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Los Angeles to Coachella

California Road Trip: Los Angeles to Coachella

Palm Springs may be known for its trendy restaurants and classic architecture, but the rest of Coachella Valley is worth a visit. The Greater Palm Springs area encompasses nine cities, each with its distinct character and charm. Venture outside Palm Springs to discover all its neighboring towns offer.

Your journey from Los Angeles to Coachella Valley will lead you through vibrant desert cities, quirky art installations, and jaw-dropping adventures throughout Joshua Tree National Park. Your unforgettable 5-day California road trip will take you from our hub in Los Angeles to Coachella.

Travel Time from Los Angeles to Coachella Valley

Your west coast journey begins and ends at the Escape Camper Vans’ Los Angeles location, covering approximately 444 miles. The drive takes about 7 hours and 45 minutes to complete.

You’ll cross through Coachella Valley, Salvation Mountain, and Joshua Tree. However, there’s a lot to explore along the way. We recommend setting aside at least five days to make the most of your scenic road trip from Los Angeles.

Best Time of Year for a Coachella Road Trip

Visiting Palm Springs is generally pleasant year-round. However, if you’re looking for temperate weather and fewer crowds, visit in the fall or winter.

Spring

Spring is a great time for a Coachella Valley getaway. The temperatures will be warm but comfortable, and gorgeous wildflowers will begin to bloom. However, this is also the most popular time to visit, so campgrounds and popular sites will be at their most crowded. This is especially true over Spring Break and during Coachella, the popular music festival that takes place each April.

Summer

During the summer, temperatures in Coachella Valley soar past 100 degrees, making outdoor activities both uncomfortable and often unsafe. If you’re set on on a California road trip in July or August, consider an alternative route. Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park are great destinations instead.

Fall

The fall is another optimal season for visiting Palm Springs. The weather is cooler, and the crowds are smaller. Perfect for desert adventures.

Winter

Winter is among the best times to visit Joshua Tree and Coachella Valley. The mild temperatures are ideal for long desert hikes, and the crowds are manageable.

Preparation for a Coachella Road Trip

Before setting off on your camper van road trip, it’s a good idea to plan by booking your campsites and organizing all the gear you’ll need. A little preparation will go a long way in ensuring a smooth, stress-free adventure!

A man cooking food out of a camper van on a California road trip.

Campsites

Near Palm Springs, campgrounds are limited, and most sites are RV resorts. If you want a more scenic setting, booking those sites well in advance is a good idea. Otherwise, you can check out the area’s dispersed or free camping options.

While Joshua Tree National Park contains nine campgrounds, these all fill up quickly during the peak season. We highly recommend booking sites ahead of time if you plan on Joshua Tree camping.

Navigation

You can use your Smartphone as a GPS throughout this trip, though remember that Joshua Tree has minimal reception. Download Offline Maps before leaving, and grab a paper map of Joshua Tree National Park when you arrive. This will help navigate the park’s trails and campgrounds and make a great souvenir from your trip!

Supplies

Sun protection is key for any desert road trip. Pack a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen with a high SPF, and a door canopy from Escape Camper Vans’ extra add-ons.

Before heading from Los Angeles to Coachella Valley, you should also stock up on plenty of water and groceries for easy-to-make meals at your campground. A kitchen kit, picnic table, and camp chairs are also a good idea among Escape Camper Vans’ extras.

Which Camper Van is Best for a Coachella Road Trip?

Escape Camper Vans offers five different vehicle models, all available from our Los Angeles hub. Your ideal camper van will depend on how many people you travel with and your preferences.

The Del Mar and Mesa are our two biggest models, followed by the Mavericks. All three feature a queen-sized bed and kitchenette and can accommodate up to five people when you add a rooftop sleeper. The Santa Cruz and Jeep Camper accommodate up to two people and also contain kitchenettes.

Los Angeles to Coachella Road Trip Itinerary Stops

Day 1: Los Angeles to Palm Springs, California

Aerial view of Palm Springs, California. Palm Springs is the closest city to Coachella music festival.

After picking up your camper van from the Escape Camper Vans in Los Angeles, it’s time to hit the road! Your West Coast adventure begins in Palm Springs, Coachella Valley’s most sought-after city. The drive from Los Angeles to Coachella Valley should only take about two hours unless you detour through the nearby Mount San Jacinto State Park.

Once you arrive, you can admire the classic, mid-century-modern Palm Springs architecture or enjoy the quiet serenity on a desert hike.

Things to Do in Palm Springs

Hike in Indian Canyons: If a hike is in your plans, then hiking through Indian Canyons is one of the best things to do in Palm Springs. The area encompasses three canyons located on tribal land. The canyon features numerous trails, stunning waterfalls, granite rock formations, and vast fields of gorgeous palm trees.

Moorten Botanical Garden: This family-owned arboretum features over 3,000 cacti and other desert plants. If you’re a green thumb enthusiast, a guided tour of this impressive garden is perfect for a tranquil afternoon.

