by 8am.
(Even more so when driving out of Vegas, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
Basically, if you want an LA to LV road trip that starts out as painlessly as possible, we recommend grabbing that first cup of coffee before you get on the road and not stopping again until you’re beyond the furthest suburbs of LA County.
And then a little beyond that.
(It will be tempting. There will be times the traffic will start to flow real smooth-like and you’ll think, “Hey, this isn’t that bad. Let’s pop off for doughnuts.” Don’t be fooled. It will get evil again. It always does.)
Rancho Cucamonga, where I-10 meets I-15, or a little further up I-15 in Fontana is about the first place you can stop and truly be sure you’ve escaped the bulk of LA traffic.
Unless, of course, there’s a back-up at Cajon Pass, which happens far more often than it should.
Suggested Places to See Around Rancho Cucamonga/Fontana
Grab that coffee, grab those donuts, and get thee to the other side of the mountains.
Segment 2: Rancho Cucamonga/Fontana to Barstow
The Drive: North on I-15 to Barstow
Drive Time: 75 minutes
If you’re road tripping between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, you’re almost inevitably going to stop in or around Barstow.
Barstow is almost the exact midpoint on your 4- to 5-hour drive, which makes it an ideal car fueling, people fueling, bladder relieving stop.
Gas is typically cheaper here than in either Los Angeles or Las Vegas, so it’s usually worth filling up.
Barstow is also an Old Route 66 town with a handful of worthwhile attractions.
You’ll find the California Welcome Center here (yep, this far from the border), Barstow Station, which is often overcrowded, but kind of cool, and the Route 66 Mother Road Museum, which is loaded with memorabilia from the road’s heyday.
When driving from LA, we like to be well beyond Barstow (usually all the way to Vegas) by lunchtime and we haven’t found any places of particular note to eat here.
But if you do plan to stop for a bite, this is where you’ll find plenty of chains and local places to do it.
From here all the way to Vegas, the pickings get mighty slim.
Suggested Places to See Around Barstow
- Barstow Harvey House (houses the Route 66 Mother Road Museum and NASA Goldstone Visitor Center)
- Western American Railroad Museum (just outside the Barstow Harvey House)
Alternate Segment 2: Rancho Cucamonga/Fontana to Yermo
The Drive: North on I-15 to Yermo
Drive Time: 75-85 minutes
If you’re looking for a more road-trippy segment for your Los Angles to Las Vegas road trip, you may want to skip over Barstow and pop off in Yermo instead.
Of the two, Yermo definitely has more traditional road trip appeal.
(Of course, there’s no reason you can’t stop in both. It’ll just be a long day and you’ll definitely encounter more traffic.)
Just beyond Barstow, Yermo is still pretty much midway between LA and Vegas, so the car fueling, people fueling, bladder relieving aspect still applies.
Where Barstow is an actual city, though, albeit a small one, Yermo is more of a tourist destination. (People do live here, but in small number.)
What Yermo does boast in quantity is road trip attractions.
First up, you have EddieWorld, California’s largest gas station, which is part gas station, part food court, part convenience store, and part specialty shop. (Seriously, the candy, dried foods, and drink selections are the bomb!)
Basically, it’s a road tripper’s wet dream. And we highly recommend stopping here for ice cream.
Next, you have Liberty Sculpture Park, an outdoor art installation that is both culturally important and couldn’t be more of a road trip attraction if it tried.
And, lastly, you have Yermo’s largest and most historic claim to fame, Calico, a restored ghost town turned attraction where you can get a feel for what life was like in the old west (and maybe even have an encounter with a spirit or two).
If you’re only going to make one stop between LA and Vegas and you want it to be as over-the-top road-trippy as possible, Yermo is one of the places to do it.
Suggested Places to See Around Yermo
- Calico Ghost Town
- Liberty Sculpture Park
Segment 3: Barstow/Yermo to Baker
The Drive: North on I-15 to Baker
Drive Time: 55 minutes (from Yermo) to 70 minutes (from Barstow)
Baker is your other major road trip stop between LA and Las Vegas on I-15.
But where Yermo has at least one truly culturally significant attraction – Liberty Sculpture Park – Baker is unapologetically kitsch from tip to tail.
First up, they have the World’s Tallest Thermometer.
