9 Places to Explore Driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas

The drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas does not have to be five hours of pure monotony and traffic. If you allow yourself some extra time to have a few adventures along the way, you will find the drive fun and rewarding.

There are numerous adventures to have while driving to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, but the ones I recommend are:

  • Cajon Pass
  • Bottletree Ranch
  • Route 66 Museum
  • Calico Ghost Town
  • Liberty Sculpture Park
  • Afton Canyon
  • Zzyzx
  • Mojave Cross
  • 7 Magic Mountains

Criteria

There are two criteria for being an excellent side adventure on your way to Las Vegas from Los Angeles. The first criteria are that it must be located a short distance from Interstate 15 (I-15). These adventures should not add much to your driving time; five hours is long enough.

The second criteria must be easily assessable to both vans and RVs.  Anyone in a van or RV can access these adventures and will not have to worry about getting stuck or returning to I-15.

Both criteria will make sure you have an enjoyable experience having a side adventure on your way to Las Vegas.

Cajon Pass

The first place to explore on your journey from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is the Cajon Pass. You don’t even have to stop anywhere to admire the engineering feat and history of the Cajon Pass as you drive through it.

Route 66 was one of the first major roads to go through the pass. Unfortunately, most of it was abandoned and destroyed to make way for Interstate 15. However, You can see remnants of Route 66 throughout the pass. 

In reality, I-15 does not traverse the Cajon Pass but rather the nearby Cajon Summit with an elevation of 4,190 feet. However, the entire area is referred to as the Cajon Pass.

Building the railroad thru the Cajon pass was an engineering marvel. Today the pass is one of the most traveled rail passes in the country. BNSF and Union Pacific railroads use the pass to ship goods to/from Los Angeles.

The pass is a complicated route for trains that have to take the journey very carefully. You might catch a mile-long train working its way up or down the pass as you drive through.

The Pacific Crest Trail and San Andres Fault goes directly through the Cajon Pass. If you look carefully, you can see where the fault passes through the pass.

In the heyday of Route 66, the Summit Inn, which sits atop of the Cajon Pass was a major stopover for travelers. Unfortunately, on August 16, 2016, the Blue Cut fire burned down the historic Summit Inn.

Bottletree Ranch

The Bottletree Ranch is an exciting side adventure for anyone on their way to Las Vegas and is only a 20-minute drive from the I-15. The Ranch is a collection of metal trees full of old bottles and other vintage items.

It’s a great place to stop and stroll through these bottle trees and take a ton of pictures. Unfortunately, the man who created it, Elmer Evan Long, died in 2019, but his family has kept the ranch open.  

This is one of the best stops on the way to Vegas.

  • Address: 24266 National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande, CA 92368
  • Distance from LA: 94 miles
  • Website: Bottle Tree Ranch
  • Fee: Donation 

Route 66 Mother Road Museum

Route 66 Mother Road Museum has an impressive display of old Route 66 memorabilia and history and is located 10-minutes from I-15.The museum exhibits include history lessons on the development of the United States Route 66 from early pioneer trails, railroads, automotive history, businesses, and sites.

The Route 66 “Mother Road” Museum was dedicated on July 4, 2000, in the historic Casa del Desierto, Harvey House. It’s located in the old train station with various train cars on static display.  

  • Hours: Friday – Sunday, 10 AM – 4 PM
  • Address: 681 N. First Avenue, Barstow, CA. 92311
  • Distance from LA: 114 miles
  • Website: http://www.route66museum.org/id4.html
  • Fee: Donation

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town is a unique place located 10-minutes from the I-15 for any nomad wishing to visit and explore a relic of the past. The ghost town was founded in 1881 and is a former silver mining town that has been converted into a county park.

There is a lot to do in Calico to include learning about the town’s unique history, shop, enjoy their restaurants, hike, and camp.

Several hiking trails allow you to explore the desert wilderness surrounding the ghost town.

Calico Ghost Town has plenty of parking and restrooms.  

  • Address: 36600 Ghost Town Rd, Yermo, CA 92398
  • Distance from LA: 126 miles
  • Fee: Free; Tours $15 Adult $7 Child
  • Visit: Calico Ghost Town

Liberty Sculpture Park

Located right off I-15 in Yermo is Liberty Sculpture Park. The park was created in 2017 and dedicated to artists who want to spread the message to fight for freedom. One of the park owners, Weiming Chen, said the purpose of the park is to champion human desire for freedom and condemn the oppression of Chinese communism.