Cabazon Dinosaurs: A trip to Palm Springs isn’t complete without a stop at the city’s most iconic roadside attraction. The gigantic dinosaur statues of Mr. Rex and Dinny the Dinosaur have been luring in visitors since 1975. You can even pay to climb inside Mr. Rex’s head for a unique vantage point.

Places to Eat in Palm Springs

Boozehounds – 2080 N Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92262: This dog-friendly bar and restaurant is perfect if you have any furry travel companions with you. This popular eatery is celebrated for its stylish decor, spacious deck, and decadent menu.

Norma’s- 4200 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264: Located on a gorgeous outdoor patio, this is one of Palm Springs’ most raved-about restaurants. Breakfast is served day and night from their terrace. However, the evening menu features non-brunch items like pan-seared salmon and wagyu lasagna.

Campgrounds near Palm Springs

Whitewater Preserve– 9160 Whitewater Canyon Rd, Whitewater, CA 92282: While RV resorts make up the majority of campsites near Palm Springs, this small, year-round site offers scenic tranquility near the Whitewater River. Reservations are encouraged but not required, and facilities are very minimal.

Encore Palm Springs Oasis—36-100 Date Palm Dr, Cathedral City, CA 92234: This conveniently located RV resort and campground offers a swimming pool, showers, full hookups, and a restaurant. The site is open all year, and advanced reservations are mandatory.

Day 2: Explore Greater Palm Springs, California

Coachella Valley, otherwise known as Greater Palm Springs, is a scenic desert oasis of nine cities. While Palm Springs may be the most notable city in the region, the entire valley is well worth exploring. From historic museums to relaxing spa days, there are plenty of reasons to head down to Coachella—even if it’s not festival season!

A man and his dog jumping into an Escape Camper Van in Joshua Tree National Park.

Things to Do in Coachella Valley

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum: Explore Cabot Yerxa’s historic home and learn about his fascinating life. The homestead features 35 rooms and countless over a century-old artifacts.

Visit a Hot Spring: To spend the morning soaking in a rejuvenating hot spring, head straight to the aptly named town of Desert Hot Springs. The Springs Resort and Aqua Soleil are two of the most popular resorts in town, offering additional spa services.

Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve: Located in the stunning Coachella Valley Preserve, this tranquil area is perfect for hiking or picnicking among palm trees. You may also spot some rare wildlife, including the Fringe-toed lizard.

Explore Downtown La Quinta: La Quinta is known for its many local boutiques and a busy farmer’s market, making it a great place to spend an afternoon shopping and sightseeing.

Go Gallery Hopping in Cathedral City: This small city in Coachella Valley is renowned for its thriving art scene. Explore over sixteen art galleries on your own, or sign up for a walking tour for a deeper look at the artsy area.

Places to Eat in Coachella Valley

Beautiful Day- 50949 Washington St STE 1A, La Quinta, CA 92253: La Quinta’s popular farm-to-table restaurant prides itself on using the freshest ingredients to make its inventive brunch dishes. Enjoy your meal while admiring their stylish interior design, or sit on their inviting patio.

Dillon’s Burgers & Beers- 64647 Dillon Rd, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240: This casual roadside locale in Desert Hot Springs has been in business since 1946. Juicy burgers and their signature onion petals are the must-try items on the menu. Chances are that live musicians will accompany your meal, as they typically have performers scheduled throughout the week.

Wilma & Frieda’s Cafe- 73575 El Paseo #2310, Palm Desert, CA 92260: Located in Palm Desert, this eatery serves elevated comfort food and brunch every day of the week.

Campgrounds in Coachella Valley

Since you won’t be far from Palm Springs, you can easily head back to your first campground at the end of the day. However, if you’re curious to sleep in a different area of Coachella Valley, you have plenty of options!

Lake Cahuilla Campground– Cahuilla Park Rd, La Quinta, CA 92253: Located in La Quinta, this scenic campground is an ideal base for exploring the southern cities of Coachella Valley. The campground requires reservations and is open all year. The amenities include hookups, coin-operated showers, grills, and a dump station.

Thousand Trails Palm Springs– 77500 Varner Rd, Palm Desert, CA: This popular RV resort features a swimming pool, laundry facilities, showers, and full hookups. The campground requires reservations and is open all year.

Day 3: Visit Salvation Mountain

Today you’ll head to Joshua Tree, a spectacular national park only an hour from Palm Springs. However, your journey begins with an obligatory detour to Salvation Mountain and Slab City.

Salvation Mountain is an artistic oasis created by Leonard Knight near the Salton Sea. The 50-foot-tall mountain is covered in gallons of vibrantly colored paints, plaster, and miscellaneous objects. Salvation Mountain is free to visit and open daily from sunrise until sunset.

A closeup of Salvation Mountain. It is near Palm Springs, and the perfect detour on a Los Angeles to Coachella road trip.