You can see it from the interstate, and in the summer months you’ll be able to see it clocking temps well above 100 degrees. (This is the Mojave Desert, after all.)
Measuring 134 feet, the Baker thermometer commemorates the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth – 134° F – in neighboring Death Valley.
Then, right down the street, you have Alien Fresh Jerky, an alien-themed playland with towering aliens, intergalactic vehicles, and, you guessed it, plenty of jerky. (None of it alien, though… we’re pretty sure.)
It also has a drink selection that rivals EddieWorld’s.
Looking for that maple root beer from Wisconsin? You can pick it up here, though it will cost you a fiver.
While the main building is little more than a novelty convenience store, this place is still plenty of fun.
And the last time we were there, it seemed to be expanding, so we can only assume more and better alien debauchery is on the way.
(For the record, Baker also has a couple of pretty good travel plazas, which can be rare on this stretch of road. You can hit a Cinnabon, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Mrs. Fields all between its exits. So, good snacks abound – but no McDonald’s is to be found here.)
Suggested Places to See Around Baker
- Alien Fresh Jerky
- World’s Tallest Thermometer
Segment 4: Baker to Primm
The Drive: North on I-15 to Primm
Drive Time: 45-50 minutes
From the gimmicky to the gory, Primm, NV, just over the state line from California, has one major claim to fame –
It’s the home of Bonnie and Clyde’s death car.
Gruesome, I know.
But the V-8 Ford riddled with over a hundred bullet holes is definitely a one-of-a-kind piece of American history you won’t see anyplace else.
While in Primm, you also have three resort-casinos you can pop in and out of, two of them kitschy as heck.
None are must-visits (not when you’re heading to Vegas where you’ll find more and better kitsch), but if you need a toilet or to stretch your legs (or a quick roller coaster or log flume ride with views of the inside of the casino and surrounding desert), you’ll find it here.
Suggested Places to See Around Primm
- Bonnie and Clyde’s Death Car
- The Desperado Roller Coaster (it actually IS pretty cool… if a bit pricey)
Segment 5: Primm to Jean/Seven Magic Mountains/The Last Spike
The Drive: North on I-15 (this is getting redundant, isn’t it?) to Exit 12 (Jean), then North on Las Vegas Blvd
Drive Time: 15 minutes
Here’s a zoom-in of how close these attractions are together.
Jean, Nevada is home to the largest Chevron in the world. (I don’t know what it is about this area and big gas stations. All that cheap desert real estate, I guess?)
And it’s got some pretty cool stuff inside its store.
It’s got some pretty cool interior design in general really, and is definitely worth a look if you’re passing through early enough.
It also has loads of gas pumps – 96 of them to be exact – though we can’t recommend using them. This is the most overpriced gas you’re likely to find the entire drive.
So, skip it and fuel up in Barstow.
Seven Magic Mountains
Seven Magic Mountains is an art installation in the desert just off I-15 at the far reaches of the Vegas city limits. (You could also consider it Jean or Sloan. Businesses in the area use a combination of all three of these cities in their addresses… for some reason.)
The installation is basically seven stacks of brightly colored stones set against the desert landscape.
And that’s pretty much it.
There’s nothing else to see or do here.
But it’s free, it’s quirky, and it won’t take you long to see it. So, as far as road trip sites go, it’s right on the money.
The Last Spike
On the way to Seven Magic Mountains, you’ll drive right past The Last Spike, a historic marker commemorating the spot where the last spike to complete the final transcontinental railroad line in the U.S. was driven into the ground.
There’s a little dirt side road to pull off on if you want to get a good look at it.
Segment 6: Seven Magic Mountains/The Last Spike to Vegas
The Drive: North on Las Vegas Blvd to I-15 North to Las Vegas
Drive Time: 15-30 minutes
The last leg of your Los Angeles to Las Vegas drive will carry you on into Vegas.
About 15 minutes if you’re staying in the south, 30 minutes if you’re staying Downtown (Fremont Street), and 25 minutes if you’re staying on The Strip.
And coming to Vegas by car is actually ideal (despite the exorbitant parking prices on The Strip, because a car can get you to Hoover Dam/Lake Mead, Red Rock Canyon, and other choice attractions that are harder (and more expensive) to access if you come by plane.
