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6 Best Lesser-Known Road Trips Three Hours or Less from Los Angeles


There are few regions in the world boasting the wide range of activities found in the Los Angeles area. The city’s unique geographic location and rich history offer a multitude of fascinating experiences. 

It would take an entire book to list to describe everything you can explore within a three-hour drive from Los Angeles. The usual staples — a day at Disneyland, camping in Joshua Tree, a visit to Catalina island — never fail to satisfy an eager traveler. Although these classic experiences are a must for any resident of Los Angeles, there are many lesser-known day trips in the area worthy of your attention. Let’s take a look.


Los Alamos




You’ll feel as if you’re on a film studio’s backlot for westerns, but this place is the real McCoy.  With a population under 2,000 and a main street only seven blocks long, Los Alamos is known for its Old West heritage and atmosphere.

Founded in 1876, the main street features many of the town’s original Victorian houses, stagecoach shops, and wooden hotels. Despite its vintage appearance, Los Alamos is steadily growing as a hip destination for food, wine, antiques, and art. The past and the present are interwoven in this small town, and the result is enchanting.

Highlights include the Victorian Mansion Bed and Breakfast, an establishment as beautiful as it sounds. For eats, there’s the Pico Restaurant. Located in a vintage general store, this establishment uses locally sourced ingredients to create a divine culinary experience. For aged souvenirs, Sisters Gifts and Home offers a variety of beautiful vintage glassware.

The authenticity of this precious 19th-century town is a rarity and is not to be missed. Just north of Santa Barbara, this town is a scenic two-hour drive away.

Deep Creek Hot Springs

Despite its proximity to one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, here, you’ll feel like you're as far as you can be from civilization. The Deep Creek Hot Springs remain an extraordinary and treasured experience that nature lovers, hippies, and city dwellers seeking a reset have been enjoying for decades.

Located in a small valley up in the San Bernardino Mountains, the Deep Creek river passes several natural hot springs that emit heated water from geothermal energy below. Crude underwater rock barriers have been built around these hot springs to contain the heat, effectively creating natural hot tubs. There are several of these hot springs pools, which range in temperature from 100 to 105 degrees. Highlights include a sandy beach to spread out on for the day and large rock formations to explore and jump from into the cold river. But it’s the intoxicating community atmosphere of love and peace that keeps people coming year after year.

Visiting the Deep Creek Hot Springs is a full-day experience. Access is available at The Bowen Ranch, which offers parking for a fee and the shortest route to the springs.  You can also park for free at the entrance of the Bradford Ridge Path Trail. The hike is more challenging at 5.6 miles roundtrip, but you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views and the breathtaking silence of nature.

Solid hiking shoes, several bottles of water, sunscreen, and snacks are a must. Deep Creek Hot Springs is rustic — there are no bathrooms or amenities of any kind. It’s truly an immersive natural experience.

The Integratron




A fun stereotype of Southern California is that its culture is full of wild new-age ideas. Although it’s an exaggeration, there’s certainly some truth to this. If you’ve been interested in exploring metaphysical experiences or simply looking to broaden your horizons, then a trip to The Integratron might be for you.

Located near the majestic beauty of Joshua Tree, The Integratron is a large domed structure housing a sound bath. The center facilitates this form of auditory meditation by using gongs, ringing quartz crystal bowls, and Buddhist prayer bowls to create harmonic sound frequencies.  Self-described as “the fusion of Art, Science, and Magic,” The Integratron allows you to book private sessions. Some reach a heightened state during a sound bath. Others have a more gentle, cleansing experience. All benefit from the peace and serenity of meditation.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, The Integratron was founded by Ufologist and Contactee George Van Tassel, who claimed this space was capable of anti-gravity and time travel. The Integratron can’t guarantee you’ll experience either, but you are welcome to see for yourself. This place is a trip worth taking, both in the literal and figurative sense of the word.

Group or private reservations can be made online. Prices range from $300-$600/hr. For full-day rental, contact for a quote. Open 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Colonel Allensworth State Park




Two hours north of Los Angeles, in Tulare County, you’ll find one of the most important and fascinating centers of Black history in California. Founded more than a century ago in 1908, Allensworth, California was a small town built with the expressed purpose of creating a community where Black people could learn, own property, and live the American Dream.

This historic community was founded by Allen Allensworth, a man who lived an extraordinary life. Born into slavery in Kentucky, Allensworth later escaped, joined the Union army, and rose to become the first Black lieutenant colonel in the history of the United States. A true visionary and renaissance man, Allensworth also built up churches, wrote courses of study for the army, and was the first Black delegate in the Republican National Convention before setting up this small town in service of Black progress.

Allensworth is small enough to be explored in a day. The park has carefully preserved key buildings in the town, including the schoolhouse (which was in use until 1972), the Mary Dickenson Memorial Library, and even Allen Allensworth’s house. In-person and cell phone guided tours are available to deepen your knowledge of this place. Although the last residents moved away decades ago due to a dwindling water supply, the legacy of this historic town lives on.

Open every day from 9 a.m. - sunset. Free. 

San Juan Capistrano

This small town fewer than sixty miles outside Los Angeles is the perfect place to immerse yourself in California’s colonial Spanish history. Many of the stone missions, churches, and adobes dating back to the 1700s still stand today. The Catholic Church of the Spanish Empire fought to bring their religion to every corner of the world, and San Juan Capistrano is a rare still-standing example of this in America.  

The historic preservation of this town is impressive. It’s home to the oldest neighborhood in California: Los Rios. It also has the oldest in-use building in California: the Serra Chapel. Then there’s the oldest vineyard and the oldest winery. As you stroll through this quiet town littered with these timeworn buildings and ruins, you can feel this history.

San Juan Capistrano is also synonymous with the little winged creatures it is known for: the cliff swallows. The 85-foot tall tower of the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano is an annual migration stop for these birds, usually on March 19. This avian event gave rise to the annual Swallow’s Day Parade in San Juan Capistrano, which celebrates the arrival of these birds.

The festival became such an important aspect of the town’s culture that, when the swallows began nesting in another location in Chino Hills instead, the church took action. They employed the expertise of swallows specialist Charles R. Brown, who used audio recordings of the birds’ mating calls to lure them back to the Mission Basilica. The birds, thankfully, have returned and continue to use this town as a migration stop.

Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch




This list ends with something more idiosyncratic. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is not historically, culturally, or metaphysically significant. It is, in short, an enormous outdoor installation in the middle of the desert of skinny iron trees with dozens of glass bottles attached. It looks alien, bizarre, and, when the light hits the sculpture the right way during sunset, absolutely beautiful.

This installation was created by Elmer Long and took nearly fifteen years to complete. Visitors describe wandering through the labyrinth of the glass bottle trees as strangely tranquil. You can love or hate it, but it is certainly unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch can be reached by traveling north on the historic route 66 for about an hour and a half. The drive itself is spectacular, winding up the San Bernardino Mountains before passing through the endless flat expanse of the valley. Every part of this trip — the journey, the glass bottle forest — is a visual feast.

Open every day, 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. Donations encouraged.


If you’re looking for more Los Angeles day trip suggestions or searching for homes for sale in Venice, CA, please feel free to contact us. Our team would love to show you houses for sale and Venice Los Angeles real estate.




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