Thousands of motorists pass the park each day. The park contains a 15-foot-high bust of Native American leader Crazy Horse and a 16-foot-tall statue of Chinese activist Li Wangyang vs. Tiananmen Square tank.

A visit to the park is a good side adventure on the way to Las Vegas. It will only take you a few minutes to reach the park, and it does have some interesting stuff. Most people who visit the park say it’s more interesting than they thought it would be.

  • Address: 37570 W. Yermo Rd, Yermo, CA
  • Directions: I-15 exit 194. Drive south on Calico Rd for a half-mile until the road ends. At the stop sign, turn right onto Yermo Rd. Drive a half-mile. You’ll see the Liberty Sculpture Park entrance sign on the right.
  • Fee: Free

Afton Canyon – Mojave Road

Afton Canyon is located about 10-minutes down a dirt road from the I-15. The canyon is known locally as “The Grand Canyon of the Mojave” for its dramatic geological formations. It is an excellent place for any nomad to explore the canyon and surrounding desert on the way to Las Vegas.

Activities in Afton Canyon include camping, rock climbing, hiking, photography, horseback riding, and touring the historic Mojave Road, which runs through the canyon.

The Mojave River also runs through the canyon. It is the only place where the Mojave River flows above ground year-round, which provides a significant wildlife habitat amid the desert.

Zzyzx

Zzyzx is in the Mojave National Preserve and has been a unique place to visit for over 100 years. It offers any nomad a history lesson of the past when it was a natural springs resort.

The natural spring system, called Soda Springs, was used by the Mohave and Chemehuevi people for many generations. In the 1800s, it was also used by western explorers and the US Army while traveling through the Mojave Desert.

In 1944, everything changed for Zzyzx when Curtis Springer moved to the area and opened a mining claim. Throughout the 1940s, he developed and operated Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort on his mining claim lands.

The resort’s grounds consisted of a two-story castle, a dining hall, library, lecture room, pool house, goat farm, and rabbit rooms.

Although only the foundations of the resort remain, it is fun to explore these remains and wonder what it might have looked like in the past. The most considerable foundation that remains is the pool house.

There is plenty of parking, and only a few people are usually there. It is located about 5-miles from I-15 off the Zzyzx turnoff.

  • Distance from LA: 174 miles
  • Fee: Free
  • Visit: Zzyzx

Mojave Memorial Cross

The Mojave Memorial Cross is located about 10-minute off the I-15. It has been the center of legal action for the last 20-years and provides a fascinating history lesson.

The cross was erected in 1934 to honor those who died in World War I and subsequent wars. The cross was constructed by a group of veterans and a local prospector named John Riley Bembry, who served as a medic in World War I.

The cross has been maintained by volunteers ever since but was boarded up in 2002 after a court ruling declared it illegal because of separation of church and state constitutional concerns.

In 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled on Salazar v. Buono in a 5-4 decision that sent the case back to a lower court. The high court ruled there was no violation of the separation of church and state when Congress transferred the land surrounding the cross to a veteran’s group.

The Mojave Memorial Cross is an excellent place to visit while traveling to Las Vegas. You can hike up to the cross and explore its surrounding.

Directions: From I-15, turn onto Cima Rd and drive about 12 miles (19 km) south

7 Magic Mountains

Located right off Interstate 15 and 10-miles from Las Vegas is Seven Magic Mountains. Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone built it for the Nevada Museum of Art. The exhibition opened on May 11, 2016, on Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The exhibit comprises seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders standing more than thirty feet high. Each bolder is painted differently to create a bright display amplified during sunset and sunrise. The boulders are impressive the closer you get to them, and you wonder how they put them together.

There is a dirt parking lot and a trail that leads to the exhibit. A plaque at the trailhead will inform you of the history of the display. It’s worth a stopover at least once on your way to Las Vegas.

Directions: Drive north on I-15 to Jean, NV (exit 12).  Turn right (east) on NV-161 toward Las Vegas Blvd. Drive approximately 5 miles north on Las Vegas Blvd. The artwork will appear on your right (east).

Conclusion

The side adventures mentioned in this article will give you a great detour of adventures on your drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. You can choose only to do one and save the others for another trip, or you can try to do them all. Either way, you will not be disappointed in either of the adventures listed here. Now you can start looking forward to the drive to Las Vegas.  

References and Other Adventures: 

 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top