Las Vegas to Los Angeles Road Trip (I-15)
And now to go all the way back to Los Angeles.
Kidding. As you might expect, anything you can see driving to Vegas you can see driving from Vegas.
Either way, you’ll want to get an early start.
Morning traffic in Vegas proper isn’t quite as bad as it is in L.A., but it’s still not great, and around the weekends and holidays (especially the holidays), back-ups on I-15 out of Vegas are a common occurrence.
Back-ups are especially common at the California state line, where drivers must slow down to pass through the state’s inspection station, and at Cajon Pass, where the higher elevation and bad weather can catch motorists between the warm-weather hotspots of Vegas and LA unawares.
Obviously, Cajon Pass can slow drivers down both directions.
Still, once you’re out of Vegas, or even better out of Nevada entirely, you can usually kill a little time without making the traffic situation too unbearable.
And many of these attractions don’t take all that long to see.
However, traveling this direction we do have one stop we feel we would be absolutely remiss not to recommend.
When traveling from Las Vegas to Los Angeles (if you were to leave at the same time from each location), you should hit Victorville, CA later than you would driving from LA. (We say *should* because, you know, that traffic…)
And if you can hit Victorville right around lunch time, we highly recommend stopping off for a very filling bite at Apollo Restaurant.
This place’s burger and sandwich menu is unsurpassed (yes, they have Luther burgers, along with more unique things), and the food is incredible (those onion rings).
There is not a thing here that’s good for you, and the place is an absolute dive.
So, basically, it’s a restaurant utterly worthy of a road trip.
Important Tip: This place is so much of a dive, the restrooms are accessed from outside the building. So, maybe stop for a bathroom break before getting here, and again at a Starbucks or gas station on your way out of town.
Road Trip Tip: If you take the D Street Exit to Apollo, you’ll drive right through Old Town Victorville (7th Street), which used to be part of Route 66 and has a pretty cool Route 66 arch sign to commemorate its past.
Victorville also has a Route 66 museum, but we’ve driven past it four or five times this summer and have yet to see it open.
How long is the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas?
So, just how long does it take to make the drive between LA and Vegas (or Vegas and LA)?
Unsurprisingly, it depends.
If you make the drive straight through (and somehow avoid a major backup), you’re looking at just over four hours.
If you make all the stops on our list, you can still make the drive in a single day, but it will be a long day and you’ll have to limit your time in each place (those pesky closing hours!).
But, when it comes down to it, the real determining factor of how long it takes to make an LA to Vegas or Vegas to LA drive is how smoothly the traffic is flowing.
And, in our experience, the traffic flows less and less smoothly the later it gets in the day until well after rush hour.
Our Best Pieces of Advice For Driving From LA to LV
I know I sound like a broken record here, but nothing will jack up your road trip between LA and Vegas like leaving too late.
Leave too late, and you’ll spend more time sitting in traffic in your car than seeing all these wonderful and ridiculous things there are to see.
Leave early (before 8 a.m.) and this drive is usually relatively painless. (Relative as to how it can be if you leave too late.)
Do NOT – and I cannot stress this enough – do NOT stick around in Vegas until checkout time at your hotel (especially if you’re leaving after a weekend stay).
It might seem like a good deal to get an extra hour at the pool, but you’ll pay for it on the road.
Don’t stop in Jean (or go toward Terrible’s) in the afternoon.
The largest Chevron in the world not only has inflated prices, it draws a heck of a crowd.
And the two-lane road that gets you to it just can’t handle the traffic much of the time (especially during the summer season).
So, unless you’re rolling through first thing in the morning, making this stop can be a real time-waster.
(The stand-alone Starbucks in Jean also has crazy inflated prices… just so you know.)
LA to Vegas: The Quick Way
There are a few alternate routes you can take between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but the interstate route honestly makes for a pretty decent road trip.
It has just the right amount – and right kind – of weird attractions.
Two of the largest gas stations? Come on!
So, while you could follow the path of Route 66 and then cut up toward Vegas, drive right through the heart of Death Valley, or hit up Palm Springs and Joshua Tree between the two cities, if it’s a truly kitschy, classic road trip you’re looking for, we say the I-15 corridor is where it’s at.