After climbing the multicolored mound, head to Slab City. This is an off-the-grid community just down the road from Salvation Mountain. As you drive by, you’ll spot some interesting art displays and eccentric signs.

Once you’ve explored this quirky corner of Southern California, head to Joshua Tree National Park. You should aim to arrive just in time to watch the sunset from Keys View.

Places to Eat near Salvation Mountain

Buckshot Deli & Diner- 8120 CA-111, Niland, CA 92257: As the only eatery in the area, Buckshot is part of the quintessential Slab City and Salvation Mountain experience. The no-frills restaurant boasts an extensive menu of classic diner dishes and friendly service.

Day 4: Joshua Tree National Park

After arriving the night before, wake up to sweeping desert views in Joshua Tree National Park. Enormous boulders and uniquely shaped trees of the same name characterize Joshua Tree’s otherworldly landscape. Hike along cactus-lined trails, take in the sights from some of the park’s top viewpoints, and spend your evening gazing at a star-filled sky.

An Escape Camper Van driving through Joshua Tree National Park on a California road trip.

Things to Do in Joshua Tree National Park

Hidden Valley Trail: This easy, one-mile trail is ideal for getting up close to Joshua Tree’s iconic boulders. The loop trail is one of the park’s most popular hikes and is especially beautiful during sunset.

Cholla Cactus Garden: Just off Pinto Basin Road, walk along a smooth pathway past thousands of unique cholla cacti in this awe-inspiring garden.

Ryan Mountain Hike: This three-mile trail is one of Joshua Tree’s more strenuous hikes, reaching 1,050 feet in elevation. The climb up is well worth the effort and will reward you with captivating views of the park.

Places to Eat near Joshua Tree National Park

Kitchen in the Desert- 6427 Mesquite Ave, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277: Caribbean-inspired dishes are served outdoors at this laid-back, tropical-themed eatery. The vibrant locale is open for breakfast and dinner, and live musicians perform throughout the week.

Pappy & Harriet’s- 53688 Pioneertown Rd, Pioneertown, CA 92268: This rustic bar and restaurant has been Pioneertown’s go-to spot for a mouthwatering barbecue and live entertainment night. Talented musicians also perform here nightly.

Campgrounds Near Joshua Tree National Park

Jumbo Rocks Campground– Jumbo Rocks Campground, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277: Reservations are mandatory at this year-round campground. Jumbo Rocks Campground is next to many of the park’s most popular sites. However, amenities are basic, with no showers, hookups, or available drinking water.

Black Rock Canyon Campground– 9800 Black Rock Canyon Rd, Yucca Valley, CA 92284: This site features picnic tables, fire rings, and potable water. Additionally, it is near many of Yucca Valley’s shops and grocery stores. The campground operates year-round, and advanced reservations are necessary.

Day 5: Drive from Joshua Tree to Los Angeles, CA

Enjoy one more breakfast at your campsite before packing up and returning to Escape Camper Vans’ Los Angeles hub. The drive from Joshua Tree will take about two and a half hours and span 144 miles. While the drive isn’t long, you’ll still need an early start to drop off your camper van by your designated time.

Why Rent a Camper Van for a California Road Trip?

Renting a camper van from Los Angeles to Coachella is the best way to make the most of your West Coast road trip. Compared to driving a traditional RV, you’ll have more freedom, maximized mobility, less stress, and way more fun!

Ease of Use: A traditional RV can be incredibly intimidating to drive, especially if you’ve never been behind the wheel of such a large vehicle. Instead, our compact camper vans are similar in size to a large SUV, making the learning curve far less steep. This way, your drive to Coachella Valley will be much more relaxing and enjoyable.

Added Mobility: Camper vans are more agile than traditional RVs, allowing for far more flexibility during your trip. You’ll be able to veer off onto narrow desert roads, reach off-the-beaten-path trailheads, and navigate the cities of Coachella Valley with ease. Plus, driving and parking in the bustling cities of Coachella Valley with a compact camper van than with a massive RV.

No Hookups Needed: Most of the campgrounds in Joshua Tree provide minimal facilities and do not offer sewage or electric hookups. This would be problematic with an RV. However, Escape Camper Vans are self-contained and do not require hookups, so this wouldn’t be an issue.

Convenience: Escape camper vans come with kitchenettes and beds. This means you can spend more time enjoying the desert and less time having to pack and unpack at each campground. No more setting up tents or dealing with the necessary logistics of an RV. Instead, you can spend that time on the trails or exploring Coachella Valley.

Reserve With Escape Camper Vans for Your Coachella Road Trip

Magnificent hikes, one-of-a-kind art displays, and enchanting desert cities. On this California road trip from Los Angeles to Coachella Valley, you’ll experience the perfect blend of urban centers, scenic outdoor excursions, and unexpected detours. Now that you’re ready for your ultimate desert getaway, all that’s left is booking your trip!

Book My Coachella Getaway